I’ve known Jill and her husband since we first joined MTL and we’ve developed a strong and close friendship. She’s a great inspiration and support both to me and many others and I owe her a massive thank you for encouraging me to learn NLP.
What I love about Jill’s story is that all the way through she’s taken positive action; she was inspired by the quote ‘Maybe it’s possible to get to a place where what is best is simply what is” and made a conscious decision to make that happen.
Like many women a big turning point for her was letting go and she did this at a memorial service. Learning NLP also helped her and her comment that her ‘reason for wanting a family was to create a childhood for my child that I thought I missed out on’ is truly insightful.
Jill is certainly making the most of her life now and I’m with her 100% when she says that ‘now is my time.’ I thank her for sharing her story and look forward to continuing our friendship for many more years.
1. Where are you on your journey now?
It is amazing to think it is 15 years since my last IVF treatment and I am totally different to the person I was then. I no longer feel defined by being childless.
2. What’s your story?
I met my future husband when I was 22 and we moved in together 2 years later and enjoyed our childfree existence. I qualified as a librarian and was building a career in the commercial sector. When I was 28 we decided we wanted a bigger house, we fell in love with a 4 bedroom house in a large Surrey village and moved out of London. I was not consciously thinking about starting a family, but with ’30’ approaching, it was probably at the back of my mind. I also changed jobs soon after moving and commuted into Central London a 1 1/2 hour commute each way.
The hours were long and I travelled abroad for work, this was fun at first but the novelty of the job soon wore off. My husband set up his business a few years previously and was at the stage where he needed to expand, it seemed sensible that I go into business with him. We worked long hours together and were under considerable financial strain. Friends were settling down and starting to produce children, when I was 33 we decided to get married and start trying for a family.
The first year nothing happened. Eventually we went to the doctors and started the round of infertility tests. It was rather a shock 18 months on to be diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis; the severest kind. I was now aware that the biological clock was ticking.
The next 7 years we really felt on a merry go round of me taking drugs or going through surgery to keep the endometriosis at bay followed by another round of IVF. I felt reasonably positive about our success rates and kept a picture of twins by my bedside. We looked at the statistics for IVF and decided to have 5 attempts as figures showed a 20% chance of success.
Our fifth try was not a success; I stopped the treatment as I produced one poor quality egg. We made the decision to give it our best shot and have a final sixth attempt; by this stage I was 41. On our final IVF, 3 embryos were put back; I had a borderline pregnancy test which probably meant that the embryo died.
Emotionally and financially we knew it was time to stop. We did not feel donor eggs were right for us and we looked into adoption, but I felt too vulnerable to proceed.
It was a low time for us both and I realised working from home was not doing my emotional well-being any good. Fortunately my husband had the chance of going into partnership with another company and we made the decision to sell our dream house and move back to London.
Although not relishing returning to work, I knew I was falling into depression being at home on my own. I knew that I excelled at my first career and made the decision to return. I took the first job I was offered as the agency said it was hard to get back into a career being the wrong side of 40! Fortunately a year later I was offered a job at a not for profit organisation. It was great to be working with a young team and I had a good social life – making up for the last 7 years.
I was often down in the beginning, but I knew it helped for me to be busy and to be doing something that I loved doing. 4 years later I was offered my dream job combining information and advice at a membership organisation, although the role eventually changed with a restructure I was there 7 happy years, by that time I knew I was ready for new challenges.
3. What helped you heal/how did you deal with your grief?
While we were going through treatment I was fortunate to join an Issue support group (the forerunner of IN UK) the advice from the group helped me feel in control. As I was getting near the stage of stopping I was looking around for another support group and was fortunate in that Issue was just starting More to Life (MTL), over the next few years this was a life line for me.
As well as reading the newsletters and looking at the forums, I gained a lot from meeting others and we have formed some really strong friendships. Although we all had different stories to tell, I knew I was in a safe environment where anything could be discussed.
