cupsrunningover

Encouragement for this "run" we call life, because as C. S. Lewis said, "If one could run without getting tired, I don't think one would often want to do anything else".

Unintentional Childlessness: Love the Life You’re With

54 Comments

I found out when I was 15 years old.

It was pretty uneventful honestly- no eggs= no pregnancy= no baby.  I’m not sure you CAN really comprehend what that means at 15, but my #1 passion in life was babies and babysitting and  I had a kind boyfriend (you know the high school one you are absolutely certain is your soul mate and you’ll be married to forever?) who said “I don’t care”, so I immediately thought “No big deal, I’ll just adopt- that seems less painful anyway”.

And honestly, it really wasn’t a “big deal” for the next 17 years.  I continued babysitting-funding much of my high school activities by changing diapers and rocking sweethearts to sleep (JULIE! How are you MARRIED??).  In college and medical school I was busy working and studying and living and while I was ABSOLUTELY OVERJOYED as my sisters and friends started having kids, I can say with all honestly I wasn’t upset by my own lack of childbearing potential.  Then came marriage to a sweet guy who adored me and didn’t blink at forced adoption, followed by residency in Hawaii where we were too busy working (pre 80-hour work week! Sorry I couldn’t resist) and “sunning” and surfing and hiking and playing and living to feel any sense of anything missing in our lives.

Then came DC.  Fellowship for me and deployment #1 for the hubs who was gone for a full 18 months by the time it was all over.  A few weeks after he left, a full-on attack of the most intensive kind began that convinced me there was absolutely no way I could continue and live a full and happy life unless I had a baby- or at least a plan for one- ASAP.  There was much playing into this of course- my age, a large group of amazing friends with A LOT of kiddos, being “alone”, finally having a TEENSY bit of free time that you could imagine having another person to take care of without it sending you into a panic attack, and the new nearness to my sisters and hence 4 of (their eventually to be 7 kids and) my nieces and nephews (as well as double that many “honorary” ones- it’s a Hawaiian thing, being an “auntie”).  Then, in a two week period- SEVENTEEN friends and family announced that they were pregnant.  SEVENTEEN.  (That is one busy week of sending out birthday cards/gifts every year!) I thought I might actually die from the fighting emotions: pain, jealousy, anger, bitterness, joy, shame.  The ones that caused me to sincerely celebrate with them, planning showers and talking names and room colors and all things baby, and to then run home to crawl under the blankets and cry for hours about how intensely unfair life was and how ashamed this all made me feel.  There was certainly no way to share this with Deployed Pete as he was dealing with more pressing issues.  In addition, being a dual military couple in the setting of the insane deployment tempo present  then did not give me any hope that we would be in the same place for the amount of time needed to even BEGIN addressing adoption.   Those were some tough years.

Then deployed Pete became returned Pete and Fellowship Dawn became deployed Dawn- we sort of passed in the night- and another year went by.  On my return came an immediate move cross country (yeah Gig Harbor! We do love you so!), a new job, board exams, post-deployment depression (probably not quite strong enough a word but that’s another topic for another day) and then- Yep- ANOTHER deployment.  This time together, for which I was thankful but let’s just say a tiny trailer in Iraq is not the same as a big house in the US for two people who had lived apart more than together in the last 4 years.  There was not enough room in that trailer for the both of us and all our accumulated demons and it was a tough few months.  Follow that with medical issues and marriage struggles on the return stateside and you are left with two worn-out people and even I could see at that point that “and baby makes 3” would NOT be a happy ending to our particular story.

I remember vividly the day I was standing in the kitchen of our cabin house, talking to my sweet, funny and wise friend Sara (do you remember this Sara?) and came to the conclusion that I truly had a choice.  I could keep fanning the flames of bitterness and anger and injustice and self-pity and shame and deep sadness, or I could just walk away and let them die out.  Don’t get me wrong, that is not INaction- to let them die out….because walking away from that fire is quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  BUT….

