Not Having Children After Infertility ‘An Assault to Identity’

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Women who experience infertility and do not gone on to parent get short shrift not only in society but in research. They are left to cope without much needed support or understanding. This is made all the more difficult amid the deification of mothers.

That’s why I’m pleased today to share an online discussion with the author of a dissertation that breaks ground and shines the spotlight on a community of women who for too long have been overlooked. The newly published research, Recovery from Traumatic Loss: A Study of Women Living Without Children After Infertility, comes from the University of Pennsylvania. You might remember the call for participants came in a post here a year ago.

Dr. Marni Rosner is a New York City-based licensed psychotherapist. Her specialties include working with anxiety, relationship issues, trauma, loss, and infertility. She can be reached at marni.rosner@gmail.com. She shares more about her research here on the Silent Sorority blog and welcomes your comments.

What led you to this topic?
I had been ambivalent about having children, yet found myself surprisingly overwhelmed when I discovered I wasn’t able to. And, despite all my education, and years of clinical experience working with clients with varying degrees of anxiety, depression, and trauma, I had no knowledge of the psychological trauma of infertility! I didn’t understand my reaction, nor did anyone else in my support system, including colleagues.

And you, Pamela, unfortunately, were not yet on-line. The isolation was incredible. So I began reading, which has always been a safe harbor for me – you know, knowledge is power and all that.Yet, I was unable to find research that addressed infertility for those who were not interested in adopting or third-party reproduction. There was Sweet Grapes, of course, now a classic, but no real research. I also attended numerous conferences and workshops on infertility; all focused on increasing one’s fertility, IVF, donor eggs, and adopting. It seemed, and felt, that deciding to not have children after infertility was as isolating as living on Mars!

How did it go over with your advisors?
They were all wonderfully supportive. The primary concern, always, is, “is this research necessary? Has it been done before? If not, why? Will it really enrich our knowledge base?” One professor said, early on, “It must be interesting to more than just your own mother!” So this certainly passed the ‘sniff’ test. There was really no other research that focused solely on this population in this era (with numerous reproductive options available, and so many life choices available for women).

What about your peers in the program? How did they respond to your topic?
Everyone seemed receptive and interested. I sometimes wondered if I was making some of the 30-somethings in the room, who didn’t have kids, anxious, although no one ever said so. An interesting moment occurred during my proposal defense – which is when I formally presented why this research is necessary. There were probably about 10 people in the room – my three advisors, some classmates, and a few others. During the Q and A, someone began a question, “for women who decide not to have a family…”. Three people in the room, at the same time, immediately jumped all over this, responding, “They have families, they just don’t have children!” That was interesting for me, especially since I hadn’t caught the slip. So to immediately have that effect – that I was able to communicate the significance of this topic to the point where language immediately became sensitive – was rewarding.

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What were some of your biggest takeaways or surprises in researching previous studies associated with infertility?
It was shocking to me how little attention was given to the aftermath of infertility. As of 2007, only 2% of the research explored the post-treatment phase of the infertility experience. Infertility is traumatizing! Even if you eventually have a child, through biology, adoption, or third-party reproduction, it changes you. A few years ago, I went to a talk, for clinicians, given by a woman who was interviewing (and filming) women who had adopted after infertility, and encouraging them to reflect on their infertility experience.

The filmmaker showed a clip of a woman who just cried and cried remembering that time. The interviewee had clearly buried these emotions for so long, and had never worked through the trauma and loss of her own experience from many years before. It may not all go away just because you have a child – a lot also depends on your history, what came prior to the infertility. Anyway, after the clip, we clinicians began talking, and the discussion immediately focused on adoption! I observed what was happening and redirected, but it was tough to stay on topic. I think it can be frightening to sit with intense emotions.

