Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Sliding Scale of Coming-to-Terms February 25, 2011

J and I just purchased a used trombone. In the very early stages of our relationship we discovered all sorts of odd things we had in common, one of which is that we both played the trombone as teenagers. Anyway, we’ve been talking about learning to play again, and we finally found a used instrument in good condition.


The main difference between a trombone and other brass instruments is that you make the notes by moving a slide up and down, rather hitting a key. It makes it a lot more difficult to hit just the right note. It’s also what makes the trombone so much fun to play, because you can slide easily from note to note, up and down and back again.


The reason I’m telling you all this is that today I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole coming-to-terms process. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of school grades, with the freshman class having just made the decision to live childfree or to stop fertility treatments, and having no idea how to start getting used to the idea. They eventually graduate to acceptance and begin to find a way to get happy, and ultimately go on to live a full and happy life without children.


But it’s really not that simple. You never really do hit all the notes precisely and in order. It’s much more like playing a trombone, where you slide from one state to the next and sometimes back again. One day, you’re content and determined to make the most of your situation, then something happens to trigger all those old emotions and you find yourself sliding back down. Then you get to talk someone who understands you and you feel like you can really figure this out…until your friend announces a pregnancy and back down you go again.


So, I’m wondering, where are you on the sliding scale of coming-to-terms? Where are you right now and have you been better or been worse? Do you feel that, even though you have setbacks, you’re slowly moving towards a place of peace, or can you see no way to ever come-to-terms with your lot in life? Or have you already been up and down the scale and have finally found a place of contentment? I’d like to know.


14 Responses to “The Sliding Scale of Coming-to-Terms”

  1. I have slowly come to terms, but I do have setbacks; however I know I am making progress. What would set me back two years ago doesn’t set me back so easily now. When somebody has a PG announcement I take it more in stride where it used to throw me into a fit of self-pity for a couple of days.

    It’s taken a long time, but I’m getting there.

  2. Marcie Says:

    I guess I would be a sophmore most of the time. I’ve come to terms with my situation (5+ TTC). However, the “hope” does unexpectantly creep in from time to time. For example, I was reading an article the other day and found that there was a top fertility doctor near us. For a minute I thought (hoped)…then I turned the page. I tend to slide back more than slide forward.

  3. sue Says:

    i think we have come to terms most of the time, having stopped IVF about 6 years ago was our last one, as we felt the stress and unlikely outcome of a BFP wasn’t worth the near-nervous-breakdown that was the result of the disappointment!! I only happened upon the Infertile Mind (which brought me here!!) last week, and read with great interest the amazing posts, and this made me realise I’m not the only one out there who is living sans-kiddies!!! You never can tell when all the old feelings of wanting so badly to be pregnant and wanting to hold your own baby will rear up and bite you on the bum, but i think as time goes on they get easier to deal with,,, only slightly though!! i’ll keep reading, thanks for the great blog x

  4. Mali Says:

    I’d say I’m a graduate, pretty much happily in tune most of the time. But that doesn’t stop me from occasionally sliding back down the scale, though whenever I do, I know that I’ll soon find my note again. Still, I don’t think I’ll ever have perfect pitch. (I love your music analogy). But that’s okay, because it’s made me who I am.

  5. Sue Says:

    Coming to terms certainly is a sliding scale but I’m happy to say what triggered a meltdown a year ago only puts a lump in my throat today. I’m definitely happy to be taking steps forward instead of running around in circles trying to figure out which direction to take.

  6. sewforward Says:

    I’ve moved on, too. What used to upset me, now is just a annoyance. In fact, many times, I feel my infertility was a gift that I as just unable to appreciate. Sure, I still at times wish I was on the other side of the road with all the Moms, but this side of the road isn’t all that bad.

  7. TinaAnn Says:

    I am starting the coming-to-terms process. We have just made the decision to let go of all fertility treatments after TTC since May 2009 with 2 early losses. I laughed when I read about your trombone. I just picked up a rental clarinet last night to get back into playing and DH recently purchased a classical guitar. And I just got back from my first Yoga class in years. Imagine my horror and distraction when I was in the class and realized that a prenatal class was in the next time slot! I avoided looking at bellies on the way out and hurried to get ready in the change room. There are days when I feel stronger but I guess today wasn’t one of them.

  8. Kathryn Says:

    Wow. What a great way to visualize the concept.

