Child free…but NOT by choice PART ONE
Most people who visit Married No Kids come here because they have chosen not to have children, for a variety of reasons. But some of you are here for another reason – you desperately wanted children, but are not able to have any.
Slowly you are coming to terms with being child free, instead of childless. But this shift in thinking is often painful, full of grief, mourning, and adjustment. There is no road map for dealing with infertility. The key is knowing your feelings are normal, and that others in your situation share your heartache.
When couples first learn they are suffering from infertility, the initial reaction is usually disbelief. “I expected [the doctor] to tell us how he could fix my problem,” says Sarah, 49, who had an ectopic pregnancy burst one fallopian tube, and surgery for an ovarian cyst damage the other. “I knew I might have trouble getting pregnant again, but just assumed that eventually I would with medical help.”
When Donna, now 39, was told that she would not be able to conceive, she scheduled a hysterectomy after years of chronic pain from endometriosis. After the date was set, she “became numb to the core of my bones. Although I realized for a number of years that I probably would not have children, reality struck me like a bolt of lightning.”
She started regretting her decision not to have children earlier in life. “My irrational mind figured if I would have gotten pregnant out of wedlock, then at least I would have a child now. The anger led to inappropriate behavior. In the weeks prior to the surgery, I contacted every man I had ever known and begged him for sex. I thought if I ‘did it’ enough times, then I could beat the odds and miraculously conceive. Forget about my reputation, I just wanted to be a mother.” Fortunately, none of her guy friends took her up on her offer, and the surgery went ahead as planned.
After the shock of the news wears off, grief sets in. “The awareness came over several months,” says Susan, 35. “I felt grief, shame, inferiority, failure, like I was an outcast.” When she was told that she could not have children, Dawn felt a mix of relief and grief. “I was very sad that I would never be able to do what I thought would come naturally,” she says, “but at the same time, I was also relieved that I would not have to suffer through a third pregnancy with no guarantee of success.”
Dawn had already suffered through one ectopic pregnancy, which cannot support the life of a fetus and can be fatal to the pregnant woman. It can only be treated by ending the pregnancy. That was followed by a second pregnancy that was plagued with hyperemesis gravidarum, a rare disorder characterized by severe and persistent nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy that may necessitate hospitalization which can lead to dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficit, and the loss of greater than five percent of their original body weight (medical source: WebMD). During this second pregnancy, she also learned her baby had intrauterine growth retardation.
Though they mean well, comments from friends and family can often make you feel worse. Some insist you keep trying, or see another doctor. “For a few years, some friends ‘encouraged’ us a little too much,” says Sarah. “They kept saying we should adopt, we had so much to offer, we would make wonderful parents, etc. All these added to the pressure we felt.”
For many, adjusting to the news is an ongoing process, with peaks and valleys. “Each day, I am learning that being childless is right for me,” says Donna. “But it’s not quite right to say that I’ve resolved all the questions that have plagued me. It’s more that I’m learning to live with them.”
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“Dealing with the News” is PART ONE of a four part series on infertility. Check back soon for the following installments…
PART TWO: How infertility affects your marriage
PART THREE: Why adoption isn’t always the answer
PART FOUR: Finding support
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