Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

How Did You Know You Wouldn’t Have Children? May 31, 2011

I write a lot about issues that affect me now that I’ve more or less come to terms with the fact that I won’t have children. Looking back over the past two or three years, I can see just how far I’ve come, and I’m pleased. Unfortunately, that’s not always very helpful for readers just beginning their journeys and sometimes I’m asked, “How did you get there?”

It’s a good question, but it doesn’t have a simple answer, so I thought I’d take a look back at some of the milestones that shaped my journey and try to analyze what made a difference for me.

Today, I’m starting with The Decision. How did you know you were going have to figure out how to come to terms with being childfree?

If you dealt with infertility, a doctor probably gave you a diagnosis that you knew would mean the end of the line, but if you were anything like me, you didn’t just throw up your hands at that point and say, “Okay, well I guess I just won’t bother trying anymore, then.” So, when did you know you were at that point?

If you are childfree by some circumstance other than infertility, maybe your journey was different. Maybe you toyed with the idea of having children despite your situation. How did you know that motherhood was definitely not going to be a part of your future?

And if you are childfree-by-choice, when did you know you wouldn’t have children?

I think all our stories are different, because it’s such a big milestone in our lives and not something that changes in an instant. For me, a number of factors were in play, but I think the biggest one was that I knew my husband and I were suddenly on different tracks. I think that he knew (although he didn’t like it) that it wasn’t going happen for us, whereas I was still running from doctor to doctor trying to find something that would work. I could feel us begin to drift apart and I finally realized that my marriage was more important to me than trying to prove that I wasn’t infertile.

“Don’t you mean you realized that your marriage was more important than having children, Lisa?”

No. And that’s one of the other factors in this. I realized that my quest was no longer about having children; it was about winning and proving that I wasn’t broken. My doctor had told me that using donor eggs would give me about a 50 percent chance of conceiving, but I didn’t want to use donor eggs and I didn’t want to go through IVF. That was my choice for my own reasons. But if having children was my top priority, wouldn’t I have done whatever it takes?

This is way too much public psychoanalysis for me right now, so let’s just say that my decision to get off the crazy train came slowly. There were many events that happened that pushed me towards the decision and many more that made me change my mind again along the way. Eventually though, I reached the Tipping Point and started figuring out how I was going to come to terms with the fact that something was wrong with me and that I wasn’t going to have children.

How about you? How did you get to that point? Please share your stories; yours could be the one that makes a big difference to someone who is trying to start coming to terms.


15 Responses to “How Did You Know You Wouldn’t Have Children?”

  1. Kate B Says:

    I was 44, had just had a miscarriage at 8 weeks. The pregnancy had resulted from our 3rd IVF. #1 had also resulted in a pregnancy – but it was a chemical pregnancy and not quite as devasting to lose. We had decided early in the process that we would give IVF 3 tries. I know that financially I could have tried again. Our RE was willing to give it another go, but mentally, emotionally, I couldn’t do it again. We gave adoption plenty of thought, but we simply could not afford it. We felt that going into tremendous debt in order to have a child would not serve the child well, since we would have to work extra jobs to pay off the debt. So, we would have a family, but no family life. I still hoped for a miracle or a lotto win which would allow us to adopt up until about a year ago, when I turned 49. Okay. Trtuthfully, I still think that maybe if we won the lotto, I would adopt and quit my job so that I could be a full time mother and that it wouldn’t be that bad at my age if I didn’t have to work.

  2. Jen Says:

    I just turned 44 this month and we have gone through 2 miscarriages and years on and off of trying naturally. My first one was when I was 38 and they just chalked it up to a fuke, but I didn’t try again for 4 years (on BCP) – other things in life become our focus. Then the last 2 years trying naturally that I just didn’t look into IVF because of costs. After this last miscarriage at 43, I did go to a RE and had testing, but the last 9 months have been spent trying to get my period to come back normally. I also know my ovarian reserve is low and we aren’t in a position financially to go further with any procedures. The heartbreak from the last miscarriage sent me into a bad depression and emotionally I couldn’t take the risk of another miscarriage. Our hearts and minds have made the decision in the last few months to come to terms with being childless and we are at peace with this decision. My marriage is so important to me and the stress of last year’s miscarriage has proven that it won’t be fair to bring a child into our marriage that was already strained from stresses. I am starting to realize that there is a future for us and it can be bright and beautiful, even without children.