IT WORKED.  Really it did.  I don’t mean to say that from that time on a baby’s cry made me shudder or that suddenly a sloppy two-year-old kiss WASN’T the GREATEST thing ever (because truly for all time it IS- right??) or that there weren’t times I had to send a gift to the shower and trust my friend knew my heart was celebrating when my mouth couldn’t.  But suddenly (Renee’ is always telling me to watch for those “and suddenly” moments) the pain wasn’t so INTENSE, so pervading, so stop-what-you-are-doing-and-run inducing.  It was just a little part of me, sort of like my big feet, or the way my ears aren’t pierced exactly in the same place- a part of who I am that doesn’t have to define me but has shaped me, and I like to think- finally- for the better.

(An aside: please don’t feel sorry for me.  Please don’t feel the need to make me or yourself feel better by sending me all the miracle stories and “don’t give up” pleas because it will make me feel like you didn’t understand what I was saying above.  For me, in this life right now, I am truly, honestly at peace with the fact that we don’t have children.  If tomorrow, God decides to change that- I’ll write a post about it after I’ve had time to digest).

Embracing (or at least learning to live with) unintentional childlessness has actually made the last few years, while some of the hardest of my life for many reasons, also some of the best.  Laid-back Pete and I have always loved to travel, and we’ve been able to embrace that in a whole new way!  We’re able to make last minute plans to go last-minute places, or full-on detailed plans to go amazing places, that just truly aren’t possible (emotionally, logistically or financially) when you have diapers, bottles, teething, tantrums and naptimes to think about.  Almost weekly, someone tells me in some form of communication “I love your life!  I wish I had your life!” and I try to remember to say “Me too!”. Also, because of my life’s path, I am often able to listen and understand when others are going through their own infertility struggles with an ear that you just can’t have if you haven’t “been there”.  I don’t know if it’s helped anyone that much, but I do know that sometimes just being allowed to share our story- with no worries about judgment or unhelpful “helpful” advice is priceless.

I was thinking about all of these things last week and what the “point” of sharing them would be while  spending some relaxing, un-scheduled time at “home” in MS (b/c MS will ALWAYS be home)  with my sweet sister and her three (CRAZY) precious boys.  Preston (the typical oldest) INSISTS on setting his alarm to get up SUPER early so he won’t miss the bus (I SOOO get it!) and drinking coffee with him and Aiden (me coffee, they milk) as they ate breakfast and brushed teeth were some memories you just can’t ever take away from me.  And then this:

Bus Waiting

Bus Waiting

Ya’ll.  Tears- streaming tears.  I sat there thinking “THIS”- “This is what I am missing by not having kids”.  All these precious moments that are nothing moments until you look and see that they are EVERYTHING moments.  I was tempted to think “I love your life; I want your life” (and the old me would have gone down that path) but the new me said “Oh what a sweet life you have sister of mine and Oh how blessed I am to be a part of it”.

So as I’m thinking about all these things, I’m thinking what if we all learn to “Love the Life You’re With”?  (Can you read that without singing it?).  What if, when tempted to think “Why me” or “Why her” or “Why them” or any number of other thoughts based on why what you have isn’t good enough or how you’d do things differently if only you had the chance, what if we thought “I’m so happy for them” and “I am so grateful for what I DO have even in spite of (or sometimes BECAUSE of) what I DON’T have?  What if we did that?  What if when they (you) tell me “I love your life!” in that wistful way you do, I said “Me too!” and “Don’t you just love yours too though?!  You get to clean up baby milk-puke! I mean seriously!  How precious is that?  Just ask your grandmother how you’ll be LONGING to do that in about 10 years from now!”

What if we did that?  What if we loved OUR life AND celebrated the lives of those around us as well.  What if we give each other eyes to see our lives in a different way when we can’t see anything worth celebrating with our own blurred retinas?  What if we help each other read back over the stories of our lives and see how AMAZING they are?  What would that “look” like?  Wanna give it a try?  I would simply LOVE to hear your thoughts on this, or stories of how you are doing this??

