A New Chapter – Guilt Not Included

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no-more-guiltSome of you have asked me to write about the moment when I stopped feeling childless and started feeling peace. I couldn’t do it because the actual moment hadn’t occurred — until now. You are here with me. My witnesses.

The transition has been building for some time, but guilt was holding it back. Guilt is a powerful inhibitor. A part of me has been convinced that if I allowed the transition that it would somehow mean that all of my efforts associated with trying to have a child would be erased, negated. That a whole chunk of my life would evaporate.

Every doctor visit, temperature reading, ovulation kit, two week wait. Up in smoke. Every hopeful swell of my breasts, every pee stick, IUI. Gone. Every pill, shot, ultrasound, blood draw, suppository, IV, laparoscopy, acupuncture pin prick and promising advancement expunged.

But most of all I worried that by allowing myself to accept a life as a family of two would mean that I didn’t work hard enough for my embryos, that I didn’t want or love my children, that I had somehow failed them. That my children didn’t matter as much as someone else’s children. Why I wondered? I have been dogged by guilt on so many levels. (Excuse me while I blow my nose and compose myself. This is very hard to admit.)

I thought it was my obligation to continue to carry the pain like a badge of honor, to begrudge the happiness of those who conceived easily, to never let go of the heartache or else it would mean that my attempts didn’t matter. And worse still, that I would become like most everyone else around me who act as though infertility is nothing more than a bruise that goes away after a few days. No. No. NO. It doesn’t. It haunts and it does leave scars but not in places where people can see them.

What’s given me the courage to allow the formal handover? To bury a dream? To lose something I’ve wanted with my heart and soul? Well, many of you. You have given me permission by your acknowledgments of my loss, your encouragement to express my thoughts and feelings, your support, but most of all your own actions.

Outside of the infertility world, I’ve been reading and learning from Lady Macleod who lost her husband and son years ago, but managed nonetheless to go on and build a full and adventurous life.

Infertility (and the losses associated with it) — that is not something that can be filed away. I will always remember. I will always know where the scars lay. I will forever wonder about what it might have felt like to succeed in carrying and delivering my husband’s child.  But the fact is I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful husband and the opportunity to build a wonderful life with him.

I won’t stop writing because I want women who come after me to know that the gnawing pain can be managed and that life after treatment does have the potential to bring a different sort of reward.

Finding joy and meaning in life is what I would have wanted my son or daughter to do.

23 comments

  • I am very excited for you as you make this transition. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I selfishly took what you wrote and made it a comfort for me today.

    I am still trying, but I too feel guilty about not trying hard enough. I wonder if I tried long enough with my eggs, if I could have changed the outcome if I ate better, did more acu, when to the RE sooner, etc. It’s comforting to hear I am not alone in these feelings.

    Thank you for continuing to be an advocate for IF and for sharing your journey.

  • Gosh! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for writing your thoughts and pains out for me to read. I have the “badge of honor” mentality ALOT. It shifts from not being worthy enough because we haven’t gone through/done enough as much as others, to they haven’t gone through/done as many treatments as I have, to just accepting/supporting people where they are today. Post after Post, I find myself healing by your words. Thank you

  • JJ

    Wow PJ….another zinger. That last sentence made me so PROUD…you are so strong, and so willing to share each triumph and heartbreak–thanks for more beautiful words from a beautiful person!

  • And I think your son or daughter would have wanted to you to be happy, too. As bittersweet as such a thought is, I firmly believe it’s true. I was just thinking yesterday that “blessed” is a state of mind, not an event. I am glad you are going to keep writing.

  • I am so glad you are now able to let go of all that hurt. And you’re right the scars will always be there, but scars do fade and get softer with time. I’m glad yours are doing that.

    And to chime in with the other comments, THANK YOU!! Yours was one of the first blogs I found and I immediately felt that someone else understood me. You validated what I was feeling and helped me to feel less alone. So thank you

  • PJ, I can not thank you enough for the inspiration you provide on an ongoing basis. Since I’ve “met” you, I have learned how to be brave when it comes to our infertility. I know we will all find our way to happiness where ever the path may lead. I admire you and your writings about your personal journey. Yours is an amazing success story. You give me so much hope!!!! Thank you, friend.

  • PJ, this is quite a milestone and I am happy for you. Please don’t be hard on yourself if you have some set-backs. It is a loss, and you will continue to experience different feelings and emotions while processing that loss. You may still have good days and bad days. And we will be here for you during the good and the bad.

