Our Stories: Karin

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our StoriesAlthough she came from a very close extended family, Karin didn’t really think about motherhood until she experienced infertility in her early 30s. Then it became a “dream.” Now 41, she and her husband of 19 years find themselves in a place of mostly acceptance, but she feels somewhat alone in her concerns about the future. If you can relate, please reach out to her—to all of us—in the Comments.

LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?

Karin: We were first childfree by chance and now it’s by circumstance. After years of unexplained infertility, various drug treatments, one horrific miscarriage, and lots of ovulation kits, my husband and I decided to stop trying for children. At that point, I began a very intense hatred of my body. My [menstrual] cycles were very long and painful, and as I grew older, they got worse and worse. This only intensified the self-loathing I was carrying around. It got so bad that the only option I had left was a hysterectomy. Knowing that I was not going to be able to conceive without massive medical intervention, and knowing that path was not for us, I decided to go through with the hysterectomy. It was the best decision I have ever made. I feel like I got my life back! Thanks to mindfulness training, yoga, and that surgery, I’ve been able to accept my body again and, more important, regain peace.

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

Karin: I’ve been in the acceptance phase for quite some time. I have a wonderful husband and a very fulfilling job. But the residual feelings of isolation and fear of the future are what dominates my infertility issues now.

LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?

Karin: The fear of who will take care of me when I am old. My grandparents were in wonderful assisted living facilities toward the ends of their lives, but they were still attended to by my mom and my aunts—everything from shopping for basic needs to handling the finances. I cannot think of anyone in my life now who I could rely on to help us in our old age. My husband is an only child, and my sister has only one daughter. I do not have the nieces and nephews that many others have and will hopefully rely on when the time comes. And this truly terrifies me. This is, by far, the most difficult issue for me now. I feel quite alone in this. I don’t think many other people who are childfree have this worry, or, if they do, it is not as intense as mine. Also, I am the only person in my immediate social circle who does not have children. I feel like all the feelings of loss and isolation will resurface when my friends become grandparents.

LWB: What have you learned about yourself?

Karin: That I’m stronger than I thought I could ever be. You read that going through infertility will make you a stronger person, but until you actually feel it, it’s hard to believe. I’ve also learned to live life as consciously as I can with as much compassion as I can muster. Living a life with as little harm as possible toward others, including the environment around me, is rewarding and purposeful. I didn’t feel it this intensely prior to trying for children.

LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”

Karin: I say “NOPE!” And if they ask why not, I simply say “We tried and it didn’t work out.” That usually stops people. Occasionally, people will ask why we didn’t adopt, and I say adopting does not cure infertility and we believe adoption is a calling that we just didn’t have.

LWB: How has LWB helped you on your journey?

Karin: It was the first community that got it!! Besides Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos’ book Silent Sorority, what else did we have? LWB has been so incredibly integral in my journey that it’s hard to put into words. I would, however, like to see more information or discussion by others about being childfree in old age and the new dynamics that will come into play when we are not just non-moms but non-grandmothers!

 

We’d love to hear your story! Go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.

Whiny Wednesday: Being Excluded

Whiny_WednesdayHave you ever been in a conversation with a group of women, only to watch the talk turn to motherhood and feel yourself fading into the background?

That’s the topic of this week’s Whiny Wednesday:

Being excluded from conversations because you don’t have children

Happy Whining!

In-person Support Group: Chicago

holding handsLong-time reader, Andi, emailed me recently to let me know she’s starting a local support group in Chicago for women and couples who are childfree-not-by choice.

If you’re in the area and would like to find out more, Andi has posted information on her community page. You can also contact her directly via email: ayakovitz [at] hotmail [dot] com.

I’m so pleased to hear that groups like Andi’s are forming and there are places for us to go to talk about this in person.

If you know of a group near you or if you’d like to start one, please use this site as a resource.

You can leave information in the comments (just beware of posting personal information and be sure to encrypt any email addresses.)

You can also form a regional group on the community pages, or post information in the forums. The information will be seen only by members, so you can safely post details there.

My Perfect Imperfect Life

By Lisa Manterfield

Courtesy Hasbro Games

Courtesy Hasbro Games

I’ve been taking a fantastic creative writing class at UCLA Extension. Each week, we start off with a writing exercise from a choice of prompts, and last week, one of the prompts was, “I’m tired of pretending my life isn’t perfect.” I almost took the prompt.

It’s not hard to write about the part of my life that is so obviously imperfect: the fact that I wasn’t able to have children. I could (and do) write about that broken bit. But if I took my life apart, I’d find lots of areas that aren’t perfect. Isn’t every life like that? Everyone has challenges, and life would probably be dull without them. But part of the thrill of living is overcoming life’s challenges. Without the obstacles there’s no glory of victory.

My life is flawed in many ways, as all lives are, but it’s also a good and happy life, and on the whole it’s pretty close to perfect. And it’s hard work to keep clinging to the idea that it isn’t. It’s tiring to keep feeling bad about the parts of my life that didn’t work out as planned.

I didn’t get to have children, and it’s true that, for a long period of time, it made my life feel empty and deeply flawed. But that changed over time. I worked to overcome that flaw, to seek and take advantage of the silver linings, to work through my sadness—by writing, in my case—by gathering this community and sharing our stories. My marriage made it through infertility. That’s a victory in itself. And while there are still many challenges in my life, few of them are related to my childlessness anymore.

So, yes, I am a flawed human, with challenges to face, but I no longer wish to pretend my life isn’t perfect, just as it is, warts and all.

(And by the way, I didn’t take the prompt because there was another that sparked an idea. I’m glad I took that one instead, because that exercise turned into short story instead.)

It Got Me Thinking…About Greener Grass

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

It was early in the morning on a national holiday. I was walking to our gym when I passed one of our neighbors as she loaded kids and gear into a minivan.

