This weekend marks a very special "anniversary" in my personal history -- the day I consider to be the true beginning of my childless/free life. Of course, I've lived without children my entire life (aside from the six months I was pregnant in 1998) -- but July 18th was a special day, an initial milestone marking the beginning, or at least the earliest stage, of my journey down the road less travelled. (I'll be otherwise occupied on July 18th, so I thought I'd blog about it early!)
It was the summer of 2001. Our third & final injectable/IUI cycle had failed in late May: we had reached the previously agreed-upon end of the fertility treatment road, & were embarking on the new & scary path of permanent childless/free living. In mid-June, I began having a series of frightening, debilitating anxiety attacks. I went to my family dr, was prescribed some Ativan, and endured a battery of tests (at my insistence) to satisfy myself that I hadn't had a heart attack, as I had initially feared. We went back to see the infertility counsellor we'd seen earlier for some guidance on this new path we were taking, & started getting ready for a much-needed family holiday on the Pacific Coast.
As I had when our daughter was stillborn in 1998, I began searching the Internet for resources -- something, ANYTHING, that would tell me I wasn't alone in facing this scary situation.
And I wasn't. Blogs hadn't been invented yet (or if they were, they weren't very well known), but I found a recently created message board that seemed custom-made for women like me. Women who had hoped to have children but, for a variety of reasons, hadn't. Some were like me, with a history of lost pregnancies and failed infertility treatments. Some were married to men who had families with previous partners & didn't want more children. Some were still hoping for a miracle, but trying on childfree living for size.
I made my first post on the board on June 18, 2001. I immediately felt accepted and understood. I began to look forward to logging on every day & finding out what everyone was doing and how everyone was feeling. It was a virtual support group. We got to know each other by posting "Two for Tuesday," "Wednesday woes & woohoos" and a "Friday Five." I found a few (very few) other boards for women in my situation (some listed in the sidebar of this blog), but most of them were not very active, and the bonds among the members not as strong as the ones I had formed with these women.
In the spring of 2003, the site underwent an "upgrade." Suddenly, I couldn't access the board anymore. PANIC!!! I had e-mail addresses for a few of the girls, & one day, I received an invitation: one of the members had created a private Yahoo group where we could reconnect. Eight of us eventually gathered over there and picked up the conversation where we had left off before we had been so rudely interrupted. : )
Eventually, I was able to access the old board again. But things were never quite the same there after that. There were many people we just never heard from again. A few of us "oldtimers" hung around to answer questions from newcomers. While the number of active posters slowed considerably, our threads continued to receive lots of views, indicating we had a lot of lurkers.
Last year in June, the hosting site shut the board down because of a lack of activity. The archived board is still there (although not, sadly, the posts from its earliest days -- so I can't link to my original post from 2001), but you can no longer post or respond to posts there, & it is not listed on the main site index of message boards. I blogged about the board closing here.
Only four or five of us still post on the Yahoo group now, not quite as often as we used to in the early days, when childless living was still a new & scary thing. But there is a bond and a common history we share that I treasure enormously. I've met two of these women in real life & it was simultaneously a weird & wonderful thing, to have someone step off the computer screen and into your arms for a hug. We've joked that that when we grow old & grey & widowed, without kids to "take care" of us, we'll move into a house together like the Golden Girls and take care of each other. (Or maybe we're not joking.)
Girls (I know some of you read this blog), I've never met most of you, but I can't imagine what the last eight years would have been like without all of you to vent to, cry with, laugh with and celebrate with. Thank you, thank you, thank you. To the extent that I have "accepted" my childless/free life, you all deserve much of the credit. I couldn't have done it without you. : )