After spending years trying to conceive, undergoing various rounds of assisted conception cycles, realising that you are never going to be a mother or father is absolutely heart-breaking.
For many, where childlessness has not been a choice, the prospect of facing life without children is all-consuming, challenging and devastating. Therefore, faced with the prospect of having to live a ‘life without children’… being able to live a happy, fulfilling and purposeful life can seem like an impossible task. From wondering what to do with your life now treatment has finished, dealing with social exclusion to healing the deep sadness which lies within your heart and soul, childlessness is anything but a straight forward process.
People arrive at ‘involuntary childlessness’ for a variety of reasons. Infertility, marrying a partner who doesn’t want children or leaving it too late are only a few ways in which it manifests itself. But however we arrive in this situation, it is vital that we acknowledge ‘childlessness’ as a ‘loss’ and allow ourselves the time to ‘grieve’.
Since we don’t appear to have lost anything in a physical sense, many people facing involuntary childlessness feel a deep sense of ‘loss and grief’ that is invisible to most people around us. Our loss is ‘invisible’ and by recognising and acknowledging these feelings we realise that it’s ‘perfectly normal’ to be feeling sad and vulnerable.
As with any other significant loss, those dealing with childlessness go through many stages of grief. It’s a process which has to be taken one step at a time, one day at a time…
For some, learning to adjust their sails on a daily basis when dealing with this adversity is the only way forward. They change their lifestyle, making the most of the ‘freedom’ their friends with children would love to have. But in all honestly they’d swap all these things in a heartbeat for the chance to have their very own family.
1. CONNECT WITH OTHERS & FIND YOUR TRIBE
Infertility or any circumstances leading to involuntary childlessness can leave you feeling extremely isolated. Many people find that connecting with other people in this situation, either online via a Childless Support Organisation or local group, incredibly powerful.
Realising that I wasn’t alone and being about to share my feelings in a safe and non- judgemental environment was key. Recognising that my feelings were normal and valid, even justified and being able to talk to people that understood and ‘got it’ was incredibly powerful.
2. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
For most of our fertility journey I felt a real sense of a ‘loss of control’. I was someone going through a gruelling medical process. I was given a protocol, told when to inject drugs, go for scans, have an egg collection and so on. I realised that the desire to have a child had been the centre of my world and I’d neglecting the other areas of my life which used to bring me joy and happiness. By re-addressing these areas, I was able to gradually begin to build in the things I could in fact do something about. I started to exercise and do the activities I’d enjoyed but given up prior to treatment. I reflected on my career and decided to redirect my energy into something I felt was more rewarding, following my passion and purpose.
3. SELF CARE
Self-care is one of the most important things you can do to help ‘nurture and love your body’. Especially after IVF, reviewing your diet and exercise can be a great way to take back control and give your body what it needs. From taking a long hot bath, treating yourself to lovely food, taking a little walk or time to just be!
It is a cliche? that ‘time heals’. At the time it wasn’t what I wanted to hear but ‘taking one day at a time’ or an hour at a time to begin with felt much more manageable. In the darkest times, surviving each day (whether at home or at work) was ENOUGH! Take each day as it comes, talk to yourself as you would your best friend in this situation.
5. EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE (EFT)
Emotional Freedom Technique was the most significant thing I ever did with regards to dealing with involuntary childlessness. By releasing the energy blockages within the body, it eliminated the source of the emotional intensity and discomfort. Being able to free the negative emotions, limiting beliefs and feelings of being a failure enabled me to be kinder to myself and release the blame.
6. REVIEW ALL AREAS OF YOUR LIFE
Having a look at all the areas of your life and ‘identifying things that are not serving you’ is an extremely powerful tool. It is very easy to lose sight of your different roles so setting some time aside to review the level of satisfaction of your job, for example, will again enable you to create a new vision of how your life could be.
‘Communication is the key’ to most issues in life. It is very easy to not want to talk about what we’ve been through and feel ashamed but I’ve found it really powerful to connect with people going through the same experience. Having someone who listens to our story, without judgement or giving advice is a priceless gift. We all need to have a ‘space held’ for us where we can express our deepest fears, feelings and anxieties.
Involuntary childlessness is a largely taboo subject but IT IS possible to live a happy, fulfilling and purposeful and LOVELY life without children.
Kelly Da Silva is the Founder of The Dovecote, an organisation established to enable people facing involuntary childlessness. She offers support and advice in her FB group facebook.com/thedovecote.org