I chose to be a ‘county contact’ and helpful person for many years and it helped me heal by helping others. Despite being an active member of MTL, a couple of years after stopping treatment, I still felt stuck in my grief. Even though I knew I was not going to have any more treatment, I was unable to decide what to do with the ‘spare bedroom’.
I eventually signed up for a ‘Letting Go’ weekend similar to Gill Tunstall’s workshops. It was an emotional weekend, the turning point was the memorial service we both attended, and gradually I started to feel better. I knew when I decorated the spare bedroom and made it into an extra living room with a sofa bed that I turned a corner.
Returning to a career I loved helped take my mind off of things and I was fortunate to find something I felt passionate about. I have always been someone interested in personal development. I signed up for an evening class in Neuro Linguistic Programming; my main aim was to help me with work issues. I went on to study to be a practitioner and then a master practitioner of NLP. Although I worked mainly on work place issues NLP enabled me to tackle my own problems around childlessness in my own way and time. NLP allows you to be coached through a subject without having to give the content to the person coaching you.
4. What are the positives (gifts) for you of not having children?
Having returned to my career for 12 years, I found my career was no longer giving me job satisfaction. When the chance to go for voluntary redundancy came up I seized it with both hands and a great big smile on my face! Friends with children off to university have been quite envious that I no longer have to work.
I feel that now is my time. It is great to make plans to do more travelling. To take up interests that have laid on the back burner for a long time. I’ve recently taken up playing the piano, something I have wanted to do since I was a child. I’ve overcome several fears such as swimming out of my depth and cycling in traffic.
NLP has taught me that no family is perfect. My reason for wanting a family was to create a childhood for my child that I thought I missed out on. I have accepted my family, particularly my mother for who she is. I am a part time carer with my other siblings for my mother who has dementia, if I had children I would have struggled to find the time to be with her. I was also able to mentor various graduate trainees at work and am glad to say that two of them have become good friends. Both trainees have chosen not to have children and I hope I am a good role model for them.
5. How are you different now?
Turning 40 was a horrendous experience, we were still waiting to have our final go at IVF and even though we had moved house and were starting to move on, I was not where I wanted to be at that stage in my life. Having children became an obsession and I thought I could not be happy again.
A book I read at the time (Crossing the Moon by Paulette Bates Alden) had this passage at the end which resonated with me. “One morning…I woke up early. Jeff was still sleeping…. It came to me that it really was a choice between two good things – having a child and not having a child. Our life without a child seemed good to me. I caught a glimpse that it was what was right for us, for the best. But who can say what is ‘best’? Maybe it’s possible to get to a place where what is best is simply what is.”
I am grateful that I have a partner who loves me for who I am and that our marriage has got stronger from going through unsuccessful treatment. Turning 50 was a totally different scenario, it was a lovely day with some close friends and I realised that I have created a whole new group of strong friendships with other childless women/couples in the last 10 years.
6. What advice would you give women who are not as far down the road as you are?
When I first joined MTL I took hope from a couple who were further along the grief cycle. They were out enjoying their lives, finding new interests together. I never thought I could have a similar attitude to life. With time I have got there.
At first I found it difficult when colleagues discussed children/grandchildren and spent time in the bathroom when photographs were shown around. I have now de-sensitised myself.
15 years ago, I told my family and friends that I did not do christenings, it was too painful for me to go to the ceremony, I never believed that 8 years ago I should be invited to be a godmother and relish the experience. Three years after stopping treatment 2 of my nieces got pregnant at the same time, I was not sure how I was going to cope.
Two things helped me. My niece said she felt guilty being pregnant and I did not want her to feel that way. I also have a niece with Down’s syndrome, she was thrilled to be an aunt and she taught me to follow her example. In many ways I missed out on being an aunt first time round, distance and time means I don’t see the great nieces and nephews that often, but when I do, I enjoy having fun with them, knowing I can give them back at the end of the day.
Give Sorrow Words – the Memorial Ceremony is run by Gill Tunstall Counselling
What do you think?
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