Home Infertility
Category:

Infertility

Navigating and healing from the aftermath of infertility.

This piece was originally featured on the amazing blog, Boo & Maddie. While the blog is primarily focused on lifestyle and home, the writer is childfree after infertility and has weekly posts dedicated to sharing childfree stories. You can check them out by clicking here.

The conservative church I grew up in shaped my earliest views of motherhood. As a child, I learned that being a mother is the ultimate purpose for women on earth. That motherhood is an eternal concept. That even in heaven, women will spend their eternity birthing ethereal “spirit children”. 

Growing up, I didn’t know many women who weren’t mothers and the few I did know, I pitied. To me, womanhood equaled motherhood. I couldn’t imagine that women could have true joy, meaning, love, and fulfillment without kids.

Matt and I were young when we got married. We were 24 at the time and had no clue what we were getting into. By then, I had distanced myself from the Mormon church, but the beliefs about motherhood stuck with me. So much so, that I didn’t plan to go to college or have a career. My plan was to be a stay-at-home mom. There was no plan b. Neither of us felt ready for a baby though, so we waited. Years passed and I started taking college courses at night for fun. A decade later, I found myself with a master’s degree and an unexpected career.

After almost ten years of marriage, we finally felt ready for a baby. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I started tracking my ovulation, reading pregnancy books, dreaming of baby names, and designing a nursery. My anxiety grew as three months passed, then six, then a year, with no positive test. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened over the next four years.

If you’d like to read more about my infertility journey, you can find it by clicking here.

My life became doctor’s appointments, invasive tests, anxiety, depression, and disappointment. Each month I held a negative pregnancy test with no explanation of why I wasn’t pregnant. Everything changed when my reproductive endocrinologist (RE) told me I had endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a chronic illness where tissue similar to your uterine lining grows in other parts of your body. It affects 1 in 10 women, yet it takes an average of ten years from the onset of symptoms to diagnose. In my case, I had seen dozens of doctors over the past 20 years and every one of them dismissed my pain.

The next few years became a jumble of appointments, medical jargon, and big decisions. In the course of three years, I had three surgeries and a failed IVF cycle. I was getting conflicting advice from my RE and my endometriosis surgeon. I moved toward treatment options that would balance my need for pain relief with my desire to become a mom.

After four years of infertility, I decided I had sacrificed as much as I could to the pursuit of parenthood. I had given so much of my life, health, body, time, relationships, money, mental health, and I was done. I chose to put my health first and decided to have a hysterectomy to improve my quality of life.

I’ve spent the two years making peace with my decision. I’ve tried not to internalize the message from society that my life means less because I am not a mom. Connecting with others who are childless/childfree has helped me shift my perspective.

It’s been strange to work through grief while simultaneously embracing the benefits of a life without kids. For so long Matt and I based life decisions on the assumption that kids were in our future. With that option off the table, we wanted to explore new possibilities.

Last summer, we made some big changes. We left our home in Atlanta and bought a cabin right outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I told Matt I wanted a home that felt like a sanctuary and the cabin is everything I hoped for. It’s tucked away in the mountains on an acre of wooded forest. Here, I’m surrounded by animals, wildflowers, fireflies, and a lively stream. It’s so peaceful and quiet.

I also received a promotion at my job which I’m very proud of. I work for a nonprofit that advocates for better policies around children’s issues. It feels good to know that my work impacts the lives of children around the world. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come in my career considering I never planned on having one.

My promotion also gave us the financial flexibility to allow my husband to follow his dream of starting his own company. After all the love and support he has poured into me these past few years, it’s been amazing to be able to offer him the opportunity to pursue his passion.

Embracing a childfree life has also forced me to redefine my identity and priorities. To explore this, I started this blog focused on designing an unexpectedly childfree life. It’s been therapeutic for me and an amazing way to connect with women in similar circumstances.

I’ve also had more energy and emotion to invest in my relationships. I’m lucky to have such an amazing partner and am grateful for the intimate connection we share. When we were planning to have a kid I was always worried we would lose the almost magical closeness we enjoy. He’s my best friend and I love the life we’ve created together. I appreciate the time I have to focus on him, as well as my relationships with family and friends. I thrive on connections and appreciate that a life without kids allows me to invest in those I love in unique ways. I have time for deep, uninterrupted, conversations. Whoever I’m spending time with has my full attention.

Another childfree perk is the freedom I have to invest my time and energy wherever I choose. I have always been full of passion and curiosity. I love the ability I have to become absorbed in whatever interests me at the moment. It could be a relationship, a conversation, a hobby, writing, reading, exploring, or traveling.  