Many people view infertility as a deeply private, personal experience, however, you make clear that recovering from infertility is actually more of a team sport – meaning we can be seriously helped or hurt depending on the actions/behavior of those around us. Can you elaborate further?
I think much of the reason infertility is viewed as deeply private and personal is because it is often experienced as extremely shaming, and it’s instinctive to keep our shame close. This is compounded for those who were raised in an environment of shame, secrets, and/or unresolved childhood trauma. When we do reach out for help, we are often rebuffed – often not intentionally – and it’s hard to not be sensitive. So we wind up with unacknowledged and disenfranchised grief, feeling stigmatized, our relationships with friends and family suffer, and basically experience an assault to our identity. It becomes self-protective to not talk about it. But this doesn’t really work; it simply lessens us. We need to give voice to what has happened in order to move the trauma through our bodies and minds and make sense of what has happened.

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This isn’t new – Shakespeare talked about the power of giving voice to sorrow, Freud addressed the “talking cure”, and the Catholic Church embraces this concept in the form of confession. 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, adopt this method as well. Give voice to your struggle, and something shifts internally. Having a witness to your process is quite powerful, and more witnesses are even better. What I found, in the study, was that this process was circular, reinforcing, and progressive –shame began to decrease as the women found a safe place, or places, to talk about what had happened.

As shame decreased, voices became clearer, and the women were more able to integrate, rather than disavow, the loss into their life story. This made them stronger and more confident. Shame holds us back, diminishes, and slowly destroys us. So – yes – it is a team sport. It takes a village to not have a child! Unfortunately, for women who decide to live without children after infertility, there is no obvious place to go for comfort. You have to work at it by either educating your current supports, or finding new ones. It isn’t easy, and requires energy that has often been depleted due to trauma. That’s why sites such as yours, and Lisa’s, among others, are so critical. They are, literally, life-saving.

You cite numerous theories and studies associated with human development and personal growth (for instance, you describe the concept of “twinship” — seeking to avoid feeling alone in the world — as well as a need for an “accepting, confirming and understanding human echo”) … what’s the impact when these are denied?
The “accepting, confirming and understanding human echo” – isn’t that lovely? That’s Heinz Kohut. Kohut addressed the different relationships we need, throughout our lives, to feel stable and well. One of these is a “twinship” relationship, which provides the feeling that there are others like me in the world, someone who understands me. When this doesn’t exist, or disappears, it can result in feelings of utter aloneness, deficiency, maybe some regression. It can be pretty unsettling and scary.

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Many theorists from various schools of thought believe that our relationships have a direct impact both on identity and ongoing development. Certain theorists believe that this is particularly true for women – that disruptions to certain relationships are experienced not only as a loss of a relationship but something closer to a loss of self. Women who experience infertility often face disruptions to their relationships, and for those who decide to not have children after trying, this issue, this assault to identity, may not resolve on its own. There needs to be some active work around it.

It’s reassuring that you’ve gathered evidence to prove what many of us living without children after infertility already sensed keenly – that we’re living in an extended pro-natal period. What implications does this have for those who don’t fit the pro-natal norm?
This is a great question. I really don’t know. I think, at this time, you, Lisa, and all the other bloggers and voices addressing this issue are in the process of forming what this means. We are what I would call “in the process” of developing the narrative for those living outside the pro-natal norm. We have the power to direct this a little, I think. Don’t forget those who have chosen to be childfree, despite all the cultural and societal messages to have children. They are a great crowd – they can be so normalizing! And – just a quick statistic – the number of women, aged 40-44, without children has doubled to 20% since 1976 – this includes the voluntary childfree. That’s an enormous change in a relatively short time. So, again, we are in this moment contributing to and shaping the dialogue.

