Mel at Stirrup Queens, who has always been a great supporter of the childless/free-not-by-choice corner of the ALI community, had a wonderful post today about us -- and how it's important for everyone caught up in the cyclone storm of infertility & loss to remember that procreation & pregnancy & parenting is just one part of your life -- that there are other things in life beyond parenting (really!).
I've been thinking a lot lately about how much our CNBC part of the community has grown and changed and strengthened over the past few years. Partly this was inspired by a recent gathering of several childless-not-by-choice bloggers in Vancouver. Those who attended have already written several great posts about that meetup and what it meant to them to be there, including Pamela, Lisa, Kathleen, Cathy and Sarah (here and here). (I was dying to go, but the rest of my life got in the way -- perhaps someday in the future...!)
Partly it's also because, right now, it's almost exactly 15 years ago (one of those "anniversaries" that seem important because they're divisible by 5, lol) that I was licking my wounds after the failure of my third agreed-upon IUI, recovering from a series of debilitating anxiety attacks that threw me for a (further) loop in the wake of that failure, and wondering what the future held in store for me & dh. (You can read about my fertility treatment journey and the immediate aftermath in the series of posts I wrote in 2010, labelled "The Treatment Diaries.") Neither dh nor I had the appetite (let alone the budget) to continue further fertility treatment -- or to begin the gruelling process of adoption. As I told the infertility counsellor we saw, I knew we could have a good life together with just the two of us -- because we already did! -- but facing the reality of a future without the children we had long assumed would be ours -- in a world gone nuts for baby bumps -- was scary stuff.
Looking back, there was so very little out there in the way of support. Dh & I had been attending a "real life" support group to cope with our daughter's stillbirth; there were a few local infertility support groups, but I understood they were geared towards couples who were still going through treatment, not those who wanted to move on. I had been somewhat hesitant to join an online loss or infertility group, but I knew they were out there and had been lurking on a few for awhile. Maybe there were similar online sites for women like me, who were facing a childless future? (Blogs, at that time, were pretty much non-existent.)
Fortunately, there were. Not many, and even fewer that were very active, but they were out there. Just before we embarked on our family vacation on the Oregon Coast, I found a "childless living" message board on iVillage -- and it was there that I finally found my tribe. :) Sadly, the board no longer exists, but my first post there was July 18, 2001 (I still have a printed copy of it). I consider that post and that date to be the beginning of my journey on this road less travelled, towards acceptance of a life without children. (I've written about the board and the role it played in my journey several times in the past, including here. And I'm hoping to meet up with one of the women I "met" there during my upcoming summer road trip/vacation!)
This fall it will be nine (!) years since I started blogging. (Mel just recently marked the 10-year blogoversary of Stirrup Queens -- go congratulate her, if you haven't already!) At that time, in October 2007, there were very few CNBC-focused blogs on Mel's gargantuan blogroll -- most notably Pamela's original blog, Coming2Terms. Gradually, other voices began to join ours. By 2012, I noted the growing momentum of our segment of the ALI community in a post titled "I am childless, hear me roar." ;)
While the ALI blogosphere has been pretty quiet lately, compared to when I first started blogging, I've noticed that the childless/free part of the community just keeps growing and flourishing. Pamela is still blogging and advocating for infertility survivors at Silent Sorority, and there are now several hubs on the Internet where women without children can gather and find each other, such as Gateway Women and Life Without Baby. Last fall in Cleveland, Karen at The NotMom organized the first-ever conference for women who don't have children, either by chance or by choice. She's planning another for October 2017. And there have been several great new blogs launched in recent months (and while I've been adding them as I find them to my blog reader, I just realized that I badly need to update my blogroll here -- my apologies!).
Do we still have miles to go before we sleep? (Sorry, I think I'm mixing up my Frost metaphors here, lol.) Absolutely. There's no doubt that we are finding our voices; whether the broader community (outside -- and still, sometimes, inside -- the ALI world) is ready to hear those voices and accept our message, I'm not quite so sure.
But just looking at how far we've come over these past 15 years gives me great hope for the future -- for myself, for my fellow CNBC bloggers, and for those who will come after us. :) And of course, the journey is a lot less lonely and a lot more fun when you have company along the way. :)
Thank you for being here for at least part of this 15-year journey.