It seems that some, perhaps many, do not believe that we are childless not by choice. In their minds, if we wanted a baby badly enough, we would have done anything to have one. There are tons of children, after all, who need loving homes. So, why didn’t we just adopt? To them, we are childless by choice because to them, we gave up.
And to this group, I would like to say that letting go is different than giving up. What others who have never been through our situation don’t understand are the complexities that go along with both the infertility process and the adoption process. My husband and I did not pursue IVF, so I am not qualified to discuss the intricacies of that procedure. I can, however, tell you about endometriosis surgery, intrauterine insemination (IUI), and what it looks like to research and consider adoption (although we never formally tried to adopt).
So, we started to try…
For those who are lucky enough that nature works properly, you pee on a stick one time—to see if you are pregnant. For those like me who are not so lucky, … Well, I have peed on too many sticks…
I woke up countless mornings to pee on a stick. I had to monitor my ovulation so that my hubby and I knew exactly when we should try. There was no romance with a glass of wine. No “how did this happen” moment. Quite the contrary. We knew exactly when I was going to ovulate, and we made sure to take advantage of that moment. And then, we would wait for two weeks to see if that moment worked…
Why isn’t this working?!
But it never did. (I lost count of how many months we tried…) So, the next step was to go to an infertility specialist. Oh, what fun that is. Filling out pages upon pages of paperwork that ask ridiculously personal questions. (Perhaps that is why I can write this post, however. There are absolutely no secrets for those of us who have suffered infertility.) And then, the anticipation to find out what’s wrong and what you can do to fix it and how quickly you can start trying to make the baby that you so desperately want…
Menopause first. Then, the baby…
For me, the making the baby was going to have to wait because the doctor was fairly certain that I had endometriosis. That meant surgery and six months of medical menopause. While the surgery (which did indeed find endometriosis wrapped around my ovaries and appendix) wasn’t awful because it was laparoscopic, no one should have to preview menopause. I didn’t have hot flashes. I was just hot. All the time. I had headaches. Every single day. And the mood swings… Well, I don’t even want to talk about them. The only thing that helped was chocolate shakes. Which I craved. And ate. Every single day. Cue weight gain. I literally cried to my husband the day I was supposed to go get my last shot of Lupron. I really, really, really did not want to get that last shot. I was miserable.
But my sweet, rationale, not going through the hormonal turmoil of medical menopause husband encouraged me to finish the meds so that I could get healthy and we could have a baby. So, I did. And we moved on to intrauterine insemination…
It takes two. Or maybe three or four…
Peeing on a stick every morning and timing exactly when my hubby and I were going to try was a fabulous romantic get-away compared to IUI. It takes two? Yeah, right. Try three or four. Nothing like having a nurse and an infertility doctor present along with you and your hubby while trying to conceive your first child. The nurse was sweet. After the procedure (when they tilted the table back to get your feet higher than your head for 15 minutes), she would lower the lights and play soothing music. Dane and I would hold hands and talk and try to stay relaxed and hopeful, but not so hopeful that our hearts would be crushed in two weeks if this didn’t work…
And it didn’t work. And it didn’t work. And it didn’t work. And then, we decided to take a break.
Until we decided to try again. And again. And again. And again. And you guessed it. Four more times, and not one of them worked.
And some research and meetings…
And during our ten year battle, we also researched adoption—domestic, international, through child services, embryo. We researched new and innovative infertility treatments, like mini-IVF. We even researched sperm donors…
But nothing felt right for both of us. If I was comfortable with something, Dane wasn’t. And if he was okay with it, I just wasn’t sure. But we kept looking and trying and hoping…
Until he wanted to stop…
Until my hubby decided that he just couldn’t do it anymore, and he told me he wanted to stop trying.
Give up? What?! We can’t give up now!
But, after much reflection, I realize that we didn’t give up on anything. We let go. I let go. I had clung to the dream of having a baby so tightly for so many years that I truly did not know any other way to be. I was trying to conceive. I was trying to adopt. I was trying to have a baby. I was trying.
The opposite of trying…
And the opposite of trying is giving up, right?
