In Part I of this series, I shared the descriptions of the four distinct groups of childless women who emerged from my research, interviews, personal experience and professional work with hundreds of women over the years in my psychotherapy practice.
In this subsequent article, I share prescriptive recommendations aimed at the unique experiences, challenges and needs expressed within these four groups.
"Do I want it All? Sometimes I see a baby and feel the desire to have one of my own. Other times, the idea totally overwhelms me. Then I'm not sure how I feel and what I really want!"
This group includes women exploring if, why and how they want to have children. Many experience the waves of ambivalence and carry its psychic weight as they process and assess the pros and cons of having children.
Prescription: Pathways for the Processors:
* What we resist persists: Choose to be mindful, conscious and attentive about one of your life's most important decisions. Tune in to both sides of your inner dialogue. Bust through the beliefs based on distortion, fear and limitation. Clarity will emerge... just stick with it.
* "To Thine own Self be True": Once you are clear about your choice, then embrace your reality, exhale and enjoy the ride!
* There is inevitable regret and rewards that accompany many of our decisions in life. Know and accept that this will be no different.
"I want it ALL... the whole enchilada... the love of my life, my work and my baby!"
This group includes women holding hope that they will be able to have children, before their biological reproductive window closes.
Prescription: Help for the Hopefuls:
For the Single-Minded:
* Get educated. Many women I interviewed wish they had frozen their eggs as a possible fertility insurance plan for their future. This can decrease the level of anxiety so many women feel due to feeling a sense of urgency to find "the one" before their biological clock ends. Actively research and explore the choices available to you.
* Address the ticking clock quandary from a practical AND higher ground perspective. Learn to accept AND be proactive about -- not defined by -- your reproductive realities. Discover and navigate your own inner clock, creating a personal path you can walk with grace and equanimity... no matter what.
*Be Daring, not desperate. Develop the consciousness and foster the skills to live in the present, while being open to finding a life partner (if that is what you seek) and pursue motherhood. You don't want to project a sense of urgency and pressure on the dating field. The last thing a man wants to feel is that you are looking for a sperm donor rather then a life partner.
For The Couples in Motion:
* Explore Fertility Boosters: There are a plethora of alternative and nutritional health tips purported to support conception. Whether it be the ancient treatment of acupuncture, a sugar-free nutritional plan, helpful supplements or guided visualizations... spend time learning about and embracing some of these supportive methods.
* Insurance plans for love in the early stage, post age 35+. If your relationship is still new and you both intuitively feel you have finally found the right partner, explore the possibility of freezing embryos sooner rather then later. This can give you peace of mind by increasing your fertility viability in the future, as well as give you the opportunity to enjoy your courtship without the pressure to impulsively marry or co-parent together.
* Keep your Options open: There are many ways to become parents besides the biological route. Consider using a surrogate to carry your baby to term or finding your chosen child through adoption, foster care or hosting. Keep an open mind to the plethora of possibilities available to you.
* Effective tools and coping strategies are important for couples to incorporate into their individual and collective mindset, supporting themselves and each other to remain grounded and connected in the face of shared stress, anxiety and grief commonly caused by chronic infertility.
* Commit yourselves to consciously inspired couplehood. Life is precious in each moment. Despite inevitable unrealized goals, dreams and expectations, renew your vows to make the very most of your destiny together. Live in the present and ENJOY .
"I can't have it All. I always assumed I'd be a mom. Giving that up is incomprehensible. I can't believe it's not going to happen!"
This group includes those in the acute phase of trying to reconcile and heal from the realization that their opportunities to bear children are over.
Prescription: From Heartbroken to HeartFULL:
One of my previous Huffington Post articles shares Three Steps to Overcome any Obstacle. I have updated it to four steps I call The F.A.T.E Formula... which can be applied to the emotional pain felt over not being able to bear children.
* "F" for Feel Your Feelings Fully. Focus your compassionate attention on the array of uncomfortable feelings that you may feel over not having had the children your body was designed for and heart had so deeply desired: grief, sadness, envy, fear, loneliness, isolation etc.
* "A" for Accept What IS. Now you can surrender into letting go of what you had hoped for and accept the reality of what is. Exhale into receiving greater relief and peace of mind.
* "T" is for Transform & Transcend. Now you begin to awaken to what awaits you... consciously deciding to alchemize the breakdown of former dreams into a breakthrough of present and future possibilities.
* "E" for Embrace & Enliven. You now enjoy a sense of fulfillment, as you free your body and psychic energy to discover, receive and be inspired as your calling becomes clear and destiny unfolds. You are thriving and your life is in flow.
"I've Got it All" ..."I am totally content today with my choices and my life. It feels good to be here".
This group includes those women who consciously chose not to have children and/or have made peace with their childless state.
Prescription for the peacefuls:
There are none. What we can learn from this group IS the prescription. Let's look at some of the take away wisdom modeled by the Peacefuls:
From those for whom not having children was a choice:
• Truth = Freedom.
For those who made the decision by choice we are reminded of the connection between truth and freedom. For when you are in your truth, and do not cater to familial or societal norms, you are Free to live you live fully and joyfully.
From those for whom not having children was by circumstance:
• Reaching for Higher Ground.
The women who wanted children and did not have them by circumstance, who are now at peace, channeled and transformed their pain into purpose.
From both Groups:
• Living Full Out with or without Children:
Whenever we depend on one thing, circumstance or person to complete us or make us happy, life will always feel like a roller-coaster. Living full out for this group of women shows us that you don't have to have children to live an extraordinary life.
• Mothering is a Verb:
The nurturing, creating, guiding and loving that goes into parenting a child can enrich many relationships with family, friends, community and animals. For this group of women, their internal resources are often also redirected in ways that "birth" beautiful ideas, creations, projects and movements... creating lasting impact and legacy, constituting a life worth living.
• Connecting with Children:
There are many ways to connect with children. Enormous gratification and blessings can come the experience of being a Step-Mom, God-Mom and Auntie.
There are also millions of children, without the necessary resources to thrive, that need us. Many of these women have derived great fulfillment in reaching out to these children via Adoption, Foster-Care, Hosting, Mentoring, and Sponsorship.
Within the diversity of the experience for women without children lie commonalities, which humanize and dignify this predicament for countless childless women worldwide. If you recognize yourself in any of these groups I hope you receive some nuggets of wisdom, comfort and inspiration.
Just keep on keepin on... Stay awake, present and proactive to what IS.
Your life, as it unfolds, will be your legacy.