To the Woman Who’s Just Resigned to Remain Childless: You Are NOT Alone!!

I was in your shoes in December. See, my husband and I had always thought we’d have kids. But early on decided that adoption was the best option. We just didn’t know when that would happen. Then at Christmas, after considering a myriad of things, we decided it was best if we remained childless.

I don’t know what going through that is like for a man, but as a woman, it is completely and utterly disorienting. Imagine growing up thinking that you’d one day be a mother. As you grow older and marry, the method of motherhood changes slightly, but it’s still a distant goal.

Then the day comes that you and your husband decide to make the painful decision to remain childless. And it’s devastating. And it just plain SUCKS. You think your life is moving in one trajectory, and God comes in and quietly whispers to you, “I have another plan for you. I want you to take this path.” And the path is unknown and scary. For weeks after your decision (or last treatment, or word from the doctor that it’s not going to happen, or another failed adoption) you are in a daze, trying to figure out what this new path looks like. In between crying and the depression that follows, you slowly begin the long healing process.

Living through this for almost a year, I have some things to say that I hope are helpful to you.

1. Grief for as long as you like. Anyone that tells you that you should be over your grief right now should not be listened to.

2. You are NOT less of a woman because you are childless!! This is a LIE that society perpetuates all too often. Even if you are childless, you still have WORTH and MEANING to your life.

3. When you are up for it, join a support group. Seek out members of your community that may be going through the same thing, or look to social media. I know it’s not the same as face to face contact, but at least you get daily words of encouragement when you need it. From people around the world.

4. If and when you are up for it, talk about your experience with others. Issues of infertility and childlessness are still in a sense considered taboo topics but, at least for myself, I’ve found that talking has helped me heal SO much. It’s also educated others about these issues.

5. Make a list of things you can do now that kids won’t be in the picture (I understand this is a hard one if you are still grieving. If so, put this one on the back-burner till you feel ready to tackle it) Sleeping in was something my husband and I put on our list. If this one is too hard, skip it entirely.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve and move on from being childless. Therefore this list isn’t necessarily complete. These are things that I found helped me.

Remember, dear, sweet, wonderful woman,

You are NOT alone. EVER!!

Cheers!

 

Reblog: Huffington Post FTW!

The other day I found an article on the Huffington Post by Jacqueline Melissen that made my day. As someone that is Childless Not By Choice (CNBC), the points made in this article, extolling the importance of the childless aunt in the lives of her nieces and nephews, struck a particular cord. It was so well written that I can’t think of anything to add, so without further ado:

Jacqueline Melissen Headshot

Why Child-Free Aunties Are Amazing

Posted: 06/02/2015 5:28 pm EDT Updated: 06/05/2015 8:59 am EDT
BABYSIT
 
My children, like many lucky kids, have an amazing auntie. She’s the kind of aunt who comes along on road trips, takes my kids for the weekend, buys thoughtful gifts, and organizes living-room dance parties whenever she’s over. My children love their Auntie Katy, and my husband (her brother) and I need her.

When I peruse my Facebook and Instagram feeds, I can’t help but notice that the world is full of Auntie Katys. I’ve thought about this a lot, and concluded that there are many reasons why the adult, child-free aunties of the world are particularly wonderful. (I’m obviously talking about a specific kind of aunt here, but please don’t feel excluded if you or someone you know is just like this in helpfulness and affection, but not exactly in other ways. This could describe a good friend, or a great aunt, someone with slightly older children, or, of course, a wonderful uncle.)

So, aunties, here’s why you are so special to parents of small children:

First of all, there is your competence. You are an adult. You have a job, a home, a life. If there is an emergency when you are in charge, you’re just as likely to be able to cope with it as I am. I can trust you to be responsible for more than a few hours, for more than an evening, for a whole weekend if you’re willing, and I don’t necessarily need to leave a long list of specific instructions. And we both know it’s easier for you to maintain both the “fun” and the control, because you can go home afterward. To yourhome, where it is (I assume) quieter and toyless and Dora-free.

Secondly, there’s your time and energy. While parents are constantly adjusting to the schedules of their children, you are in charge of your own timeline. Obviously you have work, and relationships, and a life, but you also probably have free time that you, alone, control. So if you love my kids, which you do, you can choose to spend time with them. And then, while you’re here, you play hide-and-seek, teach cartwheels in the backyard, and pull a toddler around on the wagon. You’ve made time to see the kids, and you want to play with the kids! Everyone wins, especially me and my hot, fresh coffee.

