Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

How to be Happily Childfree in 10,000 Easy Steps April 26, 2012

There are two questions I get asked frequently: How did you come to terms with not having children, and how long did it take?

The answer is something akin to “how long is a piece of string and how many knots can you tie in it?”

Believe me when I tell you that if I could write down ten easy steps to making peace with being childfree-not-by-choice, I’d do it, but the answer isn’t that simple. Yes, there were many things that happened along the way that helped me make some peace, but it took closer to 10,000 steps than ten.

Writing down my story was hugely cathartic, venting about the injustices on this blog helped, too. Realizing I wasn’t alone in this and that people like you were out there wanting to talk through the minefield has helped immeasurably. Drawing a line in the sand and saying, “This is where that chapter of my life ends and this is where I start healing” also helped. And frankly, telling myself a big fat lie that I was better off not being a mother actually helped me to realize that in many ways I was. Setting new goals, appreciating the benefits of not having kids, and allowing myself to feel bitter and badly treated when I needed to. All these things helped.

I don’t think there’s a formula for working your way through this, and it’s definitely a journey of making forward process and dealing with inevitable setbacks.

As for how long the process takes? How long is that piece of string? It’s been three years for me and I consider myself largely at peace with my situation. I have closed the door on the idea that I will have children someday and most days I’m good with it. Everyday it gets a little better and a little easier. Some days there will be reminders of what I’ve lost and sometimes a flicker of a thought of “what if…”

The truth is, in many ways, I expect this piece of string to go on forever. The experience of infertility has changed me. It is one of the most significant and life-changing events of my life, and I don’t think the repercussions of that will ever stop reverberating. It doesn’t mean I won’t find harmony and even happiness in this new life – I already have – but I don’t expect this journey of coming-to-terms to ever fully end.


23 Responses to “How to be Happily Childfree in 10,000 Easy Steps”

  1. Lois Says:

    I love the title of this post!

  2. Maria Says:

    Very well said.

  3. Jenny Says:

    Thank you for this post. This is so timely for my husband and I. Our infertility journey ended last January; and I turned 40 a week ago. I had dreaded that birthday especially because it marked such a significant milestone ~ it really is the end. I felt such a peace though. My husband and I celebrated, I was coming to terms with how things had turned out. Then yesterday I saw a darling white haired 18 mo. old little boy and my peace was shattered. I was in a store, and it was all I could do to keep it together. I asked myself repeatedly “When will this ever stop hurting and is there anything I can do, any formula, to make it quit.” I’ve come to the realization that pain is part of the healing process and this is just going to take some time. :/

  4. loribeth Says:

    Very true. I always try to remind others in this situation that time is the best healer, and that Rome wasn’t built in a day — you can’t change an entire lifetime of expectations, plans and dreams overnight. Everyone is different, of course. I found that, even after we “officially” stopped ttc when I was 40, I secretly hoped for that miracle baby for several years afterward. It took a pregnancy “scare” several years later for me to realize how far I had come — I felt like I had just started adjusting to the idea of childfree living, and here was my body jerking me around again.

    Basically, the further away from ttc I get, the better I feel about it. Getting over 45 & then 50 really helped, I think, because at that age, people generally stop asking about it & you know what a longshot even a “miracle” pregnancy would be. Finding support online, first on message boards & then on blogs, was also a hugely helpful.

    But you’re right — I don’t expect I will ever be fully “over” this. Some days are better or worse than others, but not a day goes by when I don’t find myself thinking in some way about infertility, pregnancy loss and childlessness.

  5. rainbowbrite1979 Says:

    I wish I could draw that line in the sand and close this chapter of my life, but that’s difficult to do with 10 frozen embryos left. Hopefully we can make a decision one way or another in the next year or two. Sometimes it’s on the forefront of my mind and I find comfort in blogs like yours. Other times I need to escape and don’t read any blogs/forums on the topic of infertility. Too bad society never truly lets you escape.

  6. Quasi-Momma Says:

    I’m just starting my journey, I’m very glad to be forearmed with the knowledge that this will take time. Although given the cyclical nature of it all maybe the best instructions are “lather, rinse, repeat.”

  7. TG Says:

    Reblogged this on A Chick Blogging About Eggs and commented:
    Accepting a child-free life is something I’ve never tried, but I’m pretty sure that’s due to weakness rather than determination to battle against fate.

    It’s possible that I may still have to learn these 10,000 steps to being happily childfree, so it’s good to know that when the time comes, I’ll have inspiration.

  8. Kellie Says:

    This is so very true and some of the steps you have taken have helped me too lately.
    It will be one year May 9th that we received our final BFN. March 28th of this year, I drew a line in the sand and said; today I will start living my life again. Since that day, things just seem easier for me. That’s not to say that I still don’t have bad days, but the bad days don’t seem to last as long. My husband and I both have that date ingrained in our brains and when I am blue he reminds me of March 28th, and I am able to think of the positives in my life and not focus on the negatives.

    I also just recently started a blog. I am not much of a writer, in fact, not too good at it, but I have found that just putting my feelings down in words has helped me so much. Also, and probably the most beneficial to me during this journey has been reading others stories of infertility and their journey along the way.

    I realize the pain will always be with me and not a day goes by that I don’t think of infertility, but as I am getting older (I will be 43 in June), I think it will get easier. I still get asked if we have children, but I am not getting asked when we plan on having children as often. It’s easier to say no to the first question, but having to answer the second question has always been a bit trickier.

