Dear Abby (aka Jeanne Phillips),
Pamela Jeanne here. Nice to meet you. So let me get right to the point. That 2nd letter you posted today, the one about the woman feeling a void in her life following an infertility diagnosis? Yeah, I’m afraid you struck out. You see the question posed by BROKEN RECORD is a highly nuanced once.
Allow me and my crack team of experts to help you with this one. We in this feisty corner of the blogosphere have had a lot of experience with all things infertility — not to mention society’s well-meaning but usually ignorant (or in the case many online commenters sometimes compassion-less) responses. You made a good attempt to be helpful but we’ll take it from here…
Dear BROKEN RECORD,
That sense of emptiness you describe — it is perfectly normal. It’s really important for you to know that you are not alone in your feelings. I mean that literally. There are thousands of women (likely millions), but I’ve only had the opportunity to know thousands so I’ll keep it there for now. It may take a little more effort to find us, but we’re here (check out my blogroll). We are usually out-shouted and elbowed out by the ‘just adopt’ brigade in the noisy comments section of mainstream media.
First, we ‘get’ you. We see and hear you. We who have met and blogged and shared extensively on infertility and the childless not by choice (CNBC) topic know how important it is to be validated … to have an empathetic ear when the rest of the world gets tired of hearing what you describe as a broken record. Our story is not an easy one to tell or to understand. In a word, it’s complicated.
You likely feel alternatively numb, sad, confused and overwhelmed in trying to let go of your once cherished dream to “have children and a home in which we can build memories and traditions.” It is only in verbalizing and ‘owning’ our experience that we can begin to grieve, to heal and to reinvent ourselves in an authentic and meaningful way. When we are silenced, marginalized, judged or condemned it only prolongs the suffering and pain or emptiness that we carry inside our hearts and our heads.
The only way to get through grief is to experience it, immerse yourself in it. You’re going to have to hurt before you can heal. And fair warning, the healing is non-linear. There will be good and bad days. Infertility and involuntarily childlessness is not something you get over. You come to terms with it. Reminders of what might have been will remain, but the pain will, in time, subside.
Right now you likely feel trapped in a cul-de-sac and need a road map to break free and begin moving forward. Let me point you to a few blog posts and interviews with women whom I’ve met and spoken to who have also wrestled with the questions where do I turn? and what do I do now?to fill the void you describe:
- Dr. Marni Rosner shared her ground-breaking research on women coping with fertility failures and participated in this Q&A titled: Not Having Children An Assault to Our Identity
- Andrea Rose shared her truth in this post: No More Silencing
- Dr. Wendy Rogers offers some steps for working out a new narrative in this blog post: We Have to Believe It to See It
- Jessica Hepburn (who is swimming the English Channel this week to raise money for charity) blogs about her involuntarily childless experience on The Pursuit of Motherhood
- Lesley Pyne, also in the UK, shares many inspirational stories of women who have had to come to terms with a life different than the once they envisioned
- Sarah Chamberlin, in an authentic voice, brings great honesty in describing much of what you describe in her aptly named blog Infertility Honesty
- Tracey Cleantis channeled her wisdom and lessons learned about letting go of her dream of parenthood into a book called The Next Happy
- Mali of New Zealand writes eloquently on this very same topic. Among my favorites of her blogs posts are: The Next Big Thing and The Early Days
- Finally, check out Jody Day, author and creator of Gateway Women, a private community for women who are not mothers. You’ll see in Jody’s bio she was married for 16 years, has been single for several years and is childless not by choice.
As these and many other women (who blog in countries ranging from Slovenia and Finland to France, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Australia and beyond) will acknowledge, the work is not easy but peace and joy will return to your life. You will come away with a new level of insight and compassion that will serve you for the rest of your life. You will find you’re stronger than you ever thought possible. Your transformation will provide a means for a rebirth.
You can join us in seizing the opportunity to reinvent. Together we can multiply the value of what we’ve learned by sharing it with others.
I hope you find this post, BROKEN RECORD. Meanwhile, wishing all who have walked in your shoes much peace and strength…
p.s. And for those in the ‘just adopt’ brigade who might happen by, please let me point you to Lori’s blog for a more in-depth look at the complex adoption experience.
p.p.s. Welcome additional words of encouragement and advice from my fellow bloggers and readers.