What I want you to know about our decision to live childfree after infertility

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Brooke.

My husband and I have an atypical infertility story. We started trying for our first child when we’d been married for 6 months, and we kept it a secret until almost a year later, when it became apparent something wasn’t right. I went to my OB/gyn and scheduled all the (sometimes painful) testing done. The results were devastating. We are part of the approximately 20% of couples that have combined issues. 

Three weeks after the first results came back, we sat in a reproductive endocrinologist’s office while he told us that if we stayed firm in our previously discussed decision to not pursue IVF, our chances of conception were about 3%. Ever. Not in a cycle (a healthy couple has a 20% chance in a cycle), but ever. Intrauterine insemination was an option if we could increase my husband’s sperm quantity by 10-fold. We researched, my husband saw a urologist, he took supplements. It got worse. I didn’t even tell my closest confidants in the infertility world about all of it. We also found out there was more to it. We were heart-broken. We chose something most couples wouldn’t. We chose to walk away from infertility treatment before we’d even tried it. 

We made our decision for a multitude of reasons. Choosing a childfree lifestyle felt more right than dragging our marriage and our finances and our emotions and our bodies and our families through treatment that may never work. We chose to save our sanity, accept and deal with the grief now rather than later. We chose to be a family of two to save ourselves. We don’t judge couples who choose differently – we chose what was best for us. 

What I want you to know about our decision is that it isn’t always easy. It still hurts sometimes. I miss trying to have a baby for many reasons. I hate when people imply that we “gave up,” especially when it’s in the context of thinking that now I’ll get pregnant. That’s like salt in the wound, because it minimizes our experience and assumes that the “stop thinking about it and you’ll get pregnant” cliché is true. While we didn’t come to this decision lightly, we came to it together and agreeably, more so than I could have ever imagined. Comments have been made to me implying that I’m doing my husband wrong by not bearing his children. What I want you to know is that that’s insulting. I don’t divulge our diagnoses to most people, but I will tell you that making the assumption that it’s my fault makes us angry.

Know that this will stay with us our entire lifetime. Right now, we struggle with friends and siblings having babies. As we age, we’ll mourn the experiences we’re not living first-hand: the first day of kindergarten, high school, sports victories, prom, graduations, marriage, grandchildren. I even actually am sad I won’t have to give the birds and the bees talk (because, OH, would I have so much to add). We’ve never seen Frozen and we’d feel silly going to Legoland. Sure, we don’t have to worry about a teenage daughter dating, but I worry about what happens when one of us passes and the other is left alone.

What I want you to know is that we just want to be treated with love. Include us in your activities with your kids. We want to be special people in our friend’s children’s live. We’ll decide if it’s too much for us. We will never not appreciate being included or invited. Be respectful. Asking us prying questions in public or in an insensitive manner is violating and intrusive. We reserve the right to keep some things private, as you would do in your marriage. Asking with compassion and care will yield a different response.

Mostly, what we want you to know is that we are a family. We are loving, imperfect, and joyful. Just like your family.

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