I’m an extrovert, but over the past few years, I’ve become much more introspective and find I need time alone. Without kids, I can easily find time for this, as well as for self-care. While my health has been better since my last surgery, there is no cure for endometriosis. I appreciate having time to rest when I need it. I also love that my free time is mine. I try to be a good spouse, friend, sister, daughter, and aunt, but at the end of the day, no one is dependent on me to have their needs met.

Some may look at my story and say the term “childfree” doesn’t apply because I tried for a long time to have kids. They would say that “childless” is more fitting. But I don’t want to be defined by what I lack. For me, having a childfree mindset is aspirational. I know women who couldn’t have kids but have created such beautiful lives that they would no longer trade them for parenthood. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet but I know I’m getting closer each month. I love my current life and am enjoying the unique benefits that a life without children offers.

I wish I could tell my younger self that there is nothing here to pity. That womanhood does not equal motherhood. I wish I could tell her not to worry. That her life won’t look how she expected, but it will be full of joy, meaning, love, and fulfillment.

How about you? What do you wish you could tell your younger self? Let me know in the comments!

3 comments
FacebookTwitterEmail

For more inspiring words and to connect with Carly, find her on Instagram at @herstoryourstrength.

How long did you spend trying to get pregnant? Did you try any medical interventions?

We spent 5 years trying to get pregnant. The “plan” was always to have a year of marriage first and then have kids. We spent 12 months trying before going to our GP for initial testing and referral to a fertility treatment center, first due to our age and then after the tests identified issues. From there we started with medication, more testing, actually fell pregnant with medication and doing an ovulation induction cycle, only to miscarry at 11 ½  weeks.

After more testing and finding more issues, our clinic moved us to IVF of which we tried 6 cycles where we did not retrieve any eggs from me at all except for the final round – of which we got two. One egg fertilized but it did not make it to freezing. We then tried a donor cycle, where I received treatment for my adenomyosis (which is basically taking medication which sends you into menopause) before doing the frozen transfer cycle. In January 2019 we found out that cycle had not worked.

How did you know you were ready to stop trying?

 We always knew that adoption or fostering was not something that we were really wanting to go through, plus it’s extremely difficult and expensive in Australia. So when it became apparent we had to do IVF, we agreed we would do IVF and a donor cycle if it came to that – but once we did that we would stop. We had to have some really horrible and hard discussions which I am not sure anyone is ever really prepared for. Discussing what we were willing to try and what we would be willing to walk away from was probably one of the most difficult conversations I have ever had to have.

I think due to the medical issues being all mine I felt a sense of responsibility and guilt for putting us in this situation. In the end, it was such a strain on us (me especially) emotionally, but also financially. We spent 5 years renting and not being able to buy a house, not going on holidays or doing anything except working and paying for IVF. We needed to close that chapter and move on.

For another inspiring story on embracing a childfree life after infertility, check out Brandi’s story here.

What resources, support, or other things were most helpful in making the decision to stop trying and to help you work through grief? 

 I found there was a real lack of resources or support available for people in our situation. The majority of the resources available are geared towards people still going through the journey of trying to conceive. My clinic had a fabulous counselor who I always encourage people to utilize if they have access to them. Mainly, I received support from my family and friends – I am grateful to have two of my best friends who have also traversed this journey before me and were able to really support me. 

To me there was a real big gap of having support that is less clinical (i.e. the medical professionals can give us all the information) but it is the need to reach out and just have a cuppa (or a wine!) with someone and vent. Or cry. Or just say how hard this really this. There is also not a lot out there around how to move towards a life without children if that is where you have ended with your journey.  With the support of my friends and family, I focused on trying to do what I can to start to fill the gaps that I found.

I have started an online support group, and have massive plans to turn it into a non-profit. Hopefully with some little centers all over the place where people can go, connect, chat with people who have been through similar situations and have access to services that will help them not transition through to their new life.

How long after you stopped trying did the shift from mostly grief to mostly at peace with your situation happen?

Ha! Not quite sure I am there yet! Seriously though, I will say the majority of the time I no longer have that “acute” pain. I am getting better with my reactions when there are pregnancy announcements, and that sort of thing – but I definitely still have some really tough days. Mother’s Day this year was hard, and while it has been for the last few years since I had my miscarriage, I think knowing this year was the first official year of us knowing we will not have children and therefore this is now our life, well it was just a bit tougher than usual.  

I did go searching for some meaning as to why this has happened to me, so anything spiritual I was interested in. Journaling has been a massive release for me – I always feel better if I just write and then I can close the and move on. 

