Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Happily Childless, Not-So-Happily Infertile October 19, 2010

Recently I’ve been dreaming about babies. These aren’t sad dreams or dreams of longing, just dreams in which I’ve interacted, in a very tender way, with a baby that wasn’t mine. I’ve woken up thinking about the dream, but not upset by it.

Last night I had a different dream. I was on one of those double decker open-topped tour buses (like the one I took in San Francisco last week) and the tour guide asked if anyone had ever tried (and he implied, failed) to have a baby. I reluctantly put up my hand. Looking around the bus, I saw that I was the only one.

“And what was that like?” asked the tour guide.

“It was horrible,” I replied. “It’s completely out of your control and there’s nothing you can do about it. There are procedures and things you can do to help, but you can’t control whether they work or not.”

After that the dream gets fuzzy and I woke up feeling very out-of-sorts.

Pottering around the kitchen this morning, I knew this would be a blog post of some nature, I just didn’t know about what. The dreams didn’t make much sense and I couldn’t decipher any meaning to them.

Buttering my toast, it came to me.

I am happily childless, but I am not happily infertile. I have reconciled the fact that I am not going to have children and I am okay with that. In fact, the more time passes, the more I realize how much I enjoy my life without children and what an upheaval to that life children would be. The part I haven’t yet reconciled is my infertility. I still can’t fully get to grips with the idea that my body failed me and that, no matter how hard I worked, not matter how dedicated I was to the goal,  there was nothing I could do to change that.

I don’t feel alone in my childlessness–the majority of my friends don’t have children—but infertility is still, and maybe will always be, something that makes me feel like the odd one out—the only person on the bus with her hand in the air.

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13 Responses to “Happily Childless, Not-So-Happily Infertile”

  1. Pamela Says:

    I’m coming to realize that coming to terms with infertility is a lifelong process. I sat through the most awful business meeting yesterday — complete with a roomful of people who knew nothing about infertility, which only made their comments — in response to a new business pitch aimed for a new genetics test aimed at women who were “planning to become pregnant” (as though planning means it WILL ultimately happen) all the more galling. One of their target markets was fertility clinics because they felt they could leverage the high emotions that accompany “planning” a pregnancy. I almost let loose with a primal scream.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Pamela – I would have screamed along side you. There is so much that is not good about that scene. I’ve been offered one of those genetic tests, AFTER I’d been told I couldn’t get pregnant. I was so caught up in the emotions that I actually rolled up my sleeve. Good to know those emotions were being “leveraged.”

  2. deathstar44 Says:

    I think that’s because like with other things, no matter how “hard you work at it”, you can’t control infertility. It leaves a scar that can’t be seen from the outside. There’s an ache that hurts on some days more than others. Everyone expects you to “get over it”. Like it’s a cold. Whether you grieve the loss of children or the loss of control you felt you had over your body, it’s something that goes on a lot longer than you would every imagine.

  3. Jennifer Gill Says:

    I don’t want to be Pollyanna, and I certainly understand the horrible pain of wanting something so much and doing all the “right” things but feeling left out in the end – but my gut reaction to you saying your body failed you is to feel protective sympathy for your body. This really struck a chord with me. I’ve been making peace with my own body (still a long way to go!) and trying not to be so mean to it. I think this may be getting me to clarify some of the feelings I’ve had about the fertility treatment industry. A longer post than I can make right now as I am supposed to be resting with the flu.

    But what if you thought in terms that your body gave you the best it could, and it’s NO LESS than if you had a baby. You have touched many other lives already, and eased pain, and shared ideas and feelings and comfort. You continue to do so. Your place in the world is resonating, expanding consciousness in community. Which is pretty awesome, I think. You’re not just one more person fretting about the right pre-school to set Junior’s path to Harvard. You and your body rock the world, and I am grateful for the light you bring to us here.

