Being unable to have children can affect a woman in all sorts of ways. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I felt there was a sense of shame attached to being unable to do something that should be natural. No one ever made me feel shamed, and I didn’t even realise that this was how I felt until recently. But that’s another story….
If you’re the type of woman who has always dreamed of a home and children of your own (and I think most women will relate to this), facing the disappointment of it not happening is heart-breaking. It’s hard to face up to. Maybe some of you have become bitter. Others of you may be pushing it away and burying it deep inside. And I know that some reading this are quietly accepting it.
There is also that awkward silence in a conversation when someone asks: ‘Have you got children?’ and you say: ‘No’. It’s a fairly natural assumption that women or couples of a certain age will have children, and I don’t blame people for asking. What I do blame them for is their awkward response and the fact that, by their awkwardness, they lay all the responsibility on your shoulders to rescue the situation. I used to handle it by saying: ‘No we can’t have children, but I have eight guinea pigs,’ and in chatting about the idiosyncracies of my piggies, the conversation moved on easily. Now that I don’t have guinea pigs, I simply smile and change the subject. Most people appear relieved that the awkwardness is behind us and are happy to continue talking about other things. Others, however, disappear as soon as they can, no matter what I say.
Okay, I’m going to be bluntly honest with you here. In the months following IVF I lost all interest in sex. (I didn’t tell Adrian that and tried to carry on as normal, but he noticed even though he didn’t say anything. I know he noticed because he told me so when I asked him to read this blog post.) There didn’t seem much point in sex if it was never going to result in pregnancy. In the early weeks, having intercourse also brought back difficult emotional memories of the procedures I’d undergone and the psychological and physical pain of miscarrying. Eventually it all became easier, but it took about a year of praying and working through it, for me to recover genuine interest.
Being unable to have children affects not just the couple but also their family. My mum and Adrian’s parents will never have Adrian-and-Mandy grandchildren. Our brothers will never be uncles to our children. Our niece and nephews will never have Adrian-and-Mandy cousins. It took a long time for me to realise the affect our childless state had on our families.
It’s not just about the children we don’t have. I also grieve for the grandchildren we will never have. Right now, it’s not too big of a deal, but I wonder how it will feel when my friends who are my age become grandparents? I suspect a whole new aspect of pain will need to be faced.