After a 10-year infertility battle which included one HSG procedure, one laparoscopic surgery to diagnose stage 3 endometriosis, six months of Lupron that caused medical menopause, three infertility clinics in two different states, four infertility specialists, seven failed intrauterine inseminations, one clinical trial, four adoption meetings, and countless tears, my husband asked me to accept our life as it was – childless. So, in 2014, I began trying to accept my life as a childless woman.

Over the past eight years, I have not only accepted being childless not by choice, but I have embraced it – committed to redefining childlessness.

You see, much of the world views the childless as sad, bitter, or weird. We are the crazy cat lady (or crazy dog lady, in my case). We – childless by infertility – are often seen as those who “gave up.” After all, why didn’t we just try one more time or try something else, right? Why didn’t we just adopt?

While my childless journey has involved intense grief (in fact, I have wobbles to this day). My journey has also involved finding joy despite being childless not by choice, and one way I have found that joy is by being an over-zealous dog mom. That doesn’t make me weird – just non-traditional. Yes, my non-traditional, childless life embraces all emotions – from intense sadness to overwhelming joy.

This joy does not have to come through accepting the term “childfree.” In fact, I will never identify as “childfree.” I have children in my life – nieces and nephews (by blood, by marriage, and by friendship), a foreign exchange daughter who has become family, and four-legged fur babies (on Earth and in Heaven). And I never want to be “free” of these kids.

I do, however, want the stereotypes about being childless (and childfree) to be broken. A first step towards that is for others to support that being childless is an acceptable resolution to infertility. Because…

#WeCanAll educate others that infertility journeys do NOT always end with a little in arms.

#WeCanAll support those battling infertility by realizing that difficult decisions – unbearable decisions – must be made. One of those decisions might be letting go of the dream of having a baby.

#WeCanAll educate others that adoption is NOT always a viable option. It is NOT easy. It is NOT a back-up plan that every infertile couple should choose.

#WeCanAll educate others that childLESS does NOT automatically mean the person is sad, bitter, or depressed. Childless not by choice is a complex journey that comes with grief and sadness. Yet, the childless journey can also involve accepting what is, as well as embracing, redefining, and finding joy.

Brandi L., SC

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