Next, there are the presents. Oh, the presents. As an adult, you can spend money on whatever you wish, and of course you don’t need to spend any money on your nieces and nephews; your very presence in their lives is enough. However, if you choose to buy the world’s most fun board game or a huge glitter-covered princess-themed art supply kit, we will take it!

Finally, and most importantly, there is the love. You genuinely, completely love my children. You’re invested in them. You’re interested in their lives. You think they are adorable and awesome and hilarious, and really are delighted if they call and leave a funny message on your voicemail or send you a piece of scribbled-on construction paper in the mail. These children are your family, and you love them; it’s as simple as that. I don’t think that changes, for the most part, when an Aunt has her own children–I know I love my own incredible nieces and nephews as much as I ever have. But this love? It’s the best part.

I guess that, like any parent, I am just immensely grateful to have someone, anyone, who will arrive at my house and immediately get down on her knees for kiddie hugs and kisses and tickles and squeezes; who texts to say, “Are you guys around to Skype?” but really only wants me to say “yes” if the kids are awake; who remembers all of my kids’ ages and birthdays and what they said they want for Christmas; and who will listen with obvious love and amusement to a long, rambling, confusing, nonsensical story from a four-year-old.

Child-free aunties, we parents love you dearly, and we genuinely want you to be as happy as you deserve to be, so we truly hope you’ll be a mother yourself someday, if that’s what would make you happy. We have seen, firsthand, how great you would be at it. But, secretly and selfishly, we kind of hope it’s not for a while.

Finally, I wanted to add a quick note of apology. Sometimes we moms may hurt your feelings, aunts. We have been known to say, or to accidentally imply, “You don’t understand; you’re not a mother.” This can be very insensitive and ungrateful, I know. But here’s the thing: being the mother of small children can be so all-consuming for us, we sometimes feel like we are nothing else. So we look at you, with your career and your free time, your unstained dress clothes and your perky boobs, your trip to Europe and your cool hiking adventure, and we sometimes feel just a tiny bit jealous. We feel the need to be better than you at parenting, for pete’s sake, because sometimes it seems like that’s all we have. Please just give us this one, dear Aunties; forgive us for our insensitivity, and keep coming over to babysit anyway. If nothing else, come for the kids. They love you just as much as you love them.

*blogger’s note: the original article page can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jacqueline-melissen/child-free-aunts_b_7490088.html

What NOT to Say to Someone Who is Childless Not by Choice

With input from my online support group, here is a list of things not to say to someone who is Childless Not By Choice (CNBC): 

1. “You can always adopt”- OK, I’ve got a confession to make-I’ve actually suggested this aloud or in my head, but didn’t understand the logical fallacy of this suggestion until this year when we realized we’d never have children. Adoption is way more complicated than it may seem on the outside. In the United States, this process could cost upwards of $20,000 or higher. For couples that don’t have the financial resources, this obstacle can seem insurmountable. If you go the route of Foster to Adopt, the cost is cheaper, but you have to consider whether or not you can mentally handle bonding with a child that may not become adoptable.

Even if the financial resources are available, adoptions are tricky because there is always the possibility that the birth parents could change their mind. In the US, this can occur within the first 30 days. I personally know of several families that weren’t able to have children of their own and tried adoption several times. Each time the birth mother changed her mind and the child had to go back. The process can become so mentally exhausting that eventually it ceases to be a solution to childlessness. 

2. “You don’t have kids, so you don’t understand”- To a person that is childless, this is a punch in the gut. Especially if that person has worked in child care for many years. Just because we may not have raised a tiny human, it doesn’t mean that we are clueless when it comes to kids. My job is to give parents a break so they can recharge, while I take care of their children. Don’t discount someone because they don’t have tiny humans to care for at home. 

3. “It’s been years since you’ve realized you couldn’t have kids. Aren’t you over it by now?”- Grief knows no timeline. My grandma died years ago and some days I still have moments where I need to compose myself. Milestones such as graduations and weddings can be hard for those of us who’ve lost children or had to give up the dream of having children of our own. But this doesn’t mean we don’t want to be invited to these events. Please invite us to events with children, and let us decide if we can handle going. 

4. “Your pet is not a baby. Stop calling it your child.”- Oh boy! This one is controversial. And if you say it, it may get you unfriended on FB. Yes, we understand that an animal is not a tiny human. Keep in mind this is one way we are coping with our reality. This keeps us sane and hurts no one. Let it go. 

