Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Post: Just Enjoy Your Life April 12, 2012

By Iris D

“Just enjoy your life.”

These were the words one of my mom friends shared with me not too long ago.  I had not seen her since she had her second baby, and we got to talking about kids and I opened up to her and told her that my husband and I were unable to have biological children, and how difficult this was for me.  That evening I learned that her older son, now about 5 or 6, had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  She told me that when she and her husband married they had agreed to remain childfree, but that after some time she changed her mind and really pushed him to reconsider, and so their first son was born.  I guessed by our conversation that they had decided to have a second child largely out of concern for their firstborn.  My friend is an older mom and her husband is quite a bit older than she is. Although her son seems pretty high functioning, she worries mostly about the potential for social isolation that children with Asperger syndrome might experience.

Lately, I’ve thought a bit about my friends and family who have special needs kids.  I have a little cousin (now 15) who has Down Syndrome and another cousin who has a significant learning/developmental disability, this latter case is even more difficult because the young man in question looks physically very strong and people do not understand that he actually has a problem and cannot help some of his behavior.  In both cases, the people in question have siblings that will hopefully step in and take charge if and when their parents are unable to do so, but I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have an immediate or extended family that can help. I recall reading an article a few years back about an older woman who was looking for someone who could step in and care for her adult disabled son, as her health no longer allowed her to do so.

These stories get me thinking about the many needs that are out there and the opportunities that I might have to volunteer my time and of course about the positive emotional (and physical) benefits of volunteering, but they also remind me of one of my favorite quotes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

When I allow myself to think about my childlessness, mostly I just feel sad, and so lately I really try to remind myself to feel grateful for the life I have right now, and sometimes I hear my friend’s voice reminding me to just enjoy my life.

Iris lives in Florida with her husband and best friend of many years. Five years ago infertility and other life stressors really messed with her head, but she’s gradually regaining her Self and her passion for life.


13 Responses to “Guest Post: Just Enjoy Your Life”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    Iris, what a beautiful post today. Remember to count your blessings no matter what they are, I cant imagine your ache to have children because I am childless by choice, but be grateful for your spouse because you are not alone. Not the same for me. I divorced and never remarried, I have little extended family, and have recently been homeless. I have my dogs (my blessings) but they are lousy conversationalist 🙂 Blessings to you and your husband. He is the witness to your life.

    • IrisD Says:

      Thank you, Kathleen. I hope things are looking up for you again and that they will continue to get better!!

  2. deathstar44 Says:

    Thanky you for sharing this. Reminds me of a Buddhist quote “Complaints erase good fortune, grateful prayers build happiness throughout eternity” (Nichiren Daishonin). Sometimes I feel sad that I never experienced pregnancy but other times I think, well, maybe it would not have worked out as perfectly as I’d hoped and then we’d have a whole new set of challenges to struggle with.

  3. Jen Says:

    Great post. I worried alot during both pregnancies due to my advanced maternal age about the “what if” of a disabled child and how we would cope. I think God spared us from that fate with the miscarriages. Not that either of mine were able to be tested for chromo abnorms, but I do believe that a great number of miscarriages are due to this. I have just in the last year been able to truly enjoy my life, but that doesn’t say there aren’t times I don’t think of what I missed out carried to full-term and being a Mom. It still hurts and I think it will always hurt, but now I am atleast able to cope better with this fact and able to look at the positives in my life. I made an important change in my life in the last 4 months, I got a job in a school with children that have learning disabilities. I get the joy of seeing children on a daily basis and learn about their disabilities…this reminds me daily to feel grateful for my life.

  4. Maria Says:

    I struggled all day on whether to write this comment but here goes. My sister has a child with bipolar schizoaffective disorder that makes him delusional and violent. She has been physically assaulted by her son, and he has threatened to kill her many times. She and her husband separated for the safety of her and her other children. She wanted this son very badly and loves him but he has brought challenges to her life that she and many others never dream about. When I was feeling sorry for myself for my infertility, she reminded me that I had a lot to be thankful for in my marriage. She said when people dream of having children, they never think its going to turn out to be what she has experienced. Despite her son’s disability, she still finds happiness in her life every day and I try to do the same.A buddhist monk (Thict Nhat Hahn) once said, “you have everything you need right now to be happy, you just need to look deeply to see it.” As painful as this was for me to accept when I was yearning so badly for a baby, the truth is that having a baby is not a guarantee to happiness.

  5. Mali Says:

    Iris, that was a beautiful post, and Maria a beautiful comment. (I love Thich Nhat Hahn.) My sister and her partner have a beautiful daughter who I love, but who has cystic fibrosis. Who knows what her life expectancy will be, what her life will be like. She’s already a regular at the children’s hospital, and she’s only 4. I look at them and see the joy of their beautiful girl, but I also see the heartache. I know that having a child doesn’t fix everything, and I feel grateful for what I do have in my life. (Including that gorgeous girl who is coming to visit me soon!)

