This week is #ChildlessNotByChoice week and I've been deliberating about sharing something here all week. Should I be sharing something like this here? What if it's triggering for someone? What if people think I'm looking for sympathy? But I've been so grateful to read the stories of others and feel less alone, that I wanted to share my thoughts.
How do you even sum up your thoughts on such a complex area of life? I guess I start by saying that the only thing I ever knew for sure I wanted to be is a mum. I never knew what I wanted to do as a career but I always knew I'd have a family, or so I thought.
I ironically spent a decade trying not to get pregnant until it was the 'right time'. I agonised over going back to uni to get my masters because it would mean I would be 30 before I could get pregnant. As if that was too late. I carefully timed coming off birth control as if I was in control. Little did I know that fertility would rule my life for the next 5 years.
I'm 35 now, and the older I get, the more people enquire. Mostly with me though, not my husband. People think nothing of telling me that time is ticking and asking when we will settle down. A relative told me in my 20s that I wasn't living my life properly because I should have had a child already. A colleague loudly asked in a busy office whether I didn't have children because of my fibromyalgia. People will tell me I'm lucky I don't have children because of *insert difficult parenting experience*. I've stopped holding babies due to constant comments that it suits me and it should be me next. We should start a family.
The thing is, I already have started a family. Me, my husband and our dog Maggie are a little family of 3 and we are no less of a family because we don't have a child. We hope we will expand our family in the future, but I am so grateful for the family I have. I told my husband just this week that although it gets us down sometimes, I'd never swap him for the chance to have a child. He's my family and my world.
I'm especially grateful to my husband for sitting me down early in our fertility journey and gently broaching the topic that we should always keep in mind that one ending to this story is that we don't have children. In that moment it stung, but it was the start of me separating my self-worth from fertility. With or without children, women are more than mothers.
We've tried to focus on what else we hope to achieve and experience in life alongside having children. I've thrown myself into understanding and learning to love myself. Into building my business, making friends, and making memories.
I've been open before about going through IVF. But we made the decision at the start of this year that we don't want to continue. It's so hard to enjoy the now and work on the things I just mentioned when your whole life is ruled by being poked, prodded and medicated.
I spent two years being pumped full of such high levels of hormones, feeling exhausted and experiencing horrid side effects. Daily enjoyment had disappeared. This isn't the way I want to live. I think the process of IVF is incredible and brings so much joy to people's lives when it is successful. But I wanted my quality of life back.
I told my husband during our last cycle that whether it was successful or not, this would be the last. He supported me 100% having always said it was my body, and so my choice. I was so incredibly grateful he didn't try to plead with me or change my mind.
It's interesting to me that many years before we were aware we had any fertility issues, I told my husband I wanted to adopt in our future. I think it's because I've always felt that families are made and not just born. I've had so many people in my life that have been there for me and supported me that were not blood relations. And blood relations that I'm just not close to at all.
I guess the focus for me was always on who was there for one another and I greatly value those relationships - perhaps even more so when they're not blood relations. They don't have to be there; they choose to. There are so many children that need someone to be there for them, and I could be that person. I know I've got so much love in my heart and to me, bloodlines aren't what make a family.
I hope adoption is the way we will expand our family, and after lots of anxious waiting we were finally contacted this week to say we'll be visited by a social worker soon to start the process. The fact this happened during #ChildlessNotByChoice week gives me an extra glimmer of hope.
This September has been harder for me than previous years. Seeing cousins and friends with children starting secondary school and growing so fast gave me a pang of sadness for sure. But I'm so proud and happy to see it and I'd never want anyone to feel like they can't talk about their children around us or share these happy occasions. We want to be a part of them 100%. Sometimes you just need to let yourself feel the sad for a little while.
Ultimately, I no longer want to put our lives on hold, waiting for it to start 'properly' when we have a child. Our life is happening. And I'd hate for it to pass us by while we wait and hope. So we're making plans, we're living our dreams, and as for children - we hope and we'll watch this space.
I hope with all my heart to have the chance to have a child, but I'm also grateful for the many things I've learnt about myself and about life throughout this journey.
So what do I want you to know? Maybe think twice about what you ask childless women. Don't make assumptions. Don't tell us we're lucky for the extra sleep. And respect that there is more than one way for women to live their lives. I do want children, but not everyone does and that's valid too.
And if you're like me, just know that whatever happens, you're always worthy.
PS - Yes I covered up my husband's face in the picture lol. He hasn't chosen to be here on the internet but he's technically in the pic because he's incredible and it's his story too