Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Family Support February 27, 2012

I talked to some of my family back in the UK this weekend, as I often do, and it struck me after I’d hung up how lucky I am to have the family I have.

I have two older brothers, both of whom have kids­­–my fabulous nieces and nephews. My mum is a good grandma, but I know she would have enjoyed playing the grandma role to the children of her only daughter.

I think there’s a bond that happens between a mother and daughter when the elder woman gets to pass along her knowledge and experience.  My mum didn’t get to do that, and it saddens me, even though I think she’s ok with the situation. My mother is nothing, if not pragmatic about the things life hands out.

I’m lucky because I’ve never felt pressure from my family with regards to children. I’ve heard the occasional insensitive comment, but I know those weren’t meant to hurt me, and probably said because of an uncomfortable situation where there really wasn’t anything better that could have been said.

But I know that other people aren’t so lucky, and that their families don’t understand at all why they don’t just keep trying to have a baby, why they can’t just put the failed attempts and losses behind them and try again.  It’s hard to explain to someone that you have to stop trying for the sake of your own sanity and that making the decision doesn’t lessen the desire for children.

So, I’m curious to hear how your families have handled your situation. Have they been supportive? Do they understand what you’ve been through and the decisions you’ve made? Or has your not having children caused a fissure in your family?  And how have you handled that? Let me know.

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14 Responses to “Family Support”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    My MIL never says much. She has grandchildren thru her step-kids. After i lost our first baby, i asked if she felt like she already was a grandmama, and her response was, “I was waiting for yours.” I know that could be taken as a slap, but i didn’t feel it. I was touched by it, and have felt disappointed (both for us and for her) that we have not been able to give her grandchildren. But i rarely feel pressure from her.

    Her daughter died before having children, so we have discussed her daughter taking care of our children in heaven. I don’t know if that is so, but i think it makes us both feel better.

    My own family doesn’t really know how to be supportive. My childhood, and that of my sisters, was to “tear us down.” I think my parents thought it made us stronger or something. Only one of the three of us have had children. I think my family tries, but they don’t really know how. My one sister who doesn’t have children is supportive and sympathetic.

    The fact is, we probably would have adopted, had other issues not gotten in the way. Largely my health is not such that i could ever pass a physical, but it is an “invisible” disability, so many of our family & friends don’t understand why we “just don’t adopt.” Part of me wants to educate – but it takes so much effort, and the family (extended, i.e. aunts/uncles/cousins) don’t “hear” it when i try. The next time i see them, the same questions are asked.

  2. Nicole Says:

    I have been incredibly lucky as well. My Mom now even helps me to look at/for the positives of living a childfree life. She’s wonderful!

  3. Jen Says:

    I never felt the pressure to have children from my parents or my in-laws. Both sides had already had grandchildren, most of them already young adults too. My mom was alive during my first miscarriage and she was supportive, but also took the stand of maybe this isn’t a good time to try again, since we weren’t married and only had one income at the time. She had passed away during my second miscarriage, but I think she would have had a different take at that point – even more supportive, but so understanding of what is would have taken to achieve a viable pregnancy. I think she would have been heartbroken for us, but not herself – she had another been a grandmother 6 times over. Though she never had one of her daughters have a child – my sister is unmarried and no children.

    My in-laws, live over 3,000 miles away, from us, so I don’t see them often and we don’t talk on the phone a huge amount (my hubby usually does the calling). I think they understand where we are at in our decision to be childfree and really don’t put any pressure or ask us anything further. One reason I think is the fact that my mother-in-law is a step mother to my hubby and she never had any children (never experience a miscarriage or a strong desire to) and I think she is fine with that. She ended up adopting my hubby’s sister when she was a late teen – due to an very emotional divorce and the sister cutting all ties with their mother and doesn’t talk with her at all – calls my mother-in-law “Mom”. Plus hubby’s sister kids call her grandmom and they have never met their blood grandmother.

    I feel very lucky to have a supportive family who has understood what we have been through. I think my friends or acquantiances are a whole other issue.

  4. Kellie Says:

    My family, for the most part, has been very supportive. There are times, when I feel that my Mom doesn’t really get what we are going through and gets tired of listening to me when I am down. It’s been nine months and she has finally started reading a couple books on infertility to try and understand what we have been going through. So for that, I am thankful.

    My mother-in-law is a whole different story. She basically feels that if we don’t adopt or continue trying, then I obviously don’t want children that bad. A friend offered to be my surrogate….without me asking and really understanding what was involved. She doesn’t realize that it’s not that simple, especially since we would have to use a donor again – but because I am not taking her up on the offer, my MIL says that I must not want children at all. She is the type of woman that no one stands up to in her family – and since I have, I am no longer her favorite person. I have asked her to read books, and her response was that she tried and that “it’s just too difficult to hear what these people are going through”…..I guess I am not one of those people to her!

  5. Colleen Says:

    My family is big on the denial front. I told them all and now it is not mentioned. Which is both good and bad. My brother is having a baby and it is all they talk about and sometimes I just want to say “hey, let’s change the subject for a second…” but instead I just make an excuse to go to another room.