  6. Dorothy Says:

    Great post, Iris. Hope to see more because of your unique perspective. Yes, life with children does not always equate with happiness, but you did not stop there. You also reminded us that there are opportunities to volunteer, to help others who have seen their dream families destroyed by illness and disability.

  7. IrisD Says:

    Thanks to all who have responded. Maria, I’ve also read a bit from Thict Nhat Hahn. That quote is so perfect. I had not heard of Nichiren Daishonin, but that was very beautiful as well, and I certainly find myself in need of googling. I think that having gone through involuntary childlessness has made me much more capable of feeling empathy for others and much more aware of their struggles. I think few of us, whichever path we are on, are able to escape all level of worries, fears, anxieties… and it is so important to focus on whatever is good and right and to feel grateful for things both big and small. Wish our world was just a little smaller and we could all get together and meet in person.

  8. Laura Says:

    What a wonderful post. I have dedicated my career to working with children with severe special needs. I keep wondering in the back of my mind if my “unexplained infertility” was somehow related to an inner fear of raising a child with severe needs. In my 20s, I had a job for 5 years where I got hit, kicked, scratched, bit, spit on etc. on a daily basis, and it took every ounce of my energy to keep focused on the beautiful child and family I was helping. One of my co-workers at that site recently got a concussion from being hit by a student who is autistic and was out of work for a while. If I am to be completely honest with myself, I think it took a toll on my psyche in terms of “could I do this 24/7?… what if?” A recent tragedy involving a student I had over 10 years ago really hit home… it was a murder-suicide b/c the mother felt she could not cope any longer. I am devastated for their family. Life brings so many experiences that are “not fair” to put it mildly (please, please don’t think I’m trivializing any of this). I absolutely count my blessings. I have a wonderful life, home, husband, friends, family- and I am truly, 100% thankful for all of that. I will continue to devote my love and skills to my students and perhaps that’s one of my “purposes” in this life. My boss (who has been my mentor for almost 18 years) was also unable to have children–and would have been an *exceptional* mother. She once told me, “maybe in a past life, I was a mother… maybe in the next life, I will be too… in this life, it ends up I’m not. But I’m not going to stop living this life.”

    • IrisD Says:

      Laura, my best friend is also a special ed teacher. I was a middle school and high school teacher for 10 years, and I’m teaching college now (though still part-time). I have a student now who is from the disabilities center at the college, and who I believe has Aspergers. I think it takes a very special person to do what you do!!! Today one of my friends who has a son with autism, posted a very moving update on facebook, and the post went something along the lines of “don’t pity me”, but “be there to support me and help me succeed.” The post stressed looking at the positive not focusing on the negtive. It was truly moving, and it expressed quite nicely how I hoped this post would not be read. I for sure don’t want anyone’s pity because I am childless not by choice. I don’t want people planting fears into my head about “who will take care of me when I’m old”, or implying that my life is “lacking” because “motherhood is the toughest and the most rewarding job ever”. And I think that mothers of special needs kids need support, not pity, and not someone highlighting or underscoring the difficulties in their lives. I also don’t know how I would have handled having a child with special needs, especially as I would be an older parent, my husband is also significantly older and the child would likely be an only child. I think it is different for someone like Sarah Palin whose special needs son has four older siblings to provide added support.

  9. I come from a family with Asperger’s Syndrome (grandparents, parents). I have Asperger’s Syndrome. During my childhood, it was not yet recognized as such, and my “quirks” were seen as just that, individual quirks. Also, my parents encouraged me to expand my social horizons (since I was deemed shy) by joining the school band. I am not the most extroverted of people by any stretch of the imagination but it hasn’t halted my progress in life. I served as a caregiver for my elderly parents when my neurotypical siblings couldn’t immerse themselves in their day to day care as I could. I moved across the country in my thirties and married a kind man. Yes, there are times in my professional and personal life when my Asperger’s feels exhausting– typically it is when I am forced to mask my true feelings to socially integrate into the societal norms and pressures demanded by a neurotypical workplace or environment. I am not the enemy, nor am I a minority. I am simply neurodiverse. My fellow Aspergians and I don’t want your pity, we simply want an equal shake and the right to be treated like anyone else.

    For anyone who is worried that their child may have a neurological twist, I will tell you to educate yourselves. I too faced this challenge when trying to have children (we are also child-free, and it is so painful). Our knowledge and resources are growing. There are choices and options. Don’t give up.

    • IrisD Says:

      Thanks for your reply, Jennifer. My student, mentioned above, who I believe has Aspergers, is brilliant. My friend’s son, mentioned in the post, is also very bright. I added my comment above because I did not want to imply that we should “pity” people. Honestly, I find it unnerving and condescending when applied to me, as it implies something is lacking and I takes attention away from all that I have that is good. I do know people with children who have severe disabilities, and I think if they can manage to live a good life and put a smile on their faces, then I also need to remind myself of all those things I have to be grateful for. My friends facebook post, like yours here, was really a reminder of always keeping a focus on what is positive and good.

  10. […] This post was originally published on April 12, 2012. […]

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