I am honoured that August has shared her inspirational story with us. I’m really inspired by her resilience and strength and, despite the very hard times she’s been through she’s now able to look at the positives of not having children.
She told me that she found writing hard AND it has helped her. She was tempted to edit out some of the more difficult parts but she didn’t because ‘this is about being honest and owning my story, good and bad.’
What I also love is how the process of writing has given her perspective and she can now see the gifts in the experience and that ‘I don’t often feel that children are missing from my life anymore.’
August’s story is a bit longer than some but I believe in authenticity so here it is as she wrote it.
1. Where are you on your journey now?
After a very emotional, turbulent and messy journey of 6 years, I finally feel like I am able to make sense of some of the painful stuff myself and my husband, and those who happened to be too close to the flames, have been through.
I am no longer disabled when the waves of sad come. And they come much less frequently. And I am no longer randomly bursting into tears in public – which is nice.
2. What’s your story?
My husband and I waited a few years after our marriage to start trying to have children. I was pretty career focused at the time, and didn’t feel ready for the commitment or distraction that children would inevitably bring at that stage. When I did feel ready, I changed jobs so that I would be in what I believed to be a secure, long-term job, with good maternity benefits etc, etc.
I just turned 30 and over the course of two years we tried and failed to become pregnant. I was gradually becoming disheartened in what was turning out to be a very frustrating job, and also more and more frustrated that I couldn’t conceive.
Every month was becoming more and more stressful for us both, punctuated by the stab of pain each period brought, the disappointment, the resentment at everyone else’s apparent ease at getting pregnant, and rapidly becoming crushed by the guilt and weight of expectation from two sets of want-to-be grandparents. I was rapidly becoming very low, (how much so I had no idea until much, much later). The physical and emotional relationship between my husband and myself was starting to suffer, (the former so much so that any pleasure this closeness had once brought us was being obliterated).
My boss at the time, who could see how much I was struggling, suggested we seek some medical advice with our difficulties. This came as a shock, (I can’t fathom why now), but it hadn’t occurred to us we might just not be able to get pregnant naturally. It turned out, after my husband and I finally relented and went to see our doctor, that this was indeed the case.
There followed 3 years of failed IVF attempts and the biggest hurt either of us has ever felt. The process we went through felt like an unsympathetic production line – which shocked us greatly and left us cold. My husband, (for whom the fertility issues were primary), was full of guilt about our situation.
I felt disappointed and cheated. Not by him I have to say, I never, ever blamed him, but cheated by life. I felt tricked into a life path that was now never going to reach fulfilment. And, if that part of the dream wasn’t going to happen, I started to question, did I still want the rest of it?
Rapidly, and with everyone sadly noticing but me, I was falling to pieces. This was most striking at work. Friends and colleagues could see me rapidly disintegrating in front of their eyes – in meetings, in the ladies room in floods, (a lot!), in the male director’s office during my annual appraisal (I don’t know who was more embarrassed).
I applied for redundancy as I knew I couldn’t take any more, of work, of IVF, of my life, I wasn’t sure – I just knew I wanted out. On the day I found out my third course of IVF had failed I found out that I had been made redundant from the job I had put so much of myself into for so long. I think I sat on my staircase where I received both phone-calls, and cried most of that whole day.
Removing myself from the only things that had been anchoring me resulted in me going into free fall. I felt like a big, useless void of a being, with no useful purpose in the world, and no recollection of whose life I now found myself in, or how I had ended up in it.
My relationship with my husband took a bit of a nose-dive. I felt resentful to now be trapped in a marriage that would no longer play out as we had planned. I spent less and less time at home. I couldn’t recognise any of the things I was surrounded by, and certainly didn’t care about them any more.
During this period I felt that I was about to ‘break’ in a very, very bad way. I felt very, very ill, but psychologically not physically. I eventually, following a suggestion from my husband, went to see my doctor who diagnosed me with depression and gave me medication. Things at home were being decimated by my state of mind, and the dreadful atmosphere it was creating.
Both my husband and I were very, very unhappy, and for lack of knowing what else to do to stop the hurt we were both feeling, I moved out into a flat. We never discussed it being a permanent thing – just a thing that needed to happen right then, as we could not continue to go on as we were. I spent a lot of time away from my husband and friends, feeling very vulnerable and very lost. This sadly resulted in a very brief but very painful fling with someone I met.
My ex-boss once again made what was a very helpful suggestion. Knowing I had always been frustrated I hadn’t had the chance to travel when I was younger, she put me in touch with someone she knew who was going travelling on her own and looking for company. I then spent two extended periods, over the course of two years seeing a bit of the world.
This helped me gain a little perspective over the very ill-advised connection I had made when back home, made me realise how much I missed my lovely husband, and when I returned from my second trip I moved back in and we agreed we would give things another go.
I was completely honest with him about the mistakes I had made in the meantime, as I knew we didn’t stand a chance if we had that lie between us. He was, as you would expect, very angry and very hurt, but also understanding that, in essence, I had not been in my right mind at that time. The depression, and the reasons for it, had turned me into a person neither of us recognised for a while – but that person seemed to be re-emerging to some degree.
That was just over two years ago, and shortly after getting home I stopped taking my anti-depressants and started to try and re-engage with my marriage and my life. I couldn’t however, (and still haven’t fully), re-engaged with work.
I just didn’t have the mental strength and resilience to cope with the pressures of that any more.
