7 Ways to Make Peace With Infertility
They say it’s easier to learn how to find peace when you call yourself “childfree” instead of “childless.” I say female and male infertility is painful no matter what label you give it. Painful, but not permanently disabling…unless we give it that power.
These tips for finding peace whether you’re childfree or childless – or even if you’re struggling with signs of depression because you can’t get pregnant – will help with finding peace with infertility in women. They’re inspired by a reader who asked for help dealing with both her family and her own struggle to accept infertility.
“We are one of those married couples who is childless,” says Eva. “Every time we have family gatherings, our family always tells us that being childless is very difficult because when we reach old age, no one will take care of us. These words really make me sad. I always tell them that its not our fault that we can’t have children. Infertility and being childless is destined to us. It’s God’s will. How can I stop my family from making me feel sad, and from pitying myself because we’re childless?”
When people start to feel sorry for me because my husband and I can’t have children, I immediately interrupt them. I tell them that we’ve accepted our infertility and we’ve decided not to adopt or foster children. We’re happy as a childless couple, and we’ve found peace and joy in our lives.
Another reader asked for help staying positive and fighting feelings of depression through the journey towards possible infertility as a couple.
“My husband and I have been trying to conceive for about 9 years with no luck,” says Bella in response to my blog post How to Be Happy When You Can’t Have Kids. “We’ve been together for 12 years and I’ll be 41 soon. I didn’t expect that it would take this long to conceive, so there was no rush to have a baby. Now I feel like it is our time. Not having children has allowed us to go on vacation a lot and enjoy time together, but we are both ready for the next stage in our life which for us is to have children. I don’t want to be childless. I’m at the point where I feel defeated. Life and infertility in women is unfair but I’m fighting these feelings and trying to stay positive.”
Finding peace in infertility isn’t about trying to stay positive…it’s about truly believing and trusting that your life is unfolding the way it’s meant to. This – for me – requires faith and trust in God.
Bella asked for help being patient and staying optimistic. I’ll take it one step further and give her tips for finding peace as a childless or childfree couple! Infertility in women – and of course male infertility – isn’t fair. It’s heartbreaking and even devastating.
7 Ideas for Finding Peace in Infertility
Infertility is painful for two different types of reasons:
- Internal reasons – many infertile couples want to have kids, and can’t. Like me and my husband.
- External reasons – such as Eva’s family continuing to ask her who will take care of her when she’s elderly and infirm.
Taken together, these reasons for infertility in women can be overwhelming. They can ruin emotional and spiritual health, cause family rifts, and even devastate a marriage. That’s the bad news about coping with infertility as a childless couple.
But wait, there’s good news! You aren’t helpless – you don’t have to be at the mercy of your emotions or your family’s opinions about infertility. You can go beyond calling yourself childless or childfree…you can actually start finding peace with infertility and perhaps even Blossoming in your life!
It may not be easy, but it is possible. I did it. My friend Lesley in the UK not only found inner peace, but she actually has a coaching business. She helps women through infertility – I interviewed her in my post How to Be Happy Without Kids – Inspiration From Lesley.
And that, my friends, is my first tip for finding inner peace when you’re dealing with infertility as a woman…
1. Connect with childless or childfree women who are joyful and peaceful
If you surround yourself with families – especially families who are very child-oriented – you’ll struggle to find peace. You CAN find peace as a childless woman or childfree couple even surrounded by families, but it will be more of an uphill struggle. Until their kids cause serious problems or heartache. Then you’ll be secretly glad you’re childfree.
We coped with male infertility, but we didn’t meet other couples who were struggling with the same problems. This would be one of the best tips on finding inner peace as an infertile couple: connect with other couples who are dealing with the same thing — and who aren’t depressed or devastated by their childless life.
2. Question your family’s assumptions about having children
Eva’s family keeps asking her who will take care of her when she’s old. The faulty assumption of that perspective is that grown children take care of their elderly parents! This is not true. I think Eva may be from a culture that revers family connections more than mine (I live in Canada, and we North Americans are notoriously independent and perhaps even selfish. Generally speaking).
