Childless by Exhaustion

As I mentioned in an earlier post, so many people upon hearing about our infertility, suggest adoption (like we hadn’t thought of it ourselves?).  Alas, they mean well (I think), but do they realize that adoption is a monumental undertaking all of its own?  Granted, adopting a child in need of a home is a beautiful thing, it only comes after tons of paperwork, legal explorations, buckets of money spent, and heart-felt soul searching.  It can also involve one or more home studies, where your life and relationship are put under a magnifying glass, and it is determined if you will make “fit” parents—something no pregnant fourteen-year-old has to do.  After all we went through with fertility treatments we felt like we had done enough to have kids.  When is enough, well, enough?  Most people won’t have to try so hard to have kids.  They will never have to answer that question.  And just because we didn’t adopt, doesn’t mean we didn’t really want to have kids, it just means we drew a line.  It also doesn’t mean that we don’t still grieve the loss of the kind of family we had hoped for.

“Childless not by choice” doesn’t seem to quite fit.  After all, we could adopt a child if we really wanted to…but perhaps, “Childless by Exhaustion” is a better phrase.  I am so curious—does anyone else have any ideas for a phrase that fits?  If so, please suggest…


  • Mali

    November 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm Reply

    Oh, I really like this post. I love the point that most people never have to answer the question “when is enough enough?” and so don’t know how they’d respond, yet feel free to judge us. I also don’t like the Childless not by choice or Childfree tags, because on different days, I jump between being one or the other – in fact, different hours of the day I sometimes jump between being one or the other. Perhaps that’s why I sometimes call it the “no kidding” lifestyle, because it isn’t a comment on my feelings about our situation, it is simply a fact.

    • Mali

      November 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm Reply

      PS. I liked this so much that I’ve commented on it on my blog, and linked to yours. Hope you don’t mind.

      • Ruby

        November 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm Reply

        I don’t mind at all! 🙂 In fact, I feel honored!!!

  • loribeth

    November 15, 2011 at 8:49 pm Reply

    Thanks for your comments on my blog! “Childless by exhaustion” — love it! “ChildLESS” does have a bit of a pathetic ring to it, but I don’t especially like “childFREE” because it implies I’m happy to be “free” of children (i.e., children are a burden). And “choice” — hmmm, some choice…. i often wind up writing “childless/free” for lack of a better term. Of course, why do we need labels at all… but that’s another post, I suppose.

  • Iris

    November 16, 2011 at 12:08 am Reply

    I really struggle with the labels, too. I hate both of them, frankly. I want to focus on being happy with the life I have and saying I’m “childless” does bring on the “pity”, which frankly drives me nuts, it’s like a reinforcement that I do have something to feel anxious or depressed about. Childfree kind of sounds like you hate kids, and I’m sure most people who simply choose not to parent do not hate kids, they might just not want the lifestyle that parenting entails… maybe we can make up a word with a specific definition that doesn’t reflect all of these negative connotations.

  • Illanare

    November 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm Reply

    I love “childless by exhaustion” – I think it sums up so many of our situations perfectly.

  • Kelley

    November 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm Reply

    I love this post, too, especially since my husband and I have chosen to go on to adopt and it’s really annoying to hear people talk about how “easy” it is. Also, wanted to point out, after running through all those hurdles involved in the adoption process, you might not be able to adopt. Infertile because of cancer? Some countries, agencies, and birth-moms won’t want you or at least they won’t take you for years after you’re treatments have ended. Taking drugs to help your depression due to infertility and waiting years to be eligible to adopt? Again, some countries and birth-moms won’t consider you because you might be mentally ill. Run out of money after a couple of failed adoption attempts? You’re stuck in the same place you were when you ran out of money after several infertility treatment attempts. And then there’s the age requirements and the BMI requirements (for some countries… not all). If you don’t qualify at all these points, then you don’t qualify for adoption (international or domestic infant at least). Then all those people who chimed in with the adoption suggestion will start asking why you aren’t going the foster care route… Sigh… As if you hadn’t thought about it and researched the heck out of it already. There’s much pitfalls to be had and many judgments to be made on the road to adoption and there still might not be a kid at the end of it for you. I definitely understand why some people may choose not to take this route.

    • Ruby

      November 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm Reply

      I really admire your willingness to try to adopt despite all of the possible obstacles, pitfalls and challenges. You are definitely a salute-worthy woman of courage in my book.

  • Nicole

    November 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm Reply

    I love “childless by exhaustion”. After my hysterectomy, people immediately started trying to talk to me about adoption. I was going through a crazy period of loss, hormones and depression. It was so inappropriate. I just wished people could see that I had been through a lot and that that alone might have keep me from wanting to have children. Or, at least, I didn’t want to think about it for a long while. Two years later, I still don’t have the energy to think/talk about it.

    I see this to be true for so many women/couples. Anyone who has been through infertility is worn out. It is hard for others to understand, so I try my best to be patient.

  • Snerk

    February 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm Reply

    I loved this post! I think I may use your term “childless by exhaustion.” I just stumbled across this blog and am crying as I read it. I feel so alone every day. We have not completely ruled out adoption yet, but I feel like if we don’t decide soon the decision will be made for us (due to practical concerns including age, energy level, etc.). With other tragedies in my life, including death of a loved one, time always made things better. With infertility, I actually feel worse about it as the years roll past. I’m exhausted from being in limbo the last ten years feeling like I am waiting for the next chapter of my life to begin.

    • Ruby

      February 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm Reply

      Hugs and more hugs! You are not alone–there are lots of us–but, we are so spread out (thank goodness for the the blogosphere)–thanks for commenting, as now I feel less alone. The limbo and exhaustion definitely take their toll. I know what you mean about “the decision will be made for us (due to practical concerns including age, energy level, etc).” I wish I could make it all better!

  • Jennifer

    February 11, 2012 at 12:17 am Reply

    “Childless by exhaustion” is priceless. That’s where I am. Love that I’ve found your blog from Stirrup Queens and plan to read some of your book recommendations. I want to say thank you for blogging.

  • HAT

    June 1, 2012 at 8:22 am Reply

    Its funny we went the totally oposite direction but ended up in the same situation. We knew Driver (my husband) did not have any wigglers to speak of. No testosterone either. So rather than worry about any treatments medically we went straight to adoption. The adoption worker told us that our Bible based believes were narrow minded and we should go for donnor sperm. That statement has always bothered me, because our religious beliefs aside (which really just ended any debate in my mind about whether we would consider it) my husband did not want me carrying another man’s baby. PERIOD. so how dare she suggest that. She might as well have said I should have an affair to get knocked up. Or get divorced and marry a fertile man if I want one so bad. Either way… you tell those who suggest you try adoption to come talk to me, because its not at all an easy nor is it GUARANTEED! it seems the only thing that seems guaranteed to succeed is the choice to stop trying and embrace Childlessness -ness..

  • Ohio

    February 20, 2013 at 8:31 pm Reply

    I can relate.

    3 IUIs
    4 IVFs with my own eggs
    3 attempts with donor eggs
    4 failed attempts via domestic adoption
    2 failed attempts via international adoption

    There is just nothing left we can try.

    Childless by exhaustion. It just wasn’t meant for us to have children.

    I cannot say which was emotional more difficult. I’m just numb.

    • Ruby

      February 21, 2013 at 7:18 am Reply

      I hear you. Loud and Clear. And we didn’t even try as hard as you have. Numb doesn’t sound fun either.

  • […] is everyone’s business to know why we don’t have children, I occasionally share a bit about our childless-by-exhaustion experience because I want to […]

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