You’re the Star of Your Own Life

yoursign

What do you do with years of expectation about roles and identity?

How do you turn off the tape in your head about what was supposed to be the rest of your life?

Where do you find a new sense of purpose and meaning? Those are some of the big, huge, enormous questions that have been accumulating in my in-box the past few weeks.

Pour a drink.
Pass the Magic 8 Ball.

In fact, I think a good-old fashioned sleepover might be needed. Join me as I mull over the following reader mail:

I’m “Coming2Terms” with my own infertility and something has been bothering me lately. I thought you might be able to help. How do you turn off the part of your brain that has been on autopilot about one day having children? For instance, when I hear a unique name I automatically think “Oh I like that one! Maybe we’ll name our child that!” It’s frustrating to have to keep reminding myself “you are not going to have your own children, so stop thinking that way.” Does it just take time, or is it something I will continue to do? I know you’ve had more time to adjust to all of this so I thought you might be able to give me some insight.

****
I have learned to accept feeling left out, losing my “mom” friends, societal insensitivity, and running into every pregnant person in town when I go to the grocery store, but the part that bothers me the most is whether or not, when all is said and done, that my life will matter.
It troubles me whether or not I am contributing to society in a way that is on some level “equal” to people with children. It seems that moms and dads sort of get a free pass on doing something meaningful — that whether or not they try, they’ve already achieved their mark in life by pointing to their children. Those of us without children don’t get that free pass. I want to know that when I get to the end of the line, my life mattered. This is one of the lesser discussed parts of infertility and childlessness in general.

****
A while ago, I met a wonderful man. He is everything I could hope for: patient, passionate, loyal, ambitious, “sane,” and so much more. The only problem was that I found out he’s sterile. I was devastated when I first found out, because I knew I’d never have children with this man, but then I thought, “Do I really need kids to make my life complete?” After digging around, I found out that I don’t, in fact, “need” to have children in order to be happy in life. Now, I feel so much better. What are a few words of advice/tips that you remembered when you initially decided not to have children? I would really, really appreciate obtaining a bit of your wisdom.

****
Hokey. (The glass is half full here — of Cabernet). First, wisdom is far too generous. Hard-won lessons may be more like it.

READ  Oh, The Places We'll Go!

Lesson
#1
: Don’t fall for the PR sugar-spun version of parenthood and the not so subliminal messages that your life by comparison doesn’t measure up. I admit I once wished long and hard for the happily-ever-after-fairy-tale-perfect-family ending that involved me as the mom, my husband as the dad and a couple of whip-smart, adorable and polite children. It looked so good with my nose pressed up against the glass. In time, I realized that the soft-focus lensed life filled with giggles and perfect children wasn’t my destiny nor was it realistic. It took some years of mourning what might have been and coping with the post-traumatic stress of failed fertility treatments before I began to question those who bragged endlessly on about their children. I wondered if their need to emphasize their parenting prowess might actually be a cover up for a different sense of inadequacy.

Lesson
#2
: Don’t overlook the many good things in your life. It took me a while to do an honest inventory, but once I took the time to clearly catalog and assess, I came to have a new appreciation for the gifts and the very special people in my life. I also looked more closely at the lives of those around me and saw a different set of hard realities. Instead I saw lives challenged by hardship, disease, and relationship troubles. There is no picture-perfect existence.

Lesson #3:
Halos aren’t delivered the same day someone becomes a parent in the delivery room or in a court house. I know plenty of single or married without children folk who earn their wings every day looking out for elderly relatives, volunteering with community and religious organizations and playing important roles in the lives of those of all ages — looking after needs ranging from emotional to physical to financial.

READ  Time Warp Tuesday: Decisions

Lesson
#4
: There is generation upon generation of programming to overcome here – both primal and societal. It’s easy to see how we buy-into the myth that there is only one way to live a meaningful life. We’re surrounded by messages every day that have the power to belittle or marginalize us if we allow them to own or control us. It’s self-defeating, though, to accept at face value someone else’s idea of what life is supposed to be like.

Remember this: You’re the star of your own life. You get to write the script, design your costumes, own the stage, and sing your own tunes.  Make it yours!

Anyone care to share Lesson #5 (or #6 or more)?  I know I have some pretty smart and savvy readers out there.

