No matter what anyone has said to you (including your own inner critic) your story is important. The dreams you had to become a parent: the struggles of trying to conceive, the sadness of not meeting a partner, the life choices and circumstances that restricted or denied your opportunities. The harsh reality of knowing you’d never be a parent; the anger, anguish, confusion and grief.
These are the stories we need to share and yours are the words that need to be heard.
I'm a firm believer in the power of telling our stories (if only to each other, at least at first). Meetings of the pregnancy loss support group that dh & I used to facilitate would always begin by going around the room and having each person introduce themselves and tell us their story, what brought them to us. Sometimes (especially at first), the stories would be long, detailed and filled with tears. Over time, new details would emerge that we hadn't heard before. And we'd learn to develop a shortened "Reader's Digest" version of our story, which left more time for the longer stories (plus, over time, the "regulars" would all get to know each other and each others' stories pretty well, so it wasn't quite as necessary or important to go through all the details for the umpteenth time).
Telling and retelling our stories to each other like this, week after week, in a supportive environment among others who had similar stories to tell, was good practice for handling those inevitable innocent questions and awkward encounters that all of us experience, sooner or later. In training sessions, we also learned that telling our stories, or some version of them -- over and over and over again -- helps us to process what happened.
I think the same principles apply to our stories about our childlessness. Our stories matter, because they're OURS, and because by telling them, we light the way for other childless women looking for support and comfort. Our stories remind each other that we are not alone.
This entire blog, of course, is my story :) (or at least parts of/a version of it) and it has evolved, along with my story, over the past 14 years. A barebones, thumbnail version of my story can be found in the "About me" Blogger profile near the top of this page on the right-hand side (or in the link here). You can find a slightly longer version in the "About me" page (found just under the title/header of this blog). The "Timeline" page (link right beside the "About me" link) also gives you an idea of how my story unfolded and some of the significant dates & events.
If you're really interested in all the gory details (and some of them ARE a bit gory, emotionally if not physically), I wrote a series of posts tagged "1998 memories" in which I relived my one doomed pregnancy, 10 years after the fact. I did the same thing with "The Treatment Diaries," all about our foray into infertility treatments, 10 years after we abandoned them and resigned ourselves to permanent childlessness.
I also wrote a few posts shortly after I started this blog, where I told a condensed version of my story (up to that time):
- Blogtivism: My Story (& how mandated coverage could have helped) (November 2007)
- How we made "the decision" (November 2007)
If you have some difficulty telling your story to others (and I know I have!) -- especially to parents who might not understand/appreciate the subtleties of involuntary childlessness -- take comfort in the words of Brene Brown -- who emphasizes the importance of telling our stories -- but also this:
Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: "Who has earned the right to hear my story?" If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.
Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and two live webinars. The first, "Telling Our Stories: From Hurting to Healing" with childless therapists Sarah Roberts and Judy Graham, will likely have ended by the time most of you read this; but the second, "Releasing Our Grief Through the Power of Words," begins at 2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America. Both webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the Day One page for anyone who cannot make the live event.