  3. S Says:

    How did I know? I don’t know and that is where my journey ends. ( I know it is probably the beginning of a journey but somehow it feels like an ending – or at least the beginning of the end).

    I may be the opposite of most posters. Some will say when they knew they were done with the quest to have children. But my problems began when I decided that I wanted to START the quest. With my presumed excellent marriage and health I had no idea there would be heartache on this end of that decision.

    My husband always said he wanted to have children but I held back because of his drinking. After much work we got to the point where I trusted him and actually wanted to have children with him. When I told my husband I was ready I had no idea he was going to revert back to the antics of a college kid. It’s been five months since I told him. I expected nights of lovemaking, excited conversations and walks through Babies R Us. I’m shocked by the way he’s been living his life since then.

    I’m almost 37 and I didn’t sign up for the life I’m currently living. After countless discussions he claims that he also wants children. But his behavior continues to say otherwise. Now what? How I do decide if I still want children with this man if I can’t even get him to be honest with me?

    Probably my best bet for having a child is to divorce and find someone new. With the way my husband has been acting I’m almost there. But I struggle with the concept of ending a 9 year marriage. A marriage which was more difficult than most but ultimately very fulfilling.

    I constantly wonder what path God wants me to be on. I struggle with what the strength of my marriage means, where it will lead me as a person and if these struggles will someday draw us back to the close couple we were. I struggle with the very real possibility that I could fruitlessly continue to work on our marriage only to find myself several years older and medically unable to have a child.

    I just want that peace of knowing. But we never know what is in front of us – do we?

  4. Jenny Says:

    I never got a diagnosis from a doctor. After all the various tests, no one was able to find a medical reason for my inability to get pregnant. They said I am “perfectly healthy”. Same for my husband. I’ve tried Clomid, and had a laparoscopy. Through that, I discovered that I had endometriosis, and my doctor told me that after having it removed I would most likely get pregnant. That was 10 months ago. I looked into insemination, but found that that was where both my husband I were ready to draw the line. We just realized that we weren’t ready to spend thousands of dollars on what I was told would be a 20% increase in our chances to get pregnant. We realized that we would rather start being happy living with each other, rather than go through the emotional and financial drain of further treatments.

  5. Julie Says:

    With my first husband, we had discussed having kids before we got married, had names picked out for a boy and a girl, but then when we reached our goal of waiting five years to start trying, he “wasn’t ready.” I didn’t want to force him, so I waited. After another year, he said he wasn’t sure he wanted kids anymore, so I waited for him to come to a clear decision. Another year went by of him going back and forth. Finally, I asked if he thought he would ever DEFINITELY want kids, and he said no. I wanted to at least have the chance to have kids, so that I wouldn’t grow to resent him for taking that away from me, so we divorced, fairly amicably. We still text every once in a while.

    Now I am remarried. We talked about having kids, and we both wanted them. He knew my history and the reason for my divorce, so he knew that I REALLY wanted kids. We started trying immediately after we got married. I turned 33 a few months later. I had had a check-up with my doctor, and she said if I wasn’t pregnant within six months to come in. I wasn’t, so I did. She recommended Clomid, even though there was no sign that I wasn’t ovulating. Because I didn’t know any better at the time, I went with it. I had an HSG, and all the normal hormone tests before trying Clomid. All were normal, and my tubes were open. She had my husband get his sperm checked, and told me the motility was a little low, and said to give it a few more months. After a few more months, and several pounds of weight gain from the Clomid, and her still saying “the motility is a little low, let’s give it a few months” I finally wizened up and asked how low was “a little low.” She said 5%. I’m a math teacher; I know that’s A LOT low. So we got a recommendation for an RE in our area.

    At our meeting with the RE, she told us IVF was pretty much the only option. We asked about a urologist. My husband went to see a urologist, and he gave us prices for the varicocele surgery, of which he wasn’t even sure my husband had one, so the surgery was only a possible help. he gave it a 50/50 shot of helping us. Those were the same odds for IVF with ICSI, and about the same amount of money out of pocket.

    My husband’s parents were desperate to become grandparents again (my sister-in-law only had a thirteen year old at the time and was outspoken about not wanting another, she has since had a baby, and immediately had her tubes tied since her birth control didn’t work), so they gave us some money to go toward IVF. My husband and I talked about what we wanted to do. I wanted to feel like I had tried everything possible to have our baby, so we agreed to save up and do IVF once. While we saved, we had frequent talks about what our life would look like if IVF didn’t work, our back-up plan.

