Childlessness and joy are rarely used in the same sentence.
Lesley Pyne, however, has devoted the past few years digging into the reality of childlessness. Her quest? To understand how to process the losses, carve out a new path and rediscover joy. It’s all in her new book, Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness: Inspiring Stories to Guide You to a Fulfilling Life.
As Jody Day, who writes the book forward, reminds us “the room called childlessness has many doors.” This is further underscored in Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. You will find the book broken into several sections. Each gently guides readers with tools, insights and real stories. You’ll read about how Lesley and other women (yours truly included) managed to cast off the demons and exit the horror house that often accompanies the deep sorrow of involuntary childlessness.
Lesley’s door into the childlessness room is the same one I passed through. We each responsibly followed the rules, put our faith in medicine and plunged forward with a host of tests and treatments, including several rounds of IVF. And then … do Lesley’s words sound familiar?
We knew we needed to draw a line in the sand but it was incredibly hard. We were never offered support or help of any kind and felt as if we were the only people in the world who couldn’t have children. Only our parents knew and most of our friends had children so talking to them felt impossible.”
Childlessness in the Raw
Those who have visited her blog will be familiar with Lesley’s no-nonsense voice. Here’s another sample:
I use the term childless here. To be honest I hate it and it’s not a label I claim. It seems bizarre to define ourselves by something we don’t have, but to date I haven’t found anything better and it’s what many people search for online, so I use it with reluctance. Some say that in time you get to a place where you call yourself childfree. I don’t. To me childfree describes those who made a conscious choice not to have children. Childless describes those of us who wanted to be a mother and when it didn’t happen, struggled to come to terms with our life. You thought that motherhood was your path, and now that it’s not going to happen you don’t know who you are in the world.”
Like me, Lesley once held her story inside, but that didn’t serve either of us well. Those who have found themselves lost deep in the emotional maze and malaise that accompanies failed IVF will find another soul sister. She explains:
“Having this big secret damaged so many important friendships. Owning my story and telling it openly, has enabled me to integrate it into my life, and without this big secret many of my friendships are now deeper.”
It is one thing to come out on the other side of involuntary childlessness. It’s quite another to find fulfillment. As Jody noted:
The process of transformation isn’t comfortable, pretty, convenient, or fun. It’s one that we humans resist fiercely because it means letting go of what we know in order to become a version of ourselves we haven’t met yet.”
Lesley first surfaced in my life five years ago on Twitter. In July 2013 she emailed me with her story and we have since shared blog posts, Tweets and discussions. Her first comment is captured here on this blog post. Later, in 2014, she set out to interview her tribe. She reached out to women like me who wrestled with many of the same questions she had. One of my favorite questions posed was what’s my six-word memoir. After some thought, I arrived at this: Shattered Life Creates Unexpectedly Beautiful Mosaic. (Feel free to leave your six-word memoir in the comments section here).
Her book reminds me just how little was once available to women blindsided by childlessness and the very real limits of reproductive medicine. Thankfully, we have a new addition to the bookshelf. I was fortunate to get an early copy and shared this response:
There’s nothing quite so daunting as personal reinvention in the wake of trauma and loss. In sharing her story and the learnings of others who patched themselves up the hard way, Lesley Pyne gently guides readers down a path to discover and embrace one’s true self.”
Living the Life You Have
I know how helpful her book would have been for me when I was in the early days of my reinvention. My life has changed as a result of putting it all out there and clearly Lesley’s has, too. It is a joy to see her transformed through her work. As I wrote, and she shares, in chapter 16:
Many people don’t realise until they retire or become an empty nester how they want to invest their time or evolve themselves; or the way they go about their day to day. We are thrust into that position unwillingly. And as a result, we are given a chance to shape our lives younger than most people. There is flexibility that presents itself and we have to decide is that luxury – an opportunity – or a constrictor. I see it as an opportunity.”
After much hard work, Lesley has found her true self. In doing she has not only blossomed but created a tangible resource to help others in their transformation. I’l leave you with this lovely quote–one of many that appear in Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. (It came by way of another soul sister — fellow author and blogger, Jessica Hepburn. She is among the women Lesley features in her book):
There was another life I might have had, but I am having this one.” Kazuo Ishiguro
p.s. Like Lesley, I’m working hard to be my best self. That includes my efforts to promote better health education and accountability in the IVF industry. Lesley did a podcast interview with me on this very topic not long ago. If you have a story you’d like to share on ReproTechTruths, please ping me in the comment section or via email at info (@) reprotechtruths.org
8 thoughts on “Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness”
Thanks for the eloquent review, Pamela. I’ve pre-ordered my copy and am very much looking forward to reading it.
I am in the middle of my own advance copy right now. :) Wouldn’t it have been great to have a book like this when you & I were first facing childlessness & fumbling our way forward?? But even though I am now almost 17 years down this road less travelled, I still learned things from this book. I love Lesley’s emphasis on stories, and how we are the stories we tell ourselves. So true!
Lesley profiled me on her blog a few years back and asked me for my own six-word memoir… mine is “Loved and lost, survived and thrived.” :)
This is a fantastic review for another book that is very needed in the world.
I’m completely with Leslie: I hate the term childless, given that it doesn’t come close to representing what this community is. And yet, it’s the gateway many use to find this community. That said, you’ve also pointed out so potently that defining people is limiting, even though society relies on terms and definitions to bin people. Lots to think about.
Oh, I love that you had the quote from Kazuo Ishiguro to end with! I’ve just written my review of the book too. And yes, if only we’d had this book when we were going through us.
I’ve always loved your six-word memoir from Lesley’s site – mine was
“Grief healed, and I met myself.”
Then I cheated, because it was five years ago around the time of my Lemons to Limoncello sojourn in Europe and the Middle East, and asked for another –
“When life gives lemons, make limoncello!” Lesley certainly is doing that now.
Lovely blog.. thanks for sharing
Thank you Pamela – I’ve made it through the past 5 years by following you, Jessica, Mali and Lisa at LWB. I would like to add my 6 words as they struck me this year as I started to journey out of the darkness. Taken I admit from the Life of Brian!
Hello Birds, hello trees – I’m alive