A Personal Story
by Jackie Gutmann, M.D.
RMA of Philadelphia
Interview with Sue Slotnick, RESOLVE Board of Directors:
Now that you have been child-free for several years, how do you think the decision has been for you?
When you look at the list of pros and cons for living childfree, the list of advantages is always much longer. You can travel, be spontaneous, change careers, and fall in love with each other all over again. You have none of the stresses that parenting creates. We have done some truly amazing things. We have traveled to Alaska and Africa. My husband and I have both changed careers and we are able to commit ourselves to things we are passionate about without having to worry about financial constraints. So for us, our decision has been a very positive one.
What, if anything, has been difficult?
The whole process has been extremely difficult. We have a very strong relationship. When we had an early infertility diagnosis it was a blow, but we went through it together. This is really important so that we did not have resentment towards one another. We decided to try IVF and simultaneously did an adoption home study. When the IVF did not work I felt like I was on Autopilot and I wanted to take a step back. I realized that I did not just want to have children. I wanted to have the love of my life’s children. If I could not have that then I wasn’t sure I wanted children. The difficulty when we made our decision was telling our family and close friends. Now the difficulty is dealing with the community. I often feel isolated from the community because we don’t have children. It is hard to talk about and it still hurts when someone asks, “Do you have any kids? Why not?” Part of the decision to be child-free is knowing what to say. For me I am now comfortable with saying, “My husband and I have made the decision to live child free.”
How have you individually and as a couple grown or changed since making the decision?
We have grown stronger. We have learned a great deal about each other and ourselves and it has been extremely positive for our relationship. I have found other things and people to nurture. I mother my garden and that is truly wonderful. I am also very maternal about Resolve and its members. Resolve has helped me tremendously and I feel like I want to get involved and give back to an organization that supported me at a most difficult time.
What words of advice would you offer couples who are now grappling with this decision?
- Take your time with the decision
- Seek help through individual therapy and support groups
- Try the hat on and wear it honestly to see if child-free living is something you can embrace
- Know that the decision does not have to be irreversible. If you are miserable with the decision, you can revisit treatment options or become a family through adoption
- It is important that you are both involved in the decision
- Recognize that it is a process and that the emotional healing takes time