 

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39 thoughts on “You’re the Star of Your Own Life

  1. Jenny

    This post just gave me a huge, huge, huge burst of encouragement. I live in a neighbourhood in which I’m surrounded by young, seemingly “happily married” couple with their adorable kids, and sometimes it really breaks my heart. But whenever I read your posts, I realize just how amazing life can be without kids.

    Although you probably hear this a lot, I’ll say it anyway: thanks very much being such a huge inspiration. Your posts really help me get through some of my not-so-great days.

  2. Molly

    You are an inspiration to all those struggling with infertility. Your gift is to provide a perspective that many others aren’t able to describe. Thank you for being the amazing person that you are. A voice for many men and women who might not have the courage to say what you are saying. Thank you.

  3. Rachel Inbar

    I have to start by saying that you’ve said it well…

    From the side of a woman with children, I completely agree – that “picture perfect” image doesn’t exist. Moms who don’t admit to being wiped out emotionally and physically at the end of most days are probably lying. I’ve had to go on antidepressants for the first time in my life just because I can’t stand the mess and the chaos. I love my kids dearly and there are some parts of the day I thoroughly enjoy, but there are others I detest and can’t wait for them to be over (like dinner & bath time). I’m looking forward to the day when I can put something down and actually find it in the same place, or walk across the floor without tripping on shoes my kids have left there. So, yeah, parenting is not all fun and games and those pretty family portraits in which everyone smiles.

    “Don’t overlook the good things in your life” – so true. In my first marriage, I didn’t mind not having time together. Now that I’m married to my best friend, I wish we could go on a vacation just the two of us (we can’t, trust me) and spend quality time together. Most of our time is spent either working (fortunately we both work from home) or taking care of the kids. Our time alone starts at around 10pm.

    As for making your life meaningful & the “free pass” someone claimed parents have – gosh, I don’t feel that way at all. Sure I want to make memories for my kids, but that’s not my mark in the world. In fact, I feel like I have to make a big effort to find time to do things that are meaningful, things that I will be able to look back on and say “I made the world a better place”.

    When I talk to my kids about the future, I emphasize the fact that having children is a choice, not the default.

  4. happynenes

    I love this post. Thank you. You hit the nail on the head.

  5. Pamela

    Thanks, Happynenes and Molly. Inspiration is a two-way street! When we give it we get in it back in return…

  6. Pamela

    Dear Jenny, Happynenes and Molly. You are very welcome! I’ve found that inspiration (and caring) is a two-way street. When
    we give it we get in it back in return and then some…

  7. Very well said and good points to ponder. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  8. This is all great advice (as usual!), Pamela! As a corollary to lesson #4, I would add: There is generation upon generation of programming to overcome here – both primal and societal. Don’t expect to reverse 20 or 30 or 40 years of it all at once. You’ve spent all these years thinking your life is going to move in one direction — the same direction that most people move in, and take for granted. Absorbing the fact that you’re not going in the same direction after all, & charting a new path for your life (with far fewer role models to guide the way), is going to take some time. It’s not going to happen overnight, & there is going to be some rough times along the way. Be kind to yourself!

  9. Pamela

    You are an unusual women, Rachel, and one I wish there were more of in our society. You understand both sides of the equation and have a level of insight and caring that many who succeeded with infertility treatment either don’t investment the time in developing or choose not to consider.

    p.s. For those of you who don’t know Rachel’s contribution to the infertility world, check out her website:
    http://www.fertilitystories.com/storymenu.htm. It’s aimed at helping women coping with infertility feel less alone. You’ll find my story there and as well as others.

  10. What a thought-provoking post. Parenthood was recently defined by the psychologic community as the premiere form of “self actualization” — which we see, not even all parents would agree with. (thanks Rachel!)

    I can’t help thinking of my Dad. He had kids (lots of them) but I think he died feeling he never got to live his life — as an individual, as a creative person — because parenthood took it all out of him. Yes, he rebelled, going off to live by himself after decades of family life. But by then he was broken physically and spiritually.

    I remember hearing a psychologist on the radio say “there are grave consequences to not fulfilling your genetic destiny.” Meaning, passing on our genes to the next generation. Well, my Dad fulfilled a destiny of bringing four interesting children in the world — at the expense of his own destiny and spirit. I had a front row seat as witness to his sense of meaninglessness. My Mom never understood why having a great family didn’t do it for him, but I do.

    My life circumstances have translated into a nonparental life. Every day I appreciate that I’m getting the chance to do things my Dad couldn’t simply because he wasn’t a parent. He passed away twelve years ago, but I feel his presence constantly as I pursue my unconventional goals.

