When my husband, Scott, and I moved into our new house, the upstairs landing became a catch-all for all the things that didn't yet have a space. One of the items was an antique wooden rocking horse that I'd purchased years prior, with that hope that one day it would live in a nursery.
But with no baby and no nursery, it sat at the top of the stairs for weeks, a constant reminder of our infertility and grief.
Then one day, I looked at that rocking horse and I just lost it.
The pain and the prolonged disappointment had become too overwhelming. It had seeped into every area of my life from my relationship with Scott to my relationship with my body. After more than three years of IUI treatments and fertility drugs, I’d reached my breaking point.
Scott, who had heard me screaming, came running.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I told him.
“OK,” he said. “We don’t have to do this anymore.”
Now, don’t think that I went from losing my mind over a rocking horse to living this happy, carefree life — it’s a process. It’s not an overnight thing. But I am here to tell you that it will get better. Your identity is not wrapped up in your ability to conceive.
After Scott and I decided we weren’t going to have children, I went back to college to finish my degree. I was looking for something to pour myself into. After so many losses and so much disappointment, I needed a win. And in the process of going back to school, I began to see a life beyond my inability to become pregnant. It really pulled me out of a three-year long depression and funk, which in turn impacted my marriage positively.
To celebrate my graduation, we went to Europe for a couple of weeks with friends.
We love being just the two of us and getting in the car and going for a long drive. We love being able to prioritize each other. We have the ability to pick up and go — we've moved multiple times to different states without having to deal with school districts and uprooting a child.
I think a lot of people get really caught up on the on the idea of like, “Well, if I’m not a mother, then I’ve got to be extra cool and travel the world and have all these incredible experiences.” Don’t put that pressure on yourself. I’m just living a normal life! It’s OK to stop your fertility journey and just continue living, and that’s something I really want to stress. You don’t have to do anything spectacular. You can just drink a beer and lay in your hammock.
My best piece of advice is make some friends who don’t have children — whether it’s by choice, chance or circumstance. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are in a similar headspace. When Scott and I first decided to stop trying, it was hard for me to be around people with children because I was just too acutely aware of what I felt was lacking. I felt disdain when I saw pregnant women. I definitely don’t feel that anymore, which is a relief. Like I said, it does get easier. If you are looking to connect with other childless women, one great resource is Childless Collective.
Be patient with yourself. The overwhelming grief does lift. Not only am I happily child-free, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
Katy DeJong is a sex educator based in Virginia.