5. “It must have been God’s will”- Even if you are talking to a professing christian, this one is a big no-no. I believe that God grieves with us when we lose a child or are unable to have them. Making it seem like God wanted this pain in our life is counter productive to healing the hurt. 

6. “Don’t lose hope”- Going through unsuccessful fertility treatments, failed adoptions, and miscarriages, at some point we’ll throw in the towel. It’s our way of accepting reality and trying to heal. In a way we have to lose hope of ever having what we wanted, so we can move on and find a new normal. 

Walking this road with a loved one is difficult and it can be tricky to know what to say. Avoiding the above statements is a step in the right direction. Let your loved one know that you are there to listen. Sometimes the most healing thing we can be given is a friend. 

If you are walking this difficult road of childlessness not by choice, you are NOT alone.

Cheers!

 

 

In Celebration of Mothers…..

This Mother’s Day was a first for me. For the first time I knew in my heart that I’d never be a mother in the traditional sense. In years past, I’d always approached Mother’s Day by thinking that “someday” I would, on that day, be greeted with flowers and children’s laughter, breakfast in bed featuring burnt toast, and a bowl of cereal filled to the brim with overflowing milk. All this would be presented on a tray marked with a sad-looking dandelion in a vase. But this vision changed at Christmas when my husband and I made the decision that we’d remain childless

Since then, I’ve had lots of time to reflect on mothering. Specifically the different ways in which women can be that nurturing presence. And it doesn’t always involve children. Today on my blog, I’d like to pay tribute to the amazing women in my own life that mother in ways that have made the world a better place. 

To the mother who raised me to be the woman I am-thank you. When I was first-born there were so many unknowns, but you carried on and raised me to think I could do and be anything I wanted, despite my disability. Because of your influence, I have the confidence to face the hard stuff with faith and trust. 

To my mother-in-law who singlehandedly raised three boys-thank you. Thank you for raising three of the most self-less, compassionate, generous, kind-hearted gentlemen on the planet. All three of us wives appreciate the hard work that went into raising boys to know how to properly treat a woman. Trust me when I say we count them as tremendous blessings every day. 

To my amazing sisters-in-law who have worked tirelessly to foster shelter pets, and raise pit bulls from birth to prove they really can be sweet and loving-thank you. It’s because of your work and love that dogs and cats are given renewed chances at life they wouldn’t otherwise have if it weren’t for you. 

To my friends who’ve recently miscarried, but choose to continue to serve in the nursery at church-thank you. Seeing you choose to fulfill your calling despite your loss has served as an encouragement to others, and an example of what true bravery looks like. 

To my kindergarten teacher who never had children of her own-thank you. Through you I’ve learned that I can still be a positive influence on many children without parenting them. More often than not, this influence can last a lifetime. 

So Happy Mother’s Day, whether your children have two legs or four. Whether they live in your house or just visit your classroom. Or even if they’ve earned a fast pass to heaven. Know that each of you are valued, loved and appreciated for all the hard work you do. 

Cheers!

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“And They Shall Call Her Blessed…”

Show of hands, who else has a ragin’ case of the Monday’s?  Thankfully the sun is shining and there is NO snow in sight (I’m turning mental cartwheels in my head because I lack the skills to do a real one
😀 ).

A few weeks back I narrated our family’s struggle with accepting that parenting was not going to be part of our life journey. Immediately following that revelation, my husband and I started making a list of couples or single folks we knew who had come to the same conclusion. Now, it’s not socially acceptable to go up to a childless couple and ask them why they are without children, but a strange thing happened after we made our decision. Without any prompting, we began hearing accounts from our childless friends about why they didn’t have children. Finally we felt we had a community we could relate to.

Back to that list. The list of people we knew who didn’t have kids? One of the most healing things I’ve done was put my kindergarten teacher on that list. Her name was Kathryn Aschliman. Ms. Aschilman for short.

Ms. Aschilman was simply one of the best teachers I ever had. She was the professor of education at the college where my kindergarten was located. Yes, I went to kindergarten on the campus of a college. Every year, a few education majors would rotate doing educational activities with the 15-20 kindergarten students that came through each year. This gave the college students real world training, and a chance for the kindergartener to interact with adults other than their teacher. Every year Ms. Aschilman made sure the class was made up of a diverse group of children from all backgrounds and creeds. In my kindergarten class I was the token disabled kid. There were also african americans, Asians, and children from different economic backgrounds. By the end of her 34 year career, Aschilman managed to teach and influence the lives of 700 children. All without raising her voice. As someone who works in childcare, I can tell you this often takes the patience of Job. 😉 

I have many happy memories in Ms. Aschilman’s class.  Every day we’d have story time, where we’d gather on a mat on the floor-in a circle, and she’d read us a story and have a short lesson. I also remember having a day where we learned about and celebrated Indonesian culture with one of the students mom and grandma. They came dressed in traditional clothing and we ate traditional Indonesian food. Another day we dressed up as hospital workers and went around the community, collecting donations for a family in need. 

