Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Sliding Scale of Grief July 30, 2012

This post was first published on February 25, 2011

J and I just purchased a used trombone. In the very early stages of our relationship we discovered all sorts of odd things we had in common, one of which is that we both played the trombone as teenagers. Anyway, we’ve been talking about learning to play again, and we finally found a used instrument in good condition.

The main difference between a trombone and other brass instruments is that you make the notes by moving a slide up and down, rather hitting a key. It makes it a lot more difficult to hit just the right note. It’s also what makes the trombone so much fun to play, because you can slide easily from note to note, up and down and back again.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that today I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole coming-to-terms process. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of school grades, with the freshman class having just made the decision to live childfree or to stop fertility treatments, and having no idea how to start getting used to the idea. They eventually graduate to acceptance and begin to find a way to get happy, and ultimately go on to live a full and happy life without children.

But it’s really not that simple. You never really do hit all the notes precisely and in order. It’s much more like playing a trombone, where you slide from one state to the next and sometimes back again. One day, you’re content and determined to make the most of your situation, then something happens to trigger all those old emotions and you find yourself sliding back down. Then you get to talk someone who understands you and you feel like you can really figure this out…until your friend announces a pregnancy and back down you go again.

So, I’m wondering, where are you on the sliding scale of coming-to-terms? Where are you right now and have you been better or been worse? Do you feel that, even though you have setbacks, you’re slowly moving towards a place of peace, or can you see no way to ever come-to-terms with your lot in life? Or have you already been up and down the scale and have finally found a place of contentment? I’d like to know.


9 Responses to “The Sliding Scale of Grief”

  1. Rainbow Brite Says:

    I’m still sliding up and down…and up…and down…and up…and down. It feels like the roller coaster will never end.

    My sister-in-law said something interesting to me the other day regarding grief. She said after her father died, the grief hit her in spurts. She said if it had hit her all at once, she would not have been able to handle it. So perhaps that’s why the grief of infertility is such a roller coaster as well…if we had to face it all at once, we’d go to pieces.

  2. Kate B Says:

    Still sliding here. I think I always will be. Now, it’s the pregnancies. Then sometimes it’s the weddings – I’ll never be the mother of the bride helping my daughter pick out a dress. I’ll never be a grandmother. So, I think the sadness will come and go.

  3. Jen Says:

    I have definitely come-to-terms now and mostly at peace. It was a hard road these last 2 years. Right after my last miscarriage in 2010 I was devastated and when the IF doc. confirmed that it would take either donor eggs or adoption for us to become parents, I knew it was over. The grief was overwhelming at times. I was depressed most of that year into the next and it was really affecting my realtionships and my life. I finally realized I needed to start to embrace the positive things in my life and not always look at the negatives (what I don’t have). This past year has been a vast improvement and I look at my life so different now. Before, hubby and I didn’t talk much about the future because it was so unknown whether we would have a child – so we gave up a lot of things on the chance of having a child. Now we know our future and it will be just us two. So, now we are finally living and planning for the future. I won’t lie and say there aren’t times that the sadness of being childless hits me especially with pregnancy announcements, hanging out with people who have small children or even thinking about never doing motherly things with my child. In the end though I try my hardest not to let it get me “completely” down and depressed like before (I would fall apart to tears prior). Being childless and knowing what I have been thru will always be a part of me, I just don’t want it to define me and take over my life.

  4. Angie Says:

    So, it is now official, I am the only one in my fertility support group not having a baby, having had a baby, or pregnant. Out of 16 ladies I am it- the other one that has not had a baby is in the planning stage for international surrogacy. So, back down the scale I go. Finding it hard to be happy for my group-mate who just found out her surrogate has a heartbeat. Hard to move through quick sand when all you do is sink.

  5. Maria Says:

    I am in a very good place right now but I did a lot of sliding around over the past 7 years. We decided to officially stop trying in 2005. Just making the decision to stop projected me to a very good place and I stayed there for almost 3 years. I backslid when my brother’s wife got pregnant at 41. That put me in a slump for almost a year and made me rethink my decision to stop trying. After their baby was born, I was up and down for about 2 years but then got back in a good place for a year. I backslid again when my friend got pregnant at 44. After that one, I really didn’t want to feel this way anymore. I realized this is something I never had any control over — I just thought I did — and that I had to stop blaming myself, second guessing my decisions, and let go entirely. Since then I can honestly say I feel like I did before I even knew I was infertile. I am hoping I never backslide again. However, I noticed that when I did backslide, my family and friends would get frustrated with me, and would tell me I was feeling sorry for myself. I think they got used to me being “over it” and didn’t want to deal with any other feelings. I’m glad I have this group of women to talk to because there are very few people in my real life who understand or can communicate with me.

  6. CiCi Says:

    These days, I’m feeling pretty blessed that most of the anger and sadness are gone. I’m mostly in control. I’m feeling much more at peace about my life recently. It feels like I got here pretty quickly actually but I realize that my struggle has been on and off for the past 10 years. It’s just been a nice recovery once I finally let go and accepted THIS life instead. Like Jen said above, I’m looking forward to my future with my husband and making plans, and that in itself is awesome. I’m learning to love what I have been given, and make the best of every day, and not let childless-ness define me just as I wouldn’t have wanted motherhood to.

  7. Kt Says:

    I use to play the trombone in junior high and high school…I don’t even remember if I remember how to read music anymore!

    I have been sliding back down recently. With a sister announcing a pregnancy, my uncle called to ask me if it was a rumor…or if my parents knew…if I was pregnant…you have got to be freaking kidding me. Get the heck off my phone and call the one who is pregnant…and leave the one trying to live childless by consequence out of it! I wrote my sister an email telling her – I don’t care who you tell, or who you don’t tell…but leave me the heck out of it!

  8. Amel Says:

    Interesting analogy. I find myself now more often in a place of contentment. In the past there were still so many “ouch” moments and grief-full moments. Nowadays I actually don’t think I want to have kids anymore and sometimes I dread the time when my period is a bit later than usual (my period range is rather peculiar, so when it stretches a bit longer I’m scared that I may get pregnant). I know it’s weird, knowing how much I cursed my period’s arrival in the past when we were still trying. These days I think it gets easier ‘coz the focus is no longer on the “TTC” but “hubby + I = a complete family”. In the beginning it felt like a weak mantra, but over time I believe it with all my heart and soul. I LOVE my life with hubby and we need to nurture it to the best of our abilities. 🙂

  9. loribeth Says:

    Love the analogy. I still find myself sliding into moments of sadness now & then — but not as dramatically as I did in the early days, and not for as long. I find that, the older I get, the more at peace I am becoming with our situation. I might still wish things had turned out differently, but I can nevertheless appreciate the life I have today. I still look back… but I also find myself looking forward a lot more these days.

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