1. Taking Myself Off Mute to Help You

May 7, 2024

Welcome to the Childless and Moving Onward Podcast. I am Gail Miller, a life coach and physician. I am also a woman who is childless not by choice, but by circumstance. Join me in this first episode as I share my story of coping with childlessness. The podcast is designed for women who are childless not by choice, those who know someone in this situation, and also women who have chosen not to have children, as they all navigate the stereotypes and assumptions by society.

I will be discussing the societal stigma and emotional challenges facing women who are childless not by choice and offer support and advice for thriving despite these challenges. Through this journey it is crucial to examine our thoughts and embrace our emotions without shame, forging a new path onward.

Learn more or book a free, no-obligation call to talk about what a coaching experience could look like for you HERE.

Childless and Moving Onward
Key Episode Takeaways:
  • Society is a pronatalist one; meaning society in general promotes women having children.
  • Our thoughts create our feelings.
  • What others think of you is their business, not yours.
  • There is no shame in being childless.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Full Episode Transcript:

1. Taking Myself Off Mute to Help You

Hi, you're listening to Childless and Moving Onward. This is the place where we talk about thriving in life when you're a woman who is childless, not by choice, regardless of the road that brought you to childlessness. All right, welcome, welcome, welcome. I am Gail Miller. I am a woman who is childless by circumstance, childless not by choice. I am a life coach and physician. And my story is one of, uh, life did not turn out the way I had planned. I am so excited to be getting this podcast, Childless and Moving Onward, getting this started, getting this out there for you. This has been something I've thought about for quite a while and really thought this is the perfect time, um, to get this going and bring this information and this topic to you. Um, so who is this for? This is for women who are childless not by choice for whatever reason, whatever path brought you to this unwanted childlessness, this is for you. This is also for anyone who knows someone who's childless, not by choice um, and you want to be supportive. These are topics that will help you to understand where your loved one, your, your, the person you know, um, where they're coming from and what they're going through and how you can help. And it's also for women who have chosen not to have children. While we come to this, all of us come to this from different paths and a different mindset um, the bottom line is that society views women who don't have children in a negative way. And so whether it's by choice or not by choice, you still experience the same stereotypes and assumptions. So while this is geared towards women who are childless not by choice, for those who've chosen this you will find some information that is helpful as well. Um, So why this is needed. Well, I'm going to start with some statistics. I'm not a statistician. This is not what this podcast is going to be about, throwing out numbers um, but sometimes they're helpful to, to understand the extent of things and why this matters. So in the US, women, between the ages of 30 and 45, about 25% of those women do not have children, and about half of those are not by choice. This is an estimation because, first of all, getting the statistics is difficult. Um, this is something that, that carries a lot of stigma with it, though it shouldn't, but it does. So, it's something that people hesitate to answer or answer, you know, in a full, you know, forthcoming way. Um, and some of the, the women who answer, some have chosen not to become, um, parents because of financial reasons or they have chronic illnesses. So while they've chosen this, it's not really what they would have wanted, but their circumstances, based on their circumstances they're making decisions, so that may not really be what they want to do. So, we have these numbers, but they're not particularly accurate. But the bottom line is there is a significant percentage of women in the United States and worldwide who do not have children and wish they did. They want to have children. They want to be moms. But many of you feel absolutely alone, isolated because it seems like you're the only person in the world, the only woman who doesn't have children and there's so much about this that is misunderstood. And we come to it with a lot of pain and often shame that shouldn't be there. But part of that reason is that society is a pronatalist one, meaning society in general promotes women having children, that women should have children, that that's a woman's purpose in life. So often women who are childless not by choice are not just feeling their own pain from their circumstances and from their wishes to be a mom but they are deemed, you're deemed as less than and or look down on and so you sit in this shame that you shouldn't have, but that you have and you don't want to come forward, but I'm here to say you are not alone Please come forward, make yourself known and know that there's absolutely nothing wrong with you. So now while this podcast, it is for you, what I want to bring to you today is my story and how I had to kind of force