Sometimes, but not always. In our case, to stop trying did not mean to give up. To stop trying meant to let go. I had to let go of the dream of having a baby. And that meant I had to open my heart to the pain and grief and bereavement of allowing this dream to die. I had to feel the deep and hollow ache, the emptiness, the uncertainty of a life without kids.
Giving up or letting go?
No, I did not give up. Because when someone gives up, they never really cared in the first place. Learning a foreign language too hard? Just give up. What’s the difference? Don’t want to play basketball anymore? Give up. No big deal. Don’t want to finish that project? Give up. Giving up is easy.
But after ten years of trying, surgery, infertility treatments, adoption meetings, and more, we did not decide that we just didn’t want to have kids. We didn’t decide that it was just too hard. We didn’t decide that it wasn’t worth it. We didn’t give up!
But we did let go. We opened our eyes and hearts and minds to the possibility of a different life, a childless life. And it was the hardest decision that we ever made.
Featured Photo: Johannes Plenio on StockSnap.io
I’m sorry for what you have gone through Brandi. One of those things you have to have gone through to understand.
I’ve never been through that myself. But I know how it feels to get advice from others about something you just can’t achieve which they’ve easily succeeded at long ago.
Wobble Warning (from Brandi of Not So Mommy…): Discussion of secondary infertility and desire to be a grandmother…
Rose’s Original Comment:
I’m a woman that was lucky to conceive shortly after getting married 40 years ago. All I ever wanted was to stay home and have children I was not career oriented. I didn’t know at the time my baby would be my one and only. When we started to try again a few years later I could not conceive so we went for all the test to figure out why. We learned that my husband developed a problem that caused low sperm. We were grateful for the small family we had but I longed to have another child and always felt something missing in my life. Now I’m in my 60’s and long to be a grandmother. I remember how difficult it was to learn of friends being pregnant as I struggled to smile all the time thinking why not me??? Now all my friends are becoming grandmothers and I’m struggling again and thinking why not me?? What kind of cruel joke is this…why?? (PS They’ve been trying for 2 years) How could this be happening again??… I’m going through the same pain and disappointment. My heart is breaking. Sometimes the sadness is unbearable, and I don’t know how to deal with it. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Rose, I’m so sorry that you are struggling. I’m also sorry that your child & his/her partner are also battling through infertility. I wish I had some wise advice… All I can think is that you will be able to give them support, as you understand the pain of infertility (albeit secondary infertility).
I began a series entitled “Managing Menopause, Endometriosis, Grief, Stress, Anxiety” this past Monday. You can read the introduction here – https://notsomommy.com/managing-menopause-endometriosis-grief-stress-anxiety-series-introduction/ Perhaps this series will give you some tools to battle the grief and sadness.
Sending you gentle hugs…
Thank you for being a voice for people like me, who are not ready to share their story. I’m still too fragile to say the words out loud.
It is my humble honor to be a voice for our community, Heidi. Thank you for reading, commenting, and letting me know that what I’m doing matters. Sending you so many HUGS…
I’m so glad I found this… hearing about others going through what I’m going through gives me comfort knowing I’m not alone… my husband and I have been trying for almost 8years and at first it was pcos, I’ve literally done everything to get my hormones under control.. now I’m ovulating on my own and still with 2 iuis and no success.. I’m almost to the point where I don’t know if I should give up hope of us starting a family.. sending love, hugs, and positive vibes to anyone reading this
Sending love & hugs back, Ricci.
I do hope you get the little your heart dreams of. If that is not to be, know there is a vibrant childless not by choice community ready to offer support and encouragement…
Thank you for sharing this! A little background, my hubby has two children already, he had a vasectomy reversal with me and we have since done one iui and two rounds of ivf. After my first loss at 13 weeks they found out I have an auto immune disease called anti phospholipid syndrome. We learned the risks and treatment plan and tried again our second ivf attempt was successful but I again lost that baby at 7 weeks. I have since seen more doctors and done more research. This has taken such a toll on my especially and even my marriage. My husband is my rock and gets me through and he’s basically told me he doesn’t know that I’ll survive another loss. I’m in counseling now which is helping me. The last thing I want to do is let it go but I feel like his heart just isn’t in it anymore. We were supposed to start our final ivf attempt this last month, but things got really rocky with us and we didn’t. I don’t know what to do from here. My head tells me I should let it go and just be happy with what I have but my heart breaks even thinking that. I love my step children to death and I am one of their parents but I’m not there mom, they have a mom. I still want my miracle. It’s so hard to not be bitter and angry everyday. I don’t know what to do anymore.