Based on your research/findings, is there anything you’d like to add – words of advice – for the “silent sorority?”
You know, there was such fantastic advice, words of wisdom, and relevant stories told by study participants, that I could not possibly do them justice here. I would encourage those interested to read the paper. It’s long, but I think it’s pretty reader friendly. Maybe focus on chapters IV and V (the less theoretical chapters) to best hear the actual voices and themes. And, of course, I’d love to hear any feedback and questions!
Readers: Get your highlighters out. You can find the full dissertation, RECOVERY FROM TRAUMATIC LOSS: A STUDY OF WOMEN LIVING WITHOUT CHILDREN AFTER INFERTILITY here at UPenn. The discussion is officially open.

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51 thoughts on “Not Having Children After Infertility ‘An Assault to Identity’

  1. Thanks so much for this interview – to both you (Pamela) and Marni. I loved the comments on talking about our infertility, the issue of shame, and of changing relationships (I’m struggling to come to terms with a relationship that has changed, and want to explore this further for myself). So I cannot wait to read the paper.

  2. This is fascinating! Though I know this research is geared toward those who are living childfree after infertility (which I think is very important to address), a lot of what you shared here speaks to me as someone who dealt with secondary infertility and loss.

    I did end up having another living child after a five year journey through secondary infertility and loss, but my experience with SIF and loss was very traumatic for me. I appreciate the part of the discussion that focuses on the post-treatment phase of the infertility experience (regardless of if those in treatment are able to conceive, sustain pregnancies and deliver healthy babies).

    I agree that there needs to be more attention paid to what happens after our situations are “resolved,” whatever that may mean for us. In recent years and months I have realized the many ways that my husband and my experience with SIF and loss has effected our life and relationship. We still have a strong marriage, but I have found it interesting and at times sad some of the scars (real and symbolic) that our experiences has left us with.

    Also, the part about how we have to learn to incorporate what we have been through as opposed to just trying to move on from our experiences really resonates with me. I am always amazed by how my experience with SIF and loss has brought me closer to some people in my life and strained other relationships.

    Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this. I do intend to click over and read all of Dr. Rosner’s dissertation at some point. Kudos to Dr. Rosner, to you, to Lisa and everyone who is working to trying to understand and support those (and each other) who are further along the journey through infertility and loss and what that means for the rest of our lives (whether or not we end up parenting living children).

  3. I am currently in the middle of reading the dissertation (printed it off at the office yesterday, 40 pages at a time so as not to hog the common printer, lol). Thank you so much, Dr. Marni, and thank you, Pamela, for bringing it to our attention & for the great interview above. It is SO incredibly validating (a) to have our situation “legitimized” through serious academic research & (b) to know it’s being done by someone who so clearly “gets it.”

    I also loved watching the video chat from last weekend — such a great group of articulate, thoughtful, interesting women! The only thing that would have made it better would have been if we were all in someone’s living room with a glass of wine. ; )

  4. I’m so glad this is out there! And now that there is some up to date and official research, I’d love to see (or do) a profile of Dr. Marni for MORE magazine, who has thus far entirely ignored this segment of their readership.

  5. Thanks Pamela for sharing Dr. Marni’s fascinating and much-needed work here. These points particularly caught my attention:
    “As of 2007, only 2% of the research explored the post-treatment phase of the infertility experience. Infertility is traumatizing! Even if you eventually have a child, through biology, adoption, or third-party reproduction, it changes you. ” YES. This. So, so, so this. Also, what a quote: “It takes a village to not have a child!” Thank you for doing and publicizing this essential research.

  6. Pamela

    Appreciate, all, the comments and acknowledgments here. The hunger pangs for this research was all too familiar for those of us who once searched, unsuccessfully, for the validation and meaty substance contained in this dissertation.

  7. Nadine

    Thanks for this interview, I am looking forward to reading this thesis. As someone trying to get her life back after infertility, “the feeling that there are others like me in the world, someone who understands me ” is of paramount importance to me.

  8. Marni

    So happy to hear this is resonating and of value! I appreciate all the feedback. And, Lisa’s video was fantastic. Loribeth – you are correct – even better to be there live. What a nice thought!

