Editor’s Note: In the days following The New York Times profile about my experience “Facing a Life Without Children When it Isn’t by Choice,” I heard from women and men from around the world. Among those who reached out to me was Dr. Wendy Rogers who, it turned out, lived just a few miles away. We arranged to meet for lunch — the first of many. She’s since become a mentor, a big sister who has helped me to understand and appreciate how to turn a struggle into a source of strength. She’s also the author of our latest guest post.
A Fresh Start says so much. It speaks to clean slates and empty pages on which to write. It speaks to blank canvases on which to paint. It speaks of renewal and rebirth.
I’m a woman without children. I wrote my psychology dissertation on “Loss of fertility that occurred during the childbearing years.” I chose this topic because I lost my fertility at 28 years old. Through my research, I had the privilege of sitting with and listening to the stories of 22 women who also had lost their fertility. I learned the power of story from these women.
This is my 58th year and marks 30 years of a childfree life. Honestly, it feels like it happened to someone else. This is the good news! Telling my story through my dissertation freed me to create a “happy ending” of my own design.
A desire to understand and give meaning to my experiences and to reweave my identity led me to become a psychologist. Loss of fertility led me to become a transpersonal psychologist. Transpersonal psychology is all about the alignment of body, mind, and spirit.
Several years of procedures/surgeries leading up to a hysterectomy taught me about the need for alignment of body, mind, and spirit. I felt “mostly dead” after my surgery. Recall the scene in The Princess Bride when Wesley is taken to the healer played by Billy Crystal. His friends deliver him a wheel barrow. The healer says Wesley is “mostly dead” but not totally dead – so there is some hope.
I felt “mostly dead” physically, and was keenly aware that I was depleted emotionally and spiritually. I didn’t know where to find a healer to revive me. And I knew my life wasn’t over yet. I was desperate for a fresh start. I knew I had to give birth to a new self.
How did I do it? I learned the power of story.
I told my story in my dissertation. (Pamela told her story in her Coming2Terms blog and then in her book Silent Sorority and continues to tell it here in this blog — offering a model for how to tell our stories.)
Note to introverts: Don’t panic! Your story doesn’t have to go public in the way Pamela did.
You get to speak your truth in whatever way best suits you. I believe wholeheartedly,however, that it’s important to share the story — your story — in order to complete the process of giving birth to a new self and to claim a new life.
A wise woman once said, “I am the heroine of my own story.”
Pamela has engaged fully in being the heroine of her own story. She lived her story, she wrote her story, and she did some editing and rewrites, literally and figuratively, and put her story in book form and went public with it. She spoke her truth and asked us to listen.
Ready to be the heroine of your story?
Here are some chapter headings to get you started:
- What happened to me?
- What did it mean in the context of relationships, family, community and career?
- Who was I then?
- Who did I become through my process? What did I discover about myself?
- How have my relationships with my body, mind, and heart/emotions been transformed? Share the before and after pictures, so to speak.
- What is missing?
- What more do I want to experience in my life?
- What are my truths? How can I live truthfully? (See Pamela’s post “Getting It Together Old School” and Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Committed, read pages 190+ on childlessness and “parents.”)
- What makes me happy? What will my happy ending look like?
I love the saying “I have to believe it to see it” — it’s a powerful twist on “I have to see it to believe it.” We have to take a leap of faith and believe that we get a happy ending and visualize it in order to create it.
Time to start writing!
Write your name, the title of your story, or “Once upon there was a heroine whose name was…” on that first blank page.
Write from your heart, mind, and soul – craft a fresh start and a happy ending.
Welcome your thoughts, readers, about the ideas in this post. Next week, you’ll hear from another women who is embarking on her own Fresh Start. If you have a guest post (your story to tell, please email me at ptsigdinos (@) yahoo dot com.
