Childfree living - Life without children
from the book How to Have a Baby:
by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, MD and Dr. Anjali Malpani, MD.
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Choosing not to have children at all is an option which you can select - to
live childfree. Remember, childfree living is a choice you can make - choosing
not to have children isn't the same as having childlessness thrust upon you.
You may find that coming to terms with your childlessness gives you the
ability to take control of your own life again. Infertility often means living
in a state of suspended animation - waiting and waiting forever through tests
and treatments for a baby. If you choose to live childfree, you can get on with
living again. Plans can be made to explore the endless possibilities of career,
travel, recreation, hobbies and togetherness as a couple when previously all the
uncertainty made this impossible. When you are chasing the dream of a baby, it
is easy to forget that life has the potential for many other dreams and
It is crucial, however, for both partners, should they choose the childfree
alternative, to feel they can happily fill their lives with work and other
interests. If the husband has a successful career but the wife has little to
replace the parenting function, unhappy consequences are likely.
One of the biggest fears people express when considering a childfree life is
that they will regret this decision in their older years and end up being lonely
and miserable. In India, children are often a form of social security for old
age. However, remember that children are not an insurance policy against
loneliness in old age - they can also create problems for their parents! People
also worry that when they die, they will have nothing to leave behind. The truth
is that children are not the only ones who remember you, nor are they the only
means of establishing everlasting memory.
Remember, there can be real advantages to life without children: more
personal freedom, more time to spend on your own interests, and more emotional
energy to invest in your emotional relationships. Start enjoying your time with
your spouse more - remember the early heady days of your marriage before you
were striving for a child? Try to recapture those magic moments again.
A new lifestyle may be difficult to think about and many people advise that
you try to do many things that interest you to give yourself a chance to spend
some of your pent-up needs - the need to be needed and the need to do something.
It's a matter of balance. The answer to wanting one thing exclusively is to be
involved in many things - to spread yourself around. Taking a holiday to mark
the end of treatment and the beginning of a new lifestyle can be very helpful
and allows time to relax and assess the situation.
Acceptance or resolution of infertility doesn't mean putting all desire to
have children into the past and forgetting about it. Infertility, your
experiences and thoughts will always be a part of you and will be remembered
with mixed emotions, including sadness, regret and frustration, over the years.
Acceptance is more an acknowledgement that your hopes weren't to be and that you
have to make some readjustments. It is not something you can do suddenly. You
gradually come to this point, maybe over the course of your infertility tests
and treatments or maybe only when treatment has finished.
The way in which people cope with childlessness will depend on many factors,
but remember that:
- There is no "right" way of coping with childlessness. Each
person's way of coping will depend on their own experiences and emotions and
has to suit that individual.
- You have to give yourself time.
- There will be times when it is easier to manage than at others, and your
level of coping will fluctuate. There are bound to be moments of doubt and
questioning - what if...?
- Denying that it is hurting doesn't help. The more you express your
feelings in words, tears, writing down your thoughts or whatever, the easier
it will seem.
- You may feel angry because the thought of childlessness might be so hard
to contemplate. This might be directed toward your partner, yourself, your
doctor. Recognise that this is a start to acknowledging your feelings.
- Try not to apportion blame - there is no one to blame
- Others have survived this crises and gone on to lead happy and contented
Even as you get older, you may still find that other people treat you as
"odd " or different" because you have no children. You have to
accept this - and learn that you need not conform to others' norms to lead a
Creating a new identity without children is an important part of asserting
control over your infertility. This involves trying to think beyond children and
deciding what you want for yourself. The only effective way to cope with
childlessness is to build up your self-esteem which may have been battered by
the experience of infertility. Creating a new identity does not mean abandoning
your reasons for wanting a child. Just as those reasons shaped your infertility
experience, so they affect the form that your resolution takes. For example, you
may choose to spend time with a children's organisation as a volunteer.
Taking an interest in other people's children on a regular basis may also be
helpful. When you were a child, remember how you longed to see that special
auntie or uncle? Enjoy the children around you - use your energies for a child
that exists.Another useful outlet for the longing to nurture is to keep pets. A
lovable and furry pet such as a dog or cat are most popular, because they can
give love back, but infertile couples report pleasure in almost anything alive -
from fish to flowers to gardens.
The passage of time heals - but it can't be hurried. Time brings a sense of
perspective or the "larger view of life" for those who have had tunnel
vision focused on infertility for a number of years.
Soul searching can be helpful - and try answering these questions together -
- Why do you want a child?
- Why would you not want to have a child?
- Think of the time before you tried for a baby. What made you happy? What
did you do with your time? What did you look forward to?
- What are your other dreams and ambitions besides having a child?
Remember, that the value of, and reward from, a firm resolution are what you
make of it. If you select a child-free life, and then treat it as a second-rate
existence, that's exactly what it will become. But if you invest it with all
your interests, pleasures, energies and talents, this lifestyle can be creative
fun, delightful and filled with accomplishment. Such a lifestyle may not be for
everybody, but it may be just right for you!
by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, MD and Dr. Anjali Malpani, MD.
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