“My story doesn’t begin with choosing to be childfree. Rewind to 2014 and I would tell you I want to be a stay-at-home mother. Two kids, living in a nice neighborhood, and be the home all the friends gather at. We would have a pool and I would make snacks, be the ‘second mom’ to all the other kids. Fast forward back to 2020, I am writing a blog for childless/childfree women. I use my voice on social media to bring light to the inequality and injustice we experience, helping women to recognize they are more than the status of their womb and it’s okay to not want or to stop trying for children. If I’ve learned anything along the way, it’s that plans almost never turn out as we expect them to.
My husband and I got married in 2014. We had dated for 5 years before getting married but agreed we would wait another 2 years before we tried for children. We recognized even though our dating years were long, marriage is a lot different than dating and it could be a big adjustment for both of us. We wanted a solid foundation to build our life on before we brought in something as unpredictable as a baby. I lasted about 5 whole months before I started having baby fever. It’s quite contagious, especially in your early 20’s. I wasn’t naive about the fact some people took longer to fall pregnant than others, but at that time, I could’ve never predicted the struggles we would have.
I went off my birth control and we decided we would just see what happened. Some people’s natural cycles are like clockwork. They know down to the day if they are late. I was not one of those people. My natural cycle could range anywhere from 22 days at the shortest to 44 days at the longest. An irregular cycle is near impossible to predict when you’re ovulating without testing and tracking. Month after month, my period kept showing up. Some months it surprised me. There was no space for hope to grow. The longer the months, I got my hopes up. Maybe this is it! Come day 37.. 40.. 42, there it was again. I called my family doctor.
To my excitement, we were quickly referred to a fertility specialist. We had no idea what to expect, but having talked to a few friends who had also gone through the process, I was convinced this was our answer. Our issue could be something as simple as taking a medication or we could find out there was nothing wrong at all and a baby was inevitable if we were just patient. Our family and friends were so encouraging, ‘I bet you’ll go to the doctor and get pregnant right away!’ ‘Once you stop ‘trying,’ it’ll happen.’ ”You’ll probably find out you’re both just fine!’ I hoped they were right.
The testing you go through is quite extensive – family history, blood tests, physical exams, ovulation tracking, samples, and ultrasounds. I had to go once a week for one month to track my cycle and pinpoint if and when I was releasing an egg. In the end, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, which is defined as the lack of an obvious case for why a couple can’t get pregnant. It’s a diagnosis approximately 30% of couples end up receiving.
This was heartbreaking. Not only did we not have a baby, but we also didn’t have an answer. I sat in the doctor’s office listening to them list off our available options. Intrauterine Insemination, 5 to 20% success rate, medications approximately a few hundred dollars. In Vitro Fertilization, 40% success rate, medications alone a few thousand dollars, and procedure cost on top of that. None a guarantee and each more expensive than the last. My heart sank. Should we gamble thousands of dollars for a 40% chance or a 5% chance? A silver lining amidst the defeat was Ontario offered an IVF program. This program offered one round of IVF covered by the government and you only pay for the cost of medication. We were put on the year-long waiting list.
I had trusted our doctors through the process, but a diagnosis of unexplained infertility left me feeling unsettled. I decided to do a bit of my own research. I learned out of the 30% of couples who are diagnosed, 90% of those can be diagnosed with further specialty testing. Some of the most common diagnoses being Premature Ovarian Aging, Tubal Disease, and Endometriosis. I felt betrayed. Was there truly something wrong our doctors just didn’t want to search for? Maybe there was something that could be treated or even cured. I sought out a second opinion. Our second fertility doctor was incredible. I felt like someone was finally listening to our concerns. We had to go through the same rounds of testing as the first doctor and a month later, we had our results. My diagnosis was mild PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This means my ovaries grew cysts and inconsistently released eggs. My husband was diagnosed with low morphology, meaning he had sufficient swimmers but most of them with two tails or two heads. Our doctor informed us even if we did go through with IVF treatments, I would likely miscarry due to the quality of sperm. Thousands of dollars would’ve been gambled and wasted. Crash, more heartbreaking news.
One morning, we received a surprising phone call. The waitlist had been updated and our IVF date had been moved up. We could start the process as early as September, cutting our wait time from 1 year to approximately 6 months. A call that should’ve elicited excitement and joy instead left me feeling uneasy and hesitant. My husband and I talked it over and both felt an overwhelming feeling this was not the path we were meant to take. Saying no wasn’t easy, it felt as though we were finally locking a door that had already been shut in our face, but after pressing send on the email, I felt a powerful rush of relief. I knew it was the right choice. We knew if we were meant to have a baby, God could make it happen, so we settled into the waiting.
