I love how all of a sudden we have the urge to share our story publically . This happened to Rose, who I worked with several years ago. I’m not sure what her catalyst was; but I do know that, whether there are comments or not (& I sincerely hope there are), it will help her.
One of the things which helped Rose was walking the Camino which is why one of the images she chose is of a signpost. In this instance there’s only one way to go, but life is not often that easy; often there are many different choices & it’s hard to know which one to pick. I guess, on the Camino & in life there are very rarely completely wrong paths to take. Yes some might take you by a longer route (which could be more scenic), the important thing is to choose a path & keep moving forward.
There’s much wisdom in Rose’s story & I especially love her 6 word memoir. I hope you enjoy it & do please leave a comment.
Where are you on your journey now?
I am 42 years old. It’s been 6 years since our last IVF/ICSI ended, and with it our dream of having our own children.
What’s your story?
I met and fell in love with the gentlest, kindest person I could have wished for. We bought a house, got engaged and married and, like most people, kind of just expected children to come along. I remember the doctor telling us we would need IVF and, while we were upset, I just thought, well let’s get on with it! There followed 5 courses of ICSI. Looking back, I can say with great honesty that it was gruelling. I don’t think people realise just how emotionally and physically tough the IVF process is. The toughest one of all was the 4th – we had a false positive pregnancy test, and when it turned negative I was truly devastated. I plucked up the courage to have one more try, and when it failed, on Christmas Day 2013, I knew that was the end of that road for us.
I would have pursued adoption, I think, but fertility treatment had left me completely emotionally drained and neither of us could face it. I was also aware that my mental health had been affected by the treatment, and as mental health problems run in my family, I was wary of developing depression. This spurred me on to start to look after myself and I went through counselling to help me come to terms with it all.
Looking back, I had so many anxieties surrounding not having children. Feeling left out, growing old alone, failing as a woman. Friends, family and work colleagues were all having babies and while I always showed that I was happy for them, I remember feeling so sad inside. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was grieving and that it was completely natural to feel this way. I also believe the stigma attached to childlessness still exists; I hid myself away from the world and did not open up about it, except to close friends and family.
I often observed that when other people were grieving a tangible loss, such as the death of a loved one, they were able to be open and as a result, receive the compassion of others. Childlessness is a form of disenfranchised grief, meaning it is a loss that isn’t openly acknowledged and I really do believe this silence surrounding infertility compounded my grief. It wasn’t until I discovered groups such as More to Life and the Letting Go and Moving On programme that I felt safe enough to open up and begin to explore other perspectives and other ways of living. What I also found was comfort, consolation and relief; I wasn’t alone.
I have to say I really I didn’t know who I was at this time. I was so sad, so hurt, so angry by it all. But my concerns for my mental health spurred me on to get involved in both old and new hobbies, such as learning to play the fiddle, cycling and hiking, all of which proved to be a great distraction for me. They also enabled me to meet other people from all walks of life. I have always enjoyed other people’s company and I realised that I had shut myself off from other people while I was going through fertility treatment as I was so afraid of being hurt by talk about children/ pregnancy etc.
There are many times when I did not want to or feel like getting on with things. I exercised to help my mental health. I entered sportives to give myself goals. I went hiking because I would rather do that than be alone with my thoughts and sadness.
What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
I found the outdoors to be very therapeutic. We completed the Camino de Santiago a few years ago and I was so proud of that. The Camino Francés is an ancient pilgrimage, stretching 775km across the north of Spain. The scenery, the meditative nature of the walk, the food and the people were incredible. I met many people who were dealing with their own trials and tribulations in life. People do it for all sorts of reasons, many are dealing with their own personal difficulties and find healing by taking time out to walk. It made me realise that most people have something difficult to deal with.
I didn’t fully realise it at that stage, but looking back I was trying to open up my mind to see what life without children could be like. The whole experience was very cathartic. It made me think about the possibility that there were other things in life, other ways of life, that could make me happy.
My husband is a very down-to-earth, pragmatic person. I will always be grateful to him as he encouraged me to get involved in different things, always with the mantra that life is too short.
My sisters have always been there for me and I’m thankful that I was able to turn to them when I found things difficult. I am lucky in that I have lots of nieces and nephews and I love them dearly. Spending time with them is a source of great joy for me. I would have been lost without my friends too! My closest friends were so kind, they gave me the space to open up and have a cry if I needed to.
I also went on a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help my anxiety, which I would totally recommend.
Finally, I have to say that time has been a great healer. With the passing of time, I am feeling more and more hopeful that I can handle this.
What are the positives (gifts) for you of not having children?
I do not consider myself to be very materialistic, but in saying that, as I near middle age I realise how expensive it can be to raise a family. Not having children means that we have more financial security; we are planning to pay off our mortgage early, retire early etc. We have the freedom to spend money on things we enjoy doing, both now and in the future.
I have also become more appreciative of the people who are important to me. I am able to spend more time with my mum as she gets older, and that is something that I am deeply grateful for.
I am getting to know myself better. I realise that I expected life to look after me, to provide one event after the next. But now I realise that life is about appreciating what you have, as much as you can. I want to savour what I have, not focus on what I don’t.
What has not having children made possible for you?
Travel. We are trying our best to make the most of the life we have and we travel as much as we can. We can be spontaneous and we are able to go away for the weekend at the drop of a hat.
I am also stronger as a result of what I went through and that in itself makes me feel excited about what else life has in store.
Is there anything missing in your life? (and what do you plan to do about it?)
I think not having children means you end up with more time than most on your hands; this made me feel isolated and it distressed me. I shut myself away as I thought all everyone was talking about was babies and children. So I missed people! I missed company! I missed sharing in that experience. I thought motherhood would take over my friends’ lives, but how wrong was I! The best friends I have still make time for each other, even with their busy lives. Only now, I make the effort to get involved with their lives as well, children and all. I do not want to shut myself away anymore.
How are you different now (who are you now)?
I am emerging from the grief and rediscovering myself by doing the things that I like, rather the things that are expected of me. I am stronger. I am more resilient. I realise that I doubted myself because I couldn’t have children and I lost my confidence. I am rediscovering who I am now and as I become more and confident, I am less bothered by the small things in life.
What advice would you give to women who are not as far down the road as you are?
Be patient. Get counselling. Open your mind. Find someone who you trust to open up to – there is great healing in talking. Keep making plans, even if you don’t feel like it. Be kind to yourself and treat yourself whenever you can. It takes time.
What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
I love the outdoors and talking to people.
What’s your 6 word memoir?
(From Smith Magazine’s Not Quite What I Was Planning:: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure)
It’s time to have some fun!
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.
If you think you could inspire others please contact me.
(and to clarify, the Let Go and Move On programme was a coaching programme I used to run).
Over to you
Has reading Rose’s story helped you? Please add your comment below.
You can read stories of 19 other women in Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. Once you purchase it, you can also access interviews and other extras.