As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Although 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.