Home Infertility


Navigating and healing from the aftermath of infertility.

Hope is a skilled seductress. She’ll find your deepest desires and echo them back to you, in a honey-toned voice that melts your insides. She swears she’s a seer. She’s envisioned your future and will whisper in detail the beauty that is about to unfold. She’ll capture your imagination and you’ll find yourself dreaming in vivid color of her promises. She’s enrapturing, all-encompassing. She makes you feel as though you’re the only woman in the room. When you’re together, life feels vibrant, full of possibility, magical.

Hope is a fickle mistress. She makes promises she has no intention of keeping. She’ll woo you until you can see nothing but her, until you are inflamed by desire, then flee the moment another captures her attention; leaving you yearning and unfulfilled. She’s incapable of acknowledging your pain, of witnessing the wreckage she leaves in her wake.

Hope has two sisters. When she leaves, one of them arrives, acting as your companion until she reappears. If you’re lucky, she’ll send Fulfillment. Fulfillment will ensure all the sweet nothings Hope sang to you come to fruition. She has the power to make every daydream, every yearning, every wish, a reality.

But, sometimes Hope sends Despair. Despair forces herself inside you, searching for the places Hope left open. The chambers of your heart that had expanded, holding space for your dream. The light pockets within your soul that were awaiting Fulfillment. She will penetrate every space with a dense, black fog that is infectious and unshakable. She will take up residence and every attempt to evict her will be in vain, because you have become her.

For as long as I can remember now, she’s only sent Despair. It wasn’t always like this. For a while, Hope and I were entangled lovers. In the rare moments she left my side, she sent Fulfillment to comfort and entertain me. Life was blissful. I was in love with Hope. 

Our relationship has become toxic, one-sided. It started when she began leaving each month, sending Despair for weeks at a time before returning. Each time Despair withdrew, she left a filmy residue that lingered and thickened. I begged, pleaded, cried for Hope to send Fulfillment. I told her I wasn’t sure how much more I could endure. She promised the next time would be different. Every time.

I’m afraid of Hope. She is God, for her power to shower you with Fulfillment is equally matched by her ability to take all of you, leaving only a crumbling husk. So I have shut her out. I hide when I hear her call. I lock the door. I try to forget her. 

Without her life is dull, but predictable. No promises means no betrayal. No love means no heartbreak. No longing means no disappointment. Here, I am safe.

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This piece was originally featured on the amazing blog, Boo & Maddie. While the blog is primarily focused on lifestyle and home, the writer is childfree after infertility and has weekly posts dedicated to sharing childfree stories. You can check them out by clicking here.

The conservative church I grew up in shaped my earliest views of motherhood. As a child, I learned that being a mother is the ultimate purpose for women on earth. That motherhood is an eternal concept. That even in heaven, women will spend their eternity birthing ethereal “spirit children”. 

Growing up, I didn’t know many women who weren’t mothers and the few I did know, I pitied. To me, womanhood equaled motherhood. I couldn’t imagine that women could have true joy, meaning, love, and fulfillment without kids.

Matt and I were young when we got married. We were 24 at the time and had no clue what we were getting into. By then, I had distanced myself from the Mormon church, but the beliefs about motherhood stuck with me. So much so, that I didn’t plan to go to college or have a career. My plan was to be a stay-at-home mom. There was no plan b. Neither of us felt ready for a baby though, so we waited. Years passed and I started taking college courses at night for fun. A decade later, I found myself with a master’s degree and an unexpected career.

After almost ten years of marriage, we finally felt ready for a baby. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I started tracking my ovulation, reading pregnancy books, dreaming of baby names, and designing a nursery. My anxiety grew as three months passed, then six, then a year, with no positive test. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened over the next four years.

If you’d like to read more about my infertility journey, you can find it by clicking here.

My life became doctor’s appointments, invasive tests, anxiety, depression, and disappointment. Each month I held a negative pregnancy test with no explanation of why I wasn’t pregnant. Everything changed when my reproductive endocrinologist (RE) told me I had endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a chronic illness where tissue similar to your uterine lining grows in other parts of your body. It affects 1 in 10 women, yet it takes an average of ten years from the onset of symptoms to diagnose. In my case, I had seen dozens of doctors over the past 20 years and every one of them dismissed my pain.

