Which books helped you to come to terms with childlessness?

I saw recently that the book chain Waterstones is inviting readers to name a book that altered their lives, it’s part of a project called ‘The Book That Made Me’ and you can share your story (of less than 100 words). Their spokesman said: “Our bookshelves reflect us – we are all made up of books… And each one has an effect, a slight hand on the tiller sometimes, occasionally a wrench which changes our course completely.”

It started me thinking about which books had been a tiller or a wrench for me, particularly those that helped me either (a) to come to terms with childlessness or (b) to develop a more positive mindset. So here are 4 I’ve enjoyed, I’d love to hear about yours.

The first book on my list is The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho (HarperCollins 1999). The Alchemist

It’s sold so many copies I’m sure many of you will have read it. It’s subtitled “A Fable about Following Your Dreams” and makes the point that everyone has a special destiny, and yet not everyone goes for it because it takes, amongst other things hard work, leaving behind familiar surroundings and persistence. This quote to me sums up the book: “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.” Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”

What I learned from this book was to follow my dreams.

I’m sure also that many of you will have Susan Jeffers’ “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” (Ebury Press 2Feel the Fear007) on your bookshelf.

This was the first “self-help” book I bought way back in 1996 and I’ve read it many times since. As it says on my (rather yellowing) cover “What is stopping you from being the person you want to be and living your life the way you want to live it?” and that it “shows you how to live your life the way you want – so you can move from a place of pain, paralysis, depression and indecision to one of power, energy, enthusiasm and action.” Sounds attractive don’t you think?

It taught me great strategies to deal with things I was fearful or worried about.

A book I’ve read recently is “The Light between Oceans” by M L Steadman, (Black Swan 2013). The description says “A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision. …. she is content in everything but her failure to have a child.

The only thing I would say (in case you read it), is what a choice to make, to keep the baby when you can’t have your own, or to report it. I found it a really gripping read, and of course, their choice has consequences.

I’m so glad that we didn’t have to make a decision like that, and I’ve asked myself many times what would we have done in her situation, and what interesting to me is that what I would have done years ago is different to what I would do now. A great sign that I have come to accept my life.

Many women I’ve spoken to got a huge comfort from reading “Beyond Childlessness: For Every Woman Who Ever Wanted to Have a Child – and Didn’t” by Rachel Black and Louise Scull (Rodale International Ltd 2005).

One of the problems of being childless is that it can be difficult to meet others in the same situation and this book tells many stories of women at all stages of the journey. As one reviewer on Amazon says it’s “like discovering you have a close friend you never knew you had, or more accurately a whole sisterhood of friends and fellow travellers”.

I imagine helpful books is a theme that I’ll come back to, and meanwhile if you have any recommendations please leave them below or email me as I’m sure other readers would love to hear them.

1 thought on “Which books helped you to come to terms with childlessness?”

  1. Hi Lesley,
    I have read 3 of the 4 you listed but not “The Light between Oceans” : may be one to have a look at! It is hard to narrow down a choice of books as there are so many that I have found helpful or inspiring at different times in my life. However, if I try to limit the choice to 3 that I have found helpful/ made me thinks about things differently, the following come to mind:”Conversations with God; an uncommon dialogue” book 1, by Neale Donald Walsh, which asks lots of the questions I wanted to ask about religion and spirituality and has an unusual take on God and our spirituality and how we can be in the world.
    Regarding childlessness, the book I found most helpful was “Never to be a Mother: A Guide for all Women who Didn’t or Couldn’t have Children” by Linda Hunt Anton. As she puts it: 10 steps to healing the heartache and leading a rich, childfree life. She interviews other women as well as coming up with 10 stages towards “resolution” from stage 1 “Acknowledging and experiencing the loss” up to 10 which is about “Embracing feminine wholeness”. The early stages so closely mirrored what I was experiencing that I copied pages and sent them to my family as it expressed what I was feeling better than I could, but the later chapters gave me hope that there could be light at the end of the tunnel.
    The third book that I have found particularly helpful is Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” which is a kind of self help course around being creative and has lots of exercises to try out for you to select those you find most helpful in nurturing your creativity. I had a desperate need to create when I found I was unable to have children but needed some pointers. You do not need to be an artist to benefit from some of the ideas and exercises suggested in Julia’s book. I have found her activities supportive and helpful in coming to terms with not being able to have children, whilst allowing me access to my creativity in other ways.


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