  • loribeth

    Oh, please do keep writing. I know there are way more of us out there living without children after infertility than our Internet presence would suggest, and yours is one of the most articulate voices out there. Thank you for what you continue to do through this blog (and hopefully soon through your book!!).

    I’m still not sure whether I can say I feel “childFREE,” six years after stoppping treatment, and those bruises are definitely still there, but I most certainly feel like life is good. : )

  • That’s a beautiful post and those are big steps you are taking. I’m glad that you can start to put your guilt behind you.

  • BEAUTIFUL! You amaze me!

  • Geohde

    PJ,

    What else can I offer you apart from a virtual hug and a tipple of whatever drink takes your fancy at the moment?

    I’m sorry that I don’t comment as often as I’d like to on your site, but for some reason, my computer goes into huge brain farts loading the comments page. Today it took me 30 minutes, so I think I’ve forgotten half of what I intended to write.

    xx

    J

  • Wow, just wow. You have come so far and I’m proud of you. You are an inspiration for me. There’s a Buddhist saying about the journey of faith:

    “For example, the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital?”

    Enjoy the view, dear friend.

  • Mel

    A wonderful post. And wishing you much joy and fulfillment.

  • DD

    You hit upon something so key to this. When my counselor asked me why do I want to continue treatments, I thought I had to provide the pat answer: to have a baby. However, you hit a nerve I didn’t know I had let go so raw. It’s because of the guilt and admitting that these past couple of years did not net what they were supposed to.

    Beautiful post, Pamela J.

  • MLO

    You are an amazing woman and an amazing writer. How is it that you can capture what I’m thinking and feeling at any given time?

    You have a wonderful impact on the lives of so many men and women who have found your blog – and I, for one, am anxious to read your book.

    You are going to influence so many people in a positive way with your writing. I’m thrilled that I get to see some of that here at your blog.

    Pax,

    MLO

  • MotherOfNone

    Oh, that last line got me. Very poignant.

    This entry is very timely for me because I recently got an e-mail from a wonderful former colleague who had also experienced IF challenges and is now pregnant. This colleague, unlike me, had been extremely assiduous in pursuing fertility through diet, alternative medicine, etc. She’s pregnant. I’m not. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so sad, and then I realized it was guilt. If only I could have been more disciplined, given up drinking or cheese or whatever. Since, prior to IVF, I had no idea why I couldn’t conceive, I had felt ridiculous trying to fix “it” with lifestyle changes. After all, how many people abuse their bodies ten times worse and get pregnant effortlessly?

    I’d been feeling pretty good lately, very “childfree,” and this incident was a setback.

    I’m normally pretty innoculated against cliches about how wonderful parenthood is, but then sometimes someone says something or something happens that speaks to the wonderful, pure, unique blessing of parenthood, and I feel brought to my knees with longing and grief and wistfulness and rejectedness. It happens only so often, but it’s awful. It reminds me once again of the importance of finding meaning in other things.

    All of us IF women should be proud that we are stronger for what we’ve survived. We’ve had an experience that has given us a window on human struggle and challenge and it makes us special.

  • Bea

    That makes so much sense. It’s like, if you don’t hold onto your grief, it’s all been for nothing.

    But it hasn’t. I’m so glad you can feel that today.

    Bea

  • Bea

    P.S. I hope this is going in your book.

    Bea

  • Wow, there’s a lot here.

    I guess in many situations, guilt and hurt and sadness become a familiar load, even if not a happy one. Shedding them can be like shedding old friends in a funny kind of way, and moving on without them is scary because unfamiliar. It sounds like your time to do so has come (although I agree with Babystep’s comment that there will most likely still be setbacks).

    I think that by opening your heart as you do, other people find it easier to admit to buried feelings and hurts. Good on you.

    Does the new grey and maroon look to your blog reflect your feelings? I miss the lovely view you used to have.

  • chicklet

    I love this post. While I”m not ready to be child-free yet (well, to agree to being child-free), this gives me hope that there is life after infertility when it doesn’t work. Yay for you that you’ve been strong enough to do this!

  • Lindsay

    First off, thanks so much for the card – you’re fantastic. But thank you again for writing such a poignant post. I can imagine that writing these words for you come easier some days and more difficult on others, but your willingness to share is just so valuable to all of us.

  • I still can’t bring myself to use “childfree” to describe myself or my lot in life, I think because it sounds like a choice. I suppose because we chose to stop treatment it was, but it doesn’t feel right. I count my blessings when I can and try to let the feelings come, and deal with them. Thanks for putting into words what so many are feeling.

  • What an amazing post. Your courage is inspiring.