The neatest thing about Ms. Aschilman was what happened after I left her kindergarten class and journeyed through my school career, entering senior year of high school 10 years later. At my graduation open house, She arrived at my party and handed me a tiny diploma! Later that summer my kindergarten class–all of us taller and older–gathered for our kindergarten 10 year reunion. Upon walking into that same classroom of our youth, we were struck by the reams of newspaper that covered the walls. Each of those newspaper clippings chronicled each child’s life from kindergarten to the present. Any time any of her students were in the paper or on TV, Ms Aschilman made a point to save the article or watch the footage. Like a mamma bear, she kept track of all her cubs. And looked on in pride at their accomplishments.

As a child it never occurred to me that the abbreviation Ms. was to denote singleness. At some point in kindergarten, we visited her house. I never thought it strange that there seemed to be no children living there. Of course years later I learned that she never married or had children of her own. But in a way, she did. 700 of them. And she loved them all as her own.

If you find yourself going through similar circumstances, I encourage you to seek out the Ms. Aschilman’s in your community. Know that you are most certainly not alone!

Cheers!

With This Ring….Redefining Family

I’m finally uploading today’s entry. I should clarify from my last post that I’ll now be posting every evening (M-F). I wanted to get this entry posted earlier today, but as often happens, life comes in and changes your plans.  The following piece was also the most difficult I’ve ever done on an experience that is still fresh. 

Last night I had an idea spring to mind and have since been trying to decide whether or not this is the right time to write on this. Living with anxiety sometimes brings with it certain life choices that are very personal, yet I feel this specific choice is important enough to open up dialogue with a broader audience.

Throughout history of our society, we are taught that we are to grow up, get married and have children. This has been the definition of family. But what if this cookie cutter definition doesn’t fit everybody? Before we married, my now husband and I talked extensively about children. If we’d have any, how many, ect… We came to the conclusion that we’d adopt, but never had a definite timeline or deadline. 

When we became engaged, my engagement ring was too big for my hand, so a spacer was put on it.  Life happened and we were never able to get it properly sized. We had plans to pass it down to our oldest child if they so chose to marry one day.  Every time I looked at it I pictured our future child, down on one knee, with this ring, shining from a velvety box.

After several years of marriage, the topic of children kept creeping into our lives. Older siblings and close friends began having children, and we started discussions about expanding our family. We both love children, –I actually work in childcare–and loved the idea of providing a stable home for a child that needed one. One issue we talked about at length was how my anxiety and our collective low energy levels would affect us as parents.

Throughout those years, a funny thing happened. Those close to us with children began telling us how difficult it was, physically and mentally, and we began to see that first hand. Christmas with kids is a fun, albeit tiresome experience, even if you aren’t a parent. We also began praying about what the Lord wanted us to do in terms of expanding our family. Which leads us to Christmas 2014.

With 3 kids in the house, all under 6, Christmas at my parent’s house was filled with lots of noise and movements only equal to that of the Energizer Bunny. On steroids. After 3 days of dizzying activity, my husband and I had a long discussion, a time of prayer, and reached a conclusion. We would remain childless.

We drove back from my parents in a daze. It’s a bit disorienting when you think your life is moving in one direction, then the Lord comes in and says, “Nope. I want you to go here”. Even though we knew we were making the right decision, in a way it sucked. Big time. But you move forward, taking one day at a time. You mourn the life you thought you’d have. And you think of what your life will become.

A few months have passed since our lives path changed. On Sunday we went to the jewelry store and picked up my engagement ring. Freshly sized to fit perfectly. I wear it now with my wedding band. Now when I look at my sparkly ring, I am reminded of our commitment to those children already in our lives. To influence them to grow into awesome adults and responsible citizens. And pump them full of sugar when they visit, and give them back to their parents. 😉



Here is what I’ve learned in this experience that I want others to know: NEVER feel like you are less of a person because you choose a path that includes marriage but not children. This does NOT make you less of a person if parenting is not in the cards. If you feel overwhelmed and feel parenting might not be for you, that’s OK!

As always know that you are not alone! I’ll see you tomorrow.

Cheers!