This week I’m really pleased to share Loribeth’s story with you. You may have read her blog The Road Less Travelled where she’s been writing since 2007. In addition to her inciteful blogs she has a long list of other helpful resources.
Like our other story tellers Loribeth is able to say that she is ‘pretty happy with my life right now the way it is’ which is fantastic to read. I love her whole story and, for me there are three other key points. When ending treatment, she ‘realized that we could still have a good life with just the two of us – because we already did! Isn’t that so true and how easy to forget!
In line with this quote, we must let go ‘before we can really embrace the other good things that life still has to offer.’ Again, I believe that this is so true and one of the keys to moving on.
And she’s the first person to suggest that we can learn from those who chose not to have children. There’s a tendency to see ourselves as completely different, but I like the idea that we do have things in common.
Over to Loribeth,
1. Where are you on your journey now?
I am – finally! — in a pretty good place in my life right now. I am 53 years old and have been married almost 30 years. By my mid-40s, it was pretty obvious that I was not going to be a mother. And while there are still days when that’s hard to deal with, I know I would not want to be a mother now, if the opportunity presented itself. That ship has sailed! I am pretty happy with my life right now the way it is.
I may not have children, but I am the very proud aunt of two wonderful young men and, if I am lucky, I may have some great-nephews and nieces to spoil in the next few years.
2. What’s your story?
My husband and I put off having children for many of the usual reasons: we were young and broke when we got married and just entering the world of work and home ownership. We live far away from my family and my mother-in-law died before I ever met her, so I knew I would not have much family support once we had kids. I wanted to be sure we were ready to handle the huge responsibility of being parents. Many young couples I knew had rushed into parenthood – or had parenthood thrust upon them – without really thinking about whether or why they want to be parents and what parenthood involves. I think most people (perhaps too many) don’t give parenthood a lot of thought until they’re in the middle of it — but I’ll admit that perhaps we thought about it too much!
We finally decided we were “ready” and began trying to get pregnant when I was in my mid-30s. A year went by, then two, and I was getting worried, but my family doctor kept assuring me “it will happen.” I was shocked and thrilled when I finally did get pregnant in 1998, when I was 37. Sadly, it was a complicated pregnancy and our daughter was stillborn when I was six months along. Compounding my grief was the awful feeling that time was running out and that perhaps this had been my last chance to have a child. We tried to conceive on our own for another year before I persuaded my husband that we needed to get help. Maybe there was a simple reason why I wasn’t getting pregnant?
That started us off on the slippery slope of fertility testing with my ob-gyn, which led us to a reproductive endocrinologist, then clomid and then IUIs with injectable drugs. We agreed to try the IUIs three times. Shortly after our third attempt failed, in the summer of 2001, I started having anxiety attacks (I initially thought I was having a heart attack). My husband said “no more!” and I realized that, much as I wanted a baby, I just couldn’t continue. Both of us were now in our 40s and, realistically, the odds of success were highly unlikely, and I decided it was not worth the risks to my mental, emotional and physical health. But I realized that we could still have a good life with just the two of us – because we already did!
And so we stopped. I continued to hope for a “miracle baby” for some time afterward, but eventually came to accept that it wasn’t going to happen.
We did consider adoption – who doesn’t, right? — but after everything we’d already been through, neither of us could muster up much enthusiasm for what we knew would be another long, stressful, uncertain process. As I often tell people, we’d been riding the infertility roller coaster long enough. We didn’t want to get on another roller coaster (which is what we knew adoption would be) — we wanted to get off and get on with our lives.
3. What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
When our daughter was stillborn, I read everything I could on pregnancy loss and grief. We found support through local support groups and online. Writing about my feelings and challenges, and hearing from other women who were experiencing the same or similar things, was a huge part of my healing.
I approached dealing with the prospect of permanent childlessness in the same way — but there were challenges. Most of the support groups and other resources for infertile couples in my city tend to focus on those still in treatment. Online resources were also very limited – blogs were pretty much non-existent at that time, and I actually didn’t start blogging until several years after I left treatment — but I was fortunate to find a few message boards with supportive women in the same situation as me, and they were my lifeline. I also had a few sessions with therapists at various points, including one counsellor whose practice focused on infertility, grief and couples issues.
4. What are the positives (gifts) for you of not having children?
Infertility and pregnancy loss have the power to make or break relationships, and I’m grateful that my marriage has survived. My husband and I have been through a lot together, and I think we are closer and our marriage is stronger because of it. We have a lot more free time than our parenting peers, and more disposable income for things we enjoy, like vacations, eating out, going to the movies and buying books. (Lots of books!)