  9. Thanks so much for presenting this interview. Such an important topic, and it’s wonderful that it’s finally being researched in such a thorough way. I can’t wait to read the dissertation.

  10. Bea

    Great interview, thanks Pam, Marni. A lot of good things said, but the part about integrating rather than disavowing a traumatic experience struck me as well. Nicely put.

    Bea

  11. Thank you so much for posting it, and to Dr. Rosner, a thousand thousand thanks for writing it. I’m only now commenting, but I read it all (OK, not the appendices, and half the methodology I only skimmed) the day Pamela posted it. There are so many things in here that I needed to read – more than I ever thought possible. And I realized that despite the fact that I thought I was totally ready to cross over into POST-treatment, I do not really conceptualize myself as someone who WILL NEVER have a child. Some insane part of me still believes that when I’m least expecting it, I will get pregnant, so that I’m not one of “those” people who CAN’T – who are missing…what I feel I’m missing. Of course, I don’t want to have a surprise baby when I’m fifty, so I don’t know why I would hope for this anyway. I guess the “can’t, ever” is a greater blow than I thought it was – and I thought it was pretty bad and I’d absorbed most of it. But there is so much more living and learning to do.

    I shouldn’t embark on such an impossible task, but I’ll name a few of my favorite things in this (plus I posted some of my thoughts on my blog, in my post “many things” which really is about many things). The explanation of the paradigm shift in adoption will stay with me for life. “It takes a village to not have a child” – yes. Beautiful. And I needed to hear it, because in preparing myself to live childless forever, I’ve said to myself (and others have said to me, many times) that my close friends, the people with whom I’m emotionally intimate and with whom I identify, can be people who have not had this experience. I’ve known I was still in rebellion against this idea, but after reading the information on “twinship,” I feel I own my feelings a little more. Life will REQUIRE me to be close to people who are not involuntarily childless, because we are so very few. But my instinctive thought has been that those people (whatever other good things they may be) are a burden and a challenge, because their different-ness in this respect is a hardship for me. And it’s been my feeling that I need, NEED, people like me, who’ve walked this very ugly road like me, to be my closest friends. I couldn’t articulate why, but you’ve given so many good reasons. I need to feel like my perspective is real, legitimate, that this experience is significant and I have permission to have it be as important to my life as it has been. I need someone to whom I don’t HAVE to explain. Whom I don’t have to teach or correct or silently forgive for being horrendously but unintentionally insensitive. Whose children I don’t have to work around! Who can put me first. Around whom I don’t feel insane.

    I don’t know where I’ll find that, but I’m going to look for it. Thank you for giving me permission to feel :). God bless you.

  12. I’ve just browsed through the research paper. AMAZING work! THANK YOU for this blog post and the research paper link.

    Ahhhh…it’d be such a wonderful opportunity to be able to gather together and talk about anything…

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  13. Marni

    I am so moved by all these comments. Thank you, everyone for taking the time to read, comment, and give such thoughtful feedback. Writing the dissertation was a long and lonely process, and knowing that you’re reading this and finding value in it makes it all worthwhile. And Christina – I’d love the opportunity to share this research with a forum like More, or any other appropriate venue!

  14. Beth

    WOW! I love, love, love this post. What a reaffirming interview, what great comments posted here, and I only read the Dedication & Acknowledgement of the paper and was in tears. It is as if someone has given us our due as a population. As a librarian, I have researched infertility and am sad to report that there is very little clinical work on the subject. This paper addresses our sorely neglected community and I think Dr Rosner hit it on the head; it’s very shaming to be infertile. Nobody else gets it and we have all been so alienated, insulted, and misunderstood that we hide. Not only has our lifelong dream been destroyed, but we are somehow to blame for it. We do it to ourselves and others sometime make us out to feel like we did it to ourselves by choosing to be childless. I can’t wait to read the entire thesis, but I must do so slowly and carefully because I think it’s going to bring up a lot of emotional stuff.
    Thank you Pamela for your hard work and bringing this to the sorority! And Marni, congratulations; you have given birth through your research! It is so important to us all!