    Our IVF process only resulted in 3 mature eggs, all of which fertilized. They transferred the best two, and the third stopped developing, so all our eggs were literally in one basket. The first blood test was positive, but the second showed decreasing numbers. I cried for hours after hearing that news, and then the next morning woke up feeling like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders because we were moving on to our back-up plan. My in-laws offered to fund another IVF, but we said no. The emotional roller coaster was too much, and I didn’t think I could take another failure. If our IVF had felt like it was closer to success (more mature eggs), I might have reconsidered. And mostly, I wanted to feel like I was moving forward in my life and not standing still watching everyone else move past me. Even if my moving forward is just looking forward to a fun trip or a fun weekend, it’s better than the two years we spent dealing with infertility and all the endless waiting.

    I still have my weepy days, but they are much much fewer and further between than in the beginning.

  6. Jen Says:

    My husband and I knew we were going to have issues getting pregnant when we got married but we didn’t really know much until later in our marriage. We knew that I had thyroid issues (hypothyroidism and a very large nodule) and that my period was really erratic (later diagnosed as PCOS). We knew that he had had a double hernia when he was 6 weeks old and undescended testicles when he was born. But we really had no idea what these things meant. We were young getting married – I was 18, he was 22 – and we started trying right away. When nothing happened, we went to a doctor and he suggested my husband get a sperm test. It was determined that he had a very low sperm count and low motility which, considering what he had experienced as a baby, the fact that he had a sperm count at all was nothing short of a miracle. Every doctor we have seen since then for whatever reason kept saying, “Well, all it takes is one!” If I had a quarter for every time I heard that one…

    We have actually “made the decision” to stop trying several times. When I was diagnosed with PCOS (and he heard about my husband’s sperm count), my doctor basically told me that my options for children were IVF or adoption and put me on the pill. I really had no idea that there might be other options and just trusted him. The thought of going through the major physical and emotional roller coaster of IVF was awful to me. I had seen several friends go through that and I just knew that I could not take it, especially when the chances were great that it might not even work. Besides the fact that it is so expensive. And adoption, while a great thing for many, was not something we felt right for us. So we let go of the dream.

    Then I started reading articles about a medication I could take that would help regulate my period and would not be birth control. Why was I never told about this? No clue. But my husband and I thought, “If we never try it, we’ll always wonder, what if.” So we tried it. Nothing. My doctor then suggested insemination (which, if it didn’t work would then lead to IVF and we would be back where we started) and gave me a 25% chance of it working. I’m sorry but I just couldn’t take that big of a risk. And I was more firm than ever about not doing IVF or adoption.

    The surprising thing about this for me was my husband’s response. He has always been so supportive throughout the process but very non-commital about his stance one way or the other. Until this last let down. He finally admitted to me that, while he loves kids and wishes we could have had some of our own, it was time to just say “enough is enough.” We’ve been married 16 years and we don’t want to always be trying to reach something that is just out of our grasp. We need to live life to the fullest and, if that means no children for us, so be it. I was so grateful for his stance and it gave me the freedom to accept my choice as well. We have chosen to let the dream go for good. I just wish my family and many of our friends would accept that choice as well. But that’s a whole other topic. 🙂

  7. Kathryn Says:

    S – i’m so sorry. I don’t have an answer, but i pray that one will come to you.

    We, ah, hurt. Still. I think i always will, tho i know in some ways i’m healing. We have lost 3 now. We considered some assistance, but the doc most highly recommended to us just didn’t fit, and frankly we don’t have the money to pursue either IVF or infant adoption. Every child that i’ve read of who is older (there are adoption sites listing children’s pics and history just the same as animals from shelters) has this statement: Needs experienced parents. Besides the fact that our lifestyle has us away from home 2 nights a week for work. To raise an infant, not so difficult in making the adjustment and we might homeschool. To take a school-age child would take an immediate lifestyle change i’m not sure we could manage. (And of course, fostering is out, besides, i think it takes special people to do that.)

    Then there is my health. I am on disability and very limited in my energy. We have begun mentoring a family with 3 children, and we love to have the children with us, but it certainly makes it clear to us how very, very limited i am.

    So, i struggle. I am very aware of my limitations. I have to live within my reality, and my reality leaves no room for the desire of my heart. Some days are better than others.

