How to start a child-free life after infertility
Deciding to have children is a huge decision and the beginning of an emotional, eventful and exhausting time of your life.
And that is just while you are trying to get pregnant.
You make that first decision and think this is going to be the start of an incredible life raising your family.
But what if you don’t get pregnant?
What if you try, either just naturally or through fertility treatment, but you are not successful, time after time?
When do you stop trying?
How do you decide that enough is enough?
And when you do, how do you face life without children when you always planned on a future with kids in it?
How to decide when to stop
When you stop trying really depends on the couple, and there is no right or wrong time.
Just do what feels best for the two of you.
Some couples find it helpful to make a predetermined end point before they even start, such as after 3 years, or 6 IVF sessions, or once they reach a certain age.
For some couples they will set aside a certain amount of money they are willing to spend, and once this is reached, then move on.
If you agree on this beforehand or if you decide on your enough point as you are going along, no one but you can know what is best.
Making the decision to stop trying actively is a heartbreaking one, and comes with its own grief that you must go through.
There can be added difficulty if you haven’t technically ‘stopped’, that is you might not be using birth control again yet.
Instead you may just have stopped using external treatments or tracking your cycles anymore, and just have intercourse being about you as a couple again.
A word of warning though, if you are not using birth control however, part of you may still be hanging on to the hope you’ll get pregnant.
In this case somewhere down the track, you will need to face your end point again.
One day you will accept that you are no longer able to get pregnant, and must face your future without conceiving your own child.
At that point you then have to make another decision; are you going to try other forms of having children such as surrogacy, donor sperm, or adoption?
Again, there is no right answer to this question except what works best for you as a couple.
By no means do you have to go down another path, each one littered with its own pitfalls and heartbreaks.
You would be well within your rights to just stop once you’ve accepted you won’t conceive as a couple.
No one should judge you for the decisions you make on your own personal journey, or expect anything from you.
No one has experienced your exact challenges and pain.
Is it giving up, or failing?
It is neither.
It is acceptance of your future, and can give you a very liberating freedom from the present.
There may have been many upsetting times during your trying to conceive journey, and deciding to stop is another painful step to go through. But is can also be cathartic, and a form of release from the pain of failure and disappointment.
This can be when your healing begins.
People will always have questions for the rest of your life about whether you have children, and if not, then why.
People like to have names and explanations for these things.
You may wish to call yourself childfree, or childless, and choose not to go into any further detail.
It might be helpful for you to do a bit of research online into names or descriptions you can use, and throw a few around with your partner.
Childfree can feel empowering, as though you have taken back control of your life.
However, people who spent years trying and hoping sometimes call themselves childless to clarify that it was not by choice, and they want people to know they really wanted children.
What are some things that may help you face your life without children?
#1 Connect with people you can talk to about what you are feeling
You could do this through online forums, or through real life meet-ups or support groups.
Look for groups for people who are Childless Not By Choice, or Childless By Circumstance (the circumstance also included infertility).
Try some of the following links for more information:
You may just want to confide in friends.
It may be extremely beneficial for you to talk to a professional counsellor with experience in treating people facing infertility.
#2 Give yourself some compassion
This may be a painful decision and now is a very good time to be kind to yourself.
Do things that are nice for yourself and your partner.
Don’t put yourself through any unnecessary extra stress.
Most of all, speak kindly to yourself, as you would to a good friend who was going through the same experience.
Don’t add guilt or blame to your feelings.
Try not to dwell on what might have been or spend your time wishing for something better.
Try not to focus on possible feelings of failure.
#3 Give yourself permission to grieve
You do not need to just pull up your boots and get on with life if you don’t feel ready.
Something has been lost to you which was incredibly important, and it is reasonable and probably healthy to give yourself time to grieve this loss.
If you have always had your heart set on having children, then shifting to a future without them is huge, and you have just as much right to feel like you have lost your own child. Because you have.
#4 Reconnect with your partner
Your partner will also be going through something painful and personal.
They may not know how to share this with you, but you should still give them the space and compassion to go through this for themselves.
Try to reconnect as a couple as you did before you decided to become parents.
Go on dates, or just sit together and cuddle, watch TV or find another interest together.
#5 Find other things to focus on, such as work, a home renovation, a holiday, or another project
Distract yourself from feeling down with a big project.
This will lift your spirits, occupy your mind and give you something to look forward to.
Plan a complicated holiday with lots of stops and excursions.
Take up new studies that you were putting off, and focus on progressing your career.
Plan a home renovation or build a new garden.
These things cannot fill the space immediately, but will help you to heal.
Take one day and one task at a time.
#6 Find a new way to accept children in your life
This may seem like a hard step right now, but this can also really be a healthy way to heal.
If you wanted children of your own, you won’t just stop wanting them in your life.
You may consider volunteering with kids by helping at a playgroup or hospital, or by fostering.
If you have nieces and nephews, you can offer to be the respite that their parents will definitely need.
This way you can be an awesome beloved aunty or uncle, and still hand them back before they get ratty.
It may not sound like a substitute, but the love of a pet can be incredible as well.
Pets have an amazing way of sensing when you need them, and that extra love and laughter from a fur baby can be what gets you through.
Nothing can replace what having children would really mean to you, but your heart and mind have a resilient way of bouncing back.
You will find an acceptance of your new future and so many wonderful ways to give and receive the fulfillment that children bring.
Be kind to yourself and just get through each day, and after a while it will all become a little bit easier.