Open Letter From Us to YouJamie

Hello Friends and Family!

You are probably here because you have someone you love (or like a whole lot) who is childless.

Maybe she just found out and you are struggling to reach and comfort her, or maybe she’s been childless for a while and your relationship has suffered because you really “don’t know what to say or do” around her.

Well, we’re here to help!  We imagined we had our family members, friends, church friends, work friends, and even strangers captive in a room listening, and have come up with some suggestions of what we would wish for and need from you to help ease the way.  We feel empowered to say this without hesitation (which in real life is easier said than done) and without judgement – from you or us.

We know we are a minority (although there are more of us than you realize).  We know that most of you have families and you can’t imagine how we could be “okay” with never having children.  But, we also know that it is very difficult for anyone outside of the experience to understand the heartache, anger, sadness, devastation, pain, hope, healing, and strength that got us to this point.

WE NEED YOU!  Your support, love, and acceptance means more than you can ever know.

  • Please refrain from comments about how nice it must be to go on a holiday, have a clean house, wear a size 2, go to school, finish a to-do list, achieve a goal, practice a talent, drive something other than a mini-van, exercise, go out to dinner, wear dry-clean only clothes, have money etc. because “you don’t have kids”, as if any or all these activities are incompatible with bearing children.  Don’t assume our lives are blissful and easy without children – we all have our challenges. We’re happy to share ours and hear about yours– but not to be justified solely by kids or no kids.
  • Please never tell me what I “should” be doing. We are well aware of the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.
  • Feel free to ask if a couple has children- this is part of polite socializing. But if the answer is none, don’t EVER follow with “Well, why not?” or “What are you waiting for?” or “When do you plan on starting your family?”  You never know what is going on behind closed doors and the pain that question might invoke.  Besides which, it is absolutely none of your business, and to think otherwise is the height of ignorance and insensitivity.
  • Please don’t say, “You don’t know how it is, because you don’t have kids.”  We may not have birthed children, but may have extensive knowledge and experience with children (including more years of schooling, research, and hands-on work than our friends and loved ones have been parents, in some cases!)  While we would (hopefully!) never presume to tell you how to parent your children, asking an opinion or advice from a childless woman can provide some unique insight from a different perspective.
  • Just as we would never expect you to apologize for the joy of having children in your life, don’t expect us to apologize for sleeping through the night, going away for the weekend, traveling abroad, white carpets, clothing or furniture, reading all afternoon, or a frivolous shoe collection.  We are allowed to enjoy the perks of the hand life has dealt us.
  • Please never, NEVER say, “Have you thought about adopting??”  Of COURSE we have!!!  Don’t assume adoption is a cure for childlessness.  Many of us have broken our bank accounts and our hearts pursuing adoption.  It isn’t that easy.  Comments such as “After you adopt you’ll have your own!” are less than helpful, and imply that couples who successfully adopt still fall short of the mark.  Maybe just let us bring up the adoption subject if we need to.
  • Please invite us to your family and life events (its soooo hurtful to not be included!) but please understand if we can’t bring ourselves to participate in a particular activity.  We don’t want to be rude or hurt your feelings, but even though we get really good at pasting on smiles when our hearts are being crushed, there will be times that we just can’t pull it off.  This includes (but is definitely not limited to) baby showers, baby blessings, birthday parties, shopping, and school events.
  • Please don’t equate a lack of faith = childlessness or righteousness = children.  Being childless is not always a choice (although sometimes it is, and that is okay).  Infertility is a disease.  We live in a mortal world with mortal bodies and that means there are times they will fail us, in spite of faith and fasting and prayer and blessings.
  • Please don’t be offended if we don’t stick around very long when conversations are dominated by anecdotes of pregnancy, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, sleeping habits, toilet training, etc.  We have little to contribute and get even less out of it.  It doesn’t help to point out how lucky we are to avoid the stresses of above. Some of us are very okay with missing out on those things, but others aren’t quite there yet (or may never be) and it is rubbing salt in a fresh wound.
  • Please don’t be surprised or hurt if we don’t lavish affections on your baby or children the way you think we should– not everyone loves your child as much as you do and sometimes that expectation can bruise feelings all around.  Fussing over a baby or children may not be conducive to the stage of healing and acceptance we are in at that particular time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them or you, because we do!
  • Please don’t assume that on a family vacation or get together that we are dying for the opportunity to step in and take over kid duty while you relax.  Let us suggest it or ASK what works for us to do with them, and when.  Sorry, but you don’t get to go on vacation from your kids once the “aunties” arrive!
  • Please be considerate of what you say in a gospel setting.  Seemingly innocent words such “We know our children chose us as their parents in the pre-existence” are devastating to a woman who already feels like there is something wrong with her, let alone that no spirits wanted her for a mother. (And yes, we know logically how it all fits into the doctrine but it doesn’t help get through that RS class or testimony meeting!)
  • Please don’t feel like you need to fix the situation, or even assume that the situation is one that needs to be fixed!  Be comfortable with our childlessness – we are looking for a friend, not a doctor.  If you are uncertain about what would be helpful to say or do, please ask :)  And just listening is always good!
  • Childlessness has stages of grief, just like losing a loved one.  It is a process and it takes time to come to terms with.  Please don’t assume because we don’t have kids and aren’t pursuing IVF or adoption that we are over it.  We’re never completely over it.  There will always be moments when that pain and grief comes raging back.
  • We often (though wrongly!) carry guilt over our inability to create fathers, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Please, try and avoid comments reminding us that something we can’t control causes pain to others, or deprives them of anticipated joy.  And please, please, don’t speak as if children are required for us to be a family.
  • Please know that we would have (and probably have) given almost anything to have children, including: money, time, heart, bodies, sanity, tears, etc.  We really aren’t different … and certainly not broken.
  • Please don’t offer unsolicited advice about how to become pregnant, or tell us the story of your sister’s friend’s daughter who had a “miracle baby”.  We know this happens, but we are coming to terms and making our peace with being childless, and are no longer pursuing children – even miracle babies.
  • Once we have made it clear that we are no longer trying to conceive and are moving on with life, please don’t persist with “But don’t you hope you’ll get pregnant??” or “But you never know when a miracle may happen!” or “But you would be such a great mother!”  What we hope for is to feel loved for who we are right now, and supported in decisions that have been made with much soul-searching, prayer, and discussion with the one person whose opinion matters (that would be dear husband!)

To sum it up – We want to feel loved and accepted for who we are.  Please just think before you offer advice, and try to understand why we do the things we do.

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One Comment

  1. March 25, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    So well put. It is so hard for those around us to understand without having experienced being childless. We were considered “infertile” for a very long time and I guess we still are. We waited nearly ten years before we were able to adopt two amazing boys. Even with being an adoptive mother I still have times when I feel anger and sadness at not being able to “bare” children. I hope I never forget the pain and other feelings associated with being childless so that I can always be able to sympathize with those who are currently going thru this. Thanks for the well put words and the great reminder that we are not alone.