    • Quasi-Momma Says:

      Writing is helping me quite a bit as well. Don’t worry about whether what you write is good for anyone else or not, use it for you. I think you’ll find that you’ll reach other people as long as you are authentic.

    • Jenny Says:

      We didn’t have a specific date where we drew a line in the sand, but one day as we were preparing for our second try at IVF I sat down and wrote all the negative thoughts I was thinking. I can’t remember how many times I had said to myself that day “I don’t want to do this anymore.” My husband and I printed out my list and posted it on the mirror in our bedroom. Then we decided to quit. Whenever I panic, wondering if we did the right thing, I go back and read the list. It is always on my mind too. My thoughts never stray far from what happened and I have to discipline myself not to rehearse them trying to make sense of it all.

  9. […] How to be Happily Childfree in 10,000 Easy Steps Posted on April 26, 2012 by TG Reblogged from Life Without Baby: […]

  10. Paula Knight Says:

    It felt really important to ‘draw a line’ under trying for children, as you said in this post. I’m very literally drawing lines about my experiences in my own blog (I draw comics). My ‘line’ was also reaching the age of 40. It felt like I couldn’t spend another moment wondering.

  11. Andrea Says:

    So here’s my question: when are you okay being around pregnant friends and family members? My sister in law is pregnant and I’m so happy for her, but I cannot fathom being around her, and seeing her belly, and all her excitement. Definitely one of the hardest things I’m trying to get used to… I fear alienating her, I just… can’t.

    • Mali Says:

      This is really tough. My sister got pregnant and had a daughter at 42, four years after I had had to stop ttc, and when I had thought I was recovering. Spending Christmas with her and her bump wasn’t easy. But it would have been much harder three years earlier, and it would be (theoretically) much easier now.

      I wonder if you can talk to your sister-in-law? Explain that you’re happy for her, but that her pregnancy reminds you of what you don’t/can’t have, and so at times you might get emotional. Explaining that it is not a reflection on her or your feelings about her. Perhaps both of you accepting that you might cry sometimes?

      Or when you are actually with your sister-in-law, arranging with your husband/partner ways to ensure you can escape – when/if it gets too hard, you have a pre-determined signal and excuse to be able to leave? Sometimes knowing you can escape makes it easier to endure a situation.

      Can I say I also suspect her child might end up being very special to you. And that when you see the baby, you might realise that it wasn’t her baby you wanted (I know you know that, but sometimes realising it is a gut thing), but your own, and so it might feel a bit easier to be around them.

      Sorry this is so long – it’s just I feel for you.

      • Andrea Says:

        Thank you do much for your comments!! I did write her a letter explaining that I love get and I’m happy for her, but I can’t be around her belly. It’s funny, I think I will be okay once she has the baby; I think I’ll be able to see her then. I’m afraid I’d break down if I saw her now; sometimes it’s really hard at church, with strangers..! *sigh* thank you so much for listening and answering. Up until now it’s felt like such a lonely journey.

      • Andrea Says:

        Wow I’m sorry, didn’t bother to double-check my spelling on that one. I meant to say that I wrote her and let her know that I was very happy for her, but couldn’t see her.

    • Kellie Says:

      Hi Andrea…I totally understand what you are saying. My husbands best friend and his wife just had a baby 4 weeks ago. She told me she was pregnant one month after we got our final negative pregnancy test. She wasn’t even trying. My life stopped for the entire time she was pregnant. I saw her only two or three times in the nine months – I did everything to avoid her. I was so envious or her. I hated the attention she would get from everyone, I hated seeing her belly grow… – I didn’t attend her baby showers. Nothing! I tried to explain to her my feelings, thinking she would understand but that did not happen. She ran to my mother-in-law, telling her what a horrible person I was to let her baby be the reason for ruining this friendship. My husbands entire family was mad at me because they didn’t feel I was dealing with my infertility the correct way. I was told that I should be living vicariously through my husbands wife and her pregnancy. It was a horrible nine months. Once the baby was born, I felt this weight lift from my shoulders…I can’t explain it, but I am slowly getting my life back. Ive only seen the baby once, and it was hard, but not nearly as hard as seeing G as she was going through her pregnancy.

      Don’t feel guilty for the way you feel and the way you deal with your sister in law. She will understand, and if she doesn’t now, then that’s okay too. She will eventually get over it. Take care of yourself. That is what I did. I took a lot of Sh*%, but everything is going back to the way it was before she got pregnant. Other then the hurt I still feel over the way the family reacted towards me, but in time, I know my anger and hurt will fade away.

  12. Mali Says:

    Lisa, just wanted to say this is a great, and much-needed post. It is natural to ask how we “get over this” and look for tools or a way to fast forward through the pain, but there’s not.

    For me, the first 18 months-2 years were the hardest, then again after about 4-5 years I noticed an improvement. Now I’m pretty much outside the child-bearing years (despite AF visiting regularly and very annoyingly!), and it is much easier.

  13. Ladies, thanks for sharing your stories and advice. I think the only way through this is to keep going, accept whatever emotions come your way, and wait. As loribeth said, time is a great healer.

  14. Suzy Says:

    I’ve been happily married for 12 years, and was always hopeful that we would have a family. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I have experienced many of those same thoughts & feelings. Luckily, some days are better than others. While I have a full life without children…I am afraid that complete closure on infertility will always elude me. Thanks Lisa for writing about this topic and having a place for us to share our life experiences, thoughts & feelings.

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