Empty Arms

~ Dealing with the Pain of Involuntary Childlessness

                                                                                                                                              by Siljoy Maurer

It took a lot of courage to be present with myself and what I was feeling. It took a lot of courage to decide to give compassion to myself rather than putting myself down. It took a lot of courage to honor my experience and the truth of all my seemingly overwhelming pain in the face of a lot of ignorant people (some, but not all of them being parents). It took a lot of courage. I learned to be present with. I found compassion for myself. It has been 23 years now that I have been childless.

A long time of hoping, being desperate, then angry, then ashamed of my body’s inability to procreate, arms burning painfully from emptiness, grieving, feeling so very alone with my experience, unseen, and yes, abandoned and punished by God or the Universe! And I never could figure out what I might be pained for. Why me, where so many other people seemed to have so many children whom they did not even want?

It taught me a lot. I survived it. And I am fine now.

I did not ever think that possible, back then when I first had a miscarriage at age 21 and then cancer quite shortly thereafter. It took me about 15 years to find acceptance from within. I had no support, but dealt with it in the isolation which is so common for childless women and men, all over this world. The pain and despair accompanied me in waking times as well as in my sleep.

Slowly I turned my seemingly unhealable wound into a scar. Creating peace inside, I healed it. I am still sad often and, like scars do, it probably will hurt occasionally until the day I die. But it does not harm me anymore, that I became a ‘mother’ without a child, a ‘grandmother’ without a grandchild.

Now I choose to consciously use my birth-giving and creative energy, and direct it into my work. My name is Siljoy Maurer and besides considering myself a childless ‘mother’, I am a Holistic Life Mentor. A few years ago I started combining my skill and experience as a Mentor with my former struggle and my life experience as a childless woman. I have been offering individual support, seminars and groups to men and women who – right now – are involuntarily childless. And I am deeply grateful for all the wonderful healings and life’s surprises which I have been able to facilitate and witness. I am available to all who are looking for help, guidance and a good opportunity to further explore their experience of being childless, regardless of whether they still hope to have a child or not.

Everyone deserves to have support with this difficult process of grieving the impossibility to have a biological child. And some need to mourn and honor the pain which comes with their choice to stay with a partner who cannot have a child. This is true even if they might decide to adopt at some point.

It also is important to complete the grieving before any possible adoption and deal with the pain of not being able to have a biological child – for whatever reasons that might be (miscarriages, female & male infertility, cancer, accidents, relationship circumstances, etc.). This way the heart can then open fully to embrace the adoptive child. If there is a lot of unhealed wound left, an adoptive child will quite likely always feel “second best”, sensing that s/he will never be able to live up to his/her parents dream of a biological child, and a new trauma might be introduced. Dealing with the pain of having empty arms – let us first give ourselves the compassion that we want our neighbor to have for us.

Source: http://infertility.about.com/library/rti/ucsmaurer1.htm

Fathers without Children

~ The Forgotten Men

This weekend many celebrate their fathers and besides the fact that ideally we all would truly appreciate each other every day, it is a good thing to give Fathers a special day at least once a year! What is also true is that this weekend there will be many men who are suffering in silence and isolation.

There are far too many who have to grieve the loss of a child and that is a deep pain that stays forever, at least to some degree.  And — these fathers mostly and hopefully do get attention and support in their grief.

There are far too many fathers who are in separation from their children, because of a distanced relationship to the mother of his children and those men are often having a very hard time, missing their kids and not being able to care for them personally.

And then there is another – growing ? group of “fathers”, those who can/could not have children, yet they feel like fathers, “child-less or un-childed fathers”. (A group distinctly different from happily “child-free” men.)

I am writing today to bring your attention to these Forgotten Men!  They are of many ages, young and older, and hurting from a whole array of feelings, because they love children and would love to have children and yet they can not, could not, and might not ever have a child. When we think of child-less people and couples, most think of the women only. They are the ones You might find articles written about with such titles as “Struggles with Infertility” or “Finally twins after four IVFs”. And these women deserve all our compassion, as they are going through ”many hells”, as some of my clients call it.

As an Holistic Life Mentor with over 30 years professional experience and with a 16 year “side-expertise” of helping women, men and couples who have been struggling with involuntary childlessness, I call these “child-less Fathers” the Forgotten Men.  Most people know at least a little about the women who are “child-less mothers” – meaning: they love children, would make great moms and happen to find themselves involuntary childless, due to many different reasons.

The same is true for the Forgotten Men, the “un-childed fathers” who you know would be “perfect” Dads and yet, for some known or unknown reason it was not meant to happen for them (yet). Causes might be proven or unexplained infertility in either spouse, previous illness/treatment of illness which prevents the man from safely fathering a healthy child. Many men in same sex relationships struggle with the difficulties of having a child with the restrictions we put on them as a society. (The same is valid for lesbian women, yet differently, as they can at least birth a child.) Nowadays there can also be economic or other social reasons, like the challenge to find the “right” partner to have a child with etc etc.

Involuntary childlessness is always a deeply painful life experience, for women as for men. And as I am focusing on men today ? they are faced with a different experience and set of challenges. Where a woman might struggle with that she feels like her body is betraying her, a man might experience great turmoil: because he cannot pass on his genes, or because he fears that he might have lost his masculinity, or because he simply so much would love to have a child, and because as a man, he has it even harder to talk about his childless-ness ? most men never do, and do not have a safe, non-judgmental person to share their deepest feelings and thoughts about it. That is truly hard – have You ever thought about it?

Let me give You two images. First, there is the father who had a child which died. That is very very painful, heartbreakingly sad. And ? hopefully, mostly ? this now child-“less” father has a lot of societal support to grieve. He has memories of the child, pictures, a name, very real life father-child experiences which he loved and now he has to grieve the loss of his child.

On the other side, the “un-childed father” has to grieve the “idea” of a child and  ? no name, no pictures, no memories!  Also, noone else who can remember and share stories about his child.  He has to grieve somebody who does not exist!  And how does one do that?  There are no role models and rarely support! Most often no one around the “un-childed father” will even know about his pain, because he might be too shamed, embarrassed or also protective of his – wife, – homosexual partnership, – his involuntary singledom, – his infertility or other physical, emotional or social reasons.

I am asking You to take a moment, on this Father’s Day weekend, and imagine, with and from your heart what he – an involuntary childless man might feel like!  By now I am sure You understand why I chose to write and share my thoughts and experiences as a Holistic Life Mentor today. Please give one minute of your life to send your compassion to all these Forgotten Men – trust me – on some level they will feel it and it will lift them up…

…and should You Reader yourself be one of the Forgotten Men, please You take a minute (or longer) and give your self some compassion, because the situation You live in and with, is truly very hard, lonesome and painful…

With Love ~ Siljoy