Being childless through infertility and being childless by marriage, when the issue is not lack of eggs or sperm, are two very different things. With infertility, couples try hard to conceive and deliver a child. They undergo all kinds of invasive treatments, spend huge amounts of money, and ride a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment, only to end up still childless. Some suffer multiple miscarriages and a grief those of us who have never been pregnant can only imagine.
They have no choice in this outcome. They did everything they could. Adopt? It’s not so easy, especially if you have already used up all the time, money, and energy you can spare.
When a couple is infertile, whether the problem is from his sperm or a problem with her reproductive system, their only choices are to accept their fate, try whatever they can, and ultimately to stop trying. They do it together because they both long to be parents.
It is possible to be childless by marriage because your spouse is infertile. You may not know that in advance. When you find out, you have a choice: stay and face the same choices as other infertile couples or split up and look for someone who can give you children.
Is that your story? I know some of you reading this are in that situation.
What if you knew going into the marriage that children would be impossible with this person? So many men, especially those who were married before, have had vasectomies. Is it possible to get them reversed? Yes, but the surgery doesn’t always work. The longer it has been, the less likely the man will be able to provide healthy sperm.
What if there’s no physical reason you can’t have children together? What if it’s just that your mate does not want kids? That’s quite different. I wonder about relationships where couples disagree on something so huge. What else will they clash on? Money? Career? Where to live? But you love each other. So maybe you can accept a marriage without children. Or maybe you can’t. You do have a choice. You can take your healthy sperm or your fertile ovaries elsewhere.
What if you never find anyone else? Ah, that’s the risk. It’s a gamble. But unlike those struggling with infertility, at least you get to roll the dice.
Last week’s webinars at World Childless Week got me thinking. A majority of the speakers were childless due to fertility problems. They are grieving and trying to build new lives after years of fertility treatments and disappointment. As I sat here with my healthy never-used uterus, I could identify with much of what they said because we are all lacking children. We all deal with insensitive comments, feel left out at family gatherings, and grieve the children we might have had, but suddenly it came at me with big flashing lights: I had a choice. They did not.
What do you think about this? How is it different being childless due to infertility and being childless because you chose a person who doesn’t want kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you missed any or all of the sessions at World Childless Week, you can still watch the recordings at worldchildlessweek.net.
Thank you all for being here.