    Most parents are luckier than my Dad — they’re so caught up in their responsibilities and stresses, they are out of touch with the inner-voice that hounded my Dad, and seem oblivious or even hostile to anything and anyone that doesn’t have a direct impact on their child.

    I know women who felt their lives were worthless without a child. This is “stinkin’ thinkin'” as they say in 12-step programs. I go back to my Catholic background, and remember that people who chose a celibate religious vocation were thought to have a special destiny.

    I think we without children have a special destiny – it’s up to us to find out what it is. Children are a gift that some of us get and some don’t. But life itself is a gift — that’s hard to remember sometimes.

    I’m not a religious person, but I think “thou shalt not covet” is a commandment is good rule — one of those “duh” things. I know that a lot of people “covet” things I have or have had in the past –from my husband to my writers’ life to my joie de vivre. How dare you be happy!

    I’m here to say to all of us — dare to be happy. It’s your birthright.

  11. What a thought-provoking post. Parenthood was recently defined by the psychologic community as the premiere form of “self actualization” — which we see, not even all parents would agree with. (thanks Rachel!)

    I can’t help thinking of my Dad. He had kids (lots of them) but I think he died feeling he never got to live his life — as an individual, as a creative person. Parenthood took it all out of him. He rebelled, going off to live by himself after decades of family life, but by then he was physically and spiritually broken.

    My life circumstances have translated into a nonparental life. Every day I appreciate that I’m getting the chance to live the life that he couldn’t. He passed away twelve years ago, but I feel his presence constantly as I pursue my unconventional life.

    I remember hearing a psychologist on the radio say “there are grave consequences to not fulfilling your genetic destiny.” Well, my Dad fulfilled a destiny of bringing four interesting children in the world — at the expense of his own spirit. I had a front-row seat to his decades-long mid-life crisis, when he saw all he had as meaningless. My Mom never understood why having a great family didn’t do it for him,but I do.

    I’ve experienced many parents as being so caught up in their responsibilities and stresses, that they don’t hear the inner voice that hounded my Dad, asking, “Is this all there is?” They often seem oblivious or even hostile to anything and anyone that doesn’t have a direct impact on their child.

    I know women who felt their lives were worthless without a child. This is “stinkin’ thinkin'” as they say in 12-step programs. I go back to my Catholic background, and remember that people who chose a celibate religious vocation were thought to have a special destiny.

    I think we without children have a special destiny – it’s up to us to find out what it is. Children are a gift that some of us get and some don’t. But life itself is a gift — that’s hard to remember sometimes.

    I’m not a religious person, but I think “thou shalt not covet” is a commandment that comes up over and over again. It’s one of those “duh” things.
    I know that a lot of people “covet” things I have or have had in the past –from my husband to my writers’ life to my joie de vivre. How dare you be happy!

    I’m here to say to all of us — dare to be happy. It’s your birthright.

  12. What a thought-provoking post. Parenthood was recently defined by the psychologic community as the premiere form of “self actualization” — which we see, not even all parents would agree with. (thanks Rachel!)

    I can’t help thinking of my Dad. He had kids (lots of them) but I think he died feeling he never got to live his life — as an individual, as a creative person. Parenthood took it all out of him. He rebelled, going off to live by himself after decades of family life;by then he was physically and spiritually broken.

    My life circumstances have translated into a nonparental life. Every day I appreciate that I’m getting the chance to live the life he never got the chance to. He passed away twelve years ago, but I feel his presence constantly as I pursue my unconventional goals.

    I remember hearing a psychologist on the radio say “there are grave consequences to not fulfilling your genetic destiny.” Well, my Dad fulfilled a destiny of bringing four interesting children in the world — at the expense of his own spirit. I had a front-row seat to his decades-long mid-life crisis, when he saw all he had as meaningless. My Mom never understood why having a great family didn’t do it for him,but I do.

    I’ve experienced many parents as being so caught up in their responsibilities and stresses, that they don’t hear the still small voice that hounded my Dad. Many seem oblivious,even hostile to anything and anyone that doesn’t have a direct impact on their child. That’s not my definition of a meaningful life.

    I know women who felt their lives were worthless without a child. This is “stinkin’ thinkin'” as they say in 12-step programs.

    I think we without children have a special destiny – it’s up to us to find out what it is. Children are a gift that some of us get and some don’t. But life itself is a gift — that’s hard to remember sometimes.

