Lesley’s story – living with childlessness

I met my husband when I was in my twenties, we got married, and when I was 35 we decided the time was right to have children. After a few months nothing had happened and we were referred for IVF.

If we’d known that my fertility had started falling when I was 27 and at 36 was now dropping off a cliff, our lives may have turned out differently. So from not being able to get pregnant naturally all of a sudden we were in the remedial, can’t-do-it-yourself, better-get-on-with-it-quick-because-time-is-running-out class.

All around us, friends had young children and were getting pregnant naturally. Before we started IVF we had made the decision to stop when I was 40 because success rates drop dramatically at that age and the chances of having a disabled child increase. Over the next three years we went through six rounds of IVF.

We knew we needed to draw a line in the sand but it was so hard. We were never offered support or help of any kind and felt as if we were the only people in the world who couldn’t have children. Only our parents knew and talking to friends about it felt impossible.

My 40th birthday was a low point. I felt completely alone; I didn’t know who I was or my place in the world. On the outside I was projecting the Lesley who was ambivalent about children, the Lesley that was tough and strong; but inside I was falling apart. My head knew that I wasn’t going to be a mother, but it was taking my heart a long time to catch up. I know now that I was grieving, but I didn’t know then. I just assumed I felt sad.

We hibernated for about a year and didn’t see friends because we couldn’t cope with children. Then we joined More to Life and met some couples who went on to become our closest friends. I slowly started to get my life back together, but still felt sad.

Then my life fell apart again when Roger’s dad died, followed a few months later by my mum. Now I knew that I was grieving and did what I’d always done, which was to box it away. And there it stayed. I just carried on and sadness became my new norm.

At the age of 47 I resigned from my job. I had no idea who I was and what I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t this. It was a partial release, and at the same time a step back into my cocoon. I decided to train as a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Practitioner, and two things happened: The inner work I did replaced my grief, sadness and other negative emotions with self-confidence, self-acceptance, inner peace and happiness. I learned how to use the techniques to help others to heal and to live a positive life.

I decided to set up a coaching business to help women in midlife. I wanted to support childless women but didn’t feel strong enough to do it because it meant being really open about my story and myself. In the end I reached out and asked for help which was a big step as I had a belief that I SHOULD be able to do this on my own. I started working with a coach who believed in me, and the difference I wanted to make in the world. She supported me in changing my business to support childless women. It was a real turning point.

In 2014 my dad died after a short illness. The grief work I’d already done helped me to come to terms with his death and I knew that this was new and different grief that was not linked to the past.

I am now completely comfortable and confident with who I am and, for the first time in my life, I’m authentically me and it’s wonderful. What I’ve learned I believe that it’s impossible to go through the challenge of infertility and not be changed by the process. I’ve used those changes to create meaning in my life. There’s no doubt that I’m different now. I’m stronger than I thought, I know myself a lot better and I’m a lot more empathic. I’ve learned so many new skills and have reclaimed my creativity.

I’ve also discovered that: Time will only heal you so much – you need to take positive action to heal your grief and sadness. It is hard to do this on your own – working with someone who has been where you are and knows the way out makes the journey so much easier. Childlessness has proved to be my biggest gift because without it I wouldn’t be enjoying the wonderful life that I now have. I want to show other women that they can have a positive life. I want to show them that they don’t have to hide, and if they take action to find support they can become the beautiful butterfly that’s inside them.

Lesley Pyne supports childless women to heal and to create a life they love. She uses her first-hand experience in coming to terms a life without children and her professional skills in NLP and time line techniques to help other childless women. Her website is www.LesleyPyne.co.uk

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