Work has also been a great distraction!  I will admit there is a little bit of relief at knowing the outcome now. The biggest thing I struggled with each cycle and each year was the unknown. Will this work, won’t it. Will this year be our year. Not having that hanging over us anymore was a relief.

Personally, I really needed something to focus on. Something that I felt would make the last 5 years worthwhile at least in the sense of maybe I can help others. Hence the focus on creating and expanding the support group! This is my way to move on.

Are there changes you made in your life that you wouldn’t have made if you had become a parent? 

To be completely honest, I am not sure I would be the woman I am today if we had not gone through this journey and ended up childless. I was always very much a person who thought the worst of myself, felt everyone was better than me and really got down on myself. I still have to work on myself in the sense of not blaming myself for Ben and I not being able to have children (early on in the journey I offered to divorce Ben so he could find someone who could give him kids) but I recognize a strength in myself that I never knew I had. I had massive fear of needles, but I spent 5 years doing IVF treatment because I wanted this so much, I picked myself up after every cycle and kept hoping and trying. I managed to bring myself back from such a devastating event such as losing my baby when we should have been able to really start shouting from the rooftops – and again I kept going.

I was always one of those people who never really knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I went straight to work after school (no uni for me) as I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I thought I would go make some money while I figured it out.

I may not be going through my journey now – but I have hope that I can make a difference. I have the passion to try and at least ease this journey if I can for other people, and it has given me a new focus on in life. I know what I want to do with my life now.

For another inspiring story on embracing a childfree life after infertility, check out Erin and Brian’s story here.

What are the aspects you appreciate most about your childfree life? 

Peace and quiet! I have a niece and nephew and when I visit them (or they come to me) wow, I enjoy the peace and quiet after they leave.

I think I also appreciate the time Ben and I can spend together, just the two of us. I think to a certain degree going through this journey has bought us even closer. It’s pretty confronting to really analyze yourself and your relationship with each other to work out if this is enough for you. Luckily for me, it is. Plus, we love to go to concerts together and that is just so much fun!

Are there aspects of your identity you had to shift in the transition to a childfree life? 

I think taking all that love and energy and maternal instinct I have and finding a different avenue to utiliZe it was important to me. I love my family and friends and will always go above and beyond for them, especially the kids. Knowing that I want to translate some of that love and support into the support group is my way of utilizing it all in a good way!  Without the focus of children, I had to really look at myself and identify the things that will make me happy. That’s not an easy task when the biggest thing you want is taken away! I know my wants and needs will continue to change over the years coming but at least I know I have the ability and can do it so I can live a completely fulfilling life.

If you could wave a magic wand and have a baby in your arms, would you do it? Or do you prefer your current life? 

To me this is such a trick question. Due to my medical issues, I would say if I could do it again – absolutely, I want that magic wand and that baby. However, I would want it with the way I am now as a person, and with the relationship I have with my husband. I think it has been a really important lesson for me to identify the good points in myself, to be more gentle and forgiving of myself and also the relationship I have now with Ben – I wouldn’t want to change that at all. Especially not if I can help people in the way I hope I can. If it meant I was the ‘old’ version of myself – I would have to say no.

What advice do you have for those who have just made the decision to let go of their dream of parenting? 

Be gentle with yourself. There is honestly no right or wrong way to process the decision and transition into your new life. You just need to do what is best for you – and take note, this can change daily! Also, to be prepared – this is going to potentially be one of the hardest things you have to do in your life, which will include working through what makes you happy and what your priorities are now. And that is no easy feat!

Use the support you have available to you – including friends and family. And just know – there are so many of us out there, we can be pretty easy to track down if you need to chat!

Interested in sharing your story through Chasing Creation? Drop me a line through my contact page.

1 comment
FacebookTwitterEmail

Infertility Storylines are Hard to Pull Off

pineapple and TV

Photo: Pineapple Supply Co.

Even the best TV portrayals of infertility fall devastatingly short in capturing what it’s like to actually experience it. Real infertility stories are too long, too painful, and include too few miracle babies to keep an audience engaged. 

Let’s say each season represents a year in the life of a character. Tell me if these are scenarios you’d want to continue watching over five seasons (five years): 

  • A woman takes pregnancy tests every month, every one of them is negative.
  • A woman tries for years to have a baby, has multiple miscarriages and never ends up with a baby in arms.
  • Infertility becomes all consuming. Relationships, interests and activities that used to bring joy are gone. Episodes focus on watching the main characters just trying to get through the day.
  • The characters experience depression, grief and anxiety as they watch their dreams crumble. They spend a lot of time not wanting to get out of bed and avoiding social situations.
  • Debt starts to pile up as characters lose their savings to invest in IVF treatments that aren’t successful.