    I’m not a religious person, but I think “thou shalt not covet” is a commandment that comes up over and over again. It’s one of those “duh” things.
    I know that a lot of people “covet” things I have or have had in the past –from my husband to my writers’ life to my joie de vivre. How dare you be happy!

    I’m here to say to all of us — dare to be happy. It’s your birthright.

  13. the misfit

    I can’t tell you what a blessing you (and your commenters!) have been to me. While I wouldn’t want to see my IF friends stagnate in their efforts to get pregnant or adopt, it’s difficult not only to be left behind, but, much moreso, to feel the vacuum-like lack of support the infertility community often has for those who are heading (not by design) for the “family of two” track. (After spending hours every week trying to write supportive things on every post, no matter how different the person’s journey is from mine, it can be incredibly exhausting to field the storm of criticism that arises the second I acknowledge that the end is coming for us. Nothing I do is above criticism – the doctors I’ve seen and not seen, the treatments I’ve done and not done, the tests I’ve done and how recently, decisions about insurance, travel for treatment, everything. If I’m planning to stop, what I’m doing must be wrong. Sometimes it seems that “never” is less acceptable to infertiles even than it is to fertiles!) Anyway, sorry to vent, but I’ve been trying very hard not to yell at people who honestly appear to be clueless that they’re being insensitive, and I couldn’t keep it to myself any more :). I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today, or how much it means to me to read the words of strong, joyful, caring women who are already walking this road and making it look da*% good.

  14. Bea

    I have nothing to add, but it seems like good advice to me. I especially like #1. I feel for parents who have nothing else in their life they think of as really mattering – mindless propagation of the species doesn’t do it for me as a raison d’etre. At the same time, I wouldn’t discount raising children as not mattering at all – far from it – but there is often too little appreciation that other choices or circumstances are also valid and meaningful and worthy of respect, and perhaps those who protest loudest are those who feel the least fulfilled in general.

    Bea

  15. Jennifer

    Thanks Christina – you made some really good points that I’d never quite thought of – especially the not coveting. In order to move on, I think that’s really the sticking point for a lot of us. I know it definitely is for me.

  16. Diane

    I really hope the writer of the second piece of reader mail is reading this, because this is for her: the good and kind things you do for ANYONE are your meaningful contributions to this world. It matters not a bit whether you gave birth to the recipients of your goodness and kindness or not. Pamela covered this in Lesson #3 above, but I just wanted to add my .02.

    My other comment: I want to steal the YouTube theme of gay adults sending “It Gets Better” messages to gay adolescents. I will be 55 in two weeks, which, I suspect, makes me among the oldest of the readers/contributors here. I want to tell you all from personal experience, “It Gets Easier” to live with infertility. I felt the sadness lift around my 50th birthday. Perhaps it’s because at the age I am now, childbearing and childrearing isn’t the focus of most people’s lives. Or perhaps it’s a conscious choice to heed Pamela’s Lesson #2 above and to realize what is right with one’s life.

    My husband divorced me due to my infertility. That was ten years ago. That era is truly a distant memory now and I don’t dwell on it. And today I lead a life in which I do pretty much whatever I want whenever I want. I am deeply grateful for that. And yes, I make meaningful contributions to the world. My existence is hardly selfish or self-centered.

    To end with a little humor … I have been a high school teacher for 25 years. I have spent more time with adolescents than parents do raising their own. And I have seen 25 years’ worth of adolescents putting their parents through hell. There’s more to parenthood than being the center of attention due to pregnancy and then showing off the smiling baby trophy afterwards. I have seen some things during my years of teaching that have led me to see the bright side of nonparenthood. Seriously.

  17. Sue

    Posts and comments like these are why I am so thankful to have found Pamela’s wonderful blog. As someone who has been newly introduced to their new life path I’ve had a hard time determining which direction to take. Some mornings I wake up and I have all the determination in the world to move forward and I’m certain I should be heading east. Then somehow by lunchtime I find myself meandering south. Then by the late evening I am just about more than certain that my compass is broken.

    From someone still trying to find her way I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your advice. All of you. Thank you for this post, Pamela. I didn’t even realize it but I have already been working on some of your lessons. I’ve been taking inventory of all that should be cherished in my life and the list was long. I’ve also removed my rose colored glasses and I’ve been taking a closer look at my friends’ lives with children and I’m realizing how tired and unhappy many of them seem. I see how they argue with their spouses, and how much they really need the vacations my child free life allows me a la lessons 1 and 2.