The next few years became a jumble of appointments, medical jargon, and big decisions. In the course of three years, I had three surgeries and a failed IVF cycle. I was getting conflicting advice from my RE and my endometriosis surgeon. I moved toward treatment options that would balance my need for pain relief with my desire to become a mom.

After four years of infertility, I decided I had sacrificed as much as I could to the pursuit of parenthood. I had given so much of my life, health, body, time, relationships, money, mental health, and I was done. I chose to put my health first and decided to have a hysterectomy to improve my quality of life.

I’ve spent the two years making peace with my decision. I’ve tried not to internalize the message from society that my life means less because I am not a mom. Connecting with others who are childless/childfree has helped me shift my perspective.

It’s been strange to work through grief while simultaneously embracing the benefits of a life without kids. For so long Matt and I based life decisions on the assumption that kids were in our future. With that option off the table, we wanted to explore new possibilities.

Last summer, we made some big changes. We left our home in Atlanta and bought a cabin right outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I told Matt I wanted a home that felt like a sanctuary and the cabin is everything I hoped for. It’s tucked away in the mountains on an acre of wooded forest. Here, I’m surrounded by animals, wildflowers, fireflies, and a lively stream. It’s so peaceful and quiet.

I also received a promotion at my job which I’m very proud of. I work for a nonprofit that advocates for better policies around children’s issues. It feels good to know that my work impacts the lives of children around the world. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come in my career considering I never planned on having one.

My promotion also gave us the financial flexibility to allow my husband to follow his dream of starting his own company. After all the love and support he has poured into me these past few years, it’s been amazing to be able to offer him the opportunity to pursue his passion.

Embracing a childfree life has also forced me to redefine my identity and priorities. To explore this, I started this blog focused on designing an unexpectedly childfree life. It’s been therapeutic for me and an amazing way to connect with women in similar circumstances.

I’ve also had more energy and emotion to invest in my relationships. I’m lucky to have such an amazing partner and am grateful for the intimate connection we share. When we were planning to have a kid I was always worried we would lose the almost magical closeness we enjoy. He’s my best friend and I love the life we’ve created together. I appreciate the time I have to focus on him, as well as my relationships with family and friends. I thrive on connections and appreciate that a life without kids allows me to invest in those I love in unique ways. I have time for deep, uninterrupted, conversations. Whoever I’m spending time with has my full attention.

Another childfree perk is the freedom I have to invest my time and energy wherever I choose. I have always been full of passion and curiosity. I love the ability I have to become absorbed in whatever interests me at the moment. It could be a relationship, a conversation, a hobby, writing, reading, exploring, or traveling.  

I’m an extrovert, but over the past few years, I’ve become much more introspective and find I need time alone. Without kids, I can easily find time for this, as well as for self-care. While my health has been better since my last surgery, there is no cure for endometriosis. I appreciate having time to rest when I need it. I also love that my free time is mine. I try to be a good spouse, friend, sister, daughter, and aunt, but at the end of the day, no one is dependent on me to have their needs met.

Some may look at my story and say the term “childfree” doesn’t apply because I tried for a long time to have kids. They would say that “childless” is more fitting. But I don’t want to be defined by what I lack. For me, having a childfree mindset is aspirational. I know women who couldn’t have kids but have created such beautiful lives that they would no longer trade them for parenthood. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet but I know I’m getting closer each month. I love my current life and am enjoying the unique benefits that a life without children offers.

I wish I could tell my younger self that there is nothing here to pity. That womanhood does not equal motherhood. I wish I could tell her not to worry. That her life won’t look how she expected, but it will be full of joy, meaning, love, and fulfillment.

How about you? What do you wish you could tell your younger self? Let me know in the comments!


Infertility Storylines are Hard to Pull Off

pineapple and TV

Photo: Pineapple Supply Co.

Even the best TV portrayals of infertility fall devastatingly short in capturing what it’s like to actually experience it. Real infertility stories are too long, too painful, and include too few miracle babies to keep an audience engaged. 

