Editor’s Note: A new year brings new beginnings, something we particularly relish here at A Fresh Start. One of the silver linings that accompanies infertility is the ability to redefine life on our own terms. As a result of our unrequited efforts we also learn to practice patience, accept ambiguity, and develop a keen sense of what makes us unique in a society that often overlooks those whose lives don’t conform. We develop and contribute our talents, gifts and contributions without mainstream adulation. Along the way, we also find that life holds many happy surprises — something our latest guest blog contributor, Wendy, 39, makes abundantly clear.
I found Silent Sorority when I needed it most — a few years ago when I struggled with my diagnosis of Premature Ovarian Failure/Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POF/POI). I kept the book at my bedside for over six months before I read it. When I did, there were all my thoughts and feelings — once a mash-up in my brain — in black and white in Pamela’s book. I kept thinking, how did she sneak into my brain??? I had always wanted a child, always imagined myself as a mother. I couldn’t get past the feelings of brokenness, emptiness, and inadequacy. Yet her words validated everything I had been struggling with, and showed me that there is life after infertility…
Fast forward three years to December 2011, and I found myself immersed in the “waiting game”. Oh, it was so agonizing! My future could change depending on the answer. My daily routine, relationships with family and friends, my definition of self, could all be impacted in ways I could not envision. I was an answer away from knowing if one of my life’s goals might be achieved. The waiting was driving me crazy, and I felt almost immobilized – how could I commit to anything else, or even make plans, if I didn’t know the answer? My husband’s fate would also be determined by the answer; would he get what he’s wanted? Would he be 100% supportive, or worried at how this might change our lives? All this waiting, the months of doing all I can, then to have no success, only to try again. How did it get to this?
Then, I got the answer I’ve been dreaming of for the past seven months – YES!!!! I feel such success! I feel validated! I can finally put all those years of experience as a child development specialist to use. There is so much to do, so many things to prepare. All my work, all my sacrifice, it is paying off…. CONGRATULATIONS TO US!!!!
No, we are not having a child.
Funny how this is everyone’s first or second thought when someone announces they have good news to share, or they just found out something exciting, etc.
No, my husband and I have made the shift from seeing ourselves as childless, to childless by circumstance, to childfree by circumstance. I cannot say we are childfree by choice as we feel there was no choice to make. If we could have chosen, we would be parents, but fate intervened. We learned to accept fate.
Why do I say childfree vs. childless? Because childless implies I am incomplete, missing something, “less than” compared to others. Circumstance led us to be childfree — without our own children living under our roof –– free to focus on who we are and what we want to do (for ourselves, for others) without the complications and responsibility a child might bring
This was NOT an easy journey. It was full of emotional potholes, with people along the way who tried to sabotage our journey to peace, with complications both real and brought to us by imaginary insecurities. I read Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice by Laura S. Scott to learn more about those who made the choice to be childfree. I sought out people who were supportive. I found new friends in the childfree by choice community who helped us see the positives of changing our expectations of the future.
Over the past four years, I channeled my energies away from mourning my infertility into another love of mine – international education development, and traveling. Rather than taking on the responsibilities of specific children under my own roof, I decided to take on the responsibilities of improving access to and quality of education for any and all children.
I have been able to work in five countries in the past four years as a consultant, often leaving with a few weeks’ notice, without being encumbered by school schedules, dance lessons, sports games, etc.
So what has me so excited now? I know this coming year I will have a positive impact on countless children and their parents. I reached my goal and won a staff position with an international education organization. The waiting game led to the offer. It is a one year position, but it is another step upward in the right direction for me. My husband is thrilled, and can’t wait to go with me. Are we nervous about the insecurity a year from now? Yes, but it is lessened since we have fewer responsibilities than parents.
My message is this: it may take longer to get to your destination, but as long you continue in the direction you want to go, you will get there.
p.s. If, like Wendy, you have you a story you’d like to share here on A Fresh Start, email Pamela ptsigdinos(@)yahoo (dot) com.
22 thoughts on “An All Too Familiar “Waiting Game” Pays Off”
Hi Pamela I would be more than happy to contribute a guest post about our experience this Christmas of hosting children with chernobyl Lifeline Ireland. It has been a truly life changing experience for us and in a way we have found an alternative way of family building. We are still in the middle of it all but when our girls are gone back home next week I will have time to draw breath and write about it all.
Excellent, Jane! I look forward to hearing more…
thank you for beautiful guest blog.
I also read Pamela’s book when I needed it the most. Yes, it really is comforting that there is LIFE after infertility.
And – congratulations on your new job!
I love the observation that whenever you have something big to announce, people assume it’s pregnancy. (Of course, you did that deliberately with the buildup here, but it would happen if you hadn’t.) I even do it myself – whenever I see an excited but ambiguous title of an infertility blog post, I dread the outcome, but I make myself read eventually just to get it over with. I also heard an amusing story from a friend of mine a couple of years ago – her doctor did a biopsy of a lump, and the test came back benign. Thank God! She was just 29. And she was telling everyone she had great news, and one of her MALE (married with children, of course) coworkers said, “You’re pregnant?” And she was unmarried, not even dating anyone, very Catholic, would NOT have considered that good news (mystifying news, in fact, for her). She was trying to tell him that she didn’t have cancer. She laughed about it, but, yeah, people get a little obsessed with the track in life that they’re on – not sure whether parents do it more than the rest of us (though I tend to think so).