  15. Ana

    I’ve just finished reading the paper and I must say it was very interesting to see so many common feelings and experiences presented systematically as a blueprint for helping others in the future.
    As so many have said, most sites and resources discuss how to “fix” infertility, by getting pregnant, adopting, etc. The minute you mention you’re no longer pursuing that goal, you feel out of place (again). I stopped participating in certain sites because of that – it felt like those who were still trying felt that I was bringing them down when I talked about living without kids, which I understand. They didn’t want to contemplate it, because they were still immersed in the process of trying. This study is important to create awareness and support for those who remain childless.
    As Dr. Rosner mentioned, there are even less studies about husband’s responses to infertility and, I must add, even less about male infertility, which is a pity, because men tend to hold things in and may need help in a specific, male-oriented way. Of course, I’d be personally interested in reading about it because our case is male infertiliry (Azoospermia).
    Finally, let me just mention that, although I’m from a traditional Catholic country, where motherhood is highly valued (Portugal), we don’t have the American concept of middle class suburbs full of nuclear families. Neighborhoods have people of all ages and, when you mention “family”, people assume you’re talking about everyone, from grandparents to nephews and in-laws, not just your own children. Maybe that makes it easier for us and harder for those Americans who live in that particular sort of suburban “bubble”.
    Sorry for the huge post. Thank you, Pamela, for letting us know about this fascinating study and congratulations, Dr. Rosner, on creating an excellent paper which ressonates with those who’ve gone through infertility! It’s a great gift!

  16. Pamela

    Appreciate your insights here, Ana! I’ve often wondered how the societal experience of infertility and family differs from region to region, country to country.

  17. I’ve often thought, Beth, that as a lay person I was lacking in access to the wider research distribution channels. It’s interesting to learn that as a librarian you, too, were unable to find more on this topic. Will be curious to get your thoughts once you’ve had a chance to fully digest the findings. Meanwhile, like you, I’m just thrilled that those seeking information on this topic will now have Dr. Rosner’s work to cite.

  18. Ana

    Thanks, Pamela! But I don’t want you to think it’s a walk in the park over here. A society which puts motherhood in high esteem like ours produces a lot of inane comments like “you haven’t loved until you’ve had children”, “I didn’t really know what being a woman was until I became a mother”, etc. I think idiocy is sprinkled pretty evenly throughout the globe – it’s only fair!
    Besides, people say thoughtless things about so many other topics besides infertility, and I’m sure I’ve hurt people’s feelings without realizing it, therefore contributing to the mass of idiotic remarks circulating the world, and will continue to do so. Not even the most diplomatic person lives a lifetime without offending someone once in a while.
    Anyway, thanks for your reply and for having your blog. It’s made it so much easier over the years having this place to come to. You’ve made the world a less lonely place for a lot of people!

  19. Thank you for this post. It just occurred to me that I’ve never sought any other counselling in regards to infertility and the impact it had on my life. I remember once I called a help line and I asked for someone who understood infertility – I wasn’t suicidal, I just wanted to talk to someone who got it. And there wasn’t anyone. But you were there, I started my blog and my healing began. I have been forever changed and though I adopted, I’m still impacted by infertility. I have never really talked to anyone in person about it. At least I had you, though and I am forever grateful for the lifesaver you threw my way.