I could go on, but you get the point. A short infertility storyline can be a cheap way to add some juicy drama to a TV show, a true portrayal of infertility can feel cruel, like the writer is relentlessly torturing the character. 

I’d guess it’s a mix of this and lazy, un-researched writing that give us so many predictable and shitty infertility storylines in TV. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for even the worst portrayals because infertility is still so taboo in our society that even a warped reflection is better than nothing. Very few shows take it on at all. 

Interested in reading my infertility story? Read it by clicking here.

What I’d Like to See

I hope infertility plotlines start to become more common and that they include: 

  • Stories that are diverse, unpredictable and well researched. 
  • More avenues to a happy ending. I mean, is it impossible to write a character whose journey doesn’t end with a baby, but they create a beautiful life anyway? 
  • An accurate portrayal of the depth of grief that accompanies infertility. 
  • A realistic timeline that can show how truly life-altering infertility can be. A show that resolves an infertility plotline in just a few episodes is using it as cheap drama.
  • Less unrealistic miracle babies that reinforce stereotypes. Think “randomly got pregnant after we stopped trying” or “a baby that needs adoption just landed in our laps.”

Let’s Take a Look

Below is a list of three shows I’ve watched that include infertility plotlines along with what I liked and didn’t like about how they handled the topic. I’ll be covering another four in a separate post. Some notable ones are missing (like Friends and Grey’s Anatomy) because I haven’t seen them. *Spoiler alert.

This is Us

This is Us - NBC Kate and Toby Infertility Office

Photo: NBC

The basics: Kate and Toby find out they’re pregnant and she’s excited but cautious. Just as she gets comfortable announcing the news to family, she has a miscarriage. Next season, they decide to pursue IVF and the first round ends in…A MIRACLE BABY!

Yays: They go pretty in-depth, giving the storyline episodes over two seasons. This allows some time to show how the miscarriage and infertility changes Kate, Toby and their relationship. They raise awareness about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and some of the complications that can come with IVF. 

The taboo of infertility and the emotional drain of defending your fertility decisions to family are addressed as well. Initially, Kate and Toby try to keep the IVF cycle a secret. Ultimately, they have to respond to reactions from family members including a mom who doesn’t want her to take the medical risks associated with IVF and an adopted brother who is hurt that she is pursuing IVF over adoption. 

Boos: The IVF portion of the storyline is only a few episodes and shows basically nothing. Just the initial meeting with reproductive endocrinologist and the egg retrieval. No HSG, blood draws, ultrasounds, just one or two shots. No mention is made of the financial aspect of IVF or how Kate and Toby are coming up with the dough. For most couples, the $12,000 (average) price tag per cycle would surely come up. 

Even though their RE gives her only a 10% chance of success, she gets pregnant on the first try. I wish they would have carried the infertility line through additional seasons and considered her story not ending with a baby. Kate and Toby have a strong relationship so the writers could easily write them a happy ending without kids. Kate is also just getting to know herself and take risks. She just started a career in singing (which she gives up due to the pregnancy) and went back to finish college in her late 30’s. She is blossoming! I would prefer to see her continue her journey of self-discovery and learning to accept a childfree life than for her to have a baby. I mean, can’t we just have one childfree after infertility character.

Being Mary Jane

Being Mary Jane fertility doctor's office

Photo: BET

The Basics: Mary Jane is single and works as a news anchor in Atlanta, GA. Over the course of many seasons we see her grapple with her fertility. From “stealing” her ex-boyfriends sperm, to   doing an egg freezing cycle as part of a news segment (and hearing on live TV that it didn’t go well), to ultimately pursuing IVF with donor sperm. The series finale ends with a wedding and…a MIRACLE BABY!

Yays: Gabrielle Union (the actress who plays Mary Jane) has been public about her personal struggles with multiple miscarriages and infertility. Maybe that’s why the infertility storyline in Being Mary Jane feels so complex and real. The storyline goes through all five seasons, so they are able to go deep. 

The story is unique and unpredictable. I love the portrayal of Mary Jane as a single woman having to make difficult decisions about her fertility, from freezing her eggs to going through IVF without a partner. The show takes on a lot of difficult issues which can make it uncomfortable to watch at times, due to how authentic it feels. I’m not even mad about the series ending with a baby. The screenwriters earned that baby. 

Boos: Honestly, none. 

Sex in the City

sex and the city charlotte acupuncture

Photo: HBO

The Basics: Charlotte’s lifelong dream is to have a baby. When sex isn’t leading to pregnancy, Charlotte goes through multiple rounds of IVF, gets pregnant, miscarries, tries to adopt, adoption falls through, successfully adopts a daughter, then (surprise!) she naturally has…A MIRACLE BABY!

