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A Childless Perspective


Article by Lesley Pyne

Hello I’m Lesley Pyne, I’m childless and it’s taken me over ten years and some hard work to be able to say that openly. I love my life & who I am.

Brene Brown

 

You know someone like me.

Think for a minute. You have a friend or family member who never talks about why they don’t have children don’t you? It could be an elderly aunt, or someone at work. They could be defensive if you ask, they might have missed christenings or perhaps they overcompensate and always buy fuss over your children.

You know someone like that, don’t you?

My guess is they would love to talk to you but they don’t know what to say and how you’ll reply. They’re hurting because they have a big secret which they want to share. It might be ten or twenty years since they stopped trying but they still find it hard to talk about.

I’ve been there; done that; got the T shirt and I’d like to explain what your friend is going through so that you can start to understand.

Three facts about fertility and IVF

Let me set the scene with three important and depressing facts:

  • Our fertility starts dropping at age twenty seven, and the chances are that if you haven’t had your children by thirty five, you will struggle
  • In the UK one in six couples seeks specialist help in trying for a child.
  • The average success rate for IVF is twenty five percent, and this reduces dramatically with age.

The reality is that many of us spend our most fertile years doing our best not to get pregnant and by the time we try the odds are stacked against us. And the stats show that IVF is not as successful as the media would like us to believe.

My story

That’s my story; I was probably too old when we started trying, we had ‘too many’ rounds of IVF and stopped when I was forty.

One of the (many) depressing things about the (in)fertility industry is that it’s just that, an industry. You’ll have every test and procedure they can charge you for, but you’ll get minimal emotional support. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and it’s really hard to cope without support when you get thrown off at the end.

Coming to terms with a life without children

I could write many pages describing what it’s like to give your all and fail to achieve something that comes naturally to all your friends, but I’ll keep it short.

  • You feel alone and cut off from your friends who are getting pregnant because seeing (and hearing about) their children hurts so much. We live in a child obsessed society, and they’re everywhere, giving you constant reminders, Mothers day and Christmas are especially hard.
  • You’re angry at your body, the world, and especially those who complain about their children – they chose their life and you didn’t.
  • You feel ashamed, maybe depressed, and your relationship with your partner will either be stronger or falling apart.
  • Fundamentally you’re grieving, for the children you couldn’t have, for the future that you wanted, for all those things you wanted to do. And to add to that it’s unrecognised by society, by your family and friends. If you lose a family member at least people know what to say, but there are no words for the loss of an identity/a dream and because you’ve kept this secret no-one knows you’re hurting.
  • When you’re starting to come out of the fog, you start to worry about what to do with your life, why you are here; after all you haven’t got the purpose and legacy that children provide.

My healing

I was incredibly lucky in that I joined the support charity MoreToLife and have healed with a fantastic group of friends and now we share a massive bond.

Studying NLP also really helped me to put things in perspective and the Time Line Techniques that I learned finally helped me to stop the negative feelings from coming back.

But it wasn’t quite enough. A couple of years ago I discovered this quote from Brené Brown. I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen’.

It was like a shot in the arm and I realised that I was standing on the outside of my life and I’d had enough so I gathered my courage to stand inside my life and am now using my skills and experience to support other childless women.

The importance of perspective

When I was twenty I stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon and the place grabbed me. It looked big, hard, intimidating and forbidding.

For our tenth wedding anniversary we spent two weeks rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon exploring it from the bottom. From below it’s a totally different; it’s beautiful, intimate, quiet, and wet!

The trip changed my life and of the many things I learned, the most important was:

If you look at things in the same way that everyone else does, you’ll only see what they see. Taking a different perspective can be life-changing.

I hope I’ve opened the door to another perspective for you and you can recognise and understand what your friend/family member has been through.

Over to you

Do you identify with what I’ve written, maybe you couldn’t have children, and if so is this your experience?

Can you recognise this in someone you know?

We’d love to know your thoughts and any questions you have.

Thank you.