OK- that’s all for now!  I’ve gotta go pack for a cruise- NO children allowed!

54 thoughts on “Unintentional Childlessness: Love the Life You’re With

  1. Best ever! Btw, I do love your life. Thanks for sharing it with so many of us.

  2. Thanks, Dawn! Great post.

  3. I absolutely loved this, Dawn. I distinctly remember visiting my (then single) sister who lived downtown Seattle. I was married with a young child and lived in the burbs. I came back from my visit and was telling her how much I enjoyed myself and how I envied the freedom of her single life in the city..and she remarked how she had been thinking about how wonderful it must be to have a stable family life out in the suburbs! :) It really is a wonderful feeling to be truly happy for someone without falling into the jealousy/comparison trap that so many of us do. It’s taken me a long time to get there and something I still continue to work on. I’ve adopted a new motto that I really love..”Enjoy the journey”…I interpret it to mean: No matter what life throws at me, I’m going to do my best to find joy/humor/laughter in it and just “enjoy the journey”. :)

    Bon voyage , and I will try not to envy you if you post pictures of your fabulous cruise! ;)

    • Susan- YES- that- exactly. I think the truth is that this ISN’T a lesson that is easily learned- or quickly- and you probably usually see it from the other side…but the hard/painful lessons are always the ones that “stick”. I love that- “enjoy the journey”! Happy we are “journeying” together these days! :)

      • I just realized that it’s actually “Find joy in the journey” (it’s inscribed on a necklace I bought and love). Still works the same, but has a stronger meaning for me because it is reminding me to search/find/look for the joy/humor/laughter even when it isn’t obvious or easy to see.

        However, you are definitely an OBVIOUS “joy” I have found on my running journey! :)

      • Dang. The kind words just never stop. Thank you :) I totally agree every word in that phrase matters- “find” implies we do have to look for it, “joy” implies it’s always there somewhere, “in” implies during, not before or after and “the journey” puts the focus on the now not the future. Love. Sounds like a necklace someone we know should make :)

  4. Dawn….there are certain things you say here that are so very poignant.

    “…came to the conclusion that I truly had a choice. I could keep fanning the flames of bitterness and anger and injustice and self-pity and shame and deep sadness, or I could just walk away and let them die out. Don’t get me wrong, that is not INaction- to let them die out….because walking away from that fire is quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. ” AND
    “What if we loved OUR life AND celebrated the lives of those around us as well. What if we give each other eyes to see our lives in a different way when we can’t see anything worth celebrating with our own blurred retinas? What if we help each other read back over the stories of our lives and see how AMAZING they are? ”

    As you know, I was diagnosed with Stage IV carcinoid cancer/NETs in May 2012 and was pretty distraught. Admittedly, there are times that I have had my own brand of pity party. But I did not die within a year, as was first told to me by the “lunatic…er, lieutenant colonel.” I am still kicking and actually doing rather well, considering there is no cure for this disease. I suspect I will be be around for awhile yet, just to stir things up in my style of instigation.

    But the reality is that whatever cards any of us are dealt in life, there are some things that we cannot change. We can choose to respond, react, think differently, etc. That’s it. That’s what we can do. Or we can choose to sit and wallow in whatever misery we suffer and drag the others in our life down with us until we are standing alone. We have to do the hard thing of “walking away from that fire” to find life. I get it.

    Nobody is going to stand by and watch me die from anything. That is what people walk away from. And if they walk away from me, it’s because of their relationship to what I am facing and how they “live it” in their own minds.

    So here’s to LIVING with (fill-in-the-blank)!!!! Because I’m here to tell you that I am LIVING with stage IV cancer.

    Much love to you. Hope to see you sometime soon for coffee. :) I’m now in Kitsap County.

    • Oh- wow! It’s so good to “hear” from you again Coral- I was just thinking of you the other day actually! Thanks for sharing this- so encouraging and inspiring to me! I love that you are “stirring things up” :) I would LOVE to meet you for coffee! Tell me when and where :)

  5. Preston rides the bus?!

    Seriously, I LOVE this blog. !!!

