Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Hope vs. Acceptance April 12, 2011

In the past week two different people have made comments to me that have amounted to the same message: Don’t give up hope; there’s still a chance you could have a baby.

Whether you’re childless-by-choice, or by circumstance, I’m willing to bet you’ve had someone say something similar to you.

“It could still happen.”

“You’ll change your mind.”

“Don’t give up hope.”

The “don’t give up hope” type of comment is the one that hits me closest to the core. While I think that hope is key to human survival, I think it can be dangerous if it isn’t backed by action. Just hoping something will happen someday is how potential and lives get frittered away.

While I was trying to get pregnant, I was full of hope, but I was also doing everything I possibly could to make it happen. Now that I am no longer trying, I am no longer holding out hope.

But this doesn’t mean I feel hopeless. And this is what I want to be able to explain to people who still carry hope for me.

Losing hope of having children is very different from accepting and coming-to-terms with the fact that I won’t. I am not hopeless; I haven’t thrown in the towel; I haven’t rolled over and surrendered to my childlessness. I have made a conscious decision to stop my quest to conceive and for the past two years I’ve been working on coming-to-terms with that decision. I haven’t lost hope; I’ve just changed my outcome. I haven’t simply given up on the idea of having children; I’ve made a decision to live childfree.

I know that many of these comments are said with the best of intentions. People who care about us can’t bear to see us not get something we want, or not get something that they think we should want. There is still a pervading idea that people who don’t have children do, or eventually will, want them. But some of us just don’t, or won’t, or did once, but don’t anymore. For the latter group, it’s not about giving up hope; it’s about accepting what is and building a life from there.

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16 Responses to “Hope vs. Acceptance”

  1. Kate B Says:

    I found that continuing to hope prevented me from moving on and accepting my situation. Once I was able to put the hope of having children away (mostly away), I was able to beging to heal and learn how to begin to carve out a happy life without children.

  2. Colleen Says:

    Well stated. I don’t think people realize that when you keep thinking “it could still happen” that it is really holding you back to live your life. It is like carrying around a bowling ball everyday. Maybe I am strange but I would look at certain foods and think “I can’t eat that” or should I take that new job “but it will screw up my FMLA”….It is a huge weight that you get to a point that you just can’t carry around anymore.

  3. Julie Says:

    I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when we followed through with our decision to stop trying to conceive. I was full of hope the whole time, always thinking “this is the month,” and when it wasn’t, I was devastated. There is no way I could have continued with that. Like you said, I don’t feel hopeless now, I just redirected my hope to something else. Now I hope that my husband and I will continue to enjoy each other’s company and continue to find fun and interesting things to do. I hope that I continue being a good teacher for my students. I know when I was carrying around the bowling ball of hope (good description, colleen!) I was not the best teacher I can be. It was too distracting.

  4. loribeth Says:

    I kept getting these sorts of comments long, long after we had decided to remain childless/free, and long after even most fertile women would expect to achieve (& carry through) a pregnancy. Even if we’ve accepted it, it seems like it’s very difficult for others to do so. It’s hard for people to believe that any ending that doesn’t include a baby can also be happy one.

  5. Mali Says:

    I LOVE love LOVE this. I have so often seen or heard people say (usually to others, sometimes to me) “don’t give up hope, it WILL happen.” And I hate that. I hate the implication that giving up hope is a bad thing (when it’s not, as you and your commenters point out), and then that trite, callous “it will happen” when you know that it won’t. Argh. Thank you for posting this.

  6. happynenes Says:

    Ugh. Thank you for posting this. I am currently in the middle of a fit of hope and have completely regressed into fruitlessly charting BBTs. It goes in waves, no?

    • lmanterfield Says:

      It goes in waves, yes, I think so.

      I’m torn between wishing you good luck and yelling “Don’t drink the Koolaid!” Just ride the wave, I guess and see what happens.

  7. Rach Says:

    i had to ask people to stop saying it in the end, all it does is remind me that actually NO, no matter how much HOPE i have, it probably WON’T happen, so will you please stop saying that it STILL MIGHT?!?!

    fabulous post!

    ~x~

  8. Elena Says:

    I am sooooooooooo glad for this post.
    I have only very recently come to understand (emotionally, for myself) this connection (or non-connection) between hope, coming-to-terms and acceptance.
    I’m 39 and childfree because i tried to conceive during 4 years (including fertility treatment), the medical problems being on my partners side…. after the four years he declared he’d “never really wanted children” and after some more struggling, our relationship broke apart after 10 years.
    ALL i’ve been hearing from people – friends, but also childless people in online forums etc. and even my psychotherapist – is “but you could still have children. Just get a new partner”.
    And this has been hurting me so much… and i’ve taken MONTHS to even understand for myself why that hurts and doesn’t seem possible for me right now.
    If you think the same: Please try to take just one minute to try and understand what the events of the last two years of my life meant for me. Two years filled with pain, confusion, feeling rejected and a huge loss.
    this is what i need to COME TO TERMS with. To “find a new partner” i must “Move on in life”. And that means coming to terms with what happened and accepting it FIRST. It means i can NOT “hope” for a man and a baby to just come along. Specially not for the baby.
    Furthermore i just had the terrible experience (yes, you might think thats nothing new, but it does feel terrible when it happens, as you all know too) that life doesn’t turn out the way we planned it. How on earth could i just decide that i will go on with my “plan”? It would mean to totally ignore what my current situation is: No partner, therefore, no baby.
    All people are talking about is the “hope” – side of things. Totally ignoring, that the “coming to terms” MUST come first….accepting what is NOW…. there is no hope without that.
    I hope this is understandable…

    • S Says:

      Elena, I can sort of understand your situation. After years of a not so great marriage my husband royally screwed up. After much forgiveness and therapy I felt we arrived at a place where we could have a conversation about children. I felt that my trying marriage made me a stronger person. I was grateful to arrive at a place where I felt happy and in-sync with my husband. I felt centered and “ready”. Only to find out that he isn’t willing to take that step with me.

      Now I find myself in the position of staying or bailing out of a (like you) ten year relationship. I’m held back by that “bowling ball of hope”, by the ticking clock and by the question we all ask ourselves at one time or another, “WHAT THE HELL?”

      And like you, either way it’s going to take some time to process and move past these emotions. At my age time is a luxury I truly don’t have to squander. In my case I do still have “hope” but right now hope seems silly and worthless and if anyone told me not to give it up – well, I’d want to tell them where to shove it.

      • Elena Says:

        Hi S,
        i’m so sorry you have to experience this. I understand how really difficult it is. Exactly because there seems to be so much reason for “hope” – which is nearly nothing to do at all with the situation as it is in reality. Please take care of yourself.

  9. lmanterfield Says:

    Ladies,
    Thank you for your truly insightful comments. Even though I wrote this post, reading your comments turned on a light bulb for me. This won’t be the last time someone throws out the “there’s still a chance” and now I have a very clear answer for them and an explanation of why their comments aren’t helpful. Thank you.

  10. no Says:

    Wonderful Post. I have been TTC for 3 years and I just need the relief of not trying anymore. I don’t want to think about it anymore. I just need freedom from the whole problem. I want to accept that I have a worthwhile and wonderful life without a baby. Thanks for the great thoughts.

  11. […] away from, even when I knew that walking away was the right thing to do. (I wrote a post about hope vs. acceptance last […]

  12. […] post was originally published on April 12, 2011. You might also enjoy the follow-up post from April […]

  13. […] soundly down to the ground. I’ve written about this kind of “don’t give up hope” comment on this blog in the past and how paralyzing it can be to someone who doesn’t want to keep hoping for a […]


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