Let’s say each season represents a year in the life of a character. Tell me if these are scenarios you’d want to continue watching over five seasons (five years): 

  • A woman takes pregnancy tests every month, every one of them is negative.
  • A woman tries for years to have a baby, has multiple miscarriages and never ends up with a baby in arms.
  • Infertility becomes all consuming. Relationships, interests and activities that used to bring joy are gone. Episodes focus on watching the main characters just trying to get through the day.
  • The characters experience depression, grief and anxiety as they watch their dreams crumble. They spend a lot of time not wanting to get out of bed and avoiding social situations.
  • Debt starts to pile up as characters lose their savings to invest in IVF treatments that aren’t successful.

I could go on, but you get the point. A short infertility storyline can be a cheap way to add some juicy drama to a TV show, a true portrayal of infertility can feel cruel, like the writer is relentlessly torturing the character. 

I’d guess it’s a mix of this and lazy, un-researched writing that give us so many predictable and shitty infertility storylines in TV. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for even the worst portrayals because infertility is still so taboo in our society that even a warped reflection is better than nothing. Very few shows take it on at all. 

Interested in reading my infertility story? Read it by clicking here.

What I’d Like to See

I hope infertility plotlines start to become more common and that they include: 

  • Stories that are diverse, unpredictable and well researched. 
  • More avenues to a happy ending. I mean, is it impossible to write a character whose journey doesn’t end with a baby, but they create a beautiful life anyway? 
  • An accurate portrayal of the depth of grief that accompanies infertility. 
  • A realistic timeline that can show how truly life-altering infertility can be. A show that resolves an infertility plotline in just a few episodes is using it as cheap drama.
  • Less unrealistic miracle babies that reinforce stereotypes. Think “randomly got pregnant after we stopped trying” or “a baby that needs adoption just landed in our laps.”

Let’s Take a Look

Below is a list of three shows I’ve watched that include infertility plotlines along with what I liked and didn’t like about how they handled the topic. I’ll be covering another four in a separate post. Some notable ones are missing (like Friends and Grey’s Anatomy) because I haven’t seen them. *Spoiler alert.

This is Us

This is Us - NBC Kate and Toby Infertility Office

Photo: NBC

The basics: Kate and Toby find out they’re pregnant and she’s excited but cautious. Just as she gets comfortable announcing the news to family, she has a miscarriage. Next season, they decide to pursue IVF and the first round ends in…A MIRACLE BABY!

Yays: They go pretty in-depth, giving the storyline episodes over two seasons. This allows some time to show how the miscarriage and infertility changes Kate, Toby and their relationship. They raise awareness about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and some of the complications that can come with IVF. 

The taboo of infertility and the emotional drain of defending your fertility decisions to family are addressed as well. Initially, Kate and Toby try to keep the IVF cycle a secret. Ultimately, they have to respond to reactions from family members including a mom who doesn’t want her to take the medical risks associated with IVF and an adopted brother who is hurt that she is pursuing IVF over adoption. 

Boos: The IVF portion of the storyline is only a few episodes and shows basically nothing. Just the initial meeting with reproductive endocrinologist and the egg retrieval. No HSG, blood draws, ultrasounds, just one or two shots. No mention is made of the financial aspect of IVF or how Kate and Toby are coming up with the dough. For most couples, the $12,000 (average) price tag per cycle would surely come up. 

Even though their RE gives her only a 10% chance of success, she gets pregnant on the first try. I wish they would have carried the infertility line through additional seasons and considered her story not ending with a baby. Kate and Toby have a strong relationship so the writers could easily write them a happy ending without kids. Kate is also just getting to know herself and take risks. She just started a career in singing (which she gives up due to the pregnancy) and went back to finish college in her late 30’s. She is blossoming! I would prefer to see her continue her journey of self-discovery and learning to accept a childfree life than for her to have a baby. I mean, can’t we just have one childfree after infertility character.

Being Mary Jane

Being Mary Jane fertility doctor's office

Photo: BET

The Basics: Mary Jane is single and works as a news anchor in Atlanta, GA. Over the course of many seasons we see her grapple with her fertility. From “stealing” her ex-boyfriends sperm, to   doing an egg freezing cycle as part of a news segment (and hearing on live TV that it didn’t go well), to ultimately pursuing IVF with donor sperm. The series finale ends with a wedding and…a MIRACLE BABY!

Yays: Gabrielle Union (the actress who plays Mary Jane) has been public about her personal struggles with multiple miscarriages and infertility. Maybe that’s why the infertility storyline in Being Mary Jane feels so complex and real. The storyline goes through all five seasons, so they are able to go deep. 