    I’m all over the place, all up and down the scale. For me there doesn’t seem to be an easy progression from freshman to graduate. I doubt there ever will.

    I KNOW that no children is the right place for us. I have a chronic illness that makes just functioning every day difficult. We’ve taken steps so that we are now unofficially mentoring a family (my husband calls it the “rent a kid” program). When we return the kids and i have to spend hours in bed, i know just how limited i am. It would be so hard to have our long desired baby, to finally be a mama, and not to be able to care for my child.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that pregnancy/new baby announcements make me burn with envy. I still have sarcastic “oh goody for you” thoughts in my head when someone on Facebook posts a precious story about their child or grandchild, or that person says that the child/grandchild makes “life worth living.” Bitterness still lives within me, tho i try to banish it.

    And i don’t yet begin to know how to handle the fact that not only do my husband and i have to come to terms with this, my MIL desperately wants to be a grandmama, even tho she isn’t pushing the issue. I think i hurt just as much for her as i do for us.

    Still, life goes on. I didn’t add my blog to your list of “infertiles” because my blog deals mostly with day to day issues and i touch on childlessness only on a rare occasion. We are content with our lives/life together. We have carved out a lifestyle we like (given my limitations). It is hard, however, not to wish there could have been more.

  9. Rach Says:

    i think i’m doing fine but then something happens and *wham* i’m right back to the start of the sliding scale again!

    we’ve been ttc for 11 years this year and have suffered LOTS of miscarriages and it’s only this year that we are no longer trying – it’s just become too heartaching for me.

    the Guv has always said that i am enough for him and i know that he is for me and yet that yearning for a baby, a child we’ve created together, to live beyond us as a testament to our love for one another is and always will be there, it will never disappear.

    i may “come to terms” with never having children but i will never be accepting of it.


  10. Sandy Says:

    I am in my senior year for the second time on the TTC scale. The first time I graduated was when we decided to stop ttc after 3 very intense years. Friends progressed and crossed over, but I was able to look at their successes and pleas for us to try one more time with a wistful smile and the conviction that there was no way I was going back to that madness.

    A surprise pregnancy (my one and only) and then loss at 43 brought me right back to ttc trauma. That was compounded by my sister getting pregnant and successfully bringing forth the first grandchild in 17 years.

    Three years later and if I haven’t graduated I’m very close. Most days I’m fine, but I still don’t do baby pictures and movies about pregnancy. I mourn at Christmas, when we lost the baby, but in general I’m very content to come home, sit on the couch with a book and relax with the cats and husband. I’m almost back to where I was when I first graduated.

    Your trombone analogy is excellent and while I’m happy with the notes I play I do know that there are the occasional off-pitch ones that creep in.

    Thanks for a well-written post.

  11. Kate B Says:

    That is a great analogy! I think that I may be a senior. I’ve mostly come to terms – but you should have seen me a few days before Christmas when my BIL sent me a text saying “make sure you read our blog today” and there was the announcement that they are expecting their second child. I cried for over an hour – so I still haven’t graduated. But this weekend, with the powerball lotto up to $180 million, the dreams of what we would do came and while my usual dream of now being able to afford adoption was there, so was the realization that I will be 50 this summer. And a child adopted now would not graduate high school until I was nearly 70. That gave me pause. It made me think that it’s time I give up that dream. But I’m not quite ready to do that yet. So – senior year it is.

  12. Elena Says:

    haha, the trombone analogy is brillant!
    I’ve been sliding all the way back down to start again over the last two weeks… i felt near despairing, spent the weekend in tears, every mommy with kids on the train makes me feel sick…and a developed a lot of anger towards my therapist! Because i got the feeling that all those therapy session were just no use and it’s been over a year i’m seeing her by now! then i read a good book (about mastering any kind of crisis in life) and had a great talk just now with my mom’s best friend who remained childless herself and has been taking care of me over the last few months. she is a real gift i am so glad my mom arranged for her to talk to me. so a little slide up again tonight… but i’m scared. maybe i’m like a beginner trombone player: i feel like those notes just slide down again on their own without me having much control over it! perhaps it’s a question of practice – and the right breathing technique, maybe?
    wow that analogy is really great :-)!

  13. loribeth Says:

    Love the analogy!! I wouldn’t say I’m a graduate, because I do have my sliding-down-the-scale days still. But I’m long past frosh week, thankfully. ; )

  14. […] This post was first published on February 25, 2011.  […]

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