Yays: There’s a lot to love about how Charlotte’s infertility storyline is handled. Because they kept it going for multiple years, it’s able to show how grief and devastation accumulate over years of trying with no success. They don’t treat IVF or adoption as quick or guaranteed routes to motherhood. They also shows the impact infertility has on relationships. Charlotte has to navigate ambiguous feelings toward her best friend, Miranda, who accidentally gets pregnant. We also see her struggling through baby announcements and showers. We even see her first marriage fall apart when her husband confesses he doesn’t want a child.

Boos: The freaking miracle baby! So after 10 years of infertility, including multiple rounds of IVF, Charlotte just gets pregnant naturally in her early 40’s? Why? An adopted baby isn’t enough? The writers just couldn’t resist that damn miracle baby. This perpetuates the “it will just happen when you relax enough and stop trying” myth. Also, part of why this storyline could be sustained so long is that Charlotte is a side character. I don’t think they could have pulled off the same storyline, over so many years, with a main character. 

How I Met Your Mother

Photo: CBS

The Basics: Robin is happily childfree by choice for seven seasons when she has a pregnancy scare. At the doctor’s office she finds out that not only is she not pregnant, she can’t have children. She then struggles with unexpected feelings of grief over the loss of her fertility. I’m on the fence about including her because she is childfree by choice but since they wrote an episode which includes infertility, I think it’s fair game.

Yays: A female character who is childfree and happy! Yay, more of this please! While infertility is a blip on the radar on this show, I’m fine with it because Robin’s character never wanted or tried for children. She just gets one episode to face ambiguity and grief upon learning she can’t have kids. She doesn’t need more than that. At the end of the episode, we learn that she became “a famous journalist, a successful businesswoman, a world traveler, and briefly a bull fighter…but she was never alone.” The screenwriters gave her a life full of depth, excitement, love, success, meaning and relationships.

Have you seen any of these TV shows? How do you think they did? What other TV shows have you seen that portray infertility?

4 comments
FacebookTwitterEmail

If you’d like to learn more about Brandi’s infertility and childless not by choice journey, check out her blog, Not So Mommy…  You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

How long did you spend trying to get pregnant? Did you try any medical interventions?

My husband and I tried to have a child for ten years (from 2003 – 2013).  We did seven rounds of IUI, plus we checked into various types of adoption, from domestic to international and even embryo adoption.  Ultimately, I was never able to get pregnant and adoption was not our path.

How did you know you were ready to stop trying?

Honestly, I wasn’t ready to stop trying.  Although I knew we would not have a biological child, as we were done with infertility treatments, I wanted to adopt.  On 26 December 2013, however, my husband asked me to accept our life as it was. He was tired and did not want to spend the next ten years like the last—desperately trying to attain something (well, someone) that seemed out of reach.  So, in 2014, I tentatively began trying to accept our childless not by choice life. (Yes, I actually say that I am childless, NOT childfree. If you’d like to find out why, you can read more on my blog, Not So Mommy…)

For another inspiring story on embracing a childfree life after infertility, check out Rebekah and Lenny’s story here.

What resources, support, or other things were most helpful in making the decision to stop trying and to help you work through grief?

Who and what helped me as I started accepting the what is…

Well, my husband was a huge help.  He gave me the initial nudge (it might have been more like a push) into letting go and moving forward.  We had lost our Pomeranian of 13 years in March 2013. We adopted Maddie in July 2013. Over-zealously embracing my role as Maddie’s Dog Mom helped my healing so much.  And becoming a host mom to a foreign exchange student in 2015 continued my healing even more. I’ve learned to change perspective about what it means to be a mom. In fact, I say that I am “redefining momhood.”  Ultimately, this change in perspective, along with finding the bright sides of a childless life, helped me accept, redefine, and embrace the what is joyfully…

How long after you stopped trying did the shift from mostly grief to mostly at peace with your situation happen?

I did not realize it, but I believe I had already gone through much of the grieving process before we officially decided to accept our childless life.  Now, that’s not to say that healing hasn’t continued over the past six years.  Triggers and wobbles still happen (probably always will), but I feel 2014 was the beginning of moving past the grief, past the in-between.

Are there changes you made in your life that you wouldn’t have made if you had become a parent? 

Absolutely!  For one, I would never have quit teaching to start writing a childless blog.  Second, I seriously doubt we would have moved to South Carolina or hosted our foreign exchange daughter.  I don’t think my husband would have gone back to school to earn both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration.  We wouldn’t live in a little log cabin that needed to be completely remodeled inside and out. And I definitely wouldn’t be driving a sporty car at age 42!