Danielle, thank you for trusting me and this community enough to share you heart. I am so sorry for your struggles and that you are having to decide if it’s time to let go… Truly, I understand the heartbreak. And I understand the bitterness and the anger. Despite the circumstances that brought you here, I am grateful that you are now part of this community. I pray reading the blogs and comments (and connecting over on social media) will encourage you, seeing vibrant childless not by choice who are grieving AND trying to accept the what is… Finding peace on this journey is so complex. I actually wrote an entire series about that. I’m going to pop the link at the end, in case you’d like to read. I think it will resonate with you. Sending you so many HUGS, Danielle…
I’m in tears after reading this. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. My husband and I have only been trying for a few years, but suffered a miscarriage at 6 weeks in April 2019 and a missed miscarriage and D&C at 10 weeks in February 2020. It was my work’s busy season, which was followed by the beginning of the pandemic, working from home, my company going through a merger, uncertainty of having a job, being kept on and offered a raise but having to learn everything online with a new boss that is in Florida (who I still haven’t met in person), and then in mid-May my cat being attacked and taken in the woods to never be seen again by a coyote. Her brother also went missing for three days but thankfully returned. I don’t recall crying about either miscarriage. My husband is the soft one in the relationship. But that day my cat was taken – and the three days after – I could not stop CRYING. I really let it out. And part of me wonders if some of that was for the baby. I don’t think I was able to cry about the baby specifically because I had to be strong – I still feel like I have to be strong about it. I cry about it by myself. For the months that followed we just couldn’t think about a baby at all. Finally in Sept. we went back to our fertility clinic and did our complimentary counseling session and follow-up appt. with our doctor. I was physically shaking through both Zoom calls as they started pushing us towards IUI and IVF due to my age (I’m 41). We agreed to do Letrozole for 4 months and started dreaming of the twins we were going to have. Even came up with names. But nothing happened. After 3 months I decided to drastically clean up my act – saw a naturopath, cut out alcohol, cut out sweeteners, cut out yeast and most wheat, cut out most dairy and caffeine, started exercising consistently 5 days per week, getting lots of sleep, drinking lots of water, taking the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to supplements that could help… I started forcing vitamins on my husband, telling him to cut back the drinking, and even made him literally chill on the super hot nightly baths (one of his favorite things). But while I’ve been doing everything I can think of to prepare us for the moment that it’s finally going to happen… I think my husband has been disconnecting from the whole thing. Every month he asks me when I’m fertile and I tell him which days. It always feels like he jumps the gun and wants to mess around early – and I hear myself say the worst things, like – “save it for this weekend when it counts” or “not yet”. And then when it really is “go time” there is always some preoccupation or excuse. And then when that window vanishes… he wants to mess around again. It’s been 3 months of that. The night before last I had my LH surge and tried to get it on… I was told no, he was tired, let’s do it tomorrow. Last night I tried to get it on and he finally opened up that he is too scared after losing the baby and doesn’t think he has it in him to go through that again. He said he’ll always want kids with me and wants to try, but can’t do the obsessive approach. I’m an overachiever OCD do things until they are done and done properly type of person… he is not. I am competitive and driven and he is aloof. If something doesn’t happen for him, so be it. It wasn’t meant to be. My mind has been racing all morning – do I continue to try and get pregnant secretly?! Do I go back to enjoying coffee and wine? Do I stop obsessing over the pee sticks? What about all of the $$$ I’ve poured into doctor’s appointments, eating up my HSA? Is he right? What will our life be like without the kids we’ve been dreaming about for the last 6 years? I think he suspected I was upset this morning and suggested we finally get another little girl cat. I brushed it aside, and then he insisted we are getting a new little cat. Is my destiny as a fur baby mama only?! This is not something I can accomplish alone obviously, so it’s foreign territory for me. Usually with enough determination I can accomplish anything. But not this. My husband is only 34 and last night said something like “I don’t have to stress over having a baby because I’m only 34… I’ve got plenty of time.” I got furious – because I don’t! He promised over and over I’m what’s important and that he would never leave me for someone younger just to have a baby. But still the comment stings. All that said (sorry maybe this was more cathartic for me than interesting to anyone else) – I’m curious how you eventually made your decision? Did you read anything that was helpful? Did you watch something? What was your thought process? Letting go seems really challenging and really appealing… I’ve sort of been leading a dual life of doing everything right but wondering what the hell is the point? Anyway – thanks for having this space available to share and learn from each other. The one good thing to come out of all of this is that I realize so many women go through the same things, and not talking about it is such a disservice to all of us. So thank you again for openness.
