Life Without Children
After IVF failed 1 1/2 times for us and all of our remaining embryos didn’t make it, we decided that we could be happy just the two of us. Sure, we would have to grieve, heal, and move beyond the sadness that childlessness would bring, but we could be happy. We are fun people. We enjoy being with each other. We could make plans and do things we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It wasn’t our original plan, but we could find peace with it.
Even though our plan to live without children didn’t last very long, there are others who choose to live child-free and it lasts through mortality. I prefer using the term”child-free” over “childlessness”. Childlessness focuses on the negative and what is lacking. Child-free isn’t my favorite term either, but if I get to choose which term to use, which I do, I prefer child-free.
Just so you know, choosing to live without children isn’t a cop-out or an indication of giving up. It is simply another option, just like medical intervention, adoption, and even foster care. It is an option that is right for many couples. Just with any option out there, it brings both sorrow and joy.
Libby contacted me a long while ago and introduced me to her website…Childless Mormons. It wasn’t until recently that I really dug into the site and her blog. I am impressed with her and her amazing perspective. Let me introduce her to you…
Libby & Ethan S.
West Lafayette, Indiana
How long have you been dealing with infertility? We began trying to have kids in 2001, so it was about 9 years before we decided to stop trying and 10 years since entering the infertility world.
What has been the most hurtful thing someone has said or done? How have you responded? For me, I think the silence has hurt most. Family and friends may have not known what to say, so they didn’t say anything at all. That really made me feel like a freak and assume that no one cared at all. That’s still probably what hurts the most is people just not saying anything. At first, of course, I had difficulty talking about it myself. I’ve found, however, that the best remedy has been to be open and honest from the beginning. When I introduce myself and people ask if I have children, I say, “No. We were never able to have them, so we are focusing on others things in life,” or something to that effect. There have been many more hurtful comments and actions from people, but I’ve learned that the best approach is to be charitable. No one is trying to hurt me, and if they knew the pain I felt, they wouldn’t say what they did. It is an opportunity to educate them and learn forgiveness. I don’t want to live a life of bitterness.
What has been the most valuable thing someone has said or done? How have you responded? The most valuable thing has been to talk to other couples who have already gone through infertility. My husband and I had a visit with Ardeth and Heber Kapp, and their advice and love were monumental in helping me accept the Lord’s will. A couple times, family or friends have sent me notes on Mothers’ Day, and I really appreciated that. It doesn’t happen often, but I am always very grateful to the people who are not afraid to speak up and show their love and concern for me. Just a brief note or quick expression of love means so much–just to know that I’m not being ignored or forgotten and am loved no matter what.
Where have you found strength? How do you cope? I could not have gone through what I have without the Lord’s help. This is the biggest thing in my life to have brought me closer to my Savior. Taking time to read the scriptures daily, pour my heart out in sincere prayer, and devote myself to serving the Lord have helped me see that the Lord loves me and is helping me to be the happiest possible. I have also found ways to use my talents and to nurture others even though I don’t have my own children.
Of course the experience of infertility is filled with troubles, but what has been the most challenging part of your journey? Not knowing. I hated being in limbo, always wondering if I’d be able to have kids and when it would happen. I felt I couldn’t really ever make plans for my life because I didn’t know what our family situation would be. It’s easier to deal with a trial if you know what it entails, but I kept feeling that my trial was undefinable and indefinite.
The teachings of the Gospel are centered on families, so how have you made sense of infertility within this framework? How have you found a place of belonging when it is easy to feel isolated and so different? No one else can make me feel I don’t belong. I know that I belong in the Lord’s kingdom, at church activities, and in Relief Society, so I maintain that mindset. I assert myself, speak up in Relief Society, and help others see the world and family from other perspectives. I guess you could say that I remind others to realize that I belong just as much as they do! On the other hand, if I’m not feeling up to going to an activity, I don’t go, and that’s okay. I have also learned to be charitable and forgiving and to not expect others to fully understand what they simply cannot, always relying on the Lord as my one true source of ultimate comfort. Finally, I look to non-Church sources for additional friendship and social interaction. Even if I may feel out of place many times, I know that I’m not out of place compared to where the Lord wants me to be. I also try to remember that I am not really so different if you look at the worldwide Church and worldwide Relief Society. The Church really has more diversity in family situations than many realize, and we are all part of the Lord’s eternal plan for families. Whatever our situation, we can still “strengthen home and family” (both ours and others’) and work towards an eternal family.
What advice would you give to other couples dealing with infertility? It will get better! No matter how the trial resolves itself, it will get better. Find other opportunities in life, take advantage of not having children, and really use this trial to grow closer to the Savior. Don’t get bitter; instead, learn from this experience. I also think people dealing with infertility are too quiet about it, and I know it’s because it’s so painful to talk about. But the more those of us who are infertile can talk about it and educate others, the more understanding others will be, and the better we can cope with it, too. It may feel like the end of the world, but it’s not. Having an eternal perspective really matters.
What is something you have learned that you would have not learned otherwise? That there is more to life than being a mother. All I ever wanted out of life was to be a stay-at-home mom. Now I know that there are other ways to serve the Lord and to live life that are just as important as motherhood. I also know just how precious a gift it is to have children. I think I would’ve taken motherhood for granted if I’d been able to have children immediately.
Infertility is just one realm of life. What is another realm where you have found joy and great fulfillment? I love serving in the Church. I take my callings seriously and really seek ways to serve and love others. I also enjoy working as a teacher. It is a great occupation for someone who is infertile because I feel I’m able to give extra love and attention to my students. Every day, I thank the Lord I live in a time and a place that allows childless women other opportunities in life.
Is there a scripture or Conference Talk that has been particularly helpful and comforting to you? Which one? Why? I have appreciated many different conference talks, but I think the one I come back to the most is Elder Maxwell’s “Content with the Things Allotted Unto Us.” It applies to all of us, no matter our situation, and teaches principles that can help us really accept the Lord’s will. It also reminds me that I don’t want to just accept life–I want to embrace it!
Is there a quote that has been inspiring to you? Brigham Young said, “I never have cared but for one thing, and that is, simply to know that I am now right before my Father in Heaven. If I am this moment, this day, doing the things God requires of my hands, and precisely where my Father in Heaven wants me to be, I care no more about tomorrow than though it never would come” (Journal of Discourses, 1:132). When dealing with infertility, many people try telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. It can be difficult to really focus on what the Lord wants you to do despite what others say. This quote has helped me hold fast to the personal revelation my husband and I have received despite others’ judgments. It reminds me that infertility is not a result of unrighteousness or lack of faith, either.
How has this adversity changed your marriage? What have you done to strengthen your marriage? This adversity has often placed intense stress on our marriage, particularly while we were going through infertility treatments. We decided, however, to always put our marriage first. We did not want the pursuit of parenthood to destroy our marriage as it has done for so many infertile couples in the world. Overall, it has definitely strengthened our relationship and helped us be grateful for each other and the blessings we have together. After a few years, we decided to no longer wait for the things we’d planned to begin doing once we had kids. We have family home evening every week. We have date night every week. The Easter Bunny and Santa also visit us. These are things we want to do, whether or not we have kids. We do what is best for our family and take advantage of our situation rather than continually waiting for something that realistically may never come.
Stay tuned for some words of wisdom from Libby…
Tags: childfree living, comforting, coping, educating, emotional coping, guests, Heavenly Father, hope, Jesus Christ, marriage, Mother's Day, perspective, responding, social coping, spiritual coping, talking about infertility