Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayThis week’s suggested Whiny Wednesday topic is thought-provoking:

Fearing the quiet we will have for years

How do you feel about this? Is it something you worry about? If not, what is on your mind this week?

If I Had to Do It All Again…

By Lisa Manterfield

img_3090_#1 - Low RezMr. Fab and I don’t talk much anymore about our infertility journey. He’d as soon forget the whole ordeal and I prefer to look forward rather than dwelling on what might have been. But recently it came up in conversation.

“If I had to do it all again, I would,” he told me.

My first thought was “No way!” I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy and I don’t think I could bear to see Mr. Fab go through it again. But when I thought about it some more, I see there are positives that came out of it.

We are tougher than we were before, both individually and as a couple. We now know we can weather a major storm, and we’ll be okay when the next one comes along (and they always come along). I’m more compassionate toward others who might be in pain, now that I know what it’s like to be smiling in public and dying on the inside. I learned a lot about myself and how I handle crisis, and we’ve learned about one another. We’ve uncovered the people we really are.

So if I had to do it all again, I would. Would you?

Our Stories: LuDexMommie

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our Stories“This infertility journey nearly broke me on multiple levels,” LuDexMommie* writes. She believed she deserved to have a child, and as multiple fertility treatments failed her, she found herself in a very dark place on the “hope-despair rollercoaster”. Now 39 and soon to be divorced, LuDexMommie acknowledges that she could keep trying, she could recruit a surrogate or adopt, but “I am loathe to open myself up to more pain.” We can relate, can’t we? More of her story is below.

LWB: Briefly describe your dream of motherhood:

LuDexMommie: I didn’t dream, I assumed. I could easily picture all the wonderful moments shared between my child and me. I knew there would be challenges, but I felt I had the capacity to excel at raising a child. In fact, I was so confident that I went to lengths to develop my career and put motherhood (and what I felt to be a requisite relationship) on hold. My philosophy was that if you worked hard enough at something, you would get it. But I never considered having to work to have a baby.

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

LuDexMommie: I have premature ovarian failure and adenomyosis, and I consumed infertility technology for three years to battle against this. I have had four IUIs, two IVF procedures with two different egg donors (one was my sister!), two transfers with donor embryos, and two surgeries. Out of all that, only two chemical pregnancies resulted with a hell of a lot of heartache and grief. Circumstances got me here, but I find myself moving toward choosing a childfree life.

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

LuDexMommie: Over the past few months it became clear that my marriage is an irreversible source of frustration, not support. I have always had difficulty relating to the term “DH” [Darling Husband] that I read about on blogs. My husband was quite limited in what he was able to give to the relationship, so I am choosing to move forward alone. I am hoping to connect with others without a DH.

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

LuDexMommie: I wish I could take that cold, hard scar out of my heart and put it in someone else so they could instantly understand how much it hurts. I will not see an ultrasound picture of a baby growing inside of me. I will not brush my child’s curly hair. There won’t be recognition of myself in a child’s mannerisms. I cannot hug or kiss my child, and no one will run to me for comfort. I won’t be able to teach or learn from my child. I will not experience the pride that parents have for a variety of childhood “firsts”. There will be no school supplies, sports teams, musical instruments, birthday parties, scraped knees, bedtime stories, school dances, family vacations, or driving lessons. I won’t be mother of the bride or groom. No grandchildren for me. I anticipate loneliness. I anticipate pangs of jealously. I am fully aware that parenting is not all roses, but the decision to stop trying when so many rewards are possible is very, very difficult.

LWB: What’s the best part about not having children?

LuDexMommie: Getting “me” back, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Opening up choices for myself. Getting out of a dysfunctional relationship and making myself ready for a healthy one. Cultivating special relationships with my nieces and nephews. Simplifying my life. Recognizing my potential as a human being. Acknowledging the difficulties that having a child in my 40s would present, and taking advantage of the freedoms that being childfree affords.

LWB: What have you learned about yourself?

LuDexMommie: I am surprised that I’m willing to consider being childfree; I would not have predicted that when this process began. I learned what my limits are. I learned I am a positive person at my core, but not at the expense of being practical. I learned how people not going though infertility pain could not help me in the way that I wanted them to. I became more forgiving of obliviousness. I am still trying to understand what “grief work” is. I recognize better what makes me happy, what makes me anxious, and what I am willing to do. I am kinder to myself.

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

LuDexMommie: I say, “No. Do you have dogs?”

LWB: What’s your Plan B?

LuDexMommie: Ha! I’m way past Plan B. It’s time to rediscover myself and do things that make me happy.

 

*Not her real name. We allow each respondent to use a fictitious name for her profile, if she chooses.

Won’t you share your story with us? Go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayIt’s Whiny Wednesday, your chance to gripe about the issues you’re dealing with this week. This week’s suggested topic is one we’ve all had to deal with:

 An over-abundance of work pregnancies

 I can relate to this one. When I was trying to conceive, I managed a small department of about eight people. One year we had three simultaneous pregnancies…and none of them was mine.