Jessie, thank you for trusting me and the Not So Mommy… community enough to be bravely vulnerable and share your truth… I am so sorry for your losses and that you are struggling through infertility (as well as other life difficulties).
As for how I personally came to the decision to let go and try to accept a childless not by choice life… My husband asked me to at the end of 2013. So, since 2014, I have been walking the childless not by choice path. I started blogging about this in 2017.
There are over 300 blogs here at Not So Mommy…, as well as 125+ linked resources (including reviews of several books by and for childless women). I encourage you to browse the site (using the magnifying glass to search specific topics). Also, the “Start Your Journey to Redefining…” page has links to tons of useful resources. Here’s the link – https://notsomommy.com/start-your-journey-to-redefining/
I don’t ever want anyone to feel alone on this journey. Please, don’t hesitate to comment here on the blog, email me directly, and/or connect on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & Pinterest). There truly is a vibrant childless not by choice community ready to love, support, and encourage you on this complex journey.
Sending you so many hugs…
Thank you so much for this post. My husband and I have been trying for only two years – we have since had two miscarriages and we’ve been struggling to conceive again. I’m tired of peeing on sticks daily, losing my identity in this endeavor and hearing people pretend that we have so much control over what our bodies do and do not want to do. We love each other but the romance is gone. I’ve gone from being strong and successful to emotional and constantly feeling betrayed by my body. Yesterday we discussed letting this go. It felt so freeing. I know my experience is very different – 2 years is nothing as compared to 10. But I do wish that people would stop passing judgment on each others’ decisions. I’m constantly told that I’ll feel better once I pursue IVF; however, it just doesn’t feel right to me.
I am so grateful for kind posts such as yours. Thank you.
Nina, I am so grateful that this post resonated with you, that the right words reached you at the right time. I call that a “God Thing!” And as for two years versus ten… No matter how long we try, our struggle and grief is real and valid. I applaud your bravery for deciding to let go sooner rather than later. Honestly, I knew I was hanging on too long. I just didn’t have the courage to let go any sooner… Sending you so many hugs, brave warrior!
Thank you for this post.
My husband and I have gone through five unsuccessful rounds of IVF and right now we are discussing not going back for a sixth. For me it is partially because I can’t stand the thought of another transvaginal ultrasound or egg retrieval. The latter has been particularly painful for me. For my husband it is also that he wants our life together back. We have had ten wonderful and happy years together before we started trying to have a child and for the last three to four years our relationship has revolved around becoming parents. Needless to say those years have not been the best. The first time we looked at each other and both said that maybe it was time to let go, was the best I have felt in years. And yet I’m so afraid that we will regret the decision we are about to make. Nearly everything in me tells me it is time to let go but it is so frightening. How do you know that you’re ready to let go?
Maria, thank you for trusting me and this community enough to share your heart, your truth, your fears…
Honestly, only you can truly know if you are ready to let go. I will say that the fact that you are questioning wanting to do IVF, that your husband is ready to stop treatments, that when you “looked at each other and both said that maybe it was time to let go, was the best I have felt in years” are (in my humble opinion) all signs that you are ready to let go and begin to embrace a different life–a childless life. Truly, I understand how scary this is. I actually wrote a blog entitled, “The Fears of a Childless Woman.” I think this blog might resonate with you. Here’s the link, if you’d like to read – https://notsomommy.com/fears-childless-woman/
As for regretting your decision… Personally, I have never regretted my husband and my decision to let go and try to embrace a childless life. We tried for ten years. It was time for us to begin living again. But I do not allow myself to question whether this was the right choice. Well, at least if I begin to doubt or go down the “what if” path, I change my perspective and focus on all that is good and wonderful about our life.