  6. Good grief, Dawn! You made me cry… at work! The words you write always hit very, very close to home… this one? It hit HOME. Square on. Bullseye. My heart!

    Also, my ears are pierced in slightly different spots, because of course. Goes well with big feet.

    • Sorry! But now we are even! (well if I make you cry a few more times we’ll be even). And of COURSE your ears. I’m wondering if we should have our parents produce the original copies of our birth certificates?

  7. “What if we loved OUR life AND celebrated the lives of those around us as well.”

    Oh, yes, this. I love this post. So much.

  8. I love this…and YOU! If ever I wanted to trade with ANYONE…it’d only be for a short while cause I’m SURE, SO.TOTALLY.SURE I’d want MY life back ASAP. Love you for reminding me of this. 😘

    • Oh Edie- you are one of the people who inspires me the most with the way you LOVE YOUR LIFE BIG AND OUT LOUD AND WITH BIG TEXAS LOVE and as an amazing example to your kids and the rest of us. Love you!

  9. Dawn I am so happy that you can love your life. Too many of us let our envy of what others have cloud our own perception of what we have right in front of us. I know I personally am grateful for the nuturing I have recieved from you. You are always there with a word of sincere encouragement and support! Way to go using those gifts God gave you! (& like Susan I will do my best not to be envious of your cruise, but that’s gonna be hard) :)

  10. How awesome is this?! I’ve always tried to be this sort of gal, alas I do fail a lot at it. I guess it’s a “try, try again” type of thing…gratitude for the actual vs envy of the imagined (ya know?). My issues weren’t infertility rather feelings of inadequacy or insecurity or ________. I always THOUGHT I was an extremely confident person, and in many ways I certainly am (see what I did right there LOL). I thought I always drove myself so hard because I wanted to accomplish “great things” in life and “make something of myself”. I’ve come to realize, while those things are absolutely true, I also wanted to escape what I thought the world thought I was…always looking to prove wrong someone’s opinion of me or my life. I was well into my 30s before I even realized I never took the time to appreciate what had or had actually accomplished and who I was and allow that to be enough. I’ve always been really happy when people shared good news. I loved when my friends were in love. I got psyched when one of them landed that job they were praying for or got a big promotion or raise. Those emotions were never my issue. My issue was leaving those celebratory conversations and not feeling happy for myself in whatever space I was in. I never compared their accomplishments to mine or was jealous. I’ve always believed that was silly. I just never thought any of my accomplishments would last or matter in the end…like the Grinch that stole Christmas was going to come and rip it all away in the middle of the night or something. I’ve finally realized (at almost the age of 40!) that even if the Grinch came and whiped out all of my so-called accomplishments and no one thought I was smart, funny, or pretty (though…I must admit I’d miss the funny LOL), I’ve had a fabulous, fantastic life. I also realized I’m making memories daily and could easily reinvent the picture I have of myself in my head as many times as I’d like.

    I’ve finally reached contentment…I can’t wait for 40!

    • Wow- Ann- thanks so much for sharing this perspective- so interesting how we all have different struggles- I love all you said here and I love that 40 seems to be the age of “getting” things! I am SO excited about 40! (And I do remember you as very confident!) Thanks for reading and encouraging ME :)

  11. Very powerful and authentic post, Dawn. Thanks so much for your courage and
    sharing it with us. :)

  12. This was wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  13. I feel sad that I didn’t know this. I’m sorry that I was so unaware of what you were going through. But more than feeling sad, what I feel when I read this is something that you don’t get to feel much in life. I feel like I’m “watching” someone do what she was created to do, and there’s not much more beautiful than that in this life. I think the first time that it ever happened to me was when I was watching someone dance at a recital, and I thought, “She was created to do that, and she is glorifying God with everything that He made her to be right now, and I get to see it and it’s amazing”. The last time I felt that was when I read this. I’m so excited because you are doing what so many never do with this one life we are given. I love you.