Whine away!

Guest Post: Infertility Cuts Men Up Too

By Sheridan Voysey

Childlessness isn’t just a “female thing.” It cuts a man up too.

I know. I’ve felt it—felt each stinging cut.

For ten years my wife, Merryn, and I dreamed of starting a family. Our journey in pursuit of that dream included special diets, courses of fertility-boosting supplements, healing prayer, and chiropractic sessions (yes, chiropractic sessions—you’ll try anything). The journey included numerous rounds of costly IVF treatment, and a year of assessment as potential adoptive parents followed by an agonising two-year wait for our hoped-for adoptive child.

We pursued our dream with all the energy we had. But our dream never eventuated.

Exhausted from a decade in the wilderness of infertility, we brought our dream of a baby to an end on Christmas Day, 2010, after doctors had told us, just days before, that our final IVF round had been successful. They’d been wrong.

I feel the loss of that hoped-for child today. I feel it when I see a father tickling his giggling daughter, or as I watch a family celebrate the birthday of their teenage son, or as I see a proud father walk his radiant, veiled daughter down the aisle. I hear a little voice at these moments that says, “You’ll never have that,” followed by a jolting sense of injustice. “It’s just not fair,” the voice says, “when we tried so hard to have a child.”

Yes, infertility can cut a man up.

It cuts a man up in more ways than the loss of fatherhood, though. Having written a book about Merryn’s and my experience of starting again after infertility, and sharing our story through speaking, I regularly have men confidentially email or pull me aside at conferences to share feelings they rarely share. “I can’t talk about this to my friends,” one guy told me. “I have low sperm count. I can’t father a child. That’ll hardly impress my football buddies.” For many men this threatened masculinity is the most difficult aspect of infertility.

The lost opportunity of fatherhood. Threatened masculinity. Infertility can bring a third kind of pain to a man too—a pain born of empathy.

Try watching your wife’s bottom lip quiver as the doctor delivers the results of those first fertility tests. Watch the sadness grow in her eyes—a sadness that may last for years.

Watch your wife’s face contort in pain as the needle extracting the eggs for your first IVF round goes in. Watch as she later recovers from the trauma in shocked silence.

Watch your wife wait in hope for the results of the blood test—for the phone call with the good news that you pray for. Watch time and again as her hope falls to the floor.

Watch as she waits, and waits, and waits for the phone call from the adoption agency. Any day now it could come—the call to collect our child. But the call never comes.

Watch as she sits on the bed, a circle of tissues around her and her eyes rubbed red. Watch as she cries night after night. Feel her body shake as you hold her.

Watch as she enters an identity crisis, wondering if she’ll ever become the person—the mother—she longs to be.

And watch as she struggles with the faith that once sustained her. Watch as she wonders if the God she prays to cares. If he cared, surely he’d give her a family.

Watch all this—watch and try not to be cut up. When the one you love most suffers so much, how can your soul not be ripped to shreds?

Over three years have passed since my wife and I brought our quest for a child to an end. We’re in a different place now—we’ve started life again. And our story is helping others who need their own new beginning after a broken dream.

But please know this: childlessness isn’t just a “female thing.” Infertility cuts a man up too. In more ways than you may know.

 

Sheridan Voysey is a UK-based writer, speaker, and broadcaster. His latest book, Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings, chronicles his and his wife’s journey to start life afresh after ten years of infertility. Follow him on Twitter @sheridanvoysey, Facebook, and get his articles and podcasts at www.sheridanvoysey.com.

It Got Me Thinking…About Getting Knocked Up

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Girl Thinking“If you’d really wanted to be a mother, you could have….”

OMG, how I hate sentences that start out like this. The advice the friend/parent/coworker/stranger then offers is well-intentioned (I hope), but so often feels shaming. It might be meant to be encouraging, but instead it comes down to “Clearly you didn’t want it badly enough.” Well, f*&% that!

As a long-time single woman who ran out of time, one of the pieces of advice I frequently received was “…you could have just knocked yourself up”—meaning I could have seduced some guy, “accidentally” neglected to use birth control, and duped him into being an unwitting sperm donor. Even writing this now, I find that so offensive. Morally, that does not align with who I am. Thinking about the deceit involved—whether the guy chose to marry me to make our child “legitimate” or whether I kept the pregnancy to myself and raised the child alone—makes my flesh crawl.

I guess the people who suggested this avenue thought it would be easy and victim-less, but I know better. My friend Paul (not his real name) was a very successful model. Early in his career, while he was in his late teens, he fell in love with a woman who was several years older, also a model. Their relationship was fiery, and ultimately heartbreaking for him when she broke it off after six months with no explanation. She refused his calls. She disappeared from his life, and he assumed she had traveled to another country for work, as he frequently did.