    So there. 😉 Now give that body some love; it gives you everything.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Jennifer, thank you for this. I really appreciate your kind words. And you’re right, my poor body isn’t getting the love it deserves right now (as I sit here twisted around in my chair, typing sideways and wondering why I keep getting headaches!) I think that the unhappiness about my body’s “failure” perhaps has as much to do with getting the wake-up call that my body isn’t perfect and things might not always work right. I’ve always been fortunate to have good health, so it’s a bit of a shock to realize that things could actually go wrong. Thanks for giving me another way to look at this. My body did give it the good old college try and I appreciate for that. Perhaps I should treat it to a massage and some extra fruits and vegies. 🙂

      Hope you feel better soon. It’s always good to hear from you.

    • Bronwyn Says:

      Jennifer – your post has brought tears (good tears) to my eyes. I really appreciate you sharing this wisdom.

  4. sewforward Says:

    I enjoy reading your posts eventhough I don’t comment often. We were in San Francisco and Napa at the same time! Although I wasn’t riding through Napa on a bike (I was in a car), but we did go on one of those double decker buses.
    I feel the same way you do about being childless. I am happy about it – we would never be able to travel the way we do, or indulge in the hobbies we have, if we had children. However, the issue of ‘infertility’ still lingers – why? For me, its not so much that my body failed me. If we are talking about body failure then I think my HUGE FLAT feet would be on the list. I think it is because we live in a culture that ‘fixes’ things. No one should suffer – we can fix that is our answer. But infertility can’t always be ‘fixed’! In fact, more times then not, IVF doesn’t work. Our culture views childness as ‘something’ that needs to be fixed one way or another. So rather than acceptance of ourselves we are left with a sense that we are some how not complete, maybe even broken..

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Well heck, we could have had a glass of wine or a bread bowl of clam chowder. Maybe next time.

      You are dead on with the fixing culture comment. It’s interesting that I was able to see that and yet still not accept my own personal failure. Accepting ourselves is HUGE. Thank you for your insight and thoughtfulness. So glad you decided to comment. 🙂

  5. Aja Says:

    I saw a therapist for a short time and she asked me whether it gave me any sense of peace to know that I at least tried (as in, that I went through the medical procedures, etc.). I didn’t know how to answer her at the time. The truth is, trying and failing only made me feel worse. I used to think that if I tried “everything” then I could be reassured of any regrets. Now I know that my efforts, and failures, only made me feel less confident in myself and my body. It’s a horrible feeling.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Well, I can see where she was coming from. I actually spoke the words, “If I just do this then at least I’ll know I tried,” but no, it didn’t help at all.

      Did you read some of the comments above? I think there is a lot we can learn about accepting ourselve, warts, bum ovaries and all. As Pamela said, it’s a long process.

  6. Mali Says:

    You have captured how I feel absolutely. I am happy I don’t have kids; my life is full and fun and I can do so much more than I could if I had a 7 year old.

    But the infertility, the failure to do what so many other women do, and what so many assume everyone can do, is much harder to deal with. Some days I’m fine, but there are days when I feel that “otherness” very acutely. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  7. jen Says:

    Well can I just say I’m a little happy I came across this website today.

    I’m the odd one out in my world — everyone has kids with the exception of me. Believe me I wanted them – but can’t. Dealing with the people around me made it harder. It made it even harder when the people with kids felt the person without kids should be left out. . . as if that helped.

    I’m sad I can’t have kids – but I’m not mad at my body for it…I’m more mad about how the people around me think by me not wanting to go through treatments and tests and go the adoption route means maybe I did not want it enough. (I’ve had people say this) Maybe I tried long enough and it’s ok to not try anymore…I’m “getting” ok with that statement. The dealing with it alone-or with people who just don’t get I’m still a person (kids or not) is harder over the reality of it not being able to happen.

  8. Ann Says:

    This is the first blog I have seen where people are actually thinking with their heads about infertility instead of their emotions. Every blog I read was “OH WHOOH IS ME”; “10 things not to say to a childless woman”, “I have depression from my infertility…” You know what I would love to have a child, I don’t, I can not concieve but my life is full, I have a job that I love, a man that I love. If I sat around and that is all I thought about every day… yes I would be deeply depressed, but God has another plan, I am in His will and I am making a difference in people’s lives.


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