myself, I had to come off of mute, meaning I, this was something I didn't want to talk about. It was something I didn't tell people because even once I had gotten to a place of acceptance and recognizing my, my worth, my innate value that I'm not less than because I'm not a mom. Even once I got to that point, speaking about my story was difficult because I was allowing others in particular, certain particular people especially, to dictate what I was saying because of how it would result in them treating me. So, you know, we all have, we all have those different relationships in our lives, um, good, bad, in between, and sometimes we have people in our lives who kind of like to use our pain points against us. And that is what I feared, because I had some particular people in my circle, um, who would use it, knowing that this is something painful and would use it in a way to inflict more pain. And it was through my process of grieving my loss and working with other women, um, not specifically women who were childless not by choice, but working, finding particular groups of women who were incredibly supportive, um, who would never, ever consider using someone else's pain point as a source of, oh, let me dig into this. Let me use this against them. Let me cause them more pain. But I had been so used to it from certain sources and particularly in what I do in, in my career, what I've done in my career, that that's kind of what I had come to expect that, you know, don't let people know your weaknesses. And I was fortunate to finally learn that, you know, that doesn't have to be the case. And also, if it is, if you're with these people, what they do does not, you do not have to allow them to, to inflict the pain on you. What they do is their business even when it is against you. So that's when I recognized like I have this voice, I'm going to use it. If someone wants to use my, this pain point as, this pain of mine of being childless not by choice, childless by my circumstances, if they want to use that to hurt me, that speaks about them, not me. So, my story of childlessness is, going back to the beginning, I have wanted to be a mom my whole life. There was never a time when I didn't want to be or where I expected that I wouldn't want to be a mom. And I had it planned out. I mean, as young as I can remember, you know, playing with dolls and pretending they were my, my baby, even then I had an idea of what life was going to be like. I'd, I'd imagined it. And of course, as I got older and, you know, learn more and, um, experiences, bring education and, and what have you. As I got older, of course, those details of what I wanted life to be, what I thought life would be, I had it just down to the details, just kept getting more detailed. Um, and so, Um, even through my career, I'm a physician and by my specialty is maternal fetal medicine. So, I am a, um, an obstetrician gynecologist who specializes in women who have high risk pregnancies. So I did an OBGYN residency and a maternal fetal medicine fellowship, and, um, yes, people will often say how ironic that, like, I care for women who have high risk pregnancies, but here I am. I can't have a child of my own. And what I do now is help women who are in my same situation. Call it, you know, ironic, whatever. As my career progressed from medical school to residency to fellowship, you know, all along the way I kept adding more details, including, like, I knew with each one of those moves to a new community and then with job changes, I would pick out who my OB GYN was gonna be. To you know, take care of me during pregnancy and deliver my baby. I had picked, I would pick out each place which nurses on labor and delivery would be the ones who took care of me during labor and delivery. I knew which anesthesiologists I wanted to do my epidural because while I wanted to become a mom, yeah, I was not, I'm not into pain, so I did not want the pain of childbirth. So yeah, I even had, who was going to be my, um, my anesthesiologist to give me my epidural. And what happened was, so also along with all of this as part of my plan, I figured I'd find the perfect partner and we would have children. But as got older, I wasn't finding the perfect partner. I was finding a lot of imperfect ones, but not the perfect one. Um, and so as I got older and realized, okay, the plan I had for my life is not going to take hold the way I expected it to, um, I decided to start thinking about becoming a single parent. Now, mind you, I did know by this point that I would have fertility issues just because I, of my, uh, my reproductive health. So I knew I'd have fertility issues. So I, you know, I knew I'd have to go through fertility treatments. Um, but still, I, you know, I had figured I can do this and I will do this as a single woman. However, Um, I let circumstances, I let other people get in my way. So, one, I had a parent who would have sat shiva for me. They would have mourned me as if I had died if I became a single parent. Um, I had a boss who would have fired me if I became a single parent. Now, I don't think that that's as, something that's as prevalent these days, or at least not directly. I think it maybe, um, lives are made more difficult sometimes for women who choose to become single parents, but it was very different time, you know, and when I was at this point in my life. And unfortunately at that point in my life, I