Let the new shit begin

There’s something oppressive about New Year, and all these exhortations to become some new version of ourself. I mean, if I had free choice to select which time of the year to mark as ‘New Year’, one that felt like a promising time for us all to ‘start afresh’ it wouldn’t be NOW for goodness sake!

For many of us who are childless not by choice, we’ve just survived the longest and trickiest holiday season there is. It started on 31st October with Halloween and has been careering downhill, picking up speed as it’s snowballed through Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving, Sinterklass and whatever other fresh hell your culture has cooked up for your delectation, before landing SPLAT in our faces at Christmas… Followed shortly by the ‘hurrah! another year I don’t have children‘ celebrations of New Year’s Eve. Sheesh.

Personally, when I look back to those years when I was in the depths of my childless grief, I think having survived the previous year was something worth celebrating: another year of ‘helpful advice’ from my friends, family (and complete strangers); another year of zero invitations to anything other than a dental check up; another year of wondering how the hell I was going to live out the rest of my life with absolutely no enthusiasm for anything other than cake.

It would have helped if I’d known the door to hell’s basement had a name: ‘grief’. I had no idea, and neither did Dr Google, Dr Amazon, therapists or doctors. It wasn’t until my second year post my ‘OK, I’m childless’ moment that I realised at a weekend seminar on bereavement for my psychotherapy training  that I was grieving. Finding this out was a huge relief as it meant two things to me immediately:

  1. I’m not going mad.
  2. One day, this will be over. Grief ends. I have no idea how, but apparently it does. I hope I last that long.

Dear Reader – you’ve been with me since then and it does end, sort of. But ‘end’ is too neat a word for it, because really it’s not that grief ends but that we are changed by grief. I guess if anything, part of us ‘ends’. The old us. The one that had pinned her hopes, dreams, fantasies, bank balance, health, sanity and lord knows what else on the alter of motherhood. She ends, but she doesn’t go quietly or elegantly, oh no, and certainly for me it felt like my grief had to burn my life down in order for me to become this new version of myself; the Jody for whom childlessness is another part of the story of who I am – not THE story of who I am.

Our culture tells us that grief is shameful and that we need to put a brave face on things and ‘move on’. I know that we’d all do that in a heartbeat if it were possible! It isn’t.

You're not broken and there's nothing wrong with you that needs fixing. You're grieving

So this January, take a moment to give yourself the credit you’re due for getting through last year. And if you don’t have enough people in your life who get that (or no one, as is so often the case, as it was for me), maybe the only resolution you might need is perhaps to have the courage to connect with some others who do. Come out of the cold and share your stories with us in the Gateway Women private online community. It’s not on Facebook. And we have cake.

30 Comments on Let the new shit begin

  1. Hello, I am new to posting on this forum andI have been reading all of the comments which have given me some comfort. Albeit, I know not for long. I believed I was getting to a place of acceptance of not being a mother and just having moments of despair but the past few weeks I feel I have catipulted right back to the initial realisation and pain. I can totally resonate with Phyll (posted on 6th Jan) as I feel really angry about a certain celebrity in her 40’s suddenly announcing her pregnancy and also about someone at work who is older but having her first child after vehemently stating over the years that she never wanted children. I am looking at all pregnant women with a yearning to be them, something I thought I had moved on from. I feel let down and I am thinking so much about the miscarriages I had and thinking about how our life would have been different if the pregnancies had gone full term. I am imagining if I could just turn back time & change all the decisions I have made, as if it is an option!! And just causing myself more angst and upset… this really is a hard journey!

