When I was struggling to come to terms with childlessness and couldn’t see a way out THE most helpful thing would have been to see examples of women who were further along the road and were now living a positive life.
You can find lists of childless women but you won’t find HOW they came to terms and WHAT they did. Also sharing stories is a really great way to heal.
So I’ve decided to start a series of blogs to do just that.
And they don’t get more inspirational than Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos. Many of you will have read Pamela’s award winning memoir ‘Silent Sorority, A (Barren) Woman gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found’ or perhaps you follow her thought-provoking blogs.
I was really pleased that she agreed to be the first story to feature and I KNOW you will find her inspirational. For me the key points are that she is able to appreciate her life as it is today and is intentional about living it fully. That’s very powerful and something I know you’ll aspire to. And it’s great news that she is still planning to use her extensive knowledge and experience to benefit those of us following behind her.
So over to Pamela.
What’s your story?
I’m a daughter of the women’s movement and grew up in the heady times when women for the first time could look ahead without fear of limits or dead ends. Like most women I took my fertility for granted in my 20s. That’s what made learning in my early 30s that getting pregnant might not be as easy as our Sex Ed teachers made it seem more than a bit of a shock.
Prior to Dr. Google and all the online communities, I was left to my own devices to figure out what was wrong. My husband and I fell into the maddening “unexplained infertility” category. We tried natural, organic, herbal remedies as well as advanced science with multiple surgeries and treatments – all of which failed. By the numbers, it’s been more than 20 years since I first tried to get pregnant, 10 years since I walked away from fertility medicine, and eight years since I stopped wondering if a miracle pregnancy would occur. I was 43 when I let go of my dreams of motherhood and began re-architecting my life and my expectations about who I would become and how my life might unfold.
Where are you on your journey now?
Now almost 51, I’m at a very good and fulfilling stage in my life, but it didn’t come easily. As with all things that are worth fighting for, I put tremendous effort into making sense of an extremely heart-wrenching, truly life-altering experience. I’ve yet to meet anyone (and I’ve met many) who lived through infertility who didn’t come away changed by it.
I have worked through the anger, sadness and grief and I’ve found my way back to joy. I am co-owner of a small business that allows me to work on rewarding projects with people who inspire and challenge me intellectually and creatively. With the freedom that comes with being my own boss and setting my own schedule, I’m able to carve out time for healthy activities that bring balance to my life. I also feel an obligation to share what I’ve learned since Mother Nature and fertility science didn’t deliver on my initial hopes and dreams.
Equally important, I no longer look to or rely on other people’s approval or definition of a life well lived. Because I know that life for me will never fit a neat and tidy pattern, I no longer waste time thinking about what might have been or what if’ing what’s now in the past. I appreciate all the unique aspects of my life today, and I make every effort to live in the present and to live fully.
What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
There was no silver bullet or easy path, which in many ways forced me to be more resourceful and to dig deep to find the necessary strength for reinvention. I became resilient. It wasn’t always forward momentum. Sometimes I went backwards or sideways, but in time I pushed through the darkness and uncertainty. I began to see a new future take shape. It was a grab bag of efforts — some counselling, lots of writing, and later, helping others with their loss and grief. All contributed to my healing.
What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
I found that once I had worked through all the competing emotions and put some distance between me and my trying to conceive days — and the losses that accompanied that period in my life — I had much more energy and interest in deciphering what I’d learned along the way. I want to bring that knowledge out into the open for others to consider. I aspire to alleviate some of the unknowns as well as the alienation and loneliness I once felt. There is this great term called “generativity.” There’s something energizing about turning over new stones and building a path that helps the next generation. My work fills me with profound satisfaction.
I’m also giving some thought to a new book project, an anthology that takes into what “Generation IVF” has learned. More than ever we need to provide support to those for whom fertility medicine fails. I’m deeply troubled by the marketing of reproductive medicine as a commodity, a growing “for profit” industry. For the benefit of all, we need to demand that physical and mental health concerns take precedence over profits and the pursuit of marketable success rates with risky experimental procedures. That means safe, peer reviewed protocols and the highest priority on well-being, including longitudinal health studies on all participating in fertility treatment and the children conceived.
What are the positives (gifts) for you of not having children?
We have more time to devote to others in our life – extended family, friends – as well as to activities and causes that bring their own rewards. There are no limits, no external governors on what’s possible for us. We relish not being forced to “run with the herd.” We travel in non-peak periods and we enjoy solitude and the freedom that our friends with children now crave. Ironically, where I once envied their lives they now envy mine.
What advice would you give to women who are not as far down the road as you are?
Give yourself time and allow for a non-linear recovery from all you’ve experienced. You will be raw for a while. Experiment with what works best for you. Find an outlet for your emotions. Don’t suppress them. Give them a safe and productive release. With patience and mindful effort (small steps get you to the big breakthroughs), you can find the strength needed to heal. You will never get over the loss of dreams once held dear but you can come to terms with what you’ve experienced and find your way back to joy.
What’s your 6 word memoir?
(From Smith Magazine’s Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure. http://www.sixwordmemoirs.com/)
Shattered Life Creates Unexpectedly Beautiful Mosaic
Interested in writing?
To recap, I believe it will really help those who are struggling to see what’s possible in their life. The purpose is:
• To show that it’s possible to have a positive life,
• To explain what’s positive about being childless and
• To explore what helped healing & how to make it happen.
If you’re interested in writing this is how it works.
I’ll post your story in your real name or any other that you chose to give me. If you have a website or blog I’d be happy to link to it so I’ll need the details and a short bio.
I’ll send you a list of questions, and you choose and answer a minimum of 6.
I may do some minor editing to fit with the style of my website and keep to an average length. I will retain your words as far as possible. When I post it I’ll let you know.
I’ll need a bit of personal information please and I assure you that it will remain strictly confidential.
Blogs are so much more readable when they include photos. If you’d like me to include a photo of you and/or anything else relevant to your story, I’ll be happy to do so.
If you’d like to be included please contact me.
Over to you
If you’re wondering how to find your positive life I’d love to help you. You can book a complimentary session via my online diary or leave a message on my contact page and we can spend 20 to 30 minutes to get clarity on how we can work together to create a life you love.
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