As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Now 38, Paulina Grace spent five years actively pursuing pregnancy. Her arduous journey included three miscarriages, one hysterosalpingogram (HSG), one dilation and curettage procedure (D&C), semen analysis for her husband of 12 years, a couple of rounds of Clomiphene (Clomid), an intrauterine insemination (IUI), plus a round of shots. “Our next step was IVF,” she wrote, “and I couldn’t bear to go through with it.” She figured she faced embracing being childfree by choice (after unexplained infertility) or “complete insanity”. Here’s her story.
LWB: Briefly describe your dream of motherhood:
Paulina Grace: I wanted a daughter, one I’d name after my grandmother who died when my mom was young and my godmother who was basically the only grandmother I did know. I wanted a chance to be pregnant and enjoy preparing for the baby. I wanted to be called “Mom”. I wanted my stepson to have a sibling who was part him and me. I wanted both myself and my husband to be full-time parents and make all the decisions. I wanted to be spoiled and feel important on Mother’s Day. I wanted the chance to make up for all I didn’t get to enjoy as a child.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Paulina Grace: I’m proud of myself for knowing when I needed to get off the fertility roller coaster. I’m a more empathetic and compassionate person. At times I wish my life could have been different. Mostly I face the reality that I have a wonderful life without biological children.
LWB: What was the turning point for you?
Paulina Grace: I was just so sad and shut down all of the time. I went to an infertility support group and saw more of that. That wasn’t the vision I’d had for myself or the image I wanted to project for other women. After reading the book Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again by Jean Carter (there wasn’t much else at the time), I came to the realization that the only reason I was unhappy with my life was this new information that I couldn’t have children. I’d been happy with my life up to that point, so I felt there was no reason I couldn’t be happy still.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Paulina Grace: The future. Having children carves out a fairly defined path for you for at least 18 years! No need to think about anything else for a while. I also worry about when I get older and need help. I actively watch over and care for my parents, and I wonder who will do that for me.
LWB: What’s the best part about not having children?
Paulina Grace: Being able to support others from a new perspective. I take more time to listen to my single, married, or parenting friends. I meet them where they are and tell them they are doing just fine. I have energy to play with and spoil my younger nieces and nephews. I have patience and understanding to listen and spend time with my older nieces, nephews, and now teenage stepson. And I can still take a nap whenever I want to!
LWB: What have you learned about yourself?
Paulina Grace: You have to put yourself first and, if you’re in a committed relationship, your partner a close second. If you don’t know yourself well enough, you can’t know how to ask for help from those who love you. Your courage to lead an unexpected yet happy life will help someone else do the same.
LWB: What is the best advice you’d offer someone else like you?
Paulina Grace: Let life do its part. You don’t have to control everything, and trying to only makes the hard times worse. Try new things and meet lots of people. This journey has led me to some of the most wonderful, courageous, open, and loving women I’ve ever met. Don’t just focus on the losses, because there’s still so much to be gained.
LWB: Who is your personal chero (a heroine who happens to be childfree)? What about her inspires you?
Paulina Grace: Lisa Manterfield and her ongoing commitment to sharing her story and the story of childfree women everywhere. I first “met” Lisa via the blog around 2009, and her amazing book has a permanent place on my bookshelf. Her e-course and personal warmth on the videos and support calls helped give me emotional strength I didn’t even know I needed. I really can’t thank Lisa enough for being a light during dark moments.
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Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.