  6. Angela Says:

    My family doesn’t talk about “bad” things that happen, at least not to the person the bad things happen to. Basically, after I came home from the one and only (ectopic) pregnancy, it was never spoken of again. I think they just don’t know what to say or how to say it, or don’t want to bring it up and upset me. Maybe they talk amongst themselves about it, but I think they mostly just don’t talk about it at all. My husband’s family hasn’t mentioned anything about kids to us since then either, so I guess that’s best. Personally, I talk to a shrink!

    • Kellie Says:

      My parents are bit that way as well….they prefer only to hear the good things and never the bad. Kinda sad at times. I too see a shrink….she specializes in infertility and has gone through it personally as well so she “gets it”!!!

    • CC Says:

      My family won’t talk about “bad” things either. I currently have a minor health problem and my dad asked me questions about it. What?! They never asked about infertility, my ectopic, IVFs, depression or any of my treatment.
      Maybe it’s the trade-off for no pressure to have kids. I have gotten pressure to adopt, though.
      I have a great shrink! I think this aspect of my family is why I need one-on-one therapy – I never learned how to talk about the “bad” stuff.

  7. Mali Says:

    In some ways the reserved nature of both my families (mine, and my in-laws) has made it easier. With my family, I can at least raise the issue freely when I want to – and I make a point of doing so if and when I feel it is appropriate/necessary. Not with my in-laws – but let’s face it, I didn’t want to discuss anything intimate with them anyway. I occasionally mention ectopics. Or the fact we don’t have children. But the topic is very quickly ignored. Yes, it annoys me, but I’d hate the pity too. I know my mother-in-law has said to my sister-in-law (with whom I can talk frankly and openly) that she doesn’t know what to say to me. Shrug. That’s ok.

  8. Amel Says:

    I’m also lucky ‘coz my parents and my in-laws don’t put any pressure on this and they support our decision 100%. Same as yourself, we’ve decided to surrender to a life without children.

    • Amel Says:

      Oh, forgot to say that it didn’t mean that both set of parents didn’t expect us to give them grandkids in the beginning, though, but when we told them about our struggles and that we failed in doing so…and in the end we decided that life of two would be the best for us, they support us. I even told my MIL (via email) that at one time I felt guilty for having “truncated” the family tree, but she said she didn’t want me to feel guilty and that she understands our decision.

  9. jeopardygirl Says:

    My mother has been a rock. Although I am sure she would have enjoyed having grandkids she didn’t have to swoop in and help co-parent from time to time, neither she nor my dad have ever given me a moment’s grief about the fact that I’m not going to have kids. Extended family, however, has not been quite as understanding. I had a cousin, at a family reunion, ask me when I was going to (his words) “contribute to the clan.” I told him I paid at the door. My sisters have been mostly understanding, however, the middle one has three kids, and sometimes says things that are a bit insensitive. I have no parents-in-law, since both Esso’s parents died while he was young (his mother died when he was 3), so there isn’t pressure from that side, either. I suppose I’ve been really lucky.

  10. Maria Says:

    Even though this is an older blog, I feel the need to respond. My family was so unsupportive that I can’t wait until tomorrow for Whiny Wednesday to post this. My mother and two sisters are as fertile as they come and are the worst mothers you would ever want to know. My mom had 6 kids, my older sister was pregnant 6 times but has 3 children and my other sister was pregnant 4 times but has 3 children. They all started having children when they were about 20 years old. My mother doesn’t have a nurturing bone in her body, my sister was married to an alcoholic who abused her and her kids, my other sister is divorced and puts all of her needs before her kids. I also have 2 brothers — one has 3 children, and one has 1 child. My mother and sisters assumed for the longest time that I didn’t have children because I didn’t want any. I told my older sister about my infertility and her response to me (when I was 35) was, why would you want to have children at your age. She told my mother and sister about my issues, and, since they love to talk about everyone behind their back, i’m sure they loved to talk about my infertility too. It really hurt me. I got pregnant at 39 and miscarried about 3 months later. My mother told me that, now that i got one pregnancy out of the way, it would be easier for me to get pregnant again. I decided to stop trying after that loss and just move on with my life. They never spoke to me about it again and I think assume I never wanted to have children because I didn’t try to adopt. My brother’s wife became pregnant accidentally a few years ago and my whole family knew about it for 4 months and never told me. They all talked about me behind my back, pitying me and afraid to tell me. That hurt more than the news of the pregnancy. Oh, there’s more. After the baby was born, I went to the hospital to see it and my sister-in-law would not let me hold her. The next time I saw the baby, was Christmas Eve with my husband. It was the first time my husband saw the baby, and he got so upset he had to leave the room. My brother said, “doesn’t he like the baby, why won’t he hold the baby?” Duh, no, jackass he doesn’t want you to see him cry. But of course I didn’t say that — instead we made an excuse and left.

    My mother’s gossip about my infertility eventually made its way to my 80+ year old aunt (mother’s sister) in Canada. She went through infertility treatment in the 50s and adopted 2 children. I have only met her a few ties but she e-mailed me to talk about it and those conversations were incredibly comforting. It’s amazing that someone 3000 miles away could feel my pain and talk me through it, but the people I grew up with were clueless.


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