Childless Not by Choice: A Conversation with Civilla Morgan

Childless not by choice (CNBC) is a community I never expected to join.  For many years I didn’t even know this vibrant community existed. However, what I did know 12 years and 8 days ago is this: I was in pain. On my best days I struggled mightily. The worst? I reeled.

Imagine a stormy February night in 2007. The rain pelts the windows so loud you can’t hear the clock tick on the mantle. So, you’re with me now as I log on to the Internet. We’re there to search for voices we might resonate with or, at a minimum, recognize.

After a decade of trying to get pregnant I’d reached the end of the road. Multiple failed IVF cycles and other treatments and surgeries left me no closer to my dream of having a child. As a result, I ached to learn how to recover and, maybe with some luck, even thrive without once sought after children. 

My 2007 search was fruitless. So no one — and I mean not a soul — discussed this particular and increasingly pervasive disenfranchised loss. 

Childless Not by Choice

Twelve years later, there are many voices. We are part of a thriving community. That brings me to Civilla Morgan.  She is a beautiful, warm, generous woman with a big heart. Civilla devotes time to the childless not by choice women who are hurting or in limbo. She also is committed to educating the larger world about the unique path we are on.

Tune in and listen to our conversation. We openly discuss the challenges, misunderstandings and marginalization childless women encounter. Above all, we talk about what we’ve learned. 

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First Part of Our Conversation

  • Grief and sadness. These complicated emotions in the wake of realizing we can’t or won’t have children are tough to tease out.  Sadness is a teacher. If we embrace sadness, let it unfold, engage patiently, it will clarify what has been lost and move us toward what is to be gained: the foundations of new identities. You’ll hear me reference the film Inside Out. (I first wrote the movie about here.)
  • How to rid yourself of a bunker mentality. For instance, have you avoided people in visceral moments of anger and hopelessness? Shut people out rather than to engage? Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. More on why it’s important to open up here.
  • Speak your truth. Give voice to your story. While it’s not easy to educate and be authentic when you encounter painful ignorance, there will come a day when you can. Therefore, surround yourself with people who can support and be there for you.
  • Pain Olympics. Sub-communities of infertility and childlessness loss exist. As a result  misunderstandings occur. They can be diminished if we take the time to see and validate each other.

Second Half of Our Discussion

  • Outliers are not monsters. Women who are childless not by choice hide in plain sight. Often we’re still reconciling trauma and identity issues. You can read more about this marginalization here.
  • Silenced by dismissal. No one wants to be invalidated. But this happens routinely to childless not by choice women and men. Civilla and I believe inclusion fosters happiness.
  • The importance of forgiveness. This is a powerful tool to release anger and find peace.
  • Generativity vs. stagnation. We talk about the importance of stage seven of Erik Eriksen’s eight stages of psychosocial development or crisis.
  • The limits of ReproTech. The ReproRech industry does a masterful job selling IVF and related treatments. Contrary to conventional wisdom, not everyone who wants to can deliver a child.  Civilla and I agree it is easier to move forward with our lives if we don’t have pressure from others to “not give up.” There’s grace and growth available when we give ourselves permission to stop. To know when enough is enough. More on post-traumatic growth here.
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It was a joy to speak with Civilla. Please be sure to explore her website for insights and camaraderie. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

12th Blogiversary

Lastly, on this 12th blogiversary, I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a note in the comments section about when and how you first learned about this blog or its predecessor, Coming2Terms.

Pamela Tsigdinos

Writer, blogger and, oh, yeah, infertility survivor. My memoir, Silent Sorority, tells the whole story. There's a movie in there somewhere. Given the quirkiness needed to relate it all I'm thinking Jennifer Lawrence would be a good fit.

  1. loribeth

    Happy blogoversary, Pamela! :) I actually subscribe to Civilla’s podcast & listened to it soon after it popped up on my phone earlier today. Some great insights there from both of you!

    I don’t remember exactly when I found Coming2Terms, but I am pretty sure it was via Melissa’s Stirrup Queens blog & blogroll, probably a few months after you started writing, mid-2007. Yours was one of the very few blogs giving voice to this experience at that time, and I am pretty sure I commented there a few times before I finally started my own blog later that year at the end of October. So thankful to have had you as a companion on this road less travelled for all these years! <3

    • Pamela Tsigdinos

      So glad you listened, Loribeth. Even more happy to have had the opportunity to get to know you and your life story. I remember fondly our podcast with Cristy and Mo a few February’s back. Each window into our world will help lessen the stigma and grow understanding.

  2. Mali

    12 Years. Congratulations on a wonderful achievement! I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. I so wish I had found you back then. Though I was already several years into my coming to terms journey, I was feeling lonely. I don’t feel that way any more.

    I’m off to listen to the podcast now. So glad you both do these, and it looks as if you’ve touched on really important topics.

  3. Cristy

    Only just began this podcast, but I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to hear another voice added to this conversation, not only destigmatizing this community but also adding yet another human element to a topic so few in this world understand. Bravo to both of you!

    And happy blogoversary. 12 years of writing is on its own an amazing milestone, so adding in how you’ve helped blazed the trail for this community makes this space that much more precious. Wishing you many, many more years.

  4. Different Shores

    It’s hard to comprehend that in 2007 there was nothing online, no resources anywhere… dark days. Thank god for pioneers like yourself! I came online looking for CNBC info in about 2010, and found mostly shadowy private messageboards and forums. Yours was one of the first sites I latched on to, and as I’ve said before, your book kind of saved me … x

  5. Klara

    dear Pamela,
    Congratulations on 12th anniversary!
    I started reading your blog after I had read the interview with you on NYT that was published in 2008. So I have been reading your blog for 10 years!
    Your writing helped me heal and for that I will be always thankful.
    love,
    Klara

  6. Sarah

    Dear Pamela,

    Congrats on your blogaversary and on a beautiful, articulate and deeply meaningful podcast. Hats off to Civilla as well.

    I believe I found YOU (at the talk/presentation you and others gave in Manhattan in the fall of 2013) before I found your blog. Being that I was on the verge of my 4th egg retrieval in about twice as many months at the time, my memory may not be so pristine. Either way, I was fortunate to find both, and for that I remain unspeakably grateful. Here’s to your tireless contributions towards forging our much deserved and long awaited seat at the table, XO.

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