was also like, I did not have the confidence in myself to say, I can survive this. You know, if I lose my job, which I'd never, you know, since high school, I was working, never lost a job. Um, but to me, like, that seemed like a failure that I wouldn't be able to get over. I mean, now in hindsight, it's, I would realize it wasn't a failure. So that's not any commentary on somebody losing their job, but that was my mindset at the time and I also had the mindset I wouldn't be able to survive with losing part or potentially all of my family. So over a bit of time, I just came to the realization that, okay, I can't do this as a single woman. Um, Now, also over the time, I have done a lot of work on myself. Therapy, coaching, to realize that, yeah, I would have been just fine. So that has come to me to, uh, at points, I feel like I do the woulda, coulda, shouldas. We all do that. The if onlys. But again, that's one of those things that with coaching over time, I've learned, you know, those aren't helpful, I did the best that I could with the information that I had at the time and with where I was as a person in my mindset. Um, so over again, over time, I just thought, okay, I can't do this as a single person. And I thought I was over it. I was wrong. But then later in life, I was fortunate enough to meet the right person. Fortunate because he is the perfect partner for me. Um, and that doesn't always happen and we have a wonderful relationship. Um, but we never talked about kids before we got married because I thought I was over it. I thought I had accepted it, and I'm not going to become a biologic mom, and that's all there is to it. But with marriage, it was as if a switch got flipped, and that desire just like popped up and was so strong, and it just was like It's like I got slapped in the face. And so we had the conversation. The conversation we didn't have before marriage because I just didn't think we needed to. So we had the conversation and it didn't go my way because he didn't want any more kids. He had three kids. Um, he had done the terrible twos and the, you know, up all night and the, he was in the process of kind of getting to the end of the adolescent phase, and he was done with it. Um, but I wasn't. And so, it felt like a sadness that I had never experienced before. But I, I didn't understand it. I didn't understand why it was so significant, why it was such a deep sadness. And then I had an aha moment listening to someone talking about you know, the life cycle events and I realized it was because I had this picture in my head of what my life would be like. You find the right person, you marry them. That was what I thought was what I, you know, the right path for me and not saying that's what everybody should have, but that was my view of what life would be and what I wanted it to be. So it felt like the next step also in my mind, what I had dreamed of was you marry the right person, you have a child. And so that's when I realized like, this is why this grief, this sadness is so deep because it's the life I had planned but it's not, it's not turning out that way and I won't have the child that I dreamed of, the children that I dreamed of and so I grieved. Um, But it permeated my whole life, my whole view of everything in life. And I, I had this wonderful life. I had such good things in my life, but I couldn't enjoy them. I would put on fake smiles and pretend I was happy, but I wasn't feeling it. And then I had a second aha moment. The first was when I realized why this sadness was so deep, but then I had a second one when I had an email pop up while I was working on my computer. Um, the email popped up saying, you know, you have a new memory from today, however many years ago. And I decided to look at the photos. And one really stuck out. I mean, it struck me because as I looked at it, I realized I looked so happy in that photo and I wasn't, I'm looking at me looking like I felt so happy and it was a genuine happiness, but I wasn't feeling that at the time, despite having a very good life. And as I studied it, it dawned on me, that photo was taken before I ever realized I was not going to become a mom. And it hit me then. I need to stop focusing only on what I didn't have in my life and learn to open up to what I do have in my life. Now, I want to be really clear with people because Um, there is so much about, you know, just be positive. Think of the good things. Don't look at the bad. That's not what this was about. First of all, I don't agree with that. I think, for anybody who knows me, knows I am very anti toxic positivity, which is what that is, where you tell people to just look at the positive and, you know, forget the bad, forget the negatives. Um, No, that's not what life is, and you have to be able to deal with them both. But I realized that that's all that I, it was as if I could either be happy or sad, and I was only choosing sadness. I was only choosing to look at the, what I didn't have, at the negatives in my life. And that aha moment made me realize, okay, you, Gail, you need to start, um, allowing in the good so you can feel that happiness. And as part of this with coaching, I learned I needed to look at my thoughts. Now, that's not to say there's anything wrong with my thoughts. But, my thoughts about my childlessness, are going to be very different than someone's thoughts who has chosen to be child