  20. Pamela

    Returning the love to you, Deathstar. Our early online exchanges brought such relief and a sense of understanding and validation. Our “twinship” and “mirroring” helped me turn a corner…

  21. I know I am slow on commenting, but I really wanted to get through all the information provided in this excellent post.
    The interview by Lisa was great. Listening to other people’s stories always helps me make more sense in what is currently happening in my life.
    I found myself soaking up the information in Dr. Rosner’s dissertation. I am approaching my 2nd year in our decision to live childfree and I found myself exclaiming over and over, YES! So much of what I am feeling and thinking were written about in the dissertation, from feelings of envy and the need to take care of myself to feeling like I am going through a transformation. I felt a sense of connection to what the people interviewed said and it gives me a sense of validation and hope that I can get through the hard times I am in now to the better life that I know is waiting for me in the future. I think I would like to read this dissertation again in a few years. I think being further down the road of accepting my infertility and decision to live childfree will enable me to find new meaning in this research.

  22. Beth

    Ana-
    As we say in New York, you are one smart cookie girlfriend! We need to create our own families and it sounds like you are well on your way. I’ve heard those same hurtful things from “loved ones”. Stay positive in this world of “good intentions”.

  23. Katy

    I apologize for the late comment, but it took me this long to read chapters 4 & 5 of this EXCELLENT dissertation :) I will most DEFINITELY be putting these chapters on my Kindle and re-reading them many times, as they were SO helpful.

    I found it so interesting that I’ve already done many things the interviewees had done in an attempt to move past the “trying” stage. I gave away all of my maternity clothes, baby clothes, baby furniture, baby toys. We’re in the process of selling our house, located in a neighborhood FULL of children (we’re literally the only childless family). We stopped holding off on decisions like the kayak/canoe decision the interviewee mentioned. And it’s been ultra liberating! It’s incredibly reaffirming to hear I’ve been headed towards healing without even knowing it :)

    I do SO MUCH want to meet other women/couples who are in the same situation. But it is very hard to find them. I wonder if someone might organize a conference/convention some day that we could travel to?

    My only disappointment with the dissertation was the ages of the interviewees. They were all much older than me, which can make a big difference in this journey. I’d love to hear from more women in their late 20’s/early 30’s who have reached the same conclusion.

    Thank you thank you thank you to all who are helping to pave the way for the rest of us. It is SO appreciated!

  24. Gwen

    Katy – I agree and wanted to suggest a travel event as well. One thing we can all say is that we have the opportunity to travel.

    I’ve printed the 200 page paper and highlighted sections I want my mother and others to read, this is in addition to the Silent Sorority book. For some reason I don’t think people will understand unless they’ve walked in my shoes.

    Thanks for this site and the written word.

  25. Pamela

    I really like the idea of a gathering, a first of its kind confab … 
    I’ve had the distinct pleasure and good fortune of meeting quite a few of this blog’s readership in recent years. Each get together felt like meeting an old friend for the first time — and underscored how much we all have to offer each other. Sounds like we need to get a planning committee organized.

  26. Thanks, Heather…so very glad you’re feeling a sense of validation and hope. You’ll find your strength, too, will grow more each day.

  27. Hi, Katy!

    I’m 33 y.o. and we’ve decided to surrender to life without children. :-D

  28. Katy

    I’m so glad I’m not alone, Amel! I’m 32 and while there’s still a slight chance that we may try one or two more FET’s, we’ve already decided that that would be our very last shot and if they don’t work – childfree it is! We’re already trying the childfree lifestyle on for size and so far it fits pretty well! But, as I know you know, it still hurts from time to time.

    My biggest struggle right now is looking too far down the road. I look at our young friends who are just now getting engaged/married and I know that another round of babies will start popping out any day now. And then I think about how horrible it’s going to feel in my 50’s/60’s when all of my friends start becoming grandparents…it just feels like the hurt will never end. But I suppose I need to learn to live in the here and now and not feel hurt before the hurt even exists! Who knows…perhaps we’ll lead by example and some of our friends will choose to stay childfree too :)

  29. Popped back in to see what other comments have appeared. If there is a gathering, I am THERE, no matter where there is! (Just in case there are any perma-childless gals in the DC area, that’s where I am, and I would LOVE to get together. I am so tired of getting together with other infertile women and hearing about the new baby, where they are in the adoption process, or their latest surgery! Please, let there be someone who wants to talk about THIS LIFE!)