2018 came along and presented us with an incredible opportunity. It was a snowy Monday night and my husband was just leaving band practice. I answer my phone, ‘Hey babe, want to go to Nashville on Wednesday?’ Of course I wanted to go to Nashville! Not only were we in the dead of winter in Canada and heading south sounded like a great reprieve, but Nashville was sitting at the top of my bucket list. Two of the bandmates had planned a 4 day trip to Nashville over March Break and invited us to tag along. Thankfully, we had cousins that recently moved to Nashville so we had free lodging, and 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, we were on the road.
Sometimes in life, the things you think are the little things actually end up being the big things in the end. I viewed this trip as a great adventure, an opportunity to visit with the cousins, and a much-needed break during the long Canadian winter. What I didn’t see at the time was this trip would be the fork in the road that changed our path. We never quite see God’s handwork while it’s working, but as we look back, we can see all the tiny things working together to direct us and move us to where we need to be. The cousins had a story that mirrored our own. They began their lives together wanting children, went through all the testing to inevitably be told it was unlikely to happen. They refused medical intervention and eventually settled into being a childfree couple.
Since we showed up midweek, they still had work to do but offered to at least enjoy one dinner together while we were there. We explored Music Row, went into many music stores, and walked around the city. The weather was beautiful and the city was buzzing. On our last evening together, we all got together for dinner at BB King’s Blues Club. The music was as incredible as you’d expect and the food was even better. As we walked back towards the parking garage, I finally built up the courage to ask about their choice to be childfree. They had discussed the options just as we did, knowing adoption or medical intervention weren’t what they were called to. They asked themselves the question, ‘What opportunities could we take advantage of if we decide to not have children?’ Being childfree grants selfish opportunities like vacations, luxury items, and freedom, but it also provides a greater opportunity to serve and give generously. They made a point to not ‘waste their lives.’ Moving to Nashville from San Fransisco was one of those incredible opportunities being childfree permitted. Spoiling their nieces and nephews being another.
I felt like a haze had been wiped away from my eyes. The question of ‘What can we do without children?’ felt so freeing, a thought I had never even considered. I believe many people sleepwalk through their lives, and I was one of them. We never pause and think, what do I really want to do? What do I want my life to look like? Instead, we follow the path – college, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement. Being forced to consider a life without kids also forced me to consider everything else as well. We talked about taking trips, I wanted to travel to Scotland one day and he wanted to golf in the highlands. We talked about being generous with our home, having extra space to help people who need a place to crash or be the home that hosts the out-of-town guests. We talked about adopting animals, sponsoring children, donating our finances, and donating our time, being the couple that people can count on to lend a helping hand.
Suddenly, a situation that caused us so much heartbreak, so much sadness, was turning into a situation we were excited to be in. We felt as though the life we were always meant to live was revealing itself to us.
The transition from childless to childfree wasn’t immediate and it wasn’t easy. As a childless woman, every pregnancy announcement is crushing, every baby shower a struggle to get through, every period a heartbreaking reminder. It’s hard to separate the joy you feel for your friends from the grief you feel for yourself, all while trying to keep the green-eyed monster at bay. As time went on, there were twinges here and there of that all too familiar sadness, but as with any grief, it dissipates over time. I recognized my calling wasn’t to carry the title ‘mom,’ and that was okay. I grieved the loss and moved towards the path we were called to all along.
I now consider myself childfree, not childless. Terminology matters when discussing anything within the ‘no kid’ community. ‘Childfree’ refers to people who voluntarily don’t have children and ‘childless’ refers to people who cannot have children. One is celebrating their life and the choice to be without. The other is grieving the loss of something they’ll never have. I consider myself childfree, but my story starts with being childless. It’s a history I often don’t think about, or maybe don’t always want to acknowledge.
I use my voice now to speak out about being childfree/childless. There’s still an unfair stigma of being a woman without children. We are often criticized, unaccepted, dismissed, or questioned for our choices. I focus my message on encouraging women, that even without children (by choice or by chance), we are still worthy and still have so much happiness to uncover in life. That motherhood can still be possible, but it may not look the way we expected. With time, the sadness does melt away and the joy takes its place. Sometimes plans don’t turn out as we expect them to, but maybe that’s the way it was always meant to be.”
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