    • OMG Allison!!, I am virtually in the same position, and I have struggled through that same situation with a 40 plus woman that I work closely with. She “accidently” fell pregnant at the age of 42, that was 5 years ago and now all I ever hear about is how deliriously happy she is with her “little girl”. It’s torture, plus I also have to deal with the 20 somethings at work who seem to be all announcing their “baby joy”…….
      In my 15 years of “childlessness” I have made one striking observation especially with relatives who now have teenagers and young adults. They all seem to be going through the “empty nest syndrome”, where the young sons and daughters are breaking away from them and wanting to start their own lives. I have seen how much they are struggling, one cousin , a single mother, whose daughter had become her best friend, is so desperate not to let go, that she is moving to London where her daughter has decided to study ( and possibly trying to break the ties).
      I remember in the early days when I was friends with a woman who had just married at 40, and was adamant that she and the husband DID NOT want kids EVER, then one day I noticed that she had quite a big stomach covered by a huge cardigan. I knew straight away she was pregnant, which subsequently she didnt announce until she was about 7 months. This also unbeleivably happened with another friend. I remember being so devastated that I had to see my therapist immediately. And other times standing in the queue at a supermarket seeing an actress who I idolised and had said that she and her partner were really happy with their animals and careers to ever have children , on the front cover of a womans mag with the headline ” BLAH BLAHS BABY JOY. i BOUGHT THE MAG, GOT IT HOME AND IN MY RAGE RIPPED IT TO PIECES. After 15 years, Im now 55 it still affects me BUT only half as much as it did, and I can honestly say that the overwhelming grief , rage and jealousy only lasts for a day or two, and I ‘m not “Consumed” by it as I used to be.
      It happens to me when I least expect it, but I always think to myself those beautiful babies and gorgeous toddlers will all grow up and be adults some day, and the mothers will all go through their own grieving Hope this helps a bit xxxxxxxx

    • Hello Allison. I too am new to this forum. I know exactly what you mean . It is said hindsight is always 20/20 . Nearly every single day I find myself looking back to see where I went wrong and what is it that my husband or I could have don’t differently. There are no answers , and there is no end to grief I suppose. There is a friend on FB whose posts I have blocked because she succeeded with ART where I did not. I can’t stand seeing all the baby pictures she keeps posting. It helps being here and being able to express my real emotions before those who are dealing with the same. It is a life long journey ahead of us dear Allison, and from the comments I have been reading, it appears to me that holding each other’s hands may make it just a bit easier.

      • Allison, Phyll, and Bhavna, thank you sooo much for your honesty.
        I find it difficult to admit to my on/off deep profound envy of those who’ve given birth. I want to be a selfless, happy-for-everyone-else kind of person, so I feel very guilty about my darker emotions; but I am human after all, and I’m not sure I can help them.

        My struggles with envy began when I was a child! Some wealthier neighbours over the road had the chance to go to a posh private girls’ school, which I longed to attend; but I was not given the option, and had to slum it out at the local co-ed comp! I used to see them in their gorgeous uniforms and so on, and could but look on with envy. My envy since, as one by one my friends and family members have had children felt all too familiar, and very similar. With the best will in the world, it just is very painful & difficult to see others have the things we long/longed for, and were denied – whatever that thing is.

        Funnily enough, I’m less inclined to feel envy of women who had their first baby in their 40s (that may change) as those stories give me hope; and if they too have been childless for years, they’d have empathy for childless people. I am more inclined to envy those who became parents young, as that’s what I wanted. I knew from a very tender age that I wanted my first baby before 25, and several more before 30! I’m now 44. I feel I should have a 20-year-old, and an 18-year-old by now, just for starters.

        Weird how life can turn out so spectacularly differently from the way we intended. How much can happen outside our control. The loss of personal agency can be anxiety making.

        Good to hear Phyll that those emotions no longer consume you. For me it’s very off & on. Sometimes I am sweetness & light, and feel genuinely happy for those more blessed than me, and grateful for the other blessings I have. Other times (I can’t identify what sets it off) I’m completely taken over by the green-eyed monster, and have a huge chip on my shoulder. It’s awful when that happens, and I’m not proud of it. Reading your comments, and seeing how common it seems to be, takes the edge off my guilt somewhat, so I’m very grateful! Thank you. Maybe one day we’ll all have made our peace with the hand of cards life has dealt us… xxx

  2. Thank you Jody. I didn’t know how to embrace the new year but now I would celebrate my survival of last year. It is my second year since I have accepted me being childless. I was not even given a chance to try for a baby. I was unheard. As you say my grief is gonna end one day.

    • Hi Meriem – I think the disenfranchised grief around not even getting a chance to try for a baby adds another layer of invisibility to our pain. It’s so hard. I’m glad you’re here with us. Hugs, Jody x

  3. Here I was thinking that I had created enough distance and detachment from my childlessness, that I had been in therapy for a number of years and worked through it and had finally come to a place of acceptance…WRONG!!!!
    All it took to be catapulted back into that place of darkness was two experiences this week. The first was lunch with an old friend who had initially been diagnosed with infertility and then boom, out of the blue, not only had she managed to adopt a baby, but fell pregnant two years later. the ally that I thought I had was now a mother, and catching up this week and hearing her talk about her boys made me feel empty and miserable again.The second incident was one of those unexpected moments that catches you off guard. I was watching Tv flicking between channels, and settled on a benign travel show, when a woman I had read about, an actress who vowed she was never having children was at a resort with a beautiful baby in her arms.As irrational as it may sound I suddenly felt betrayed by this woman and felt a surge of anger at her new found happiness.
    I guess the difference now, compared to 15 years ago when I was first confronted by my childlessness is that i CAN MOVE ON from those experiences a lot faster, and find some equilibrium again. The point is that every now and then the pain rears its ugly head again.