free, right? And so, it was my thoughts that were creating my feelings. In other words, You know, for me, it was, I want children, I want to be a mom, I can't be a mom, and that felt awful. It feels sad, and it still does, whereas someone who doesn't want to have children is like out there going, yeah, they're out there celebrating. This is awesome. So, of course, they feel good about it. That is not to say, again, that there's anything wrong with my thoughts. I just needed to realize that that was in part creating my pain. So, the life coaching training, part of the life coaching training that I have had is that our thoughts create our feelings. And they do. Again, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with our thoughts, but also there is more to what we go through and what we feel than just our thoughts. There's trauma. There's circumstances that, um, that bring us to where we are. So that is why there's nothing wrong with our thoughts. I just needed to recognize that they were having an effect on me and how I was feeling. I needed to learn to pull in the thoughts about the good things I have in life and honor the thoughts about what I have in my life that I don't want or what I don't have in my life that I do want. So that was one of the steps, part of what brought me to the point of accepting my childlessness in a way that now I can honor the loss, I can allow that pain and honor my grief, and also recognize the good that I have in my life, so that the loss in my life doesn't take over everything, um, that was part of, you know, the, one of the steps of getting to this point is looking at my, my thoughts. And so now I have accepted that life isn't all happiness. There is nobody who has a life that's pure happiness. Everybody has positives and negatives. Everyone has had some type of loss in their life. Um. And so I've accepted now, this is life, and I let myself grieve when things pop up that remind me of the pain. I mean that pain is always there. It's not like it goes away, but there's certain things that happen in life that remind us that kind of bring that pain back to surface. And when that happens, I let myself feel that I don't push it away. I don't pretend it away, um because when I do, when any of us pretends away the uncomfortable feelings, they don't actually go away. They stay there and they get worse and they come out usually in ways that aren't in alignment with how we want to live. The other thing that I did is I stopped shaming myself. You know, I still do the what ifs, but I'm able to like deal with those quickly and set them aside because I realize while I did things that have turned into a situation that wasn't what I wanted. First of all, who knows if I had become a single parent, what, would I, would I have been successful? Um, would I have had more problems? Like, we make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time, and that's what I did. Could I have survived a job loss? Could I have survived family loss? Now I know I could have. The person I am now, the person I was then, maybe, maybe not. I don't know. Um, but now I also see that what others think of me is their business. It's not mine. And if what they see of me and my pain points is something they want to use to try to inflict more pain or do some type of damage to me, as I said at the beginning, I do have, like many of you, have some people in my life like that, I recognize now that's on them. It speaks about them. So that is why I took myself off mute and decided I will keep telling my story and help other women reach the point I have with my life coaching. So the three takeaways that I would like you to you to have after I've gone through this whole long story about me. Um, and again, this podcast is for you, but I want to be, you know, transparent and let you know about me and my story so that if any of this resonates with you, you know, and can help you, that's what I want. But I want you to have three takeaways from this. And the first is, to look at your thoughts. Don't judge them. They're not good or bad. Just look at them. Recognize what thoughts you have about being childless. The second is allow yourself to feel all of your emotions. If you try to stuff away, pretend away, push away, the ones that are uncomfortable, they will not go away. They will fester and come out in other probably unhealthy ways. And so if you allow yourself to feel all of your emotions, sit with them, they will eventually lessen and not take up your life, your view of your, your world, um, so that it's only the uncomfortable ones that you're experiencing. And the last is you have not earned any shame. There is no shame in being childless. There is no shame in whatever road brought you to this place. What others think of you, what others think about being childless, is on them. It's not on you. All right, that is it for today, and I'm excited to be putting this out there, and let me know what you think. I will see you next week. Bye. Thanks for listening. If you liked this episode and you know someone who could benefit from this podcast, please share it with them and post about it on social media. There are many other women who are looking for this help and would love to know about it. To catch all the latest from me, you can follow me on Instagram at Childless Path Onward or on Facebook and YouTube at Path Onward. Thanks again, and I'll see you next time.