    And FWIW…I turned 30 this year…right before I stopped treatment and went on depo. (Not so I would be sure I’d never conceive – that’s inconsistent with my attitude and totally medically unnecessary anyway – but because it’s my last hope before hysterectomy to get the endometriosis into remission. But can I tell you how much I’m looking forward to NOT MENSTRUATING for the first time? The insult-to-injury has been TOO MUCH.)

    OK, done ranting now :).

  30. Hi Katy,
    I’m in my early 30’s as well. Your not alone in our age group living this lifestyle.

  31. Maria

    Hi,

    My name is Knoll Maria and I am a graduate student at Bar-Ilan University Information Science Department in Israel. For my final project, I am examining anonymity and self-disclosure in infertility blogs. The target population of the study are women bloggers who were or are going through infertility treatments and also blog about their experience. I am kindly inviting you to participate in this research study by completing the attached survey.

    The following questionnaire will require approximately 5 minutes to complete. Your response is very important to me. Your informed consent to participate in this survey is assumed by completing the survey and by submitting it. Participation is strictly voluntary and you may refuse to participate at any time. A copy of the results will be sent to you, if you choose so.

    Thank you for taking the time to assist me in my educational endeavors. If you require additional information or have questions, please contact by email.
    Click here to fill out the survey: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dHY0SC1wT0lHeEFqOGdZN3pXT3p3aHc6MQ

  32. Ana

    Hi Katy! Just to say I’m also in that age group(33).
    I suppose maybe the study focused on people who felt they had made a definite decision not to adopt or continue TTC and, since that takes time and most people don’t even start TTC before their mid 20’s, it makes sense that most interviewees were over 35. Also, after a certain age, the decision is pretty much imposed on women as far as carrying a child is concerned.
    That being said, as we all know from dealing with IF, life is full of shocks and, because of deaths in the family, divorces, changes in location or jobs, anyone can end up caring for children at any age, full or part time, socially or professionally, for any number of reasons, even if they are not their own kids/grandkids. What I mean is, definite decisions give you a direction, but life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.
    Anyway, I swerved off topic. Bottom line – you’re not alone and there are plenty of people in this age group who have truly accepted childlessness and are living life to the fullest. It’s nice to feel there are others out there! I wish every happiness to you and all our other sisters of any age!

  33. Yeah, the wounds still get sore every now and then. That’s for sure. I have another blogger friend much farther along the road (she’s older than me) who says the same thing – that the wounds get sore these days when she sees her friend’s announcements about their kids’ graduation or their kids’ weddings etc. etc.

    But you’re right…living in the moment is imperative and enjoying what we have is much better than looking too far down the road. LOVE your last sentence! :-D

  34. Jen

    Not only did I stumble across this blog at a very important time in my life, but I also resonated with something in the comment above that I have been trying to explain to my family/friends for the past year (after ending 5 years of failed TTC):

    “And it’s been my feeling that I need, NEED, people like me, who’ve walked this very ugly road like me, to be my closest friends. I couldn’t articulate why, but you’ve given so many good reasons. I need to feel like my perspective is real, legitimate, that this experience is significant and I have permission to have it be as important to my life as it has been. I need someone to whom I don’t HAVE to explain. Whom I don’t have to teach or correct or silently forgive for being horrendously but unintentionally insensitive. Whose children I don’t have to work around! Who can put me first. Around whom I don’t feel insane.”

    I don’t know if you’ve found this yet; I know I certainly haven’t, and it has proven to be the height of my distress, even after everything I’ve been through. Sometimes those closest to you can be the must un-supporting and hurtful people, and they will never really know it. Even if you try and explain yourself or your feelings. There’s no grey areas with post-treatment, just loss and trying to rebuild. Sometimes with little or no support.