    • Hi Phyll – yes, these ‘griefy moments’ can sneak up to us at anytime. I tend to say I don’t mind griefy moments anymore (even though they can hurt like hell!) because I used to have griefy weeks, months or years! It sounds like in both cases that you feel more alone than you did before? If so, you might enjoy either joining our private online community and then, once you’re a member, you’ll also have access to its sister community “Nomo Tribe” which is for women further along the path of acceptance. We also have free meetups around the world where you can meet other Gateway Women near to you. If there isn’t a meetup near you, let us know and we’ll help you set one up. Hugs, Jody x

  4. Thankyou Jody,

    I sometimes think we share a telepathic link! I work in the mental health field and this is what I find myself saying to the people sometimes who use our service, I feel increasingly alarmed by how so many people have been brainwashed into the psychiatric labels they have been given, where, when you listen to their journey through life and their experiences, this statement totally apply’s. They think they are abnormal and broken and need pills to stop them feeling anything. More of us need to speak out – about our real feelings and our grief. I am so glad you did, do and continue to be authentic, real, genuine self.

    Belinda x

  5. Thank you for your post Jody. I am new to this.For the last four years I too had pinned my “hopes, dreams, fantasies, bank balance, health, sanity and lord knows what else on the alter of motherhood” It was only after my last failed IVF attempt in August 2017 that I accepted that it was not happening for my husband and me. Or wait a minute, did I really accept it? I think not, I am still grieving. I am grieving for the woman I thought I was , the woman I was trying to be and the woman I must now be, slowly but surely….someday. it is doubly hard as I grieve for my husband’s grief too along with mine, for being childless not by choice.

    • I’m so sorry that you are struggling, Bhavna. Grieving the loss of a baby that never was is a difficult journey that it not understood by all. I’m grateful that you found this community to help you through. Sending lots of hugs to you and praying you find some peace this year.

      • Thank you Brandi, for your response. Reading your kind words made me a little teary and it actually physically felt like there is a raw wound in my heart. I guess this reaction is because for the first time ever I have tried to articulate what it feels like instead of trying to pretend that all is well in my world.

        • Dear Bhavna – the pain sounds like grief (heartbreak is a form of grief) and it sounds like it’s really raw. I know that it is only a few months since you realised that your path is to be childlessness not motherhood so I know how outrageous and incomprehensible things must be right now. There are lots of resources on this website to help you (click here to search for all article about ‘grief’) and I’d also REALLY recommend that you join our private online community. so that you can be amongst sisters who really GET what you’re going through. You don’t have to carry this alone dear Bhavna. Hugs, Jody x

        • Bhavna, you are so strong to be your authentic self and talk about your journey, emotions, grief, and loss. Know that you have a community of childless who support you!

  6. Grieving is incredibly important. And you learn big things from it. If it doesn’t happen, you don’t move on. It’s ****ing hard though and can feel so relentless.

  7. I love your writing Jody, you have helped me to find the words to express to people how infertility has made me feel and youve given me the confidence to speak those words with brutal honesty and to find my strong voice when people try to shame, blame and judge me for feeling as I do. For my grieving.

  8. Thank you for this post, Jody. As I process what I want 2018 to look like and try to be gentle with myself that I had a slight slip over Christmas, the reminder that grief never really “ends” was needed. This childless journey that we are on is just that–a journey–with ups and downs, firm footing and slips along the way. But if we just keep moving forward, we will eventually get there…

    • Hi Brandi- a slip up over Christmas is pretty normal. Or before Xmas. Or just after Xmas. Or at some point during this insanely long family-focused holiday season! Thank you for your wonderful blogs in the run up to Christmas and I hope that expressing yourself in this way has helped you. Writing has certainly helped me over the years! Hugs, Jody x

      • Thanks for your kind words about my blogs! Yes, writing has definitely helped me process through many emotions. In fact, I’ll be publishing one about my “slip” tomorrow, and I hope it helps someone. I know it helps me to see the real, raw emotions of others. Shows me that I’m not alone in not being perfect! LOL

