As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
When Paulina Grace first shared her story with us in July 2014, she was, in her words, in a “dark, dark time.” I am happy to report that things have improved for her, and her story is now one of, in my words, hope and strength.
It’s important to me to hear these stories and share them with all of us so that we can have a sense what this whole journey to acceptance can feel like. We can be role models for each other. More than that, for those of us who have gone through the dark times and come out intact, we can offer support and encouragement with total understanding to our sisters who are new to the raw grief of life without baby. We remind each other “You are not alone.”
Wherever you are on your journey today, I hope reading Paulina Grace’s original story and update (following) will help you.
• • •
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.
• • •
LWB: Where are you on your journey today?
Paulina Grace: When I got this request to update my story, I think I was a bit hesitant to read my post, afraid of what it might bring back. However, it was an interesting stroll down memory lane.
I’m definitely embracing Plan B. In the last few years, I moved away of being an entrepreneur and headed back out into the working world. This was a huge change for me, and right away my first employer was full of pregnant families. It was the ultimate test on whether I had truly done my work. Thankfully, I passed with flying colors and even enjoyed the baby showers. I was able to talk to the pregnant moms with curiosity versus jealousy. I think they appreciated I didn’t give them any pregnancy/baby advice or horror stories. I also didn’t force myself to try and fit in, I let the young moms/parents do their thing. I was okay being me, and them being them.
A couple of years ago I did finally insist to my husband that he get a vasectomy. It was still a lingering issue on the journey. I was turning 40 and truly did not want the surprise of becoming pregnant. My periods also started getting heavier around that time, and it would make me wonder if I was miscarrying again. I needed to be clear mentally and physically that it was over. I needed my husband to take the step with me.
Interestingly enough, I found out in the last month I need a hysterectomy. While I won’t miss the awful periods, it is also a very final point in my own fertility journey, too. I do wonder if there will be an emotional point for me or, if again, it will offer a bit of relief to know that door is locked and the key gone forever!
LWB: What would you like to say to the you of 2014?
Paulina Grace: I’m so proud of her. That was such a dark, dark time. I’m actually going through a valley in my life right now. Looking back on how I got through all of that reminds me how strong I am, how loved I am, and it gives me heart that I’ll get through this, too. I am reminded that the first journey led me to some amazing friendships, most of which I still maintain today.
I grew and evolved tremendously in those years. As I get older, I see over and over how we’re all handed issues we cannot handle and/or are completely unfair. Having biological children doesn’t stop you from pain. I even found a way to give my pain an outlet for meaning by volunteering for a grief camp for children, Camp Erin. I wasn’t there to share my story but bear witness to theirs. Watching them release their pain and start to feel alive again was one of the most emotionally draining yet uplifting things I’ve ever done. I’m no longer afraid of uncomfortable or taboo topics. The world needs people who can have those conversations to help us all heal together.
I’m still eternally grateful for Lisa Manterfield. She’ll always be an angel in my life.