The story is unique and unpredictable. I love the portrayal of Mary Jane as a single woman having to make difficult decisions about her fertility, from freezing her eggs to going through IVF without a partner. The show takes on a lot of difficult issues which can make it uncomfortable to watch at times, due to how authentic it feels. I’m not even mad about the series ending with a baby. The screenwriters earned that baby. 

Boos: Honestly, none. 

Sex in the City

sex and the city charlotte acupuncture

Photo: HBO

The Basics: Charlotte’s lifelong dream is to have a baby. When sex isn’t leading to pregnancy, Charlotte goes through multiple rounds of IVF, gets pregnant, miscarries, tries to adopt, adoption falls through, successfully adopts a daughter, then (surprise!) she naturally has…A MIRACLE BABY!

Yays: There’s a lot to love about how Charlotte’s infertility storyline is handled. Because they kept it going for multiple years, it’s able to show how grief and devastation accumulate over years of trying with no success. They don’t treat IVF or adoption as quick or guaranteed routes to motherhood. They also shows the impact infertility has on relationships. Charlotte has to navigate ambiguous feelings toward her best friend, Miranda, who accidentally gets pregnant. We also see her struggling through baby announcements and showers. We even see her first marriage fall apart when her husband confesses he doesn’t want a child.

Boos: The freaking miracle baby! So after 10 years of infertility, including multiple rounds of IVF, Charlotte just gets pregnant naturally in her early 40’s? Why? An adopted baby isn’t enough? The writers just couldn’t resist that damn miracle baby. This perpetuates the “it will just happen when you relax enough and stop trying” myth. Also, part of why this storyline could be sustained so long is that Charlotte is a side character. I don’t think they could have pulled off the same storyline, over so many years, with a main character. 

How I Met Your Mother

Photo: CBS

The Basics: Robin is happily childfree by choice for seven seasons when she has a pregnancy scare. At the doctor’s office she finds out that not only is she not pregnant, she can’t have children. She then struggles with unexpected feelings of grief over the loss of her fertility. I’m on the fence about including her because she is childfree by choice but since they wrote an episode which includes infertility, I think it’s fair game.

Yays: A female character who is childfree and happy! Yay, more of this please! While infertility is a blip on the radar on this show, I’m fine with it because Robin’s character never wanted or tried for children. She just gets one episode to face ambiguity and grief upon learning she can’t have kids. She doesn’t need more than that. At the end of the episode, we learn that she became “a famous journalist, a successful businesswoman, a world traveler, and briefly a bull fighter…but she was never alone.” The screenwriters gave her a life full of depth, excitement, love, success, meaning and relationships.

Have you seen any of these TV shows? How do you think they did? What other TV shows have you seen that portray infertility?


It’s strange to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Sure, over the past few years I’ve become a little rounder, have a few more wrinkles, a stomach littered with surgery scars. But I’m talking about something deeper. The experience of seeing your reflection and thinking who the hell is that?

This started a few years ago when chronic pain and infertility invaded my life. I’ve always had terrible periods but the pain moved from a few days a month to constant. I was also feeling betrayed by a body that left me with a negative pregnancy test every month. I was surrounded by health and vibrancy. Pregnancy announcements from friends whose bodies so easily complied. Those who could plan travel without having to ensure the dates didn’t align with their period. So breezy, so carefree.

I was in a therapy session when I realized how much anger I had toward my body. I heard myself saying things like: it’s broken, it doesn’t work, I hate how it looks, I hate how it feels, it can’t do the thing it was evolutionarily designed to do, it hurts all the time. That’s when I noticed the word I kept using, “it”.

My body had morphed from being part of me into a separate entity. Some thing I was shackled to that was intent on torturing me. This thing that kept finding new ways to bury me in grief.

Memories of my surgical photos appeared. A uterus covered in fibroids. Endometriosis splattered across my insides. Black cysts filling my ovaries.

And I felt compassion.

Compassion for myself. For my body that’s working so hard, despite disease. A body that allows me to enjoy my hobbies, pursue my passions, touch the ones I love, see the beauty of nature, listen to music, taste amazing food, travel.

I decided to stop being at war with my body. To start seeing it as part of me again. To learn how to feel comfortable and at peace in my skin.