    A couple months ago I had this strong desire to volunteer at a dog shelter so I’ve been going almost every weekend and really like it. Guess my mind and heart were working on lesson number 3. I think I find myself at the point now where I just need time to deprogram and, as loribeth said, “be kind to myself.”

    Thank you, Pamela for continuing your work here. It is such a blessing for so many of us still trying to figure it all out.

  18. Jen B

    I have found that volunteering really helped me. There are many organizations that contribute to the improvement of society.

    If you are feeling fragile, I have found the majority of the organizations are kid free and many of my fellow volunteers are not parents. It was a pleasant surprise. For me, my club was a safe haven from suburbia.

    When I realized I couldn’t have kids, I went back to college and finished my degree. If I was a parent, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.

    There is an organization or club for every interest or cause. For me, it increased my self-esteem and confidence to know I made a difference to others. I was always a loner and never considered myself a joiner. It gave me a sense of belonging and I was less lonely. Plus, it was fun!

    Volunteering will never replace the void left by being childless but it helped me redefine myself and gave me a sense of identity.

    Of course, I realize everyone’s IF journey is different. My path is just one of many. Overall, I hope every IFer finds a sense of peace and fulfillment.

  19. #5 Realizing that overcoming those annoying thoughts of infertility is like overcoming an addiction. It takes time to heal. There will always be those moments when the urge to have a baby will come back and haunt you. After years and years of immersing yourself in fertility treatments, your mind goes into addiction mode, and that addiction to get pregnant becomes apart of you. Using the 12 step program helps guide you in the right direction of overcoming those negative thoughts. The first step is admitting to yourself that you are powerless over your infertility. (assuming you’ve already tried everything) and then slowly, when you are ready, take the next step, step after step. And you may have to repeat the 12 steps several times after having a setback of bawling your eyes out because you can’t emotionally bring yourself to adopt, or seeing your bestfriend get pregnant again, or someone simply asking you if you have any children for the bizillianth time before you may start to see any changes. But slowly, over time, just as an alcoholic can overcome his/her addiction, so can you. (I’m personally still stuck on step one.)

  20. Funny you should write this, Diane. My own 50th birthday is fast approaching, & while I’m not exactly ecstatic about getting older, I find I’m actually looking forward to this birthday in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I think aging has helped me to realize we only have this one life & if we’re not enjoying it, it’s about time we start! Also, if you haven’t had children by the time you’re 50, it’s pretty likely it’s not going to happen (unless you have donor eggs, a really good clinic & a lot of money to spend, & maybe not even then). There’s a feeling of acceptance that has come upon me gradually over the past 10 years. It does get better!

  21. Pamela

    RaChelle: We clearly have very similar views on the this. I not only used the “addiction” metaphor in a 2007 post:

    How Did We Know We Were Done?
    http://coming2terms.com/2007/07/08/how-did-we-know-we-were-done.aspx

    I also referenced, like Christina, the 12-step process in this post:

    Hanging Out in Infertility Rehab
    http://coming2terms.com/2008/03/07/hanging-out-in-infertility-rehab.aspx

    Now that I’m through “the program” like Diane, Loribeth, Christina and many others, I’m feeling a sense of peace and joie de vivre that IF hijacked and held hostage for far too long…

    You’ll get there, too!

  22. You are very welcome. It’s easy to feel lost sometimes when you strike out into what sometimes feels like unfamiliar or confusing territory. Just give a shout out, we’re on the path not far ahead…

  23. “If I’m planning to stop, what I’m doing must be wrong. Sometimes it seems that ‘never’ is less acceptable to infertiles even than it is to fertiles!”

    I so hear you on this point. The ignorance of those who didn’t know anything about infertility treatment was easier to take at times than feeling judged by my own people as a “quitter.” The pressure to achieve parenthood by any means is great. I arrived in the IF community looking for understanding not condemnation. Some days I felt the latter.

    I finally had to give myself permission to move on — knowing that it would turn me into the black sheep of the IF community. I look pretty hot in black, if I do say so myself, so I’m good.

    Hey, now *there’s* an idea, some smart black designs for all my friends. Who’s the fashion expert among us?

