As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Tanja and her husband worked hard to be financially stable and to create an environment that would support children. She always wanted a family and dreamed of the daughter she would have, the little girl she could dress in cute outfits and play Barbie with; she and her husband had picked out names. But infertility has taken a toll on her dreams, and now 34, she describes the current stage of her journey as “angry, frustrated, out of plans, and crawling toward acceptance.” Here’s more of her story.
LWB: What was the turning point for you?
Tanja: After four failed IVF attempts, I have to acknowledge that these procedures are not working for us. We cannot continue living our lives in limbo, living from one IVF cycle to the next and thereby putting our lives on hold. The fact that we have pursued every medical avenue that was available to us—multiple times—and they have not worked gives me some comfort. We tried our best, and now we need to find a way to move past this nightmare.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Tanja: There are many hardest parts for me. Here are a few: (1) I feel like an outsider, no longer a part of normal society. My friends and family who chose children all have them, whereas I do not. (2) I cannot contribute to conversations that my friends have, as all they seem to talk about is their offspring. I fully understand that children are a major part of their lives. I do, however, try to swing the conversation in another direction in order to chat about something that we can all contribute to, but it always goes back to the kids. We do not have this aspect of our lives in common, and I often feel like the odd one out when we get together. (3) When my friends eventually tell me that they are pregnant again, they tell me and then add that they feel so sorry for me. I really find it difficult to listen to them talk about their pregnancy fears. (4) I remember generally having a wonderful childhood with my family and was so looking forward to encountering similar experiences with a child of my own. (5) I feel like I have let my husband and our parents down. (6) I am an only child and, as such, my parents will never be grandparents. I see how my mother looks at other people’s babies, and this makes it even harder for me.
LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”
Tanja: Generally, I just answer “No.” If people continue questioning, I sometimes add that it’s not by choice. This normally stops the conversation.
LWB: What is the best advice you’d offer someone else like you?
Tanja: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” It may not be how you always envisaged your future, but it will be alright.
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Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.