As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
M’s turning point came after six long years of enduring the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion of infertility. “I wanted to feel like I was living again,” she says, “free from the ‘will we?’ or ‘won’t we?’ limbo land.” Having also “gambled away” thousands of dollars on IVF, she and her husband, E, made the difficult decision to “step away from the pursuit of a lifelong dream, knowing we did all we could.”
Making the decision to stop is one thing. “Changing my mindset from ‘when we have kids’ to ‘we’re childfree’ is not an easy or quick process,” she says. “I’ve had the ‘when I have kids’ mindset for 40 years!”
As their journey unfolded, M and E wondered where the other people like them were. So they started a podcast to talk about the scary and difficult parts of this journey, to include the male perspective, to connect with other people who are going through what they’re going through, that is, trying to figure out what a childfree life can look like. After you read M’s story below, listen in on some of their real, relatable, thought-provoking, and sometimes amusing conversations at How Did We Get Here? with E&M.
LWB: Describe your dream of motherhood.
M: I always wanted to be a mother. I dreamt about it as a little girl as I played with my baby dolls. I couldn’t wait until the day that I got to experience being pregnant, having a baby shower, decorating a nursery, choosing a name, and on and on. Throughout my twenties and thirties, I saw friend after friend experience these things, and I hoped that my turn would come. I wondered what our baby would look like and how they would take after their dad or me. So many dreams from pregnancy to sending them to college to their wedding….
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
M: We tried to conceive for about six years. My husband had an infertility outpatient surgery early in our journey, which led to a major emergency surgery, 25 days in the hospital, and more than a year of recovery. He came very close to losing his life, and the entire experience was very traumatic for us both. A few years after he healed, we decided to try IVF. After three rounds of IVF (one transfer, zero pregnancies), we decided to stop trying to conceive and remain a family of two.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
M: We decided earlier this year to stop infertility treatments and live childfree. I am in a period of grieving while accepting and planning our Plan B life. I do still have some anger about all that we’ve been through, and am not totally sure how to deal with it. I’m trying to be patient/compassionate toward myself, which is not always easy.
My husband and I are journeying through this transition on a podcast, How Did We Get Here? with E & M. This journey feels so lonely sometimes, and we thought a podcast might help us to connect with others going through the same thing, would be therapeutic for us and hopefully helpful for others too. (Side note: We make $0 from the podcast. It’s just something we do for us, from our home.)
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
M: “Mother” has always been a part of my identity since I was a very young girl. So now…it feels like a very sacred part of me is dying and the grief is hard to put into words.
LWB: What’s the best advice you’ve received?
M: Dive into the waves of grief; don’t try to ignore them or fight them. Give yourself as much time as you need to feel whatever you need to feel. There’s no timeline. I remind myself of this advice often.
LWB: What’s the best part about not having children?
M: I love the freedom we have to make decisions based solely on what we want. I love how calm and peaceful our home is—especially when I hear the kids next door being difficult, loud, or whiny! I love how much my husband and I appreciate one another after surviving this journey together.
LWB: What have you learned about yourself?
M: I am so much more resilient than I ever knew! Even when I’m overwhelmed with tears of grief, I feel my strength. I know the tears will pass and that I’ll be okay. Life has run me over many times, and yet I’m still standing. I’m proud of that.
How are you faring today? We’d love to hear about your journey, wherever you are on your path toward acceptance, plus we’d like to support you. Please visit the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire, and consider sharing your story with women who truly understand what you’re going through.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is getting ready to tell her own story. The Mother of All Dilemmas follows her journey of pursuing being a single mother then embracing a life without children, and explores the reasons our society still presumes to calculate a woman’s worth based on whether or not she’s a mother. Keep an eye on LifeWithoutBaby.com for announcements about the book’s release.