I’m not quite there yet but I am finding ways to learn to love my body again. I thought I’d share a few with you in case this is something you’re struggling with too.

1. Check your negative self-talk.

Replace negative thoughts about your body with messages of love and appreciation. If you find yourself focusing on what your body can’t do, identify five things it allows you to do or does well. Guided meditation can be a great way to help you flip the script. A quick Google search will lead you to free meditations focused on loving your body, some even focus specifically on chronic illness.

2. Listen to what your body needs.

Are you feeling tired? Having a bad pain day? Do what you can to give your body what it’s asking for. Maybe you need more sleep, a long bath, a new heating pad, a day to rest, or to modify your diet. Instead of pushing through pain and fatigue, give your body what it needs to heal.

3. Find ways to pamper your body.

Book a massage or manicure. If funds are tight, find a friend or partner, look up some videos and learn how to give each other a kick-ass massage, free of charge. Have scented bath salts, oils, and candles on hand for relaxing baths. Indulge in your favorite food or dessert. Whatever pampering looks like to you, do that.

4. Reconnect with your sexuality.

Infertility and chronic illness can wreak havoc on your sexuality, and I’m not just talking about sex with someone else. I’m talking about your ability to feel sensual, connected to your sexual energy. If this is something you’ve lost, start identifying ways to reignite that spark.

Buy a new vibrator. Find some good erotica. Buy some sexy underwear or a satin robe. Explore your body. Listen to Prince. Focus on how things feel instead of how you look. Find ways to feel less stress and more in touch with your creativity. I recommend the book Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. If you’re still feeling stuck, consider seeing a sex therapist.

5. Get moving.

Find time each day to move your body. This could be anything from a walk or gentle yoga to strength training or dancing. Whatever it is, make sure you’re using your body every day. Feeling your blood flowing and your heart pumping is an immediate way to feel connected to your body.

6. Keep working toward pain relief.

If your infertility was caused by chronic illness, you may still be living with daily pain. While it may not be realistic to think you will ever be completely pain-free, make sure you’re doing what you can to minimize it. Do your research and become an advocate for your health. Doctors often dismiss women’s pain so you may have to find a doctor who specialized in your illness. Keep trying.

If you are experiencing pain during sex or have pelvic pain, consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist. I also love the book Heal Pelvic Pain by Amy Stein, which outlines a program you can implement at home. I also recommend episode 81: Pain and Illness of the Unf*ck Your Brain podcast on how your experience of pain is impacted by your thoughts about it, and how thought work can help.

7. Make your outward expression match your inner identity.

When you’re going through something as traumatic as infertility, your appearance may not be a top priority. For me, I found myself throwing on whatever jeans and t-shirt were clean, rarely wore makeup, and opted for a quick ponytail. Not that any of those things are bad, but I’ve always had a lot of fun dressing up and was sad to lose that part of my identity. For me, changing my hair, makeup and wardrobe is a fun way to express who I am to the world.

The past few months I’ve been inspired to reinvent my outward expression by playing with my appearance. I’ve gone platinum, started growing out my hair, bought a few fun summer outfits, got a new tattoo, and have been trying out new makeup looks.

This idea of outward expression is going to look different for everyone so there are no rules here. Think about what aspects of your appearance sound fun to play with and start experimenting.

Infertility sucks. But you’re past that now.

It’s time to forgive your body. It’s time to practice self-love and self-compassion. It’s time to get your swagger back.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help you get there, so when you see your reflection in the mirror you recognize the beautiful babe staring back at you. The one deserving of love. The one who has survived trauma. The one who is resilient. The one who is strong. You.

How about you? Did infertility make you feel disconnected from your body? How have you been working to heal your relationship with your body? What’s worked for you?


I used to be infertile. According to Jean and Michael Carter, authors of Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again, “you can stop being infertile even if you are not fertile.” That “when a couple is no longer ‘trying to get pregnant’, they are no longer infertile. They no longer have the medical problem called infertility.”

I have a lot of books I want to review but I’m starting with this one because it played a monumental role in helping me see a path forward after infertility.

Who should read it?