I am Wendy’s husband and so very proud of her. This has been a difficult challenge to face and she has done it courageously. Especially when you consider that she has and now further dedicates her life to so many other children and families. She is my hero and I love her.
The world needs more fine men like you, David!
p.s. My own coming to terms and overcoming setbacks was helped greatly by having a wonderful, supportive and loving partner at my side every step of the way. You are our heroes!
Thank you for your comments! It is so empowering to meet others who have traveled the same path we have, negotiated the same detours and breakdowns, but have also seen the same scenery along the way. It is wonderful to meet others and discuss the path, as well as future directions!
It is remarkable how programmed society is to assume that “good news” = baby. Wendy’s post is an important reminder to open our minds to the power and potential behind all kinds of “good news” announcements that surround us and embrace them with equal joy.
Wendy, congratulations on the new job. I’ve done a bit of work in international education development (I wasn’t the expert, just the Chairperson) and I’ve worked internationally, and so I know how rewarding and exciting it can be. People don’t seem to realise that all the wonderful people who work overseas in development, who are volunteers, are in fact people without children. You deserve three big cheers!
This is a wonderful story — all the best to you, Wendy & David!!
Wendy, it has been so cool to follow along as you rocket off on your exciting life journey. I am so proud and happy for you! Have a great time on your next assignment, it sounds awesome! Lots of people have kids, but how many manage to make a difference in the way that you are doing? Not many!
Thanks for the congratulations! As Pamela says, it is unreal how most people cannot comprehend that good news could be almost anything. I’m glad your friend had such positive news; too bad those around her seemed to see her as baby-maker first and an individual human second.
David – I love you, and I couldn’t ever be in the place/space I am now without your love and support!
My husband is awesome!!! :-)
Dear Mali –
Thanks! I hope to meet more international workers who are also without children. It has been a challenge for me sometimes to be without children in other countries, especially in developing countries, as it is even more difficult to be without children culturally than in developed countries!
Thanks for your support – and I’d love to know where and when you worked overseas, and doing what! :-)
Thanks a lot!
Thank you! It is so important to support each other in the “what next?” stages of life. I find inspiration from all men and women who have dealt with infertility, learned to achieve acceptance, and move on. Life is such a ride!
Thank you so much for your support! It has been the connections I have made in this sorority and friends in the childfree by choice community (you included!), who have helped me grow and find my inner strength. :-)
I can’t help but marvel at the important work people do in countless capacities. I was taken by Wendy’s story, and then again when I read Jane’s. Good for you and good for the children under your care!
I too am finding my way after throwing in the towel and exiting the fertility hamster wheel. NOT for the faint of heart for certain. By profession, I teach first grade so for years I’ve endured little ones and their little siblings, as well as their stroller pushing moms. Some days I look back to my darker days and wonder how I endured it, but I did. Let’s be honest. The sting of sorrow over what feels like such an ambiguous loss some days rears it’s ugly head now and again, at least for me. I am realistic knowing that my old friend Sorrow will likely linger on indefinitely, but the intensity shrinks as time passes.
All this to say that I commend the important choices that Wendy, Jane and others have chosen. But I must add that perhaps some of us will make an impact in smaller, more subtle ways. For a time I felt that if I didn’t have those kids I so longed for that I’d better do something really big and important. Perhaps I will down the road. But I also think that finding joy and following ones heart no matter how big or small is a gift we can give ourselves.
After years chasing the dream of parenting my husband and I walked away. Very soon after, my husband was nearly killed in a hit and run car accident. It has been a several year journey putting him back together again (our version of poor Humpty Dumpty I guess). So today as we finally breath a bit easier… He is not the same but he is here to walk through our life with…I savor some of the little things. That stop at Starbucks for a coffee just because. A morning to linger over recipes, choosing just the right bread to make on a cold winter day. An extra long walk with the dogs chasing the ever elusive squirrel through the woods. A meandering through the bookstore even if the stack by the bed is leaning far to the left already.
So I just had to add my two cents. Any dreams we dream as we continue to come to terms with our losses can be worthwhile and satisfying. I won’t turn away the “big stuff” should I wish for it but I’ll happily settle for the joyous little things that fill my heart with peace and meaning too.
Thank you for your kind words.
You teach 1st grade? I think that is a wonderful way to work with children and influence a love of education at an early age. I used to work with an Early Head Start program, but had to leave – I could not handle being so close to young children in such need, I wasn’t strong enough. I think it’s important to learn our own limits. And yes, I still feel the “sting of sorrow” as you so appropriately put it; some days it is a glimmer of a memory, other days it is a heavy blanket on my shoulders.
I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s accident, but I am glad he is doing better and your relationship sounds so strong. I agree, it is the little things that give us joy and meaning, and helps us prepare for any larger things that may come our way. So many who have also traveled our path get blinded to the little things as they only focus on what they don’t have; I am glad you have found the beauty in the little things.
I am struggling to come to grips with a diagnosis of of and now a divorce. I realised that my husband did not care about me nor did he see my grief as a priority in our marriage. Instead I was yelled at and insulted and threatened by his family who proved what type of terrible selfish people they are. I lived in a different country with him and he just never did the important things. He refused to communicate and put his family first without fail. I spent most of my thirties with him and all he ever did was disappoint me and refuse to do the important things.
I’m sorry you’re struggling and in pain. Wishing you strength and peace.