3. What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
Last year, 10 years after we started trying for children, I turned 40. That didn’t go so well. It felt like a big line was finally being drawn under the whole ‘able to have children’ thing. I refused to celebrate my birthday – what was there to celebrate? And, I again sank back into depression. Again I ended up seeking medical help, as I wasn’t feeling able to cope and was scared by some of the familiar feelings that were starting to return. This time my doctor not only offered me medication but also referred me for some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – this went alongside a course of Mindfulness.
I do not lie when I say these two have changed my life, they have saved my marriage, and they very quickly turned around my perspective on not having children, on the future, on my entire life and what I can, and want, to do with it.
It was my CBT Therapist who suggested I look at some of the online blogs for childless women. The thought terrified me, as at that time I was unable to discuss it without bursting into tears. But, over the course of a number of sessions, and summoning up all my brave, I dove in, and found myself here – finally able to look at my pain, not be defined by it, but feel compassionate and kind towards it, and towards myself.
Being gentler and more forgiving with myself, and being more present in the moment, rather than ruminating over the past, or worrying or stressing about the future, has balanced me more than I could ever have imagined.
That doesn’t mean I don’t still sometimes get painful pangs, but they are not as debilitating as they once were – I can feel them, I can own them, and I can know that they can and do pass, and that my life still has a purpose, just maybe not the one I once thought.
I am now able to be around other people’s children and like them, (both the parents and the children). Looking at or being around other people’s children used to be almost intolerable for me and my husband – now, over the past year, we have been able to talk about the pain of those years, and whether we would want to give IVF one last try. We both decided we would not, and actually life without children has its plus sides which we wish to explore.
4. What are the positives (gifts) for you of not having children?
I now get to enjoy spending time with my brother’s children, and my best friend’s children, enjoy their humour and their love – and then hand them back and not deal with all the difficult stuff that children come with. We don’t have to get involved in the refereeing, the naughtiness, the tantrums, the sleepless nights. We just get to enjoy the auntie and uncle love and then walk away – free of burden – and then go to the pub to wash off the cacophony we just witnessed!
5. What has not having children made possible for you?
My husband wants to be a writer, and not having children means he can focus all of his spare energy on pursuing this dream. I too would like to write, but I also want to see the world, and once I have paid off all my debts from my ‘two years out’, which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be rather expensive for a girl with no job and no savings, I plan to get back to work, to save enough money so that I can take a trip, once a year, just for me, to reconnect with my inner-self and let the stress of every day life wash off me. A freedom I could not have if I had children.
6. Is there anything missing in your life? (and what do you plan to do about it?)
I can honestly say I don’t often feel that children are missing from my life anymore. I used to feel that the future was a big black hole if there were no children in it – that I was destined to become old, lonely and sad, with no-one to look after me in my old age, and no joy to look forward to. I don’t feel that way anymore.
My husband and I can now grow old disgracefully, spend all our hard earned pennies on things we love, and although the phrases like ‘That’s one to tell the grandchildren’, sometimes causes a little twist of the knife that still prods me from time to time – I plan to be a pain in the neck to my nieces and nephews and bother them and their children as much as I feel like. I will have children in my life – I just can enjoy the cute, fun stuff, and then hand them back.
The only thing missing for me now are the last little bits of armour and confidence which will enable me to get back to work properly, and earn the money I need for all the grand schemes I have in my head.
7. How are you different now (who are you now)?
I am a more balanced, self-aware, self-loving version of me. I have learned more about myself going through these hard years than I think I ever would have without them, and though I certainly wouldn’t want to relive the pain, I am grateful for the wisdom and insight it has eventually brought me.
It has also brought my husband and I much closer together. We have had the most unbelievably difficult times and conversations, things I am not sure a lot of couples would come out the other side of. And though, in honesty, our physical relationship has been damaged by our experiences, our emotional connection and understanding is something else – something special and unusual – something we feel blessed to have.
8. What advice would you give to women who are not as far down the road as you are?
I’m not sure it works like that. Each person’s journey is very personal, and people have to find their own way. Reading other people’s stories certainly helps, but you have to write your own – whether literally or figuratively. All I would say is, hang in there, it does get better, and you will find a way.
9. What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
My passion is my future, and making the absolute most of it I possibly can. Both my husband and I feel we have a duty, as people who now only have ourselves to worry about, to make the very best, most fulfilling life that we possibly can. It would be a waste, and ungrateful, to not throw our everything into making the fullest life possible for ourselves, now that we aren’t going to be doing that for the little people we once imagined we would have.
I gain joy from writing, from learning, from travelling, and from spending quality time with the new me, and the people around me I love. These passions will fill my future more than adequately. I intend it to be very, very full.
10. What’s your 6 word memoir?
True colour gained through pain’s grace.
What did you think?
How did this inspirational story resonate with you? Please share your comments below to help other women.
You’ll have read how important it was for August to take control control and own her story. If you’d like to do that but it’s too much of a challenge right now, check out the Let Go and Move On Programme and see how it can help you.
If you would like to take control of your life and your story and inspire others I’d love to feature your inspirational story. You can use your real name or any other that you chose to give me, and I’ll happily promote your website or blog. Some of the feedback I’ve had from the writers includes ‘I’m so pleased to have told my story now’, I’ve been astonished by the amount of messages I have received …. all grateful for me sharing this part of my story’, and ‘… seeing the response has been utterly humbling and beautiful. I’m so grateful to you.’