  9. Well said Jody glad it’s all over for another year – connecting with other gateway women has been brilliant over the Christmas period a real anchor for me X

    • Debbie – I love the idea of other GW’s being an ‘anchor’ for you over Christmas and I’m so happy for you (and for those other women for whom you have no doubt also been an anchor). Hugs, Jody x

  10. Thank you for this Jody. Yes I agree about the oppressiveness of New Year. In fact this year I decided to not even begin to think of it as a transition, or a new start, as I’m not ready for that; and it would have felt contrived, and stressful. I went to bed early, and had a lovely breakfast and bubbly bath in the morning, and made it a nice day, but not especially special. I think punctuating dates can be very challenging if life’s not going to plan. I prefer to see it as a continual progression, rather than a precise moment for change & resolution/s etc.

    Having said that, I do have a resolution to finally join the Gateway Women private online community this year! I’ve been meaning to for ages, but keep just not getting round to it. But I must and I’m determined that I will!

    Happy continuing journey to one and all! (and happy new year to those of you reading this who prefer convention – that’s fine too!) xx

    • Hi Katie – your New Year sounds LOVELY! And I like the resolution you’ve made and look forward to welcoming you to the intimate, private and confidential space of our private online community. It’s really something very special and I’m so proud of it. It’s helped so many women through their grief over the last 5 years and I hope it will be a huge help for you too. Hugs, Jody x

  11. This was the first New Year in a long time that I didn’t hope that this would be the year that it happened for me. Hope doesn’t go easily so yes I still have the guilty little secret hope that the miracle baby will appear, but this is the first year that I’ve not seriously hoped that it would be. I’m about to be 46 and I’m definitely peri-menopausal so it would be one heck of a miracle. But is does feel a bit unsettling, because if not that..then what? It is a step into the unknown. I have realised over time that having children is not the only way to contribute…and sometimes not having them is actually the more responsible choice. Taking care of the people who are already here might be a worthwhile contribution. That is how I’m trying to go forward, but it feels a bit weird. I agree that it is not easy to get past childlessness and I am not sure yet that it is possible. For now I am accepting that I will have to go with it and accept it as part of who I am, but like you…hopefully not all of who I am.
    Thank you for all your work on Gateway women. It has been an enormous help and made a huge difference to something that is very difficult to accept.
    x

    • Hi Emily – I’m glad to hear that this New Year had a new flavour. An unfamiliar one so it’s bound to feel weird for a while. It took me a couple of years AFTER I’d come through my grief to really accept that I really was OK again, that it wasn’t another ‘blip’ and that I could rebuilt my life on firm internal foundations again. That was 5 years ago now, and my life continues to unfold again, in new and surprising ways. It’s like the ‘pause’ button of grief isn’t on anymore and I can move again. I’m so glad GW has been a help to you – thank you for your appreciation and best wishes for this new year. Hugs, Jody x

    • Thank you so much for your comment Emily, and bless you.
      I’m 44 (not sure how that happened?!) and I relate to much of what you say. In my case it’s been more of a gradual dawning that it’s almost certainly not happening for me, rather than a specific point that I stopped thinking it definitely would happen. But I imagine many of the emotions are very similar. I’m also unsettled by it, even shocked I’d say, as I was so certain I was marked out for motherhood – as in 100% certain! But like you I’m trying to go forward, and to accept the situation, and let some other very beautiful thing (not sure what yet) be born out of my grief, and the many valuable lessons my grief has taught me.
      I reckon we both have some glorious surprises ahead. Take care x

      • Thank you Katie and Jody for your replies. Similar to you Katie, it has been a gradual dawning here too, rather than a specific point. I, too, have feelings of disbelief, that it has come to this and how did I get to this point. For many years I too believed that I would definitely be a mother. I felt really depressed this morning, then I realised that it is the loss asking to be acknowledged and that I need to grieve in order to go forward. I haven’t really because until now I’ve held onto the hope that it would all “come good in the end”…and that of course meant getting pregnant and having a baby.
        I think there are beautiful things to come out of our grief. Humility, that life does not always go as we want it to and compassion and empathy for others who are suffering, because we know what that feels like. When I meet other people who have suffered losses there is a depth and an understanding about them that isn’t so apparent in people who haven’t experienced major loss or disappointment.
        Letting go of what is now a dream is hard, but hopefully it will allow new things to come come into being.
        Emily x

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