  14. So happy to be a part of your life, during all the switch-back-and-forth craziness of multiple deployments that you mentioned above. I wish we could have spent more time together than we did, but grateful nonetheless. I love this, and I am so thankful for you.

    • Cousin Leah! It was so nice to see these words- you guys were such a stable and meaningful part of my life those few short years we crossed paths and I am thankful that we are family twice over :) so no matter what, I’ll see you again! Hopefully in LA :) Thanks for writing and reading! Hugs to your clan!

  15. Thank you, Dawn, for sharing this very personal perspective on how life has been. I did not know of this until fairly recently. Your post was the last thing I read before going to bed and I found myself lying awake contemplating life, parenting, and the luck of the draw. Here it is 2:30am and I finally got back up to read it again and share some thoughts.
    Robert Frost’s poem comes to mind- The Road Not Taken. How would my life be if I had made different choices? Would I be happier? Always longing for something else? None of us can know- some would say there is no point even contemplating that. But examining our lives with a clear eye I think helps us be happier in the present- to understand how we are the way we are, and what we can do to be happy even if things don’t go as planned.
    Here in the Northeast everyone is moaning constantly about all the snow we have had. Yesterday I posted some pictures of the snow to sort of remind myself to LOOK AT THE SNOW! Isn’t it beautiful? So yeah, I will rejoice when it’s spring, but meanwhile, don’t forget to appreciate the beauty right in front of me now.
    After Julia was born I read an essay by someone saying that once you have a child you are never free- the great joy it brings is bought at a price- the lifelong terror that something terrible will happen to this child. Here I am 27 years later and Julia is on the other side of the planet, Wes is a grown man still figuring things out, and the “parenting” part is done but the worrying? Never. Also I spent 9 years caring for a boy crippled and eventually killed by muscular dystrophy, and I saw the toll it took on his family. And of course working in the ICU always shows me how tenuous life and health can be. It does take conscious thought and yes, a decision made over and over that TODAY is a good day and I will appreciate the good fortune I have now, whatever may come tomorrow. And share the joy and sorrow of those we love- because that really is what matters in the end.
    A bit disjointed maybe but it’s 3am. Goodnight!

    • Oh no! Now I’m causing tears at work AND insomnia :) thank you so much for sharing this- I always love when you write b/c it helps me know you better :) I love that poem too, and have never thought of it as making me think about things from THAT perspective- great thoughts. I think you are SO right, sometimes we are SO busy with regrets and what-ifs that we don’t actually play them out to see they aren’t necessarily all we thought they would be….or that we are “just as” happy/good/fulfilled where we are. I don’t know that parent feeling, but I got a little glimpse of it when watching Preston get on the bus; “what if the bus slips and hits him? what if he’s cold? what if someone is mean and won’t let him sit with them? what if he forgets his lunch? what if he gets sick? what if someone snatches him away? etc etc?” Clearly you can’t live like that, although I suspect some parents do, but I truly felt like GOd gave me a little insight that morning…..I love your thought about the medical field and how this plays into things as well. I am so inspired by all you do and have done for your patients and families- I could not be more appreciative of nursing as a career. Love you!

  16. Oh, how I adore you. I so appreciate your honesty and vulnerability.

    It’s so easy to think one type of life is “better” than another…than the one we have. My heart breaks for the work it took to let that broader perspective settle into your heart, yet I’m thankful for your ability to share it and model it for the rest of us. You are SO amazing. Honored to call you friend. :)

    • Aww- Christine- so grateful for those sweet words! To think, one little conversation on an airplane is all it takes to be forever friends :) Thanks for your encouragement- I love reading your writing and watching what you are doing! Hugs!

