Dealing With The Question: “Do You Have Children?”

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“Do you have children?” is one of the most painful questions you can ask someone facing involuntary childlessness, yet, I am asked this question by strangers and new people that I meet pretty much on a weekly basis. Whilst I appreciate this question can be an innocent conversation starter, for those dealing with not being able to have children, it can often strike up a range of painful feelings, emotions and is a deeply personal question.

For years, I dreaded these four words and was constantly seeking a perfect response, asking other childless people “how do I respond when people ask me if I have children?”

Over the years, I have come to realise that there is no easy and simple answer. Early on in my fertility journey, I would brush the question aside and say, “no, not yet”, which was accepted by people when we had only been married a couple of years. As the time went on and we started fertility investigations and treatment, the questions started to get more intrusive and people began asking “don’t you want children?” and “why don’t you JUST adopt?” My heart would sink and I’d say, “We have 2 cats” and try to change the subject.

After many conversations with people,  I now recognise that our response to this question is largely determined by how we’re feeling at that particular moment and may vary depending on who is asking and the circumstances we are in.

So how can we deal with and prepare for the question?

  • Remember, you don’t have to justify yourself. For years, I felt the need to explain our situation to people, who in most cases, I didn’t even know. This is a deeply personal issue which you shouldn’t be forced to talk about. Changing the subject or deflecting the question back on the person can help ease the awkward feelings.
  • Consider setting boundaries about what you feel comfortable discussing. Depending where you are in your journey, you may decide to be open about your situation. Just remember that this is your story and to only talk about it if you want to. It’s amazing how many people are in the same situation and can relate, but be prepared as people like to tell us about miracle stories and about people that they know who got pregnant when they stopped trying.
  • Don’t worry about appearing rude or direct. For years, I felt the need to protect people from feeling awkward or bad when I said we couldn’t have children. Now that I am further along in the journey, I say “unfortunately not” or “no, we can’t have them”. Our tone of voice plays an important part in how we communicate so it’s worth practicing our responses.
  • Give yourself space. If you’re feeling particularly anxious about attending an event or meeting new people for the first time, give yourself permission to find a quiet space and take a few deep breaths and re-engage when you feel ready.

Finally, as much as we can try to prepare ourselves for the “Do you have children?” question, it will still often prompt uncomfortable feelings. Remember to be kind yourself and say what feels right for you at that particular moment in time… there is no textbook answer.

Kelly Da Silva

EFT/NLP Practitioner and Founder of The Dovecote.org

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The ‘Invisible Loss’ of Involuntary Childlessness

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Whilst we don’t appear to have lost anything in a physical sense, many people facing involuntary childlessness suffer a deep sense of ‘loss and grief’ that is invisible to most people around us. Realising that you are not going to have the family you’ve always hoped and dreamed of can feel very isolating. For me, in particular, the grief was overwhelming and intense.

Facing the reality of not being able to have children is heart-breaking, whether trying to conceive a child naturally, using methods of assisted conception (IVF) or arriving at childlessness by another means.

What people don’t see – Invisible losses

The loss associated with involuntary childlessness sits more deeply than simply not being a Mother or Father, since we also lose the:

  • chance and hope of ever having our own biological family
  • celebrations of key milestones with our babies; the first day of school, passing their driving test or getting married
  • chance to see our children play alongside our nieces and nephews
  • experience of sharing holidays & our knowledge
  • opportunity to experience being grandparents (although I appreciate this is not a given)

When does grief strike?

For me, realising that I wasn’t going to be a Mother didn’t just hit me one day. Due to the nature of my fertility investigations and treatment, the reality of our situation was more of a ‘gradual process’. With each failed cycle and loss, I began to recognise that our chances of becoming parents were fading in front of our eyes. With our last IVF cycle treatment failing, all hope was lost. Deciding to stop treatment after 8 years of trying for a baby was extremely difficult and very painful. It is hard to put into words the emotional and physical torment your body, mind and spirit goes through with each failed IVF cycle, allowing yourself the permission to grieve ‘your way’ is essential.

It took time and plenty of ‘grief-work’ for the cloud to lift, but steadily, I began to feel that I could experience joy, hope and happiness again.

Dealing with the grief

  1. Recognising and owning our feelings of hopelessness, anger, disbelief, and bitterness is essential in the first stage of the grieving process. Know that it is ‘OK’ to have a bad day, week, month …! Once we are able to do this, it is the beginning of the healing process.
  2.  Realising that grief is good and tears are a sign that healing is taking place. Communicate with people you trust, a counsellor or on online community support groups – with people who understand what you’re going through.
  3. Give yourself time to do what you need to do. Whether that is taking time out to be in nature, staying in bed or continuing to go to work if it offers you a distraction.
  4. Be kind to yourself: If you’ve had fertility treatment, your body will need time to recover. It’s easy to feel negative towards our bodies for somehow failing us, but nurturing ourselves and our inner child is important.
  5. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) helped deal with the all-consuming sadness I felt. By releasing any energy blockages associated with the treatment, infertility and loss I began to feel more accepting of the situation.

Overall, for me, the psychological loss of ‘a life I thought I was going to have’ was the most significant ‘invisible loss’ associated with involuntary childlessness. There are no rules where grief is concerned, your journey is unique. Grief never goes away completely, but as time goes on, the pain lessens and you’re able to live with your situation.

Kelly Da Silva

EFT/NLP Practitioner and Founder of The Dovecote.org

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Facebook page: The Dovecote Facebook Page

FREE Private Facebook Community Page: The Dovecote Community

Dealing with Involuntary Childlessness Blog

Published: The ‘Invisible Loss’ of Involuntary Childlessness http://huff.to/1LKkLpN via @HuffPoLifestyle