This week I’m really pleased and honoured to share Lisa Manterfield’s story with you. You may know Lisa from her book or the Life Without Baby community and for me the one key element that stands out is her advice on the importance of facing your grief and to acknowledge and handle it in the same way as any other major loss. And I also love that she now feels able to say that ‘there are times when I’m glad that it worked out this way.’
Over to Lisa
Where are you on your journey now?
I’m really at peace with where I am in my life. What’s most surprising to me is that there are times when I’m actually glad it worked out this way. Life has a funny way of giving you what you need, but not always what you want. OK, I think the Rolling Stones said that first, but it’s turned out to be true for me. That’s not to say I don’t feel the lasting effects of never having been a mother, but I don’t feel the kind of emptiness and loss I once assumed I would always feel.
What’s your story?
I was in my mid-30s when I met my husband (aka Mr. Fab.) He has two grown children, so we talked very early in our relationship and agreed that having children together was an experience we wanted to share. He underwent vasectomy reversal surgery (they don’t call him Mr. Fab for nothing) so we knew we might have some problems getting pregnant and we talked about how far we were willing to go to make it work. We both favour natural and holistic medicine, where possible, and neither of us was comfortable with the amount of drugs needed for IVF.
As it turned out, Mr. Fab’s fertility wasn’t the problem at all, and IVF wasn’t something that would have even worked for us. We spent several years dotting around between acupuncturists and fertility clinics before I was finally diagnosed with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) and told my best chance of pregnancy was via egg donation.
For many reasons, that wasn’t something we wanted to do, and opted for adoption instead, but by the time we reached that stage, we were already emotionally exhausted and we needed a break. We went through several cycles of taking a break and then getting back on the train again, because I’d read about a new potential treatment or picked up a new book by a doctor who’d performed miracles with Chinese medicine, but ultimately we took a month off to regroup, which became six months, then a year, and so on. We fizzled out rather than hit a wall.
What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
I dealt with my grief very poorly, to be honest, but the experience has taught me a lot about loss and the importance of facing grief. I was raised to have a stiff upper lip about loss, to keep my emotions tucked away and to “grin and bear it” instead. That was my method, and while it worked in the long run, I don’t recommend it, because that suppressed grief has a habit of squeezing out at the seams at inappropriate moments. I really encourage women to face their grief, even when those around them might not understand the depth of their loss. It’s a huge, life-changing loss and it’s important to acknowledge that and handle it as you would any other major loss.
What are the positives (gifts) for you of not having children?
You mean aside from maintaining my stunning figure? (She laughs.) I think freedom and flexibility. Mr. Fab and I both have erratic schedules (not conducive to good parenting I might add) and we tend to do things on the spur of the moment. The upside is, we get to travel on a whim, and I also get to visit my mum in the UK whenever I want. We are also making future plans to downsize (not that we are particularly up-sized as it is) and simplify our lives. Without children in the picture we have incredible flexibility to live wherever and however suits us.
What has not having children made possible for you?
I finished my first novel this year and I don’t think I would have been able to do that with small children in the house. I know that many authors have children and manage to carve out precious creative time to write, but I don’t know how they do it. Not having to worry about small humans allowed me to sink myself into the story and see the task through to completion.
Is there anything missing in your life? (and what do you plan to do about it?)
The thing I struggle with the most is family. My family is in the UK and Mr. Fab’s family aren’t close, so I do miss those get-togethers. We spent a few Christmases sitting alone at home, feeling miserable, before we decided to start our own tradition. Now we go away somewhere, we celebrate on Christmas Eve with a fancy dinner out, and then on Christmas Day, when we’d be schlepping kids between relatives, we do something silly and fun, like go to the zoo. It was just a matter of letting go of expectations. So much of the healing process depends on that. I’m also putting more time into nurturing relationships with friends. They’re becoming my new family.
How are you different now (who are you now)?
I’m stronger and more compassionate than I was. I really understand how people can be carrying around huge hurts and I’m much tougher and more willing when I see someone needs help through a difficult time. At the same time, I’ve become timid in many ways. Something I once believed could never happen to me did happen to me and it’s sobering. Also, I became more timid during the time I was trying to get pregnant. I became an over-protective mother to myself, afraid to travel or exercise or do anything fun in case I was pregnant. I’m working to remedy that now.
What advice would you give to women who are not as far down the road as you?
Firstly, I need you to know that you are not alone. You probably feel as if you are the only person who has ever been through this and that no one understands you, but there is a beautiful and supportive community of women out here who get it. Even if you only find one other person to add to your support circle, she could prove to be a lifeline. And know that it does get easier. I’m not sure you ever “get over” it but you learn to live with it, and life can be pretty good.
What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
Words. I’ve always been a storyteller, expressing myself through dance, music, and drama, but it took me a long time to figure out that putting words on a page was my favourite way to say what I needed to say. I love sinking into a fictional world and creating characters, and there’s an electric thrill that comes when a character walks into a scene and starts telling me how the story is supposed to go.
When I do surface and join the real world I love to cook (and eat.) I love to be outdoors. I’ve just taken up my old high school sport of orienteering, so weekends often find me charging through the forest with a map and compass, muttering to myself about which way I’m supposed to go. I’m also making efforts to push myself out of my comfort zone and quash some of that timidity I talked about. In the past few months I’ve been rock climbing, canoeing, and taken a trapeze class, all of which scared the daylights out of me, but which I did anyway.
What’s your 6 word memoir?
Fiction Writer Heals From Telling Truth
Bio: Lisa Manterfield is the founder of LifeWithoutBaby.com, the international online community for women coming to terms with childlessness. Her memoir, I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood, was awarded an Independent Publisher Book Awards Silver Medal. She is currently working on a series of Life Without Baby eBooks, due out later this year.
Interested in writing?
To recap, I believe it will really help those who are struggling to see what’s possible in their life. The purpose is:
• To show that it’s possible to have a positive life,
• To explain what’s positive about being childless and
• To explore what helped healing & how to make it happen.
If you’re interested in writing this is how it works.
I’ll post your story in your real name or any other that you chose to give me. If you have a website or blog I’d be happy to link to it so I’ll need the details and a short bio.
I’ll send you a list of questions, and you choose and answer a minimum of 6.
If you’d like to be included please contact me.
Over to you
If you realise you need help I’d love to help you. You can book a complimentary session via my online diary or leave a message on my contact page and we can spend 20 to 30 minutes to get clarity on how we can work together to create a life you love.
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