What are the aspects you appreciate most about your childfree life? 

First, I must say again that I do not consider myself childfree.  I am childless not by choice. Despite using the term “childless,” I am not a sad, depressed, bitter woman who wasn’t able to have kids.  I have chosen to see the bright sides of infertility and a childless life. In fact, one of the most popular posts on my blog is “Good Things: The Bright Sides of Infertility.

For another inspiring story on embracing a childfree life after infertility, check out Erin and Brian’s story here.

Are there aspects of your identity you had to shift in the transition to a childfree life? 

Yes.  In 2014, when my husband asked me to accept our childless life, I made the following resolution:

“Stop trying to convince everyone else I’m a mom.  Just accept it myself.”

How could I possibly be a mom if I didn’t have biological or adopted children?!  Well, for me, I accepted that being a Dog Mom means I am a real mom. When we hosted our foreign exchange daughter, I expanded my definition of a “real mom” to include being a host mom.  

Because not everyone understands my perspective, I made another resolution at the beginning of 2019…

“Stop expecting others to understand my childless life.  Just embrace my life and live who I am authentically and with joy!”

If you could wave a magic wand and have a baby in your arms, would you do it? Or do you prefer your current life? 

Oh, this is a tough one.

During our ten-year struggle, I wanted nothing more than to have a baby.  At that time, I would most definitely have accepted the magic wand with open arms!

At this point, however, it’s difficult to admit that having a baby at this point in our lives would be extremely difficult.  We have remodeled our home to be perfect for our current family—me, my husband, our fur baby, and an extra space for when our exchange daughter comes to visit (as she is now family).  As I said earlier, I traded in my SUV for a sporty car. My husband is growing his business, and I take an active role in helping him do that. We enjoy traveling, sitting in our snug and watching our favorite TV shows while drinking tea, going to fancy restaurants…

So, as much as we wanted a little, the time for one has passed.  Give the magic wand to someone in the midst of her battle. I don’t need it anymore.

What advice do you have for women who have just made the decision to give up their dream of parenting?

Well, since I did not give up on my dream of parenting, I can’t give advice about that.  In fact, I really dislike the “give up” mentality. I didn’t give up on anything. I did let go.  (I’ve written a blog about that, too. You can read it here.)

What did I let go of?  Well, I let go of what I thought being a parent was supposed to look like.  I redefined momhood and embraced non-traditional parent roles. My hubby did, too, which makes this journey even sweeter.

I suppose my advice is this:

Accept what is, redefine your dreams & your expectations, and embrace your new Plan B with reckless abandon!

Interested in sharing your story through Chasing Creation? Drop me a line through my contact page.

3 comments
FacebookTwitterEmail

Connect with Rebekah on Instagram for inspiring content focused on being childfree by chance at @RebekahReclaimed.

How long did you spend trying to get pregnant? Did you try any medical interventions?

We tried for four years. We started trying on our own and changed our lifestyle so that both of us would be as healthy as possible. I have PCOS and do not ovulate on my own. Even after a 50 lb weight loss, I was still not having cycles unless medicated.
 
We went to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) when I was 33 because we didn’t want to waste any time. We started out doing a few cycles of Femara with trigger shots and timed intercourse. After that wasn’t successful, we moved onto IUI’s with medications. After several IUI’s, we then moved onto IVF. Our first round of IVF was “successful,” but ended in an early miscarriage. I waited 6 months before doing another round and that round was not successful either.
 

How did you know you were ready to stop trying?

After our second round of IVF, I just told myself that everything was fine and that I didn’t need to deal with my grief. I pretended that life was perfect and just went back to business as usual. That led to me having what I call a “mental break.” I began having panic attacks almost daily. I wasn’t able to function at all. It’s like my body was there but my brain wasn’t. I was lucky enough to have an amazing therapist who did very intensive work to help me through this time.
 
My husband and I decided to take a year off completely from treatments. During that year, we traveled and had so much fun!  We made career changes and several updates to our home. We finally got back to being us! The thought of going back down the infertility road now just makes me anxious. I truly love my life the way it is and I don’t feel like anything is missing the way that I once did. When faced with the decision to try again, I just don’t feel the drive to go there at all.
 

What resources, support, or other things were most helpful in making the decision to stop trying and to help you work through grief? 

My therapist said something that really changed my perspective on what my life should look like. She said:

Imagine you spend months and months planning a trip to Bali. You read all the books on Bali, you’ve bought the perfect clothes, your itinerary is planned, etc. Bali is the only thing your heart is set on and no one can tell you that any other place would be just as amazing.