Six years later he was in New York when he ran into her on the street. Holding her hand was a beautiful little girl who clearly was Paul’s daughter. His former girlfriend coldly explained that she had chosen him for his genes, that she had never cared for him as a potential mate, that “her” daughter knew nothing about him, and that she wanted no part of him in their lives. When he shared this story with me years later, he was still devastated. My heart broke for him and for the girl who may never know the kind man who is her father.

I wanted to be a mother desperately, and I pursued many different options for having a child of my own. But when faced with the option of using and hurting other human beings, I realized a hard truth: I didn’t want it badly enough. And I do not regret my choice.

 

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayWhen a reader suggested this week’s topic, I spotted myself immediately. The topic is:

Staying busy to fill the hole of being childless

Work, hobbies, school, projects, friends in need, volunteering: Have you packed your life with busyness in order to fill a gap?

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s on your mind today?

Letting Go of the Dream of Motherhood eBook is Here!

By Lisa Manterfield

Exiting news! The first book in the Life Without Baby ebook series is out today. Workbook 1: Letting Go of the Dream of Motherhood is available on Amazon now and will be showing up at other online retailers over the coming weeks.

It’s been an interesting process to gather all that I’ve learned about this strange journey over the past years. I wish I’d known five years ago (or maybe even before then) that it was okay to let go of my quest. I wish I’d understood that the loss of my dream meant more than simply not having children and that it would affect the foundation of my identity, my relationships, and all my plans for the future. And I wish I’d known to give myself permission to grieve, instead of putting on a brave face and pretending everything was okay. At least I know that now.

I’ve learned so much from all of you as I’ve voiced my difficulties here and heard about yours. You have taught me so much about this issue and about myself. For that, I am very grateful.

I’m also enormously grateful to Kathleen for her help in crafting the book and then her brilliant work editing and proofreading the final manuscript. There’s so much that happens behind the scenes of this site that couldn’t happen without her.

So, please, grab yourself a copy of the book. It’s affordably priced at $2.99. Your support of these projects enables me to keep this site running without ads or fees. Don’t worry if you don’t have an e-reader. You can download a free App so you can read the book on your computer, phone, tablet, or maybe even your watch!

You can find Workbook 1 here. And if you can’t get enough, you can even pre-order Workbook 2. I’d love to get your feedback if you find them helpful.

It Got Me Thinking…About Happy Endings

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Girl ThinkingMy friend Patti* announced to our group of mutual friends that after a long period of trying to decide if she really really wanted kids, she was pregnant. We raised our glasses of nonalcoholic sparkling cider and toasted her future, then Ellen, one of our childfree friends, leaned over to me and whispered, “Well, I guess she got her happy ending.”

It’s been weeks since this scenario, and I can’t get it out of my head. Why is it that for so many women, a “happy ending” means the over-the-top wedding with the fairy princess bridal gown or a baby? Just look at movies geared toward women—“chick flicks”—and you’ll see what I mean. Stressed-out career gal lands hot leading man and looks forward to blissful domestic life. Cinderella gets her Prince. The bridesmaids finally all get along. Soft-focus on a pink, pudgy baby as happy parents gaze lovingly at each other and fade to credits.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my journey, is that there are no happy “endings,” but lots of new beginnings. I mean, if you think about it, Patti’s ending is actually the beginning of a new chapter in her life, one that I hope will be mostly happy. And if there’s another thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are as many definitions of “happy” as there are people.

Some of my happy beginnings include finally getting married in my mid-40s because I loved the guy (versus needing to find a father for future children), discovering the satisfaction of a challenging and thriving career, and having the time and energy to be a devoted friend and the world’s best aunt.

Happy ending? Pfft! I’m just getting started!

 

*Not their real names, of course.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

By Lisa Manterfield

shhhI absolutely love this article by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman about how not to say the wrong thing to someone in crisis. I wish it was mandatory reading for everyone, and I especially wish it came with a note explaining that it applies when talking to infertiles and the childless-not-by-choice.

The gist of their Ring Theory is that the person in crisis is at the center of the ring and those next closest to the person occupy subsequent rings. In the case of someone coming to terms with not having children, she would be at the center, her spouse or partner on the next ring, perhaps closest family and friends on the next, and more distant family, coworkers, and acquaintances beyond that.

The rule is that that if people have something mean or insensitive or opinionated to say, they say it to someone on a bigger ring. When speaking to someone on a smaller ring, they can only listen or—if they must say something—offer help, support, or comfort. No advice, no miracle stories, no blame or shame. No offering of their kids, no suggestions to adopt. “I’m sorry” is all that needs to be said. If they want to dump, dump outwards, not inwards.

I wish people would understand that someone who has just acknowledged she won’t ever have children is in crisis, and what she needs more than judgment and unhelpful help is for people to say to the right thing.