Lesley PyneBio. Lesley Pyne supports childless women to heal and to create a life they love.  She uses her first-hand experience in coming to terms a life without children and her professional skills in NLP and time line techniques to help other childless women.  Her website is www.LesleyPyne.co.uk

 

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Comments

  1. Karen Knott

    March 17, 2014

    I was going to say how much I enjoyed reading this blog post but I don’t think ‘enjoyed’ is perhaps the right word – it’s a tough subject but one that will only get easier by openness, honesty and of course, proper information.
    I count myself as extremely lucky to eventually became pregnant at 39 but I can still remember the shock, anger & heartache I felt when what I had always assumed would ‘just happen’ didn’t happen! It left an indelible mark on me. I think it’s fantastic that you have found a way to share and use your experience to help other women turn their indelible marks into something positive.

  2. Lesley Pyne

    March 17, 2014

    I’m sorry you went through heartache Karen & thank you so much for your open and honest reply.
    Whether we succeeded or not, we each think that we’re the only one who went through difficult times when the truth is obviously not the case.
    We only find this out when we tell and share our stories. ‘Me too’ are such fabulous words to hear and I know that others will be encouraged by what you’ve written.
    It’s my experience that telling my story has helped me to much and each time I’m a bit braver.
    And I would add that the mark doesn’t have to be ‘indelible’ there are ways to heal that.
    Lesley x

  3. Kathie Teahan

    March 17, 2014

    A beautiful and moving account, Lesley. You are very brave & I congratulate you for your healing work. I am very proud to know you. xx

  4. Lesley Pyne

    March 17, 2014

    Thank you Kathie, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Lesley

  5. Jane Bennett

    March 17, 2014

    Congratulations Lesley: a great article. The work you’re doing is so valuable. I was incredibly lucky to be blessed with children really easily but I have friends who were not and so I have seen first hand the heartache involved. Janex

  6. Pamela Tsigdinos

    March 18, 2014

    We’ll done, Lesley, in laying out a difficult topic and inviting readers to both contemplate and participate in a conversation that will help all involved understand a complex path.

  7. Boomer Tuber

    March 19, 2014

    You give the topic a very full expose. I never knew having children was a choice. I just wish women were more flexible on talking about these things so that having children, not having children were not the main topics but how we can help each other be more fulfilled as we age. Sometimes those of us with children are feeling like we need help too and our kids are just not a part of our lives or a happy factor in our lives as it seems childless people assume they are.

    • Lesley Pyne

      March 21, 2014

      Thank you for your comment,
      I’m not sure that all of us without children assume that all mothers are happy, but certainly some do. I guess it can be easy to think that the grass is always greener, when it isn’t always.
      I agree absolutely that a more open and honest discussion about what it’s really like on both sides would be really helpful (how many of us REALLY tell the truth of what our life is like?) so thank you for being open about what it’s like for you.

  8. Irene

    March 20, 2014

    Grieving for the children you could never have is a fantastic way of putting it and you’ve also hit the nail on the head with your description of the lack of emotional support offered by health professionals, or ‘the industry’. This, together with the incredibly long times of waiting around for the process to get moving was what caused me to end up on anti-depressants following a major depressive episode. After years of begging for referrals to specialists and appointments cancelled without any explanation you get a letter asking you to wait another 6 months for an appointment with a consultant, then you finally see them. They might be cold and completely uninterested, they tell you to book a follow up appointment which you then have to wait a further 6 months for. And all around you people are saying what a great blessing the NHS is. Because you either take the months, years of waiting or you can pay £6,000 to a private clinic, thank you very much. And that is of course if the Clinical Commissioning Team in your LA funds any IVF cycles at all.
    Still, nobody seems to give a limit of times you can request treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, nobody charges you thousands for medication to cure DVT, heart, liver or lung disease caused by drug/ alcohol addiction or by smoking. Of course this is the way it should be, so why is it not like this for fertility issues? Emotional and psychological support should be the very basis or what is offered to individuals who are struggling with infertility, so thank you for dedicating yourself to this. You not only make a difference to those people you are personally in contact with but you are helping make a change.