Having children – procreating – so you have a safety net in your old age is not only selfish, it’s a flawed insurance plan. What if your children are sickly themselves, and can’t take care of you because of their own health issues? What if they’re lazy and don’t have money or housing or resources to care for you? And imagine if your children were so selfish and ambitious they choose to live in a different country when you’re elderly. Maybe they’ll let you live with them…but then you’d have to relocate to a whole new country!
3. Don’t argue with your family’s views on childlessness
You may disagree with your family’s perspective. But, if you’re serious about finding peace in infertility, then you can’t argue with them. Arguments never bring inner or outer peace, do they?
Accept your family’s perspective. You are a childless or childfree couple, and you may not have anyone to care for you in your old age. It’s possible. But it’s not your destiny. Infertility in women may be “destiny”, but unhappiness isn’t.
4. Decide if you’re “childless” or “childfree”
Some psychologists believe that labels affect our feelings and behavior. The reasoning is that if you call yourself “childfree”, then you feel more positive and happy because the word “free” indicates that you escape a prison of some sort. But if you call yourself “childless” you are lacking something integral to your life.
And maybe those psychologist are right. Maybe the first tip on finding peace in infertility should be “call yourself childfree, not childless.” Maybe if you focus on the benefits of being childfree versus the pain of being childless, you’ll find peace.
5. Don’t lie to yourself about being childless or childfree
The “childfree versus childless” labels don’t matter to me. Personally, as a “survivor” of my husband’s male infertility, I don’t feel much different if I call myself childless or childfree. Finding peace in infertility doesn’t rely on labels…unless it DOES rely on labels! If you feel happier and more peaceful thinking of yourself as childfree, then call yourself childfree. Coping with infertility is about finding what works for you as a woman.
I actually think of myself as childless because we didn’t choose to not have kids. Calling myself childfree seems like I’m lying to myself.
6. Consider different perspectives on living with infertility
Research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reveals that while some childfree people are devastated about infertility in women, others are content. They find fulfillment through other avenues, such as leisure or career pursuits.
“Rather than assume that women without children are missing something, society should benefit from valuing a variety of paths for adult women to have satisfying lives,” says sociologist Julia McQuillan in Child-free women feel intense pressure to have kids, but rarely stress over it. “Listening to a broad spectrum of American women about the degree of importance of motherhood in their lives and the meanings of not having children is reshaping how we think about opportunities for meaningful adult femininity. Just as reproductive options have increased, both for limiting fertility and overcoming fertility barriers, we are learning what is devastating for some women is a relief for other women.”
7. Build a strong relationship with your husband
Whether you’re coping with male fertility problems or infertility in women, your marriage will be affected. Sometimes it causes unspoken resentment, feelings of shame, feelings of inadequacy, sexual pressure, and tension.
Also, women cope with infertility in different ways than men do. Some women want to talk about it, while some men withdraw. How do you go about finding peace in infertility when your husband isn’t dealing responding the way you are? You learn about different methods of coping with infertility in men and women – and you learn what “finding peace” means to you and your husband.
Help Finding Peace in Infertility
Grieving the Child I Never Knew: A Devotional for Comfort in the Loss of Your Unborn or Newly Born Child was written by Kathe Wunnenberg, who knows the deep anguish of losing a child. She knows the anticipation of expecting your child’s birth, and then grieving a miscarriage, tubal pregnancy, stillbirth, or early infant death.
No words on earth can ease your loss, but knowing you are not alone can help with finding peace in your grief. There is strength and encouragement in the wisdom of others who have been there and found that God’s comfort is real.
Empty Womb, Aching Heart: Hope and Help for Those Struggling With Infertility by Marlo Schalesky is a collection of short stories based on the experiences of real men and women who struggled with finding peace in infertility. Each story explores a slightly different aspect of infertility, but all have a strong Christian foundation. Stories from a man’s perspective include a husband whose low sperm count (male infertility) caused their childlessness, and a man who just can’t understand his wife’s painful response to infertility in women.
If you’re struggling to find peace with being childless or childfree, you’ll find this book encouraging and comforting. The stories in Empty Womb, Aching Heart end on a hopeful note because the men and women learned new methods of coping and finding peace.
Questions for you
How has your relationship with God changed since you discovered that you’ll be living as a childless or childfree couple?
What are two possible sources of finding peace in infertility that are available to you right now?
I welcome your thoughts on finding peace in infertility. While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of female infertility or being a childless or childfree couple. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.