That said, we don’t feel the need to have a lot of “toys” or keep up with the Joneses — as we probably would if we had a teenager. We have a small house – we bought it with the idea that we’d probably be here a couple of years and then move up to something larger as our family expanded. It’s just fine for the two of us, and if and when we ever move, it will probably be into a condo.
I like to think of these positives as my silver lining or compensation for not having children. We sometimes get semi-snide comments from friends and relatives (“gee, must be nice…”), but I make no apologies for enjoying my life today – I think I’ve earned it.
5. What has not having children made possible for you?
I recently lost the job I’d worked at for the past 28 years, and found myself essentially retired at 53. I had been thinking about early retirement, maybe when I was 55 or 56, so this was a little earlier than planned! My husband (who is 57) also lost his job a year ago. But, because we stopped fertility treatments before the costs became astronomical, and because we don’t have children to raise and educate, we’ve been able to put some money aside for retirement and rainy days. We’re not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we were certainly better prepared to face this unexpected twist than some of our colleagues who are still raising children and paying off mortgages. After getting up at 5 a.m. and commuting five days a week for the past 25 years, we’re now enjoying being able to sleep in every morning! I may eventually take on some freelance or contract work, but it will be my choice if I do so.
6. Is there anything missing in your life? (and what do you plan to do about it?)
I haven’t travelled as much as I’d like… but I’m looking forward to filling that gap now that I have more time for it! When I was working, I felt obligated to spend much if not all of my limited vacation time visiting my family. I’m hoping to be able to spend more time with them now, too.
7. How are you different now (who are you now)?
I like to think that infertility and loss have made me a more empathetic person than I would have otherwise become. When friends and relatives are experiencing loss or challenges in their lives, I don’t shy away; I have a much better sense of what to say and do to comfort them.
I also think I’ve become more resilient. I roll with the punches a little better now than I once did. When I lost my job recently, I had this weird feeling of déjà vu – bad news coming out of the blue, not quite hearing what the person across the table from me was saying. It was another loss, for sure – but it wasn’t the end of the world. I left there thinking, “If I survived stillbirth and infertility, I will most certainly survive this.”
8. What advice would you give to women who are not as far down the road as you are?
It’s a bit of a cliché to say that time is a great healer, but it’s true. You have to remember that most of us expected to be mothers from the time we were children. You don’t reverse a lifetime of expectations and plans and dreams overnight.
There is a quote that appears on my blog, attributed to Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” There is a good life to be had without children, but I think we need to take some time and mourn the loss of the life we had planned, before we can really embrace the other good things that life still has to offer.
My other advice would be to reach out for support from other childless women. There are a LOT of us out there – something like 1 in 5 women reach their 40s without children these days, and most of them are likely to remain childless, either by choice or circumstance. More and more of us are speaking and writing about our experiences — there are certainly a lot more resources out there now than there were in 2001, when I stopped infertility treatment.
Also, don’t discount what women who are childfree by choice have to say. They are coming to this life from a very different place than we did – but we have a lot in common, particularly in terms of how society views and treats us, and I think some of them can teach us a lot about embracing the advantages of living without children.
9. What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
Reading and writing… spending time with my husband… spending time with our families… taking long walks along the waterfront… enjoying the autumn colours. I’m looking forward to doing more of all these things now that I am not working!
10. What’s your 6 word memoir?
Loved and lost, survived and thrived.
Website/blog details and/or bio:
I have been blogging about life after infertility and stillbirth at The Road Less Travelled since 2007. Blogging comes naturally to me: I have been writing stories, letters and journals since I was old enough to hold a pen. My original ambition was to write the Great Canadian Novel, but when I realized that not many authors make a living writing books, I decided to try journalism. I went to journalism school, worked briefly as a reporter, and eventually got a job in the then-emerging field of corporate communications. After 28 years with a large Canadian company, I am now retired (I think??), and am looking forward to my next life chapter!
Do you think your story could inspire others?
I started these stories so that women who are struggling can be inspired. 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.
So if you think your story could help other women this is how it works.
I’ll send you a list of questions, and you choose and answer a minimum of 6. 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.
So if you think you could inspire others 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.
And if you leave your email below you’ll be the first to hear about more articles like this and, as a bonus you’ll get the e-book.
Please use the buttons at the bottom to share.