I hope my ramblings help. Please, feel free to comment more here on the blog, join the conversation on Not So Mommy… social media, and/or email. I don’t ever want anyone to feel alone on this journey.
Hugs, fellow warrior. HUGS…
I never got my chance to try, I am 34. My ex-husband made excuses to why we weren’t able to try yet, and my now BF doesn’t want kids. I love my boyfriend. I respect his decision. I search online to find people that got through not trying. It’s just not something I see happening now. It breaks my heart every day.
Aria, I am so sorry that you are struggling with accepting being childless by circumstance. I appreciate that you respect your boyfriend’s decision. My husband asked me to let go of our dream of having a little, so I understand what it means to choose the love of your partner. But that does not mean letting go of the dream of having kids isn’t painful. That definitely causes grief and heartbreak. I’m grateful that you are reaching out to those, like me, who understand that pain. I am always here to listen. Plus, there are 70+ links to blogs, closed FB groups, websites and more on the resources page here at Not So Mommy… There is a vibrant, loving childless not by choice community ready to support you on this journey. Sending you hugs…
Thank you for this post. It really hit home. For me, after 12 years of a very similar life, my husband decided he wanted a divorce. It put such a strain on our marriage.
Around the time I got remarried 6 years ago, I started having more issues that I struggled with until a few weeks ago when I ended up having a hysterectomy. During my recovery, I’ve been reflecting on my journey and just as you’ve said, it wasn’t something that I just gave up on. I’ve had to let go. Pregnancy was something that was not meant to be.
Rachel, I am so sorry for your infertility struggles and the ultimate strain it put on your first marriage. I am grateful that you are with someone now who can, hopefully, help as you heal from your hysterectomy and begin to accept a childless life. Despite the circumstances that brought you here, I am grateful that you are a part of this community. Thank you for trusting us enough to bravely share your story, you heart. So many hugs…
Thank you Brandi. I wish I would’ve added to my initial comment that my current husband is so supportive and we are in this journey together. I’m so blessed to have him.
That is so wonderful, Rachel! Having a supportive husband is a true blessing. Dane is a major reason that I was able to accept our childless life and find joy in our story…
Can I ask how old were you when you had your hysterectomy? I’m facing the possibility of having one with no children as well.
Hi, I was 38 years old. It’s been a year and I feel so much better after having it. I 2ish you the best.
Thank you for this! My husband and I recently “stopped trying”. We were just talking today that while I know this is the best decision for us, the hard part is the grief of “letting the dream die” and since I’m a planner, the figuring out what is next. This post speaks to where we are in this journey we call life. Thank you.
Shivani, despite the circumstances that brought you here, I’m so glad that you are a part of this community. And I am very grateful that this post resonated with you. Letting go is difficult… Yet, there is also relief and freedom, which allow us to “figur[e] out what is next.” So many hugs…
It’s like you are in my head. I want to print your blogs and hand them out like fliers when I get asked for the millionth time about adopting or someone says, “Don’t give up. I just know you’ll be a mom.” It’s not just other people judging me, I’ve been wondering for the past couple years if I’m not as good or strong a person as I thought I was bc I’m not sure how much longer I can try and I don’t want to do IVF or adopt for both financial and personal reasons. Your words help to ease my inner struggle just a little.
Barbara, I am so grateful that my words resonated with you and helped “ease your inner struggle,” as you said. I started this blog in the hopes of helping others not feel so alone on this journey. Thank you for taking the time to let me know that it has done just that.
Also, let me say that I am quite certain you are a good and strong person. Deciding to let go and move forward with the what is… Well, that’s one of the strongest things a person can do. So many hugs to you!
As always, you speak to my soul! I am so grateful I found your blog. Every time you post, it is like YES!!!!!!!!!
This blog was so spot on. My pet peeve (well, one of my many) is when I hear people talking about infertility and saying they are not quitters. There is no guarantee of a baby, no matter what means your try. Choosing to live without children was the hardest choice we made. I think that is what is hard for other people to understand. It’s not like you get one negative pregnancy test and are like “oh well, I am done, I will not have kids”. It is so much deeper. We didn’t QUIT. We CHOSE what worked best for our family.