  24. I found that I needed time simply to reprogramme (excuse the NZ spelling) my brain. For the first months, or even year or two, after my IF journey ended, I would catch myself thinking about names, or “I would/wouldn’t do that with my kids.” Even the process of throwing away the folic acid was painful. But ultimately, each time I encountered something like this (and it hurts), the balance tipped away from the quest to have children, and my brain slowly realised the truth. And as they say, the truth sets you free.

  25. Louise

    I just want to thank Pamela and all of you. My 40th birthday is fast approaching, and I’ve been struggling again. I’ve spent the past year trying to accept. Every time I think I’m going to be ok, I’ll encounter a family member’s accidental pregnancy, get yet another baby shower invitation, or envision another milestone I had not yet considered. Though IF has occurred elsewhere in my family, NO ONE talks about it. Even with a loving, supportive husband, I often feel terribly alone. After nine years of doubt, I want to be ready to put the possibility of children to bed (yes, i see the child-centric imagery there), but i’m sometimes thrown into a renewed funk.

    I finally ordered a book about IF that was not a how-to-get-pregnant. Silent Sorority came in yesterday, and i sat on the sofa and read it cover to cover. I can’t say the relief i felt to know that i am not alone in my feelings. i have felt like an ogre sometimes for being angry at fertiles, at inconsiderate strangers, and even friends/relatives, for their well-intentioned idiotic insensitivity.

    The question of where to find meaning in my life without children has bothered me the most. I don’t feel like i’ve figured it all out, but it’s so good to know that others may have.

  26. Pamela

    Dear Louise,
    Glad you found us and have the chance to express your thoughts as well as see how other women have worked through some of the complexities you describe…

  27. Ashley

    Pamela, thank you so very much for sharing this with us. It definitely gives a new perspective. I feel so grateful to have found this here on facebook, as well as inspire.com. I need this, if not just to know that I am not alone in this struggle.

  28. Helena

    Sadly ,I have nothing profound to add. I am instead just having one of those not-so-grand days where, out-of-the-blue, all the IF crap feelings have hit me once again.

    Jumping onto this blog is one of the few places I can find true solace. I’ve been following it for almost a year now but have never contributed. I have been inspired today, though, after hearing from another Kiwi – hi Mali – not that nationality matters one iota in all this.

    How to re-programme the brain. I know time heals, and I’ve certainly had evidence of that in the past, but it’s the sitting through it that is so goddamn painful.

    To state the dead obvious, thanks Pamela for this wonderful blog. Certainly helps on these bad days.

  29. Pamela

    Happy to be here on the grand or not-so-grand days…

  30. Diffy

    I am inspired by the obituaries I read in my newspaper (Canada’s Globe and Mail). Over the past few years, these obituaries, written mainly by family members, mention not just the bereaved, but also the many accomplishments that these men and women have had in their lives. An interesting but morbid exercise for us childless folks might be to write our own death notices/obituaries–and see if we feel that something is missing (other than children). Perhaps there is a void in your life that can be filled through volunteer work, etc?
    I haven’t tried this myself, but it’s food for thought on those days when I wonder what the point of my childless life is.

  31. Pamela

    I think this is the sort of exercise, Diffy, that encourages us to focus on what makes us special and unique in our own right, and to look forward to what we want to be remembered for. What a clever way to reverse engineer how we want to live the rest of our lives…

  32. Ana

    I’ve lurked around this site for a long time, but never commented before. After 2 years TTC, we received an azoospermia diagnosis last February and decided, given our low income, the medical and psychological risks involved, not to pursue IVF/ICSI. I never told anyone IRL about any of this (except my 2 BFF) precisely because I don’t want to be forced to justify our decision to anyone.

    Another thing that made it hard to talk about TTC to our family is the fact that we live in a traditional catholic country and infertility, especially MFI, is an uncomfortable subject. As for the importance of motherhood in our culture, our country’s patron saint is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception – that gives you an idea. Most moms work full time and are viewed as stoic, noble creatures. Childless women tend to be viewed as frivolous and/or cold or just tragic. Of course, these views are stereotypes and most people aren’t serious when they indulge in them. I think laughing along with it is the best medicine. However, I suspect people’s attitudes will probably start getting weirder/more aggressive as we age. Right now, we’re too young for most people to imagine we’re infertile.

    We had plenty of time, during our 2 years TTC, to imagine our lives permanently without children, but it still hurts.

    We’ve never thought kids were indispensable to a meaningful life, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t want them.