  35. Pamela

    Thanks, Jen, for your comment. You’ve touched upon a very important element in the post-treatment phase, and dropped the missing puzzle piece into a blog post I’ve been mulling over. Now off to write it …

  36. Jen

    Hmm… I wonder if there will ever be something like this in Australia…? Or maybe it’s the perfect excuse for overseas travel :)

  37. jen

    finally! – I just found your site today – it came at the perfect time, just found out that a friend is pregnant with twins – granted she and her husband struggled themselves, but it still hurts me – that sounds so petty and selfish, but its how I feel – after reading the article, I feel that its ok to have those feelings – my husband and I have been ttc for over ten years – I have gone through all the emotions possible as well as grief and guilt for my husband – if he had married someone else, he could be a father – bless him, he says that he would not want to be anywhere but here – thank you for your article and your site – its time that the silent sorority was not silent anymore, at least not with each other – thank you

  38. Pamela

    So glad you found us! Make yourself comfortable…

  39. […] it is to be in the silent majority. That’s what led me, documentary filmmaker Irina Vodar and Dr. Marni Rosner to hatch a grand […]

  40. […] It would be many months more before I had a chance to meet, in person, Christina, Dr. Wendy or Dr. Marni — all of the above well-versed in course corrections, all now treasured friends. There was […]

  41. […] Together we have a special view of the world. We also share a “twinship,” a concept that Dr. Marni Rosner explained as “relationships that provide the feeling that there are others like me in the world, someone […]

  42. […] was only in experiencing firsthand “twinship,” a concept that Dr. Marni Rosner explained as “relationships that provide the feeling that there are others like me in the world, […]

  43. […] That said — and I speak from experience — it takes quite a while to heal (research puts it at 3-5 years), to boost the stores of compassionate energy and to achieve the emotional […]

  44. […] of this blog is an elaboration of this on-line interview with Pamela […]

  45. […] Dr. Marni Rosner shared her ground-breaking research on women and participated in this Q&A titled: Not Having Children An Assault to Our Identity […]

  46. […] group of women when I get the go-ahead from the Dr. Marni Rosner to share a link to her research, Recovery From Traumatic Loss: A Study of Women Living Without Children After Infertility. It contains all sorts of “ah […]

  47. […] We’ve also discovered how immensely therapeutic it can be to give voice to our stories as revealed in this groundbreaking UPenn research. […]

  48. […] In 2010 we both talked to Dr. Marni Rosner as part of her groundbreaking research, Recovery from Traumatic Loss: A Study of Women Living Without Children After Infertility. She described the concept of “twinship — seeking to avoid feeling alone in the world” […]

  49. […] about the hunger for camaraderie and belonging and a need to see our experiences and emotions mirrored back. It’s what led a group of women, who for a variety of reasons, don’t count mother among […]

  50. Canada77

    It’s 2017 and this comes at a perfect time. My situation is a bit different as I have MS. I had to go off my medication in order to start trying to conceive. Not only did (and still do) have to endure the heartache of trying over and over again for 12 months, (and endure 2 miscarriages in this time), I also suffer the effects of the MS and not having any drug to protect me against the disease. Double-vision, weak legs, unable to walk a kilometer (I used to run half-marathons). It’s been horribly degrading and I feel I’ve lost a part of my soul. I’ve come to the crossroads now and have decided I must start my meds again to regain my happiness…being able to walk normally, etc. It’s been a long road. I call the day I start my meds “doomsday”. Because once I start them again, there is no more trying to have kids naturally. My husband and I aren’t interested in adopting or doing IVF. We’ve tried multiple rounds of IUI…and with 2 pregnancy losses…I can’t bear the thought of a third. Sigh. I am going to be getting a tattoo in the next short while that says “Plan Be”….right where I can see it on my inside forearm. This will hopefully serve as a reminder during those gloomy days that moving forward is the only direction.
    Sending love and light to you all…

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