When You Are the Last Person on Earth
When I speak of being childless in this article, I am not including people who are childless because they never wanted children. Neither am I speaking of people who have put aside the dream of having a child for now and are crossing their fingers that it might just happen sometime in the future. In the past year I wrote a couple of articles about the journey my husband and I endured trying, unsuccessfully, to have children. One article is entitled “Sometimes It's Best to Say Nothing!” and the other is “Just Respect Our Decision! When a Couple Decides to Stop Trying to Have a Family.” Both articles are meant to help people, who have never experienced the pain of infertility, understand what their friends and/or family members are feeling and how best to respond to their predicament.
When those pieces were written, I was struggling with how to deal with insensitive statements that came my way regarding my inability to conceive. I acknowledge that many of those statements were not meant to be insensitive. Many times people mean well but the message they send may come across the wrong way or the person to whom the message was meant for may interpret it the wrong way, especially when that person is struggling with a highly emotional dilemma made worse by the use of hormones. Once my husband and I made the difficult decision to stop trying to have children, we then dealt with other well-meaning sentiments which were just as inadvertently hurtful.
At the time I wrote those articles, I seriously thought those irritations that I was writing about were going to drive me to punch someone. However, over the past year I've come to the conclusion that little irritations are pretty much all they amounted to.
It's Not as Easy as I Thought!
When I stopped trying to conceive, I will admit, I don't think I had ever before felt such a relief. No longer would I have to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to be the first person in line at the fertility clinic to have yet more blood drawn, or lay with my legs in stir-ups to see how my follicles were coming along; no longer would I have to inject myself with hormones that made me bloat and cry at the sight or thought of a baby. I can go on and on about what I wouldn't miss. The list was endless.
It was a little more than a year before I started to feel like my old self again. There were now things my husband and I had to look forward to. We love to travel! Whether it's flying out to Europe or renting a car and taking a day trip to Philadelphia, we love the freedom of getting up and going somewhere fun. Hard to do when you have children - not saying it's impossible - just hard to do. We also love going out to dinner or brunch or to the movies with friends; also something a lot easier to do without children. Choosing to make this decision even ended up being the catalyst to help me overcome the shyness I always had about sharing my writing with others. A lot of good has come out of our decision to live our lives without children. I figured all of these good things would help me get over it and move on with my life in no time! Sadly, I would find out it's not that easy.
Although our future began to look more positive everywhere I turned, literally, every single person I knew began getting pregnant. I had to stop scrolling through my Facebook feed as every other post was a sonogram picture, a "baby bump" picture, a newborn picture, or someone's first birthday. For some time I frequented a support site for infertile women and after a while every person I bonded with became pregnant. New members would show up, share their ordeal, and as soon as I commiserated with them, they became pregnant. I literally felt as if I were that last person on earth to not have a baby.
My husband and I do have friends that are childless by choice, but most infertile couples will agree that this is not the same. People who never wanted children don't understand the pain that comes with infertility. At the same time, couples who have been through infertility but were ultimately successful at conceiving may forget what it's like to feel like an outsider.
Is It Just Me?
I honestly believe there are many people out there in this situation: unable to have a child, have put that dream to bed for good, trying to get on with your life yet struggling as you watch others fulfill that dream. You feel as if the Universe, God, or whomever, chose you to go through this journey for some reason and now you are trying to make the best of it, but you feel very alone. Throughout my life I met a few people in this situation but very rarely did they talk about their ordeal. I feel there is still a lot of shame associated with infertility and many people either don't want to talk about it or are made to feel ashamed to talk about it.
At least where I live, it is very difficult to find social groups specifically for childless infertile couples or individuals that have stopped trying to conceive. I believe it would do wonders to the infertility community if more of an effort were made by people in this situation to reach out to one another for support. The best way to get through a painful ordeal is through support from others who have been there or are currently there. No one wants to feel as if they are alone in this world.
(c) 2014 Brenda Thornlow
Brenda Thornlow was voted one of the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2015. She is the author of the new fiction series My Life as I Knew It; The Revolving Door; A Godless Love and her memoir, My Short-Lived Life at Being Perfect. Available at Amazon. (Link below)