You are so welcome! And I am so grateful that there are others who understand (although I truly wish they didn’t have to….)
Thank you for sharing this. I’m terrified of letting go of this dream. I’m young, and realistically, we don’t have to get pregnant now. But I’ve wanted a baby ever since I can remember, and just after we got married, I miscarried and things haven’t been the same since. No, we haven’t been married long (three years), but no one ever prepared me for the possibility of being infertile. I’ve watched my sisters struggle, but both of them now have beautiful children. I just feel so hopeless and lost. I love my husband and I know we’re going to be fine if children aren’t in our future. But it’s getting to that “fine” point is what is being hard. Hearing that people try for 10+ years only to be unsuccessful–I’m almost scared to keep trying because what if? What if it just breaks my heart more and more? I don’t know if I can take that. I can barely handle it now. I just want to know how to keep going, no matter what ends up happening.
Caylie, first, let me say that I am so sorry for your loss. And I am so sorry that you are feeling “hopeless and lost.” Infertility is a grueling journey and definitely takes its toll on emotions and relationships. As someone who struggled to have a baby for ten years, only to end up living a childless not by choice life, I get it… And I am sorry you are having to go through this battle.
As for getting to that “fine” point… That is different for everyone. For some (like me), it took ten years of trying before I was ready to even consider letting go. For others, it takes three years or two or five or eight… There is no “right” amount of time. My husband knew that if we continued TTC or trying to adopt, it would “break my heart more and more,” as you said. He knew that we had to let go and move forward with what is… It was the best decision we ever made. If you’d like to talk more, please feel free to email me at email@example.com
Despite the circumstances, I am glad you are here. And I am so grateful that you trust this community enough to share your heart. Sending you so many hugs…
Exactly. The pain each spouse feels when they aren’t comfortable with an avenue and the other is, the conversations for years about “are we doing more damage than good?” Everything in your life being measure in 2 week chunks for years and years. The trauma of an unsuccessful attempt. The hardest part was letting go and moving on. Changing the way we saw our lives. New future, new roles, and where to find all the pieces of ourselves that scattered through the process to put us back together. There’s nothing easy about deciding it’s time to move on.
You are right, Jessica. And you made a very good point that we do become “scattered” and have to put ourselves back together again. Infertility and childlessness are not for the weak! You are strong and amazing, my friend! 🙂
Thank you. ? There’s a special kind of strong that is the product of Infertility. We all have it. ❤️
This is beautifully written, so many people feel like my husband and I gave up after infertility, multiple miscarriages, and then being told due to a medical condition that we should not pursue future pregnancies….we didn’t give up…we let go! And like you said it was one of the hardest most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make! We are learning to accept life as God has it planned for us not as we planned! You and your blog are such an inspiration!
Thank you for your kind words, April. Like you, I had to trust that God has a plan, but it looks quite different from the one I expected! I am so grateful for this childless community. Our support of one another is inspiring!
My heart ached for you every day of those 10 years. I am deeply grateful for the strength you and Dane found to come out whole on the other side of infertility, and to be able to use your story to help others. My admiration knows no bounds.
Your support and acceptance of our non-traditional family–fur babies, exchange students–is absolutely amazing. I am blessed indeed…
So true! It is hard for me to fight this gremlin in my own head let alone hear it from the outside world. Letting go has been extremely scary, painful, and freeing at the same time.
“Scary, painful, and freeing” – I LOVE this! You describe letting go perfectly, April. And you are so right that we are already battling in our own mind, so we don’t need the opinions of others.
It’s so difficult when the people around you say “no, no don’t give up” as though all you need is encouragement. This isn’t a foreign language course or something for which we need motivation or positive thoughts to make it happen. The hardest thing I have ever done is “let it go”.
You are so right, Aimee! We don’t need encouragement to keep trying. We need support with this very difficult decision of letting go.
Thanks for this. I agree there are many who think that if you wanted it bad enough you would find a way to be a mother but is it really that simple? Maybe for some it is but for me it is not. I enjoy your blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Debbie, it was not that simple for me either. Honestly, the longer I live, the more I realize that the world is rarely black and white. And we never really understand a situation until with go through it. Even then, our perspective is unique to us…
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m so glad that you enjoy the blog. I sure do enjoy writing it!