Anyone who feels they are reaching their limit for how much they are willing to sacrifice in trying to create a baby. Whether that’s time, money, physical or mental health, or energy. Maybe you have run out of options for fertility treatments or aren’t willing or able to pursue the options available, but the alternative of a childless life is terrifying to you. Maybe you stopped trying to get pregnant or gave up on your dream of motherhood a long time ago but find that you can’t move past your grief, and infertility and childlessness is still dominating your identity. Read this book.

While the main audience for this book is those who are infertile, it also applies to those who are childless by circumstance. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, check out Jody Day’s list of “50 Ways to Not be a Mother.”

Lastly, this is a great read for those who want to support a loved one who is moving from infertility to a life without children and you’re not sure how to help or don’t understand why they are making the decision to stop trying. Read this book.

The gist.

The main theme of Sweet Grapes is that “you may be able to transform yourself from childless to childfree, from a life defined by what you don’t have to a life defined by the opportunities that living without children can bring…there is hope that your infertility crisis can be resolved and you can get on with your life, even if you don’t end up with a child.”

If you’re in the midst of infertility and are holding on to the hope of a baby, this idea probably terrifies you. Those of us who end our infertility journeys broken and babyless are the worst nightmares of those who are still trying. In the midst of infertility, you need to believe the odds are in your favor. However, if you are getting to a stopping point you absolutely need a new dream, something new to hope for. The authors propose that the “decision to live childfree is not giving up hope but finding hope once again, the hope that you can have a good life without children.”

Sounds easy, right? It’s not. The authors recognize that “infertility is one of the most traumatic experiences you can endure.” The transition from childless to childfree is hard and your loss and grief won’t vanish completely, but you can create a new vision for a rich and satisfying life that is waiting for you, even if it looks different than the one you originally planned.

In the book, the authors propose a four step process to move from childless to childfree that looks like this:

  1. You begin with a need for something better, and a hope that you can find joy in life again. Also important at the beginning is an awareness that choice is possible, that childfree is possible.
  2. You search yourself for any decision blockers and work to reduce or eliminate them. It is necessary to grieve for and accept the loss of your fertility before you can work on living childfree. But even with acceptance of the loss, there are other blockers that could obstruct your decision making.
  3. Then you do the real work of making a choice. You communicate, and through communication you search out ways to redefine your life according to the potential gains to be found in living without children. You try on the idea of living childfree and see how it fits.
  4. If you find that living childfree feels right, you commit to it by registering the decision and living out the benefits that childfree offers.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is it includes an amazing section on step two: working through grief. This was helpful for me because so many resources on grief specifically focus on death. “Infertility, however, is what one psychologist calls a deathless death. What makes infertility so painful is that there are so many focuses for grief: every trip to the doctor, every pregnant woman we see, every month when the period begins.”

I appreciated that the authors included so much information on moving through grief because to me it seems this is the most challenging aspect of coming to terms with being childless. The book includes a few different grief models outlined by psychologists Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and John Schneider, and how they apply to an infertility crisis specifically. They also talk about the importance of actively working through grief instead of getting stuck in it, and how this can make all the difference in making peace with your situation.

For example, denial, in Schneider’s model, comes from the defense mechanisms of holding on or letting go.

Holding on is a strategy by which people attempt to cope with a loss either by ignoring it or by trying to direct their energies in another direction. Letting go…is a strategy through which people try to cope with their loss by minimizing that loss as much as possible. They convince themselves that what they have lost is not important anyway…Both holding on and letting go are normal responses to pain of a loss or a potential loss. It hurts and we want to limit the hurt. However, when people rely too much on these coping mechanisms, they become stagnated in this phase, unable to take their grief any further. The problem with this is that while we are holding on or letting go, grief cannot run its beneficial course. You can’t grieve as long as you deny that there is a loss.

The book also talks about two concepts that many in the infertility world might say they no longer have: choice and control. In Jean and Michael’s opinion, living childfree requires making a conscious choice. The alternative choice is trying the next treatment or taking steps to adopt. Those who don’t choose anything becoming what they refer to as drifters, “people who don’t decide to stop treatment, they just don’t bother to go the the doctor any more. They don’t decide not to adopt, they just never get around to it…they don’t decide to live childfree; they remain childless.”

So what does it mean to choose to live childfree? “It means embracing your childlessness as a positive state, as an opportunity for growth, as a path to greater achievement and happiness. It means no longer defining yourself in terms of what you don’t have. It means changing failure into success, negative into positive. It means reclaiming the energy that allows you to be yourself again.” It’s passages like this that make me love this book so much. Wisdom from those who moved past their infertility crisis to create a rich, beautiful life without children.