“Off to the gym?” she asked, grunting as she hoisted a toddler into his car seat.

“Yup.”

“I would give anything to trade places with you.”

For a split second I paused, then replied with the only response that seemed appropriate. “I’m sorry.”

As I continued down the street, it dawned on me that for the first time in years I wasn’t feeling (a) judgmental (she was, after all, dissing her kids) or (b) wistful. So often in the past I would have thought how I would have traded anything to have precious kids of my own, but now, not so much. I was pretty happy with the prospect of spending my holiday taking care of myself, maybe even reading a book or taking a nap instead of having to read a book to someone else hoping he would settle down for a nap.  I didn’t feel sorry for or envious of my neighbor, and I didn’t want to trade my grass for her grass. The grass was perfectly green on my side of the street.

Me thinks the healing process has begun.

Whiny Wednesday: When Technology Attacks!

Whiny_WednesdayMy whine this week is all about this site. Last week, like a dutiful blogger, I did my regular monthly system updates… and all hell broke loose!

As I’m sure you saw firsthand, the comment button vanished into thin air, making it impossible to post comments. Yeah, three days before Mother’s Day and this site is as good as useless.

Added to that, the updates also changed my very rigid spam filters, and while no spam made it onto the site itself, my inbox was overflowing with ads for cheap Oakley sunglasses and knock-off Louis Vuitton.

Everything’s more or less back to normal now, thank goodness (and thanks to a WordPress Wizard who works weekends!) I appreciate patience over the past week. But honestly, it’s times like these I wish we could all meet up for coffee in-person instead of online.

It’s Whiny Wednesday and it’s open forum today. Whatever’s on your mind, feel free to unload it here!

I’m Sorry for Your Loss

By Lisa Manterfield

thoughtsYou may have seen the recent article about a cancer survivor who designed her own line of honest greetings cards, the kind she wishes she’d received while she was going through treatment.

It struck me how many of these sentiments apply to us and what a difference it would have made for someone to send this kind of message to me, to acknowledge my grief and loss, and offer just a word of support.

The idea sent me on a quest to see if such cards exist, and what sentiments they conveyed. I was encouraged to find some thoughtful miscarriage and baby loss cards, with texts such as:

“My heart aches for you, and I am here to call on when you feel alone.”

“Please know that prayers and thoughts of love and care are being sent your way.”

“Please know that you’re surrounded by heartfelt sympathy for your loss as you gently lay your dreams to rest.”

You can see these cards here.

But, when I went looking for infertility cards, I found something entirely different. Most of the card were cheery and encouraging, along the lines of “Don’t give up!” “It will happen when it happens, so get some sleep while you can,” and the ever-encouraging “God has a plan for you, so be patient.” (I’m paraphrasing in all these cases, but not much.) In fact, almost all the cards had texts that would make the list of the very last you want to hear.

So, I’m wondering, would you have appreciated an appropriate card from an understanding loved one? If so, what would you have wanted it to say? (Greetings card companies, take note!)

Good news! The comments are back online. Sorry for the recent absence and the terrible timing. Hope everyone made it through the weekend okay. ~Lisa

It Got Me Thinking…About Nurturers

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I can bitch with the best about how much I loathe the holiday that’s coming up this Sunday. I’ve spent past years avoiding church, restaurants, flower shops, TV ads, and, well, people who brightly wished me “HAPPY (you-know-who’s) DAY!” It was easier to hibernate than face painful reminders of what I am not.

But this year is different. This year I am embracing the second Sunday in May because a wise friend has transformed it for me. This year I am pulling out all the stops and celebrating because I am…drumroll, please…a Nurturer!

Here’s the message my friend sent out last May, and it is my message to you.

To the nurturers in us all: For helping friends in need, for compassion for strangers in pain, for helping children to learn, and for being good stewards of our world…Happy Nurturer’s Day!

If you are an aunt, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a coworker, a coach, or a listener. If you’ve comforted another person, if you’ve offered support or encouragement, or if you’ve shared a hug. If you’ve read something on this site and responded with kind words or sent up a prayer for a sister in need. If you’ve been any or all of these things, then it’s time you acknowledge yourself.

You’ve been there for me, in our forums, in your comments, in your presence here with us on this site. For that I say, Thank you! and Happy Nurturer’s Day!

Whiny Wednesday: Mother’s Day

Whiny_WednesdayThis week’s Whiny Wednesday topic needs no introduction or explanation, so I’ll just put it out there:

Mother’s Day

Breaking the Silence and Finally Heard

By Lisa Manterfield

Reverse.out_.cover_-214x300When I first began to acknowledge that the online “trying to conceive” crowd was no longer my tribe, I searched around the Internet for someone more like me. After realizing enough was enough I needed to work how to come to terms with a life without children. But when I looked around, it became clear that I was the only person in the whole world this had ever happened to!

Or so I believed.

Then, out of the fog, came a light, gentle and distant at first, but growing steadily stronger. And then a voice, echoing all I was feeling—the sadness, the fear, and the raging anger.

That voice belonged to Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos. In her book and blog, Silent Sorority, Pamela blazed a trail by sharing the raw and painful truth of her failed infertility journey and subsequent struggle to come-to-terms with a life without children. I’m sure many of you have also heard that voice.

Over the years, Pamela’s voice has grown louder as others, like myself, have stepped out of the shadows and shone a light on their own infertility journeys. Now she’s sharing the next chapter of her story in her new ebook, Finally Heard. This time she offers a blend of stories, reporting, recommended reading, studies and questions exploring the complexities of infertility and what she calls Generation IVF.

The book is available in Kindle Single-type format here and if you’ve never read Silent Sorority, I recommend adding that to your reading list too.