    Two weeks ago i had a very well meaning friend call. She knew of a baby for adoption. She had pulled this on me over a year ago, and i told her in a very rambling letter, please don’t do this again. Her response was, “At least you knew soon (4 days) that it wouldn’t work.” I knew the minute she told me that it would not work, but it shredded my heart anyway. Four days of desiring but knowing i could not have was four days too many.

    So now she has done it again. This time i’m rather angry. Yes it shredded my heart again, but i’m a bit tougher now. When i am able to respond, it will be a much more direct letter. Maybe even, “Don’t you EVER do that to me again! I don’t care how good your intentions!”

    While i may accept our status as a family of two, and i certainly love my hubby and appreciate our marriage, i have always, deeply desired to be a mama and my husband wants children and his mama wants to be a grandma. Those are the facts. But reality won’t bend to our will. It is always going to be somewhat painful for me, but we are learning to live with it. We are trying to build as full a life as we can being non-parents.

  8. Mali Says:

    For me – I was 41, two blocked tubes (after two ectopics), two cancelled IVF cycles (didn’t even get to transfer), no real hope of donor egg (and I had mixed feelings about that), adoption difficult in NZ, expensive offshore, and husband not comfortable with the idea. Have more to say … will say it when I get my thoughts in order.

  9. Lee Cockrum Says:

    I did not meet my husband until I was 36, and at first he was not sure that he wanted any more kids. (He has a daughter from his first marriage, did not decide to get pregnant with her, his ex decided for him.) It was a really hard decision if I should continue the relationship, but I did not want to give up a man that I loved, for the possibility that maybe I’d find another love, and then maybe we would get pregnant. So we stayed together. I don’t recall exactly when we decided that I would go off birth control, but nothing has ever happened, I am as regular as clockwork, and never a sign of pregnancy. I am overweight, and he would always say that he was anxious that if I got pregnant something could happen to me, as well as he was not really up for all sorts of medical procedures, so we never pursued any fertility treatments, as well as I don’t know how well I would have dealt with the emotional roller coaster. Adoption is not an option, as he does not feel like the child would really be ours. So now I am 47, and this is what we have… or rather have not.

    His daughter lives 800 miles away, with a mother who has done everything in her power to make sure that her daughter hates her father. We finally stopped “enforcing” the various visitations after her summer visit when she was 16, as we were tired of the lies, and accusations of how horrible it is when she is with us. We worked for many years to make sure that she knows we love her, and out home is always open to her, but all she does is tell us how miserable it is here, and that begins to wear on a person after a while. We do have a 23 year old “foster” daughter, complicated how she ended up with us, but it has worked out well for her and for us.

    But I visualized myself with babies ever since I was old enough to understand about having babies.I have worked with kids for the last 25 years, and I love my patients dearly. Generally I do more than okay with the children of friends and family. But sometimes it is so hard when I think of what my life is, versus what I had hoped for. I know that I am very lucky, and that no-one’s life turns out the way that they planned, but I don’t think the pain will ever go away. I just keep trying to find ways to enjoy my life, perhaps even take advantage of the freedoms that I have because of not having children .

  10. Sue Says:

    I had never been someone who wanted children. I thought my maternal clock was broken. But as I fell more and more in love with the man who became my husband, that little clock that had been quite for so long began to tick. I was 35 when we decided to we were ready to have children. You know, financially ready, new house with room to grow and a safe four door vehicle. After two early pregnancy losses, drs ran about every possible test to find the cause and they found…nothing. My husband’s tests were all perfect. The only thing the RE could figure was possibly wrong was egg quality so he prescribed clomid, an HCG shot, and recommended an IUI. Getting pregnant wasn’t our problem and after reading some recent studies and bad news on clomid, I chickened out of doing the HCG shot (I didn’t want to put more drugs into the body I had worked so hard to be keep toxin free) and backed out of the IUI. Almost a year had past since my last miscarriage and emotionally time had helped heal those wounds a bit. I no longer wanted to cry every day and those triggers were further and further apart. I had already taken the clomid (we decided we would try it just once) and after the first night of trying on our own, I panicked. Full out panicked. “What am I doing??? How could I put myself through this again???” I was completely overwhelmed with the fear of going through another miscarriage and being back in that place emotionally. I didn’t want to try anymore. We ended up getting a positive pregnancy test and I was honestly and truly happy and hopeful the “magic beans” had actually worked, but unfortunately I miscarried again. It was the panic and fear that I felt that night that told me I was done. I could not and would not experience that physical and emotional pain over and over with no idea about what was causing it to happen and having no idea what the odds or chances really were. The RE had mentioned donor eggs as a possibility but as Lisa so brilliantly put it, husband + donor egg – me – love = something we just didn’t want a part of. There are times I wish my maternal clock had remained silent and I’ll always wonder what would have happened if we kept trying, but I have an amazing husband and a strong marriage and I have absolutely NO doubts we are going to have an incredible life together.