Other topics in Sweet Grapes include: dealing with regret, how to prepare for not having children in a pronatalist society, finding new outlets for your maternal instinct, planning for old age, what reactions you can expect from family and friends, adoption, and redefining your identity.

The pros.

The authors, Jean and Michael Carter, do a fantastic job of incorporating their own story as well as research studies, relevant theories, and advice. The writing duo is a married couple who experienced infertility and, when their journey didn’t end with a babe in arms, decided to move to plan B by embracing the benefits of not having children.

This book was written in 1998 so it was ahead of its time and one of the first to focus on how to move forward when infertility doesn’t end with a baby. While there are more current books out there, this one is unique in how it frames the concept of transitioning from childless to childfree.

I bought this book while I was planning a second IVF round, but didn’t read it then because the idea terrified me. The thought of getting to the end of my infertility journey without being a mom was too painful for me to consider. But, as my endometriosis pain got worse and it became clear that another IVF round would do too much harm to my body, this book helped me make the difficult decision to stop treatment. It was a godsend because it gave me hope, a new vision for a happy and fulfilled life without children.

If you are still trying to get pregnant but are realizing you may be reaching the limits of what you can sacrifice in hope of a baby, read this book.

The cons.

This book was written in 1998. Because of that, it does feel dated at times. The terminology, societal context, research, and statistics all reflect that. I would love to see an updated version.

My second issue with the book is it’s very repetitive and a bit disorganized. The authors have a few ideas they obviously loved and keep repeating them with slightly different wording throughout the book. A few more rounds of edits and reorganizing some of the content would have improved readability.

Favorite quotes.

“Instead of being unsuccessful parents-to-be, we were very successful nonparents. Failure was no longer the major theme of our lives.”


“According to this medical definition, infertility is a very specific and limited condition. It doesn’t mean that your marriage is infertile or that your life is infertile.”


“We realized that choosing to live childfree is just as ‘successful’ a way of resolving an infertility crisis as having a biological child or adopting. It is not a failure or resignation to fate, instead, it is an affirmation of who we are and of our ability to live full, productive, happy lives because of who we are. We discovered that we don’t need children to be a family.”


“There is more than one way to ‘cure’ infertility. One is by becoming fertile, having a child of your own genetic structure. That’s the cure we all hope for during our infertility workup and treatment. But there is another cure, too: by no longer wanting to get pregnant. One way to effect this second cure is by putting your dreams of a biological child behind you and deciding to adopt. Another way is by discovering that for you, life without children can be rich and satisfying, and thus you no longer want to have children.”


“There is no equation in which three romantic dinners equal one wet kiss on cheek. On the other hand, if there are some benefits to living without children, why not take advantage of them?”


“I am learning that I am limited as a person only as far as I allow myself to be, that my happiness does not depend on having children. I must let go of what I do not have and concentrate on what I can become.”

Have you read Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again? What did you think?


Month 35: Broken

I’m laying on the couch, in too much pain to move. I’ve been here for two days. The skin under my heating pad is scalded bright red from using temps too high for too long, but it’s the only thing that helps. Any pain relief I had from surgery is gone. I’m starting to really hate my body. It’s broken. I’m broken.

I’ve been free falling the past two months, plummeting into a deep, numbing, depression. I cry daily, unexpectedly. I’m alone most of the time and avoid talking to anyone. It’s difficult to get out of bed. I don’t recognize myself.

I ruminate on whether I can get through another IVF cycle. I picture the syringes full of hormones being pumped into my body. Hormones that feed the disease and amplify the pain. Can I really let myself hope again? Sacrifice more of my time, my energy, my body? Hell, I’m barely getting through each day right now. Every mundane task feels like an unconquerable feat.

The alternative, a childless life, is equally terrifying.

Month 39: Reproductive Endocrinologist, Take 2

As soon as I walk into the office, I panic. I try to give my information to the receptionist but my voice and hands are shaking, tears are forming. I finish with the front desk and take a seat in the waiting room. I text my friend. Waiting at the RE’s and am almost in tears. I don’t know if I can do this. She responds with the exact words I need to hear. You don’t have to do this. You can leave. I don’t leave but appreciate the reminder that I’m here voluntarily, to get information.

