My story about being childless not by choice is a story about meeting my hubby late in life. It is a story about being certain that of course I would be able to get pregnant. I met my husband when I was 34. When I was 36, we started on IVF treatments, in fact ICSI treatments. I was convinced I would get pregnant maybe not in the first round, but it would happen. We bought three treatments as a ‘package’. We bought another ‘package’. I did not react well to the hormones. I kept hoping. It was so tough. I did not want the hope of becoming a mother to overshadow everything else, it did however. I was not myself during each treatment. Hormones, acupuncture, and rest etc. I had many side-effects from the medicine. I became so sad.
The doctors gave me medicine to lower my immune system; maybe my immune system rejected the embryos. We tried egg donation in Spain. I felt like an object. It was awful. We tried sperm donation and we tried egg donation in Denmark. Nothing seemed to work. I kept blaming myself, my body, my diet.
We kept hoping, or I kept hoping. But it was tough. Everything seemed so meaningless. We discussed to stop the treatments. That decision was the most difficult to make. A doctor at the clinic suggested that we should stop. He could see how tough it was for us and that even with new experiments nothing worked.
We stopped the treatments. It was a confusing time. We found it very difficult to find meaning again. Nature first brought me joy again. A beautiful view. A spectacular weather. I started doing outdoor exercise. My body grew stronger. It gave me joy. We travelled. I worked hard at my corporate jobs.
The last year or so I have got to know the most amazing women from all over the world. I have met these people through the wonderful work of Jody Day and Karin Enfield (Gateway Women), through the fantastic work of Katy (Chasing Creation) and by being open about my story – and then being approached by gorgeous people, who want to understand or who have experienced the same.
Hi – I’m Janine and I’m childless not by choice. I arrived at this place largely through circumstance.
I always wanted kids and imagined I’d have a tribe – I am one of 6 siblings and I thought my family too small! I loved the rough and tumble of big families, the noisiness and constant activity.
But I also grew up amidst second wave feminism. That taught me to be fiercely independent and never rely on a man. For anything. That also taught me an early pregnancy would ‘ruin my life’. And should come later. When I was in a stable relationship, financially secure and established in my career.
Except I never was. By the time I met my partner, my fertile days were all but over. Three pregnancies ended in three early term miscarriages. And I was left completely devastated.
And so began my childless journey. But so, too, began my shamed silence. My complicity in what society expects of us. We childless folk who should just jolly well get on with it, as we silently scream our way through our friends’ pregnancy announcements, baby shower invitations, baptisms and constant, alienating baby talk.
A journey that was full of grief, unacknowledged, unseen and unheard. Shrouded in taboo. A grief that I buried yet carried for 10 years. Before daring to face it.
In 2019, I stumbled upon Gateway Women’s Plan B programme. A year-long course that helps childless women create happy and fulfilling lives. Dense. Intense. And highly transformative. About the pronatalist world we live in and about our disenfranchised grief. About the need for self-compassion and how crucial it is to make connections with our own community.
And about finding happiness and meaning in a life beyond children.
Essentially, about discovering This Unknown Place.
Post script: Although from New Zealand, I’m currently living in Copenhagen with my Danish partner.
I had the good fortune to meet Cecilia, also from Copenhagen, on the Gateway Women’s Plan B course, which we did during 2020.
Jeg snakker lidt dansk, men jeg foretrækker at tale engelsk. Glæder mig til at ses!