  11. DAK Says:

    I can relate to so much that was written. For me, I think, it was after my 7th IFV. Yes, 7. I was sooooo fortunate to have insurance that I rode that m’fng IF rollercoaster For.Ever. So when that 7th came to an end, well, I guess I just resolved that God did not have this in His plan. Not sure what else I COULD think and still be sane. That 7th was such a fruitless effort (pun intended) but I knew if I didn’t try while I had free IVF’s I would always wonder “was that Thee Cycle”. So I did that last one knowing it was an emotional waste. .And with that being said, I won’t even get into the whole adoption nightmare. ~sigh~

  12. DAK Says:

    One more thing. It never ceases to amaze me how STRONG we are. Yeah. We hurt. We have endured pain no one else can relate to, which is why we are here, right? I still cannot believe all that I went through. Emotinally. Physically. Not sure I could ever do that again. How DID I do it?? But we Are Strong Women and I have to applaud that for us…
    We are Amazing.

  13. IrisD Says:

    My partner and I have been together for a little over 20 years, but for a very long time he was not really committed to the relationship. Children were not my focus. I loved him and wanted it to work. I had tried to move on many times, but never found anyone else with whom I felt compatible. So about 9 years ago we moved in together (well, sort of because at the same time I moved out of the country for grad school… and for the first 2-3 years we only saw each other 3-6 months a year). By that time I was 35, and when we were together we never used birth control. I never got pregnant. I have two friends who went through failed IVFs, one adopted and the other I think is childfree and I hope happy (haven’t been in touch in a while). I have a niece and nephew with whom I am very close and was very involved in raising. I was also a teacher for 8 years and had my fill of being around teenagers and pre-teens. I didn’t have a baby craze. But about 3 years ago, it hit me badly. We have male factor infertility, but my husband is not open about it with me at all. I’m sure I have naturally low ovarian reserve at 42, but have never done an hsg. So, I don’t know if I also have other problems. I’ve gotten it into my crazy head to get one done because it is the only thing I can do on my own just to test and see if a miracle happens since my husband is opposed to donor sperm (and I’m ambivalent about it). You raise an important point Lisa about wanting babies vs wanting to prove that you are fertile. I’m not 100% sure what is going on with me on this one. I feel that I have had the experience of being close to kids and watching them grow and playing a part in their lives, but I know I am not their mother… I often think what I feel that I’ve missed out on is something that feels like it should be natural and a given… the ability to create life with the one you love and to feel that life grown inside of you…

  14. lmanterfield Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories. I know when I made my decision I felt as if I was the only person in the world to ever do something so radical as to stop trying for a family! Reading your stories strengthens my resolve and helps me to feel as if I made the right decision. @DAK has it right. We are strong and amazing women. Sharing our stories like this will help those women who come behind us and find themselves at that difficult crossroads. Thank you. ~Lisa

  15. loribeth Says:

    We didn’t start ttc until we had been married 10 years & I was almost 35. Tried on our own for 2.5 years, had almost given up when I got pg. Rollercoaster pregnancy followed, culminating in our daughter’s stillbirth at 26 weeks. Muddled along on our own for another year before persuading dh we should at least investigate & see if there was a simple fix (famous last words, right?). I had to talk dh into seeing an RE & agreeing to three IUIs with injectable drugs, after a few initial rounds of clomid were unsuccessful.

    When the third & final IUI we had agreed to failed, I started having anxiety attacks. I thought I was having a heart attack. Wound up with a prescription for ativan & wondering what the heck my life had become. We talked to an infertility counsellor & she encouraged us to take the summer off, try childless living on for size & then reevaluate. It didn’t take long to realize we were truly done. I was 40, dh was 44, & we realized that, even if we tried IVF, between the two of us, the odds were just not in our favour. Donor egg & surrogacy seemed just a little too “out there” for our tastes at that point (both not as common then, 10 years ago, as they are now), & neither of us could muster up much enthusiasm for adoption. We knew we could have a good life together, just the two of us — because we already did. Which is not to say it’s been easy, or that we haven’t had regrets, but overall, I feel it was the right decision for us at that point in our life.

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