A few minutes later I’m sitting across from the RE. “I have all the info from your previous clinic. Let’s talk about your options” he says. I tell him how much pain I’m in, about my surgery. “All my doctors have told me the IVF meds don’t have much impact on endo and fibroids, but my pain got so much worse after my last cycle” I say. “Well, of course the hormones are going to impact your endometriosis. If you decide to do another round of IVF, plan on having another surgery right after” he responds.

Month 40: Therapy

I’m at my therapist’s. For the last few weeks I’ve been leaning towards not doing another IVF cycle, but it feels so final. It’s my last chance at pregnancy. I’ve also scheduled an appointment with an endo specialist to try to figure out why I’m still in so much pain. “The RE wants me to repeat all of the bloodwork and do another HSG before I make my decision. Part of me wants to see where my AMH and FSH levels are. My body is such a mess, I bet they’re really bad. If they are, it would help me feel better about not doing another IVF cycle, because the chances would be so low of it working.”

She was quiet for a minute, then said, “Whenever I hear you talk about another cycle, you always sound like you’re looking for a reason to not go through with it. If you decide not to do it, you don’t have to justify it to anyone.”

This touched on a common theme of our sessions – pregnancy at any cost. Although I hadn’t been Mormon in almost a decade, the teachings around motherhood still rattled around in my head: You are a sacred vessel. Your purpose is to bring children into the world. You will never know happiness unless you have children. Everything else you accomplish is meaningless. Logically, I knew this wasn’t true. But it was so ingrained that it was hard to dismiss entirely.

It was also bringing up a whole mess of weird emotions, like guilt and shame. I felt guilty that I was ready to give up. Guilt that my parents and inlaws wouldn’t have grandkids by me. That I couldn’t give my nieces and nephews cousins. That I couldn’t make my husband a dad. Shame that my body is broken. That I’m not strong enough to keep trying.

And one question haunts me: how much do I have to sacrifice to prove to everyone, including myself, how badly I want to be a mom? Have I done enough? Have I sacrificed enough of my time, my mental health, my body, that no one can doubt how badly I wanted it?

“Sometimes, I just feel like I can’t do it anymore. Like I can’t sacrifice my health for this minuscule chance that a second IVF round will work,” I say.

“That doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s okay to put your health first,” she says.

This triggers something in me and I start sobbing uncontrollably, primally. She’s the first person to say this to me. To tell me that it’s okay for me to stop, that I’ve given everything I’m willing to give, and that’s okay. It’s okay that I want my health and my life back more than I want to hold onto the sliver of hope that I can get pregnant. And that this doesn’t make a bad person.

Month 41: Endo Specialist, Take 2

It’s official. I want my life back more than I want to hold onto the dream of a baby. I have a consultation with another endometriosis specialist and this time it’s different. I am ready to make a decision based on my health alone, fertility be damned.

I tell the doctor my history – the surgeries, the IVF cycle, the recurrence of symptoms.

“Why did they do IVF on you?” he asks, irritation in his voice. “Between the endo, fibroids and polyps, that was irresponsible. No wonder you feel terrible. I have no doubt it was the fertility drugs that put you in my office today.”

I’m a little taken aback because every other doctor has been dismissive of my questions about how much damage the fertility drugs could do.

“I want to do whatever I can to feel as healthy as possible. What do you recommend?”

Month 42: Surgery #3

I’ve been trying to get pregnant for 42 months. 42 cycles of hope and despair. I’ve seen hundreds of negative pregnancy tests during that time. Today, I take my last one.

I’m in an exam room being prepped for surgery. “Any chance you could be pregnant?” asks the nurse. “No” I reply. “Well, we’ll need a urine sample to be sure.” She hands me the little plastic cup and I head into the bathroom. I can’t believe this is how it ends. It seems like a cruel, sick, joke. I think of how excited, how full of hope I was that first month trying, running out of the bathroom waving the little plastic stick around while I waited for the little + sign to form.

This is the last pregnancy test I’ll ever take.

A few minutes later my husband is stroking my hand, kissing me on the forehead. I blow him a kiss and tell him I love him, and am whisked away to the operating room for my hysterectomy.

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