  17. WOW! Soooo, I never click and read long posts. I turned 50 yesterday. So wise for your years! Happiness is a journey to be found. You are an incredicle writer ;)

    • Well I feel VERY honored b/c that was a long one :) thanks so much for taking the time to reply! I remember sitting beside you in the Reading Room at TAMC soaking up your kindness and wisdom like it was yesterday! Hope you are well :)

  18. Loved this post! Couldn’t help but make the connection with Isaiah 54:
    “Sing, childless woman, you who have never given birth. Raise a joyful shout, you who have never gone through labor. Enlarge your house. You are going to need a bigger place; don’t underestimate the amount of room that you’ll need. So build, build, build. (Write, write, write!) You will increase in every direction to fill the world. Your offspring (Your written ‘progeny’.) will take over the nations…”

    • Wow. I can’t even tell you how awesome that word is- there are a million little ideas in there that are so exactly confirming some things I’ve been thinking about….I’ve never read these verses and thought about them in this way. Thank you so much for taking the time to send that!

  19. My sister has no kids and no husband, and is loving life through day to day smiles, checks and balances. Its easy to see and say its a whole bunch greener on your or my side of the rope, cause I have 3 kids. I have gray hair, I eat way to much chocolate, and I love my life too!!! I think there is a reason for everything! I think that playing the blame game is way to easy! :) Thank you for your in depth focuses! I know I have never met you….but I appreciate you! Now, go get on that Cruise AND appreciate everything LIFE has to offer! :)

  20. Pingback: The Inconvenient Truth About Raising Teens (or Reality Bites)

  21. Such a great post, Dawn. Love reading what you write. Love watching you grow and succeed as a writer. So happy our lives crossed when they did. Always think of you fondly at Easter and am glad we celebrated together that year.

    • Julie-That just made me tear up- thank you so much for LETTING me be a part of your Easter- that was a good memory. Thanks for reading and writing and always checking in- love that we have remained friends despite the lack of geographical nearness or daily conversations- one of the best parts of the Army is all those friendships don’t you think? Hugs friend! See you soon!! (Find me a race to run with your family there :)

  22. This was a great read, Dawn! Thanks for helping me see that I do love my life and wouldn’t change it for anything. By the way, yours seems pretty cool, too!

    • Rossie-
      Great to hear from you! Thanks for reading and commenting- I DO love my life and am so glad you love yours. I love seeing you love your life and wife and kids outloud on facebook! (It’s good for some things :)

  23. Hi Dawn,

    I keep thinking about your story and how our paths are similar with a twist at the end.

    My husband and I tried for 7 years to have a child. A foster boy we loved was not destined to stay with us. We couldn’t get pregnant for years and then I had 3 miscarriages. I remember so well when we decided to let it go and move on over lunch in Poulsbo. It was an absolutely liberating moment even as I looked in pain at the children in the restaurant around us. I have no doubt that my life would have been spectacular if we hadn’t gotten pregnant one more time and had our boy.

    So I traded the world tripping for baby milk-puke clean up. And it’s fabulous. And so is your world tripping. And so are so many other people’s lives all around me. I think the greatest gift in your words is helping us your readers to let go of our grasping for what we don’t have and celebrate together instead.

    Thank you for your words. They matter.

  24. I’ll always remember that time. Physical pain, emotional pain were a part of it. Through your graceful interactions with our friends and nature, I could see your strength even if you couldn’t. I knew you’d be okay. I am strengthened by that time and the amazing, strong woman you have become!

  25. This is my favorite post yet – especially the process it took for your to come to this place. As we are trying to have kids I feel like people sometimes don’t want to share any of their good kid news with us because they think it will make us feel bad. It doesn’t! You remind me express more often the love and joy I get from seeing my friends/family prosper, their children flourish, have adventures and overcome obstacles. Thanks for this!

    • Kara- I know exactly what you mean and I do think sometimes people feel that way- I love that you want to take the initiative to make THEM feel less worried about US! Love that! See you so soon!!

  26. Dawn,
    You rock….so thankful for the times we had to talk on the van in Guatemala :) Have fun on your cruise to______?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 207 other followers