- I feel like if I can’t have a child, I just want to die.
- i struggle daily with just wishing my life would end.
- I want to go to sleep and never wake up... What’s the purpose of living.
- Why do I have to wake up and face the day when i really don’t want to continue like this.
- [I] am glad I found this blog, I found it because I googled infertility and suicide... I feel I am a waste of breath, I too want to just not wake up in the morning. If my parents weren’t alive I would find a way to make sure I didn’t wake up to face another day of this.
Personally (and very happily), I don't know of anyone who killed themselves over infertility and/or childlessness. I have, however, read of a such few cases -- often in developing countries where women's lives are generally not highly valued, and childless women's lives even less so. :( And I've encountered a few women in infertility/pregnancy loss circles, both online & "real life," who have been deeply depressed and expressed the feeling that life without children was not worth living -- which really worried me (enough that I talked to our support organization's main office about my concerns a few times). :(
It's not entirely surprising that some women would feel a childless life is not worth living. Think about the messages we are constantly bombarded with, from family, friends, marketers, politicians, which glorify pregnancy, babies, motherhood, "family values." Our society in the western world is perhaps not quite as chauvinistic or overtly pronatalist as it is in those developing countries I mentioned -- but the pressure (subtle and not-so-subtle) for women to have children is definitely (still) there. Those who deviate from the norm -- by choice or circumstance -- are objects of curiosity and concern, pity and paternalism, sometimes even derision and scorn. Young women here are encouraged to seek higher education and build careers -- but if they reach a certain age without finding a husband/partner and then producing a couple of adorable children, you'd better believe they will hear about it. Yes, parents complain that they don't receive enough practical support for the difficult and valuable task of raising children -- and perhaps rightly so -- but they still benefit -- in ways I don't think many (if not most) imagine or appreciate -- from social approval of parenthood, and a society that has been structured around the traditional family model. It's only when you're on the outside looking in that you begin to realize just how much our society revolves around parents and kids -- and how much childless/free people (particularly women) are ignored and devalued.
I know what it's like to live without the children I (like most women) assumed I would have. This year marks 20 years since the stillbirth of our daughter, and 20 years since I went looking for -- and finding -- support, first for pregnancy loss, and later still for surviving permanent involuntary childlessness. I tried to offer as much support as I could in return. I am definitely NOT a professional -- but my husband & I spent 10 years facilitating a pregnancy loss support group (which included many women & men who were also dealing with infertility issues), and I've spent 10 years blogging here about life after pregnancy loss & infertility -- the good, the bad, and the in-between. I have never come close to killing myself -- but I struggled with awful anxiety attacks, post-infertility treatment. So I've been through a lot myself -- and I've heard a lot of stories from others, too.
Deep down, I always felt that I could have a good life without children -- because I already did, up to the point we started trying to conceive. I grew up proudly feminist, and I knew that I was more than my uterus -- that my life had value, beyond any children that I managed to produce (or didn't produce).
But damn, some days it was really hard to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life, if I wasn't going to be a mother. And society certainly doesn't make it easy for us. It's a lonely place to be in, when you're the only one of your peers who doesn't have kids, while friends and family members pop out baby after baby, with what seems to be very little thought or effort. Plus, the pain of involuntarily childlessness is a taboo subject -- and it can be difficult to find family members and friends who truly understand or can empathize with what we're going through.
Happily, though, you do NOT have to do this alone. It is much, MUCH easier to find women in the same or similar situations -- both online & in "real life" -- than it was when I left treatment 17 years ago, or even when I started blogging 10 years ago. If you scroll down the sidebar on the right-hand side of this page, you will find my blogrolls -- three of them, including one listing my favourite blogs about pregnancy loss, infertility & adoption; one for blogs that deal specifically with childlessness-not-by-choice; and one for some thoughtful blogs I read & like about living childfree by choice. I've also listed some online communities, message boards, and other resources that I've found helpful. such as Life Without Baby and Gateway Women.
And sometimes, when you're really struggling, it's a good idea to call in the professionals. Yes, it can be expensive, but there are many counsellors who work on a sliding scale/pay what you can afford basis, and there are some companies that offer mental health counselling through their employee assistance programs (both options that I benefited from personally). There are a growing number of counsellors who specialize in helping women & couples who are dealing with grief, pregnancy loss, infertility and childlessness issues. I saw one such counsellor myself a couple of times -- but I was also lucky enough to see a couple of other professionals at different points of my journey who weren't necessarily experienced in those particular issues, but who were nevertheless sympathetic and helpful. I've heard a couple of horror stories from friends about some spectacularly unhelpful counsellors, supposedly professionals, who Just Did Not Get It. Please don't give up if this happens to you! Sometimes you have to try a couple of times before you find someone you "click" with.
There is life without children -- a life that's worth living. It might take a while, but things do get better. Eventually!
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I had this post fully written and ready to post -- and then I saw this post by Andrea Manning on Still Mothers (a blog for living childless after loss): When It Becomes Too Much.
I don't know who Andrea is referring to here, but my heart sank as I read her words. Please read, leave a comment, discuss on your blogs and among your friends. Let's bring this issue out into the open, and let others who might be suffering in silence know that we understand, that we care, and that they are not alone. :(