Coming to Terms with Never Having Children

The most recent Bitter Infertiles podcast (Episode 20: Living Child-Free) hit really close to home for me. As I’ve mentioned before, M and I have yet to discuss how far we’re willing to go to have a baby. So far, we’ve tried ovulation stimulation drugs, trigger shots, and hormone supplementation… things that don’t take much effort and are relatively inexpensive. On the hierarchy of fertility treatments, we’re still pretty low. We still have injections, IUI, and IVF to consider, as well as adoption. But what if we try all those things and none of them work? What if we can’t (financially or emotionally) afford to pursue all of those options? Most infertiles don’t like to think about it, but there is always a chance the journey could end without a child. It’s important to prepare for that possibility.

So, if we have all these options available, why am I even thinking about giving up? First of all, stopping treatments and choosing not to pursue adoption are not the same as “giving up” in my book. We all have our limits; identifying and respecting those limits is the responsible and healthy thing to do. No matter how far we decide to go in our journey to become parents, it’s important for me to come to terms with the fact that I may never be a mother. I will always have children in my life–nieces, nephews, the children of cousins and friends–but it will never be the same as having my own. For my sanity, for the health of my marriage, I need to accept that this journey may end with us never having children. We have to figure out what we want our life together to look like, if that life isn’t going to include children as we had originally planned. Even though there are in theory plenty of routes for us to try, the reality is that not all of them will be suitable. Nothing is completely off the table at this point, but if I’m being honest with you (and with myself), I have to admit that I don’t think we’re cut out for IVF or adoption. So, we’re left with a fairly short list of next steps, putting the finish line in view.

I’m not passing judgement on IVF or adoption for anyone other than me and my husband. Those are both wonderful options that are right for many people. And, like I said, they’re both still technically options for us, although probably not very viable ones. I won’t go into the details, but money is definitely one huge concern (we don’t have that much, and we don’t have equity). We also have to decide whether we’re willing to endure further physical and emotional turmoil, and whether we’re willing to commit to a long, extensive adoption process that will have its own unique set of emotional ups and downs.

I am not giving up or stopping treatments, but after yet another failed cycle, I’m determined to make sure that M and I make the best decisions for us. Most importantly, I want us both to be okay with saying It’s time to stop, free of resentment and regrets. In order to do that, I have to accept that I may never have children. It won’t be easy, and I’ll probably resist it, but I owe it to myself, my husband, and my family to do what I can to make sure this journey doesn’t break me or drive away my loved ones.

17 thoughts on “Coming to Terms with Never Having Children

  1. You know, this is a really important step, and one that I think a lot of us take. I never came to peace with the thought, but I did try to figure out how I would, if it came to that. I think it’s so worthwhile to think ahead to what what you are, and are not, willing to put into something, rather than just start down a path and keep going, and going, and going without a finish line envisioned.

    • Yes! Up until now, we’ve pretty much just been trudging along the same path without much regard to where we’ll go next or what the finish line looks like. It was okay for a while, but now I’m getting antsy.

  2. Hi Pumpkin,
    Your post is so gruellingly honest, and heartbreaking.

    I hope that you and your husband find peace with whatever options you decide to pursue. I wish you faith, courage, and freedom from suffering as you continue along your infertility journey.

    Also, here is a link to a blog created by an incredibly inspiring author who gleaned much wisdom, it seems, after struggling with infertility for many years: . (She also wrote a book about her experiences.)


  3. I wish you all the best. I have been putting off taking the next step after trying unsuccessfully for 4 years to have a baby. After years of infertility, followed by 3 miscarriages after taking an ovulation stimulating drug, I too am throwing in the towel. I want to just live my life for a while and then maybe I will take another swing at it.

    • I’m so sorry for your losses and your long, difficult journey. It’s hard to consider stopping, even if just for a short while, when you’ve done it for so long. It doesn’t help that most non-infertiles don’t get it–they think we should just keep trying until menopause, it seems! Wishing you the best.

  4. I think you have struck the gold here. With my own experience, which included multiple surgeries, IVFs and several rounds of surrogacy, all negative, I came to realize that life is precious, and it includes my life. Your husband has been there for you, and since women generally are much more tolerable, be gentle with his emotions and stop before relationship is cracked.

    I’m a filmmaker working on a documentary film about infertility based on my own experience.
    I’d like to invite you to see my blog and become a contributor, a voice or a supporter

    I welcome your comments and wish you the best of luck.

  5. A good book about this type of decision making is Sweet Grapes. Although the author chose to stop treatment and live childfree, she doesn’t advocate that. She gives helpful guidance on how to decide what treatments you will accept, how much you are willing to spend, and how do you know when enough is enough. It has been helpful to many of my patients.

  6. Um, first of all, there is AN INFERTILITY PODCAST??? Stitcher is holding out on me! Thank you for that!

    Second, Day-um. This is right where I’m at. We are right at the cusp of starting to talk about IUI, genetic testing, and an offer from a friend who is willing to bequeath us with 9 healthy embryos – long story. We’ve talked a little about fostering – I’m a child and family therapist and I work a lot within the foster care system, and one thing that is missing in the foster care system is foster homes that don’t suck, so we’ve talked about the moral and emotional draw to providing good loving foster homes to kiddos. We can’t even really begin to look at adoption. We’re just not ready. But with every failed attempt we look at the next possible option, and we have to go through this adjustment process every time – what are our chances here? What will it cost, emotionally, physically and financially? How devastating will it be if it fails? And how far into the madness are we willing to go? How much of our lives are we willing to sacrifice on this altar?
    I don’t currently know the answer to any of these questions, but it helps tremendously to know that we aren’t the only people struggling with them. Thanks for offering exactly what I needed right now. Big love your way.

    • It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? Part of me feels like we should try anything and everything at our disposal, because if we don’t, I’ll live the rest of my life regretting it. But I’m also afraid of plowing ahead without examining whether or not a particular path is right for us. The key to balance is what you said: “with every failed attempt we look at the next possible option, and we have to go through this adjustment process every time.” It’s a boring old cliche, “one step at a time,” but it’s useful here.

      Wishing you the best as you navigate through these tricky waters.

  7. I agree that this is an important issue to consider. I’ve been thinking about it, too, even though we’re just on our second IUI. Both my husband and I have problems, so I think that IVF is definitely a possibility- and I know that it doesn’t always work.

    One thing that is tough about fertility treatments is that so many family members and friends act like they’ll work and you have no reason to worry. Only those of us who have struggled with infertility know that they don’t always work, and that we need to prepare for this possibility if we don’t want to be blind-sided later.

    I wish you the best of luck!

  8. Your thoughts here resonate so strongly with me, as I feel we’re in a very similar place. After 2.5 years trying to build our family and three losses, we haven’t turned to medical interventions yet, but we’re emotionally and physically exhuasted. And at almost 38, it feels like a now or never situation, but I don’t want to make any choices based on that pressure. Anyway, the childless option is one I’m increasingly contemplating, and it’s so refreshing to see it increasingly discussed in the ALI blogosphere, so thank you for that. I really appreciate your blog

    • It’s not an easy option to consider. I’m not saying that treatment and adoption are easy, but they are at least familiar and there’s loads of literature and places you can get help for making those decisions. More and more people are talking about the childless option, but it’s still misunderstood by people who haven’t been in our shoes, especially if you haven’t “tried everything” in their eyes. It’s still seen as a last resort, a sign of failure. I’m glad I can add to the voices discussing this option in a positive light.

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