Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Oprah’s Second Chance January 20, 2011

Oprah Winfrey was one of the first guests on Piers Morgan’s new talk show this week, where she talked candidly about the loss of her baby when she was 14. Oprah has said in the past that she has no regrets about not having children, but this time she talked about how losing her baby was her second chance to turn her life around and make something of herself.

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Oprah has certainly made something of herself. She talked to Morgan about the chain of events – beginning with going back to school and becoming head of student council – that led to her becoming the person she is today. “None of those things would have happened and the whole trajectory of my life would have been different,” she said on the show.

Although I have no illusions of my own life paralleling Oprah’s, I have to say that it’s certainly taken some unexpected turns since that doctor told me I would never have biological children. I’ve started a blog, met women from all around the world, written a book, and been quoted in a magazine as an expert! Recently, another avenue has opened and I’ve been working with a therapist friend to develop a series of workshops to help women deal with the effects of infertility and childlessness (more to come on that soon!) None of these things were in my plans two years ago and certainly would never have happened if I’d merrily gone on to become a mother.

They say that for every door that closes, another opens, and I’m a believer. The motherhood door closed firmly for me, but once I picked up my chin and looked around, I discovered a whole host of opportunities waiting for me. While I don’t believe I was denied motherhood so that I could do these things instead, the converse is certainly true -none of these things would have happened if I’d had children.

Has your life changed for the better because you don’t have children? Have you had opportunities you wouldn’t have had if you’d been a mother?

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11 Responses to “Oprah’s Second Chance”

  1. Artemis Says:

    I’m still waiting for those doors to open, I don’t see more opportunities due to not having children… For the time being, all I experience is social condemnation and isolation.
    I do hope something good will come out of this in the end. I just don’t see it at the moment…

  2. loribeth Says:

    I wouldn’t say it’s changed for the better — or maybe even the worse. It’s just different than the way I thought it would be. I do know that I wouldn’t have a paid off mortgage or be contemplating early retirement in a few years if I had a family to support & educate, so I suppose those are some positive things that have emerged from childlessness.

    I feel like sometimes people expect us to do something wild & off the wall with our lives because we don’t have kids, like run off to Tahiti & live on a beach somewhere. Or something noble & self-sacrificing, like go to work in an orphanage in Africa. Or climb the corporate ladder. But the truth is, I’m a pretty ordinary person with fairly ordinary goals for my life, & loss & infertility have not changed that.

    It’s one thing to lose a baby at 14, like Oprah did, quite another when you’re 37 & infertile.

  3. Pamela Says:

    Amen, sister! I’ve had more than person in far flung places kindly take the time to let me know that the person I’ve become as a result of infertility — and being willing to put a name and face on the experience and speak and write openly about it — has made a huge difference in their lives. It wasn’t my first choice to have infertility, not by a million miles, but as the saying goes, when a door closes, a window opens. The painful process of coming to terms with a life I never planned for has also led to another benefit: I’ve found an inner strength and peace that has allowed me to embrace an expression I heard from my mother: “bloom where you’re planted.”

    I’m blooming in a way I never thought possible and grateful to be in a garden with you, Lisa, and Lori and many others who visit our blogs.

  4. Nicole Says:

    I have only been infertile for a year now…and I’m still only 29…so, I can’t say it has drastically changed my life yet. But, my partner and I are talking about choosing to not try to adopt or have a surrogate. We thinking we will just accept things and not have kids. And with that, we discuss things like travel, working for ourselves, and moving. Those are all things that are harder when you have kids, so I am trying to embrace the freedom we will have and get excited about traveling and what not.

  5. Lily Says:

    I think it can be a bit deceiving to read a short post like this from any blogger and think, “Well, it was easy for her to find the good in all this (insert life challenge).” It can sound so simple but it wasn’t and never is.

    Now, after reading your (excellent!) book, I really realize it wasn’t easy for you, too. It was a six year endeavor and not just one day to the next it was all better. Plus, that it truly never ends. For me it took 3-4 years to really feel okay with not having biological children. For Oprah, it took a 25 year career to talk about losing her child. There’s no way around it, only through, as some famous quote says.

    In answer to your question, though, I agree with you wholeheartedly that while infertility shattered my life in some ways, it build me up in so many others. I’ve met so many amazing women, people and ideas that I’m forever grateful for. I’m a much more empathetic and compassionate and patient person now, too. I like those qualities in myself even while they can be vulnerable and raw at times.

    Can’t wait to hear more about the workshops – I’m sure they are going to be fantastic and do more good in the infertility community.

  6. Diana Says:

    Since I joined this website and I’ve been reading everyone’s comments I’ve been thinking a lot about the pain everyone feels and how there should be more places to go to express that pain with others that understand it. I think Lisa’s workshops are a wonderful, very needed idea. I think the most difficult thing is to come to terms with the bitterness and to realize that it only hinders your chances for happiness, and that with more outlets and people to share with, it could only get better

  7. Sue Says:

    It hasn’t been that long since my world came crashing down around me and I’m still observing the broken pieces that lie at my feet. I’m still processing everything and taking it all in. The good news is that the dust is settling and I’m feeling much more positive about life’s possibilities. I certainly do hope that after some time passes I’ll be ready to put on my tool belt, grab my hammer and nails, and build myself back up even better and stronger than before. Thanks to women like Lisa, Pamela and Lily, I know that is definitely possible. Thank you, ladies!

  8. loribeth Says:

    Neglected to say, Lisa, that I think your workshops are an excellent idea. There’s all kinds of resources & support available to help people become parents by whatever means possible, but there are very few people around holding your hand & helping you find your way when you decide to get off the train & pursue a different direction.

  9. Laura Nye Says:

    Yes! I’m hoping to go to grad school next fall and doing that with a baby would be hell. I know people do it, but I can be thankful I can focus on my studies without changing diapers and being sleep-deprived.

    I’m hoping to start a support group here in Austin for “inferts” like me. I’ve even considered coming up with a list of resources (blogs, books) to leave at fertility clinics. Not sure if the docs would allow this, but I wish someone had been able to hand me a list of resources when I walked out of the reproductive endocrinologist’s office having just been told my only options were egg donation and adoption. So maybe this will lead to friendships that would only be possible from going through this no-baby-having adventure.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Laura,
      I love the support group idea as there are so few resources. I also thought about approaching the local fertility clinics. I know I would have appreciated knowing there was another option. The cynic in me says that offering this information wouldn’t be good for business, but I think it would be really good for the patients who are looking at options that they don’t want to pursue.

  10. There is definitely more opportunity, especially for women who come from lower class backgrounds. Too often, the joys of motherhood are depicted for mothers of middle class backgrounds who can afford a comfortable life, take maternity leave and enjoy motherhood.
    Poorer women have to forego motherhood and build financial security in order to sustain themselves and build a future for themselves. Motherhood *may* be important, but if a parent cannot support the child, is it worth it?
    We all know we want white, middle class women to procreate but what about women who want to leave the lower class ranks and taste the American Dream.


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