    • Lesley Pyne

      March 21, 2014

      So sorry to hear what you’ve been through Irene, it sounds like a nightmare.
      I do see some changes on the horizon, I know that the HFEA (the regulatory authority) has recently woken up to the lack of emotional and psychological support and is conducting research into what’s really happening. So let’s hope that this brings about positive change.
      Thank you for being so open.

  9. Hilary Lees

    March 23, 2014

    Hi Lesley, Great article! I think it’s appalling that there’s currently no emotional or psychological support for women facing this reality, This really resonated with me. I’m well aware that I’m one of the lucky ones. Like you, I spent most of my most fertile years trying my best not to get pregnant so it was with some relief that I fell pregnant for the first time at age 36. Your stats re shrinking fertility are sobering. I’m well aware how lucky I am and at the time was trying to mentally prepare myself in case I couldn’t conceive but nothing I think can really prepare you for that. So now my challenges are different and I agree with an earlier comment re motherhood not necessarily being the only thing fulfilling our lives. As you know I now support other mums to find career fulfilment alongside motherhood but I think it’s really important that we are able to have this real and honest dialogue with our friends and family who may be childless about what it’s like to both have them and not have them in our lives. Thank you for offering this opportunity.

  10. Linda Anderson

    March 24, 2014

    This is a wonderful article, Lesley, and it’s so good to see an honest conversation opening up here from both perspectives.

    I have a very dear, generous-hearted friend who has not been able to conceive and who’s been a great support to me during various crises with my own children. I know the grief she and her partner feel is a constant undercurrent in their lives.

    Thank you for your honesty and courage in laying out how it feels from your perspective. You are doing wonderful work in the world and it’s so needed. xx

  11. Claire

    March 26, 2014

    Thanks so much for writing this Lesley. My story is a similar one. Although I have come to terms with being unable to have children, I still find it a difficult subject to talk about with family and friends who have children. Sometimes it is easier with complete strangers! Meeting you and other friends via the support charity MoretoLife has been a tremendous help and enriched my life.

  12. helen

    April 17, 2014

    Hi, this is a great article.

    I’m 40 and its only in the last few years I have been aware that I’m probably not going to be able to have children. I really did believe it would just happen.

    I did seek help and each time was then put through a series of gynae operations due to complications and never seemed to be able to get any answers or help with my fertility. I recently moved to Wales and have at last been advised I can be referred to a fertility specialist, but in my heart I know the chances of my conceiving are so slim.

    Some days I feel ok about this, and others – like today – I feel so low. I second your view that everywhere you seem to turn its all about children and famiilies. My husband and I really feel we have missed out on such a wonderful, yet hard, experience.

    I’m considering adoption but want to wait a little while longer to make sure its the right choice. I hope I come to terms with this and can lead a full life, without this holding me back.

    Thank you once again for your very honest view and for sharing your experience, it really has helped enormously.

  13. Lesley Pyne

    May 23, 2014

    I’m so glad to have helped Helen. What you have been through sounds very stressful and you are so right saying that we assume it will ‘just happen.’
    I think you’re right to wait a while before considering adoption, I believe it’s best to let the grief heal a bit first because the adoption process will also test your strength.
    And trust me, you will come to terms with your life. It will take time and you may need some help, but in a while you will look back and realise just how far you’ve come.
    Thanks for commenting and I wish you happiness.

  14. Margaret

    October 8, 2014

    interesting article, however I have to question, is there something wrong with me because I have never wanted children. Should I be grieving or is that an acceptable choice? I must admit I am concerned when people ask me if I have children with a look of ‘I already know the answer’ and then give me a sad face and a shake of the head. Why do people think there is something wrong with you if you have made this choice? Our children are our legacy but there are are many ways to leave a legacy and contribute and love and serve others. As I never had a burning desire for children I did not want to bring a child into this world when there are so many people and children already here who need connection, love and affirmation. I write a bog called Fit, Fabulous and 50+ for women who celebrate who the are and what they have accomplished. I now want to reach out to women who are childless and if they need to grieve that is fine but also those that do not feel the need and that is OK as well. Thank you for sharing and I feel your loss.

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