    We’ve decided to focus on our lives, on our marriage, and trying to be as peaceful, happy, and healthy as possible. I can honestly say that I am a happy woman, but there is no such thing as perfect happiness and our private grief is like a little treasure we keep to ourselves, which brings us closer. Still, I’m aware this hurt will surface from time to time, and we’re both responsible for acknowledging it and moving on, for not allowing it to creep in on us and blowing up in our faces.

    So far, we’ve been able to focus on the positive and I feel life is good. I know that the TTC message boards helped keep my sanity during our TTC years, but now I feel I don’t belong there anymore, that I’m a quitter, as one of the commenters above said. This blog is one of the very few places where those of us not TTC can feel included. Thank you so much.

  33. Ana

    Sorry for my huge post. It came out a bit depressing. I forgot to mention what has helped me come to terms and be happy: seeking to try new things. I started running, did my first half marathon, I treated both of us to our first sky dive after receiving our diagnosis. Falling through the air, feeling so alive, definitely put things in perspective. Anyone, fertile or infertile, has set backs, but there’s just so much good out in the world, it’s a shame to waste any of it!

  34. Pamela

    No apologies needed! You are among friends here. Happy that you wanted to share and to post. Love your attitude…!

  35. Alacrity

    Great post and great comments. This should be required reading, well, for everyone. Seriously.

    I sent a link to my best friend – who was absolutely blown away.

  36. Iris D

    Great post and comments. Like Diane, I was also a teacher (10 years). I really enjoyed my job for the most part, but became very keenly aware of all the problems facing adolescents and their parents (from teen pregnancies, to drugs, to juvenile delinquency, and depression). It is not always rosy being a parent. When I decided to go back to grad school, I remember one of my teacher friends telling me, “Pursue your dreams while you can.” I understood that what he meant was that as a husband and father of two, it was more difficult for him to do something else. He was also unhappy in his marriage. It is true that the grass is not always greener. My best friend has a three year old and I know she is in love with her child, but she is also exhausted. It is sooo important to focus on what we do have and to not assume that those with children necessarily have a perfect or a more wonderful life. A friend recently emailed me the story of “the fern and the bamboo”. If you haven’t read it google it. It offers quite a bit of wisdom.

  37. Sarah

    I loved this post because sometimes I feel like the only one in IF whose choices are limited by income. “If you can’t afford infertility treatment, you can’t afford a baby anyway.” Can’t tell you how many “nice” versions of that I’ve heard talking to friends about our IF struggle. So when those same friends are talking about how they are going to pay the delivery bill ($6000 max at our workplace) or even something like a crib or car seat? IVF can be up to $20,000. My sister and her husband are adopting and had to get a $15,000 loan to pay the adoption fees. Children are expensive, very expensive. But having a baby and going through infertility treatments are two very different financial questions. Just because I say we can’t afford infertility treatment does not mean we couldn’t provide for a single child. I am so glad that someone else understands not wanting to have to “justify” this choice.

  38. Here from the future via Time Warp Tuesday! What an awesome post about those hard-won lessons you have learned from your journey through infertility and then living child-free after that. These words especially resonates with me:

    “It’s easy to see how we buy-into the myth that there is only one way to live a meaningful life. We’re surrounded by messages every day that have the power to belittle or marginalize us if we allow them to own or control us. It’s self-defeating, though, to accept at face value someone else’s idea of what life is supposed to be like.”

    So true. Even though I do have two living children and another who left this world too soon (not long after she was born), I have still had to learn to accept and make peace with the path that got me to where I am today. I wanted more children and for them to be close in age. So struggling with secondary infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss and neonatal death was not at all how I imagined my life would play out.

    I also echo what Rachel shared about parenting being very challenging and not as rosy as I dreamed it would be. Of course I love my children and enjoy so much about them, but being a parent is also draining and I doubt myself and my abilities often while raising them.

    Anyway, I am so inspired by how your “half full wine glass attitude” in approaching how your life has turned out, has helped so many others who have found themselves making the same difficult choice you did to live child-free after infertility. Thank you for sharing this! Heading back to the future now, to read your new post reflecting on this one. :)

  39. What an empowering message, especially #2: “There is no picture-perfect existence.”

    I think when we look at other people’s lives, or even at our imagined life, we see in 2D. Real life, though, is in 3D (or maybe even more dimensions). As you point out, there are lots of grays and layers of complexities. Love the reminder that we are the writer, director, star and stage manager of our show.

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