9 thoughts on “We Have to Believe It to See It”
Ok, so Wendy and Pamela have struck a cord. I have been stuck, if you will, in a revolving container of grief. Yes, I work each day and check off my “to do’s” and attend to my various responsibilities, of which there seems to be an endless supply. But my grief trails me in a relentless pursuit. “The sadness will find you,” was what one very wise infertility counselor told me at the very beginning of my journey. I’ve thought back on that remark countless times. I’ve been told often since then that I need to write. In fact, I do write often. I’ve journaled for years now. Do I keep journaling? Do I blog? Do I write letters to all my friends and family? Poetry, perhaps? So many choices. Wendy’s framework for thinking about how to put my sorrow and loss and longing down on paper, AND to envision a new reality for myself and my husband is hopeful. I held fast to hope for many years. One must have hope in order to try month after month to achieve the family so desperately desired. Well, hope for a family is no longer. We have “moved on”, right? Not so fast.
Very quickly on the heals of our attempts to get our heads around this family of two concept, my husband was nearly killed in a car accident which has left him alive and functional (after long months of recovery – thank goodness) but brain injured and uncertain of his future, which meant uncertain of OUR future. I add this poignant detail because the brain injury journey is so very reminiscent of infertility (plus, it’s still so maddening to me that this too has become part of our lives). If this, then this, right? Not so fast. As many of us know, there is no guarantee for any certain outcome no matter how much hope you have. At the end of the day, we often have to face what we never thought we’d need to face. You don’t always get what you want. The fairy tale is just that – a fairy tale. So, tonight in my grief and sadness and exhaustion I am inspired to climb out of my container and write. I will find my voice slowly but surely. Gosh, I think I already have it albeit hoarse and froggy. In my head, I know there is life after infertility (and brain injury). In my head, I know I will find my way and that the sadness won’t continue to find me so readily. It’s just that, well, it’s a REALLY clean slate and my heart is catching up. It’s a slate I didn’t anticipate nor want. But it’s my slate and I’d better do something with it. I have no false expectations that I will “get over it” to a certain degree. The intensity of my feelings has already started to shift ever so slowly. My sorrow at not having a family will be with me always. But, perhaps as I write and open my heart it will become like an old friend and not an unwanted visitor. Wish me luck. Thanks Wendy and Pamela. Once upon a time . . .
So much to respond, too, here. First, thanks for taking the time to open up and share a part of yourself and your life. I also want to express my admiration for your stamina in the face multiple obstacles.
More than a few lines of your comment leaped out at me…in particular this one, “My sorrow at not having a family will be with me always. But, perhaps
as I write and open my heart it will become like an old friend and not
an unwanted visitor.”
I wrote something similar a few years ago when my sadness would find me and hold me hostage. While we will never “get over” what caused such grief, I can tell you that in exploring how infertility — and the many complex emotions it evoked — has shaped who I am, I have come to terms with it and learned a great deal about the capacity for turning sorrow into strength. It’s not easy (or linear) to push through and envision a new reality, but you already know that. Like you I’m at the beginning of writing the next chapter, hopeful and optimistic. I look forward to hearing how your story unfolds …
These are some wonderful suggestions for those of us ready to move into the stage of life where infertility does not solely define us. We are all women who are SO much more than our sad stories. This is an inspiring post and for me, the most exciting part about telling my story is writing the happy ending.
I strongly believe in the therapeutic power of writing! — & have been helped so much by the writing I’ve done over the years on message boards & in my blog. Some great questions here to consider. Thanks, Dr. Wendy, & Pamela!
Taking Wendy’s advice, for the first time I started to write for myself on the subject of infertility. While not creative writing, I decided to begin with putting down on paper all the hurtful comments I’ve been subjected to throughout this ordeal. Some of the things were said years ago but still sting as if I’m living it in the present.
What I realized is that while some of the remarks were so ignorantly stupid it baffles the mind, most of them were not vitriolic and directed at me personally, but said more from each person’s own limited perspective. Many of these hurtful comments pop up in my head in the course of the day to haunt and plague me. When I wrote them all down (and it was a much shorter list than I had expected) there was the realization that I am the one giving their poorly chosen words that kind of power in my life. To see their words in writing evidenced to me that they just don’t get it and it is my choice to keep playing that soundtrack in my head or not.
Thank you for the suggestion to write about it, I found it very cathartic.