Now, let’s say your plane has to make an emergency stop in Alaska. Due to the weather conditions there, you cannot get out for at least 1-2 weeks. This is definitely not Bali. You didn’t read the books on Alaska!  You didn’t pack for Alaska!  Frantically, you have to decide.

Do you make this the adventure of a life time or do you waste that precious time and only think about Bali?

Perhaps it’s because I’m so in love with travel, I don’t know, but this analogy hit home for me. My husband and I were so disconnected. Our relationship was so strained. I was constantly on hormones, constantly obsessed with what I was putting in my body or what I wasn’t. I was stressed from getting from one appointment to the next on top of working and being exhausted, and not sleeping well, when all he had to do was jizz in a cup a few times. I was full of anxiety, I was angry, I felt slighted. He became only a means to a baby to me and I took a lot of that out on him.

So taking some time off and reconnecting gave me the chance to see that I already had all that I ever needed. I have the best husband ever, family and friends who love me, the ability to travel and read and do volunteer work. That is all something I’ll never take for granted again because I feel like I came very close to potentially losing it all.

How long after you stopped trying did the shift from mostly grief to mostly at peace with your situation happen?

It took about a good solid year. The grief will never completely go away. I think there will always be the, “what if,” factor. Baby announcements can still shake me up but I don’t carry it constantly anymore. Now I genuinely am happy for those who become mothers and just want the best for them and wish them well. 

Are there changes you made in your life that you wouldn’t have made if you had become a parent? 

I believe so. I openly speak out about infertility now. I am very open about my journey and I like to give the perspective of what life can look like when your plan B becomes your plan A. It ain’t all that bad! I am more aware of how I am growing and I do things that I love and make time for myself and my husband above all else.

What are the aspects you appreciate most about your childfree life?

I have a lot of freedom. My husband and I live life on our own terms and I think we are able to really hone in on aspects of our marriage and ourselves that we want to work on. We plan to do a lot more travel and many more updates to our historic home. I am singing again and I did not have time to do something I am so passionate about when I was going through treatments. I am not sure I would have the time and energy to do a lot of the things I do and plan to do if I had had children. 

Are there aspects of your identity you had to shift in the transition to a childfree life?

Absolutely. I always just assumed I would become a mom. I think it wasn’t ever really presented to me as an option in life. As a little girl, one of my first memories was getting a doll at Christmas that would wet its diaper after you fed her a bottle. I was over the moon! I mean didn’t all little girls grow up to become mommies?  It sure feels that way!  It was like becoming a mother was just fulfilling my destiny.

I don’t think I ever thought there was any other life for me. So now I have to change what that life looks like. Sometimes it’s challenging because I feel like the odd man out. Most of my female friends have little ones or plan to. So what kind of organically happens is we see each other less and less and we have less in common to chat about. So that has been challenging. But, I have found wonderful friends online and in real life who are childfree by chance (for many different reasons). I enjoy our conversations and time together so much. We really help each other grow and cheer each other on, much the way I am sure most new moms do.

If you could wave a magic wand and have a baby in your arms, would you do it? Or do you prefer your current life?

I prefer my current life. This is a question that I have asked myself a lot over the past 6 months or so. I can honestly say that I don’t even think about my future as a mother anymore, unless you count my 3 cats and new puppy 🙂

What advice do you have for women who have just made the decision to give up their dream of parenting? 

You can absolutely have an amazing and fulfilling life after infertility. It’s scary because it looks different. It’s scary because it can feel lonely. It’s scary because society puts a whole lot of shit on you that you didn’t ask for. But so is motherhood.

We don’t always get to choose which path life takes us, but we do get to choose whether or not we want to rock it and make it the best it can be. I choose to boldly rock this new life and just keep making me the best me that I can. I hope somewhere along the way I can help someone see that this choice is a real choice, and can be a very beautiful and meaningful one, as well. 

Interested in sharing your childfree by chance story through Chasing Creation? Drop me a line through my contact page.

1 comment
FacebookTwitterEmail

It’s strange to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Sure, over the past few years I’ve become a little rounder, have a few more wrinkles, a stomach littered with surgery scars. But I’m talking about something deeper. The experience of seeing your reflection and thinking who the hell is that?

This started a few years ago when chronic pain and infertility invaded my life. I’ve always had terrible periods but the pain moved from a few days a month to constant. I was also feeling betrayed by a body that left me with a negative pregnancy test every month. I was surrounded by health and vibrancy. Pregnancy announcements from friends whose bodies so easily complied. Those who could plan travel without having to ensure the dates didn’t align with their period. So breezy, so carefree.

