Accepting the Unacceptable and The Road Not Taken

These articles are from the RESOLVE New England Archives 

Accepting the Unacceptable: An Outcome of No Children

Written by Linda Wolfson in our Spring 1993 Newsletter

My husband and I tried for six years to have a child. They were hellish years filled with the moments of hope and despair familiar to anyone living with infertility. I had the usual work-up of tests early on. After that, I had four miscarriages, more tests, and major abdominal surgery. After six years, seven doctors, and no conclusive diagnosis, my husband and I decided the accumulated toll was too great and we needed to move on with our lives. We set an end date at the close of 1991.

When that date arrived, I was devastated. I went into a period of acute grief over the loss of the child I so wanted and the innumerable life experiences I would never have. When the acute grief finally started to subside, the long process of acceptance of a life without children began.

There are many ambiguities that surround accepting an outcome of no children. In many instances, it cannot, like other outcomes, even be called a “choice.” It was never, for me, something I chose. Rather, it was more a result of choosing not to pursue other possibilities. High-tech medicine was not indicated. And,  just as our biological clocks can urge us to have a child, mine, at 44, seemed to know that my time had passed and it was best to let it go.

I felt ambivalent about adoption, at best, and my husband was not at all comfortable with that choice. (Our reasons are too lengthy and too personal for this account.) There is a deep paradox in wanting a child so desperately that you’re willing to go through six years of hell to have one, and then not wanting to (or in some cases being able to) adopt. Believe me when I say that there has never been anything I wanted more in my life than the child I tried so hard to have. And there has never been anything harder for me to learn than to let go of that dream.

I’m 45 years old now. During my time of trying I learned that the assumption of working hard enough to achieve any goal did not apply. I must accept this outcome, and the challenges and opportunities it presents. I can do this with support from others in the same situation, friends and family. I can do it by pursuing the interests and dreams that I still have and can still achieve. I can do it by utilizing the skills I developed during my six years of trying to have a child. I will never say that having no children was something I chose. I will, hopefully, be able to say that it was something I accepted and made peace with other time.

Childfree Living: The Road Not Taken

An Interview with Lynne Wood by Merle Bombardieri

How do you feel when you think about remaining childfree? Panicky? Furious? Cheated? While you’re pursuing pregnancy or adoption, this won’t be a cherished fantasy. But it’s just possible that a conscious choice to remain childfree might offer you a fuller measure of happiness than parenthood. Impossible, you say? Well, don’t rule out this option until you’ve heard what Lynne Wood, RESOLVE telephone counselor, has to say…

Q: When pregnancy looks unlikely, a couple has to decide between remaining childfree and other alternatives. What is your philosophy of decision-making?

A: A good solution has to fit the couple. Neither adoption or childfree living is right for everybody. But sometimes couples adopt against their own inclinations.

Q: Why?

A: First of all, there are cultural pressures towards parenthood. We’ve been lead to believe that you can’t be grown-up or fulfilled or involved with kids unless you’re a parent. Also, it’s easy for infertile couples to get caught up in a power struggle with Mother Nature and a need to prove themselves as parents if not as baby-producers. But how can the conventional solution to long-term infertility – adoption – be right for everybody, when each couple, and each individual within the couple, has unique characteristics and needs?

It’s important to me to give support and information to infertile people who are considering the childfree choice. Cultural and internal pressures force people to see adoption as the only solution to infertility. But a conscious decision to enjoy life without children is a real alternative. I’d like to tell RESOLVE members that the quality of life changes dramatically once you make a definite choice. While you’re still going through the frustration of trying for pregnancy or adoption, its hard to imagine life without children as anything other than never-ending misery. But once you’ve decided, your energy is freed to begin making a new and enjoyable life for yourself.

Q: What advice would you give people considering this choice?

A: 1) Don’t conform to pressures to adopt if this solution doesn’t really fit you. 2) Do your grief work before making the decision. Otherwise, you won’t be able to decide with an open mind. If you haven’t grieved for a child, adoption will seem like the only acceptable solution. 3) Formulate your own definitions of “family” and “parenting” and “nurturance.” Ask yourself if parenthood is the only way you can meet these needs. 4) Give it time. Realize that the choice gets easier and more comfortable as you move into your forties. A new life gradually evolves. 5) Look for support and for role models. Meet and talk to other infertile couples who have made this choice.

 

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