How long did you spend trying to get pregnant? Did you try any medical interventions?
Dan and I started trying to get pregnant in June, 2008. We stopped on October 31, 2014. We saw many different doctors, specialists and alternative health providers during this time including 5 rounds of IUI with injections.
How did you know you were ready to stop trying?
We had set an expiry date on our time at the fertility clinic when we first started there in February, 2014. We wanted to be finished there by December, 2014 whether we were successful or not.
The trips to and from the clinic were a huge stress on my work life, personal life and emotional well-being. The fertility clinic was located 134km (83 miles) from home, so my routine was to be up at 4:00am for the one-hour drive to the train station. I then spent an hour on the commuter train taking me into downtown Toronto. I then boarded the subway and took that six stops, followed by a two block walk and up 15 floors in the elevator to the clinic. I was usually at the clinic for 20-45 min roughly while I had blood drawn and an ultrasound performed. I then reversed the trip, only instead of going home, I went to work. I would arrive at work 11:00-11:30am most days and would work through until 5pm. Then it was a 30 min drive home for a very short evening, as I needed to give myself an injection, and be in bed between 8:00 and 8:30pm so I could do it all again the next day.
The decision to be done trying came sooner than our expected end date of December 2014. We had completed 5 IUIs and during the last, I over-responded to the medication meaning the clinic cancelled my next cycle to let my body rest and my hormones re-set. This left us unable to complete our 6th and final planned IUI in 2014, and so we were unexpectedly done. On the day I should have been going home to start my last round of injections, we were suddenly faced with the fact that we would never have a biological child.
From there, we went on to become approved for adoption and tried for nearly two years through both private and public agencies. We were never anywhere close to successful with these attempts either. I knew I was ready to stop all attempts to become parents on the drive to our final homestudy visit. It was kind of bizarre how it happened. Dan & I were talking in the car on the drive home and realized that neither of us were nervous at all. We had the visit, and when the case worker left with a list of things we’d need to do around the house for our approval we agreed that neither of us wanted to be bothered. We were “done” and it happened at the same time and in the same way for both of us. We’d been working towards closure together, and just like that it happened.
What resources, support, or other things were most helpful in making the decision to stop trying and to help you work through grief?
Definitely a good counsellor was my best resource. It took me a couple of tries to find the right one, which was difficult at the time, but worth the work and the wait to find the one that was the right fit for me. With the self-imposed deadline on our time at the fertility clinic, my counsellor & I were already talking about how we would approach closure if/when it came to that and what kind of language we would use surrounding stopping treatment and accepting a childfree life. That helped to take a lot of the unknown out of it for me. My counsellor was invaluable to me during the darkest periods, the transitions and beyond.
I had been seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner for acupuncture to help with my fertility treatments, and I continued those appointments to help my emotional and mental health as well.
I was part of a great online community of women going through fertility treatments, we answered questions for one another and also provided endless moral and emotional support. I seriously could not have done it without these ladies!
How long after you stopped trying did the shift from mostly grief to mostly at peace with your situation happen?
I had about four months of intense grief after we stopped trying to get pregnant before I started to notice a shift happening. It was around the four-month mark that we started the process of getting approved for adoption, so I think having that to focus on helped. I also found the process itself very therapeutic because the approval itself was done through a counsellor. She did both couples and individual evaluations on Dan and I, and had us fill out some very detailed questions about ourselves including our family history, strengths and weaknesses and our vision for our lives. This sparked some great conversations between Dan and I that we would not otherwise have had.
Once we also stopped our efforts to adopt, and truly accepted that our life would be childfree, I had a crisis of self. I didn’t know who I was anymore or what my life would look like going forward. I did a lot of self-exploration through many different methods. I started doing yoga, attended some drumming circles, and basically any spiritual and self-discovery events I could find. I felt desperate. Journaling my way through these experiences and events was key for me to make sense of what I had been through and where I was headed. Every event helped me learn something more about myself and my place in the world, and become at peace with who I am.
What are the aspects you appreciate most about your childfree life?
The freedom to set and follow my own schedule. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s completely carefree, since my husband and I both work demanding full-time + jobs, but our downtime is important to us, and it’s all ours.
I appreciate having the time and the ability to look beyond the needs of our own household – I give my time and money generously to issues and causes in my community.
Are there aspects of your identity you had to shift in the transition to a childfree life?
Absolutely! My identity for as far back as I can remember centered around the idea that I would someday be a mother. I chose a partner I knew would make a good husband and father, with the idea we would parent together. The personality traits that I believed would make me a good mother, I have worked to find other ways to apply those in my life. I didn’t want to turn my back on those instincts within myself, squash them down because I couldn’t use them the way I’d intended to.
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?
No, I wouldn’t take the magic wand baby in arms at this point. I feel like I am such a strong person and I wouldn’t be who I am without the experiences leading up to now. I wouldn’t trade that for a baby in my arms. I’m truly at peace now and love my life exactly the way it is.
What advice do you have for women who have just made the decision to give up their dream of parenting?
It does get better. For many years, my infertility defined me. What was lacking in my life truly made me feel less than. I felt on the outside looking in. With time and the work I put in to properly grieve and explore who I am and where I fit in the world has paid off. My infertility is just a small part of who I am now. It’s something I went through that made me stronger.
Practice good self-care. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. Figure out what that looks like for you. For me, it’s making sure I set aside time for yoga, journaling and preparing ahead.
Don’t be afraid to seek out, ask for (and accept!) help. No one has to do this alone.
Interested in sharing your childless to childfree story through Chasing Creation? Drop me a line through my contact page.