I was in a therapy session when I realized how much anger I had toward my body. I heard myself saying things like: it’s broken, it doesn’t work, I hate how it looks, I hate how it feels, it can’t do the thing it was evolutionarily designed to do, it hurts all the time. That’s when I noticed the word I kept using, “it”.

My body had morphed from being part of me into a separate entity. Some thing I was shackled to that was intent on torturing me. This thing that kept finding new ways to bury me in grief.

Memories of my surgical photos appeared. A uterus covered in fibroids. Endometriosis splattered across my insides. Black cysts filling my ovaries.

And I felt compassion.

Compassion for myself. For my body that’s working so hard, despite disease. A body that allows me to enjoy my hobbies, pursue my passions, touch the ones I love, see the beauty of nature, listen to music, taste amazing food, travel.

I decided to stop being at war with my body. To start seeing it as part of me again. To learn how to feel comfortable and at peace in my skin.

I’m not quite there yet but I am finding ways to learn to love my body again. I thought I’d share a few with you in case this is something you’re struggling with too.

1. Check your negative self-talk.

Replace negative thoughts about your body with messages of love and appreciation. If you find yourself focusing on what your body can’t do, identify five things it allows you to do or does well. Guided meditation can be a great way to help you flip the script. A quick Google search will lead you to free meditations focused on loving your body, some even focus specifically on chronic illness.

2. Listen to what your body needs.

Are you feeling tired? Having a bad pain day? Do what you can to give your body what it’s asking for. Maybe you need more sleep, a long bath, a new heating pad, a day to rest, or to modify your diet. Instead of pushing through pain and fatigue, give your body what it needs to heal.

3. Find ways to pamper your body.

Book a massage or manicure. If funds are tight, find a friend or partner, look up some videos and learn how to give each other a kick-ass massage, free of charge. Have scented bath salts, oils, and candles on hand for relaxing baths. Indulge in your favorite food or dessert. Whatever pampering looks like to you, do that.

4. Reconnect with your sexuality.

Infertility and chronic illness can wreak havoc on your sexuality, and I’m not just talking about sex with someone else. I’m talking about your ability to feel sensual, connected to your sexual energy. If this is something you’ve lost, start identifying ways to reignite that spark.

Buy a new vibrator. Find some good erotica. Buy some sexy underwear or a satin robe. Explore your body. Listen to Prince. Focus on how things feel instead of how you look. Find ways to feel less stress and more in touch with your creativity. I recommend the book Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. If you’re still feeling stuck, consider seeing a sex therapist.

5. Get moving.

Find time each day to move your body. This could be anything from a walk or gentle yoga to strength training or dancing. Whatever it is, make sure you’re using your body every day. Feeling your blood flowing and your heart pumping is an immediate way to feel connected to your body.

6. Keep working toward pain relief.

If your infertility was caused by chronic illness, you may still be living with daily pain. While it may not be realistic to think you will ever be completely pain-free, make sure you’re doing what you can to minimize it. Do your research and become an advocate for your health. Doctors often dismiss women’s pain so you may have to find a doctor who specialized in your illness. Keep trying.

If you are experiencing pain during sex or have pelvic pain, consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist. I also love the book Heal Pelvic Pain by Amy Stein, which outlines a program you can implement at home. I also recommend episode 81: Pain and Illness of the Unf*ck Your Brain podcast on how your experience of pain is impacted by your thoughts about it, and how thought work can help.

7. Make your outward expression match your inner identity.

When you’re going through something as traumatic as infertility, your appearance may not be a top priority. For me, I found myself throwing on whatever jeans and t-shirt were clean, rarely wore makeup, and opted for a quick ponytail. Not that any of those things are bad, but I’ve always had a lot of fun dressing up and was sad to lose that part of my identity. For me, changing my hair, makeup and wardrobe is a fun way to express who I am to the world.

The past few months I’ve been inspired to reinvent my outward expression by playing with my appearance. I’ve gone platinum, started growing out my hair, bought a few fun summer outfits, got a new tattoo, and have been trying out new makeup looks.

This idea of outward expression is going to look different for everyone so there are no rules here. Think about what aspects of your appearance sound fun to play with and start experimenting.

Infertility sucks. But you’re past that now.

It’s time to forgive your body. It’s time to practice self-love and self-compassion. It’s time to get your swagger back.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help you get there, so when you see your reflection in the mirror you recognize the beautiful babe staring back at you. The one deserving of love. The one who has survived trauma. The one who is resilient. The one who is strong. You.

How about you? Did infertility make you feel disconnected from your body? How have you been working to heal your relationship with your body? What’s worked for you?

2 comments
FacebookTwitterEmail
Newer Posts

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More