This is me. Lisa Ann Kissane. I’ve named this post “My Story” as I’m currently reading a book called Living the Life Unexpected by Jody Day (available here: https://amzn.to/2XOSPQJ) and the first exercise is to tell my story of childlessness. This may seem strange considering the intention of this blog is to entice clients for my future proofreading/editing business, but hear me out. The whole reason this dream is something I am pursuing is because of my childlessness and the insatiable desire to do something I love.
A few weeks ago, I typed a phrase into Google (that I do so often it auto-filled); something akin to “Support for childless women”. The search term wasn’t new, but the results were. I clicked on a website I didn’t recognise and, with the fanfare of a 21st Century Fox rom-com, I found my tribe. A group of childless women – not like the ones on Facebook, the ones with the tips about doing post-sex handstands amid the stench of desperation, but a group of women who are embracing their childlessness* and accepting the fact that sometimes, miracles don’t happen. If you’re reading this and contemplating your own childlessness, I strongly advise you to go to https://gateway-women.com/ and take a look around.
*This differs from women who are childfree, which is a lifestyle choice, and one I wholeheartedly respect.
My husband and I met in 2013 at a concert and by the end of that year we were living together in his home town. I had moved 150 miles to be with him and we knew pretty quickly that this relationship was something special. There was one, ever-so-small, problem. His ex-wife. For the first two years of our relationship, she was the metaphorical thorn in our side, popping up at every turn to attempt her unique brand of sabotage, including threats to withhold his children (classic). This led to a serious decline in my mental health and a very difficult court case to enable my then-boyfriend to have the relationship with his kids that he had every right to, with me fighting hard by his side. We had known early on that we wanted a child of our own, and never attempted to prevent it happening. Once the high drama of the court case was over, we started to consider seeing a doctor about the fact that it hadn’t happened naturally in over two years. We were just touching our 30s by then and I was starting to panic that time would run out. Little did I know, it already had. My biological clock hadn’t just stopped ticking, it was in pieces all over the floor.
The cherry on the cake was the message my husband received from his ex, announcing her own bundle of joy. It was around this time that fumbling doctors diagnosed me with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI), otherwise known as Early Menopause. I’ll never know if the stress at the beginning of our relationship was a factor in the onset of POI, or if it was something that had been a part of me for years. Regardless of the reasons, it meant that getting pregnant would be almost impossible. We tried, of course, and the internet gave me unending ideas for ways to improve our chances, but I never became pregnant. One October, we got the holy grail…a positive pregnancy test, or so we thought. It was a false positive, something I’d been told time and time again COULDN’T HAPPEN. Well, it did. It was a Tesco pregnancy test and when I complained, I was compensated with a £20 gift card. Thanks, Tesco, that’ll make up for the crushing sadness that keeps me up at night.
That Christmas was the worst few weeks of my life. We had always known IVF wasn’t an option – not only because one of us already had children, but also because my hormone levels were not within the parameters required. Still, I visited a private IVF clinic and had some extra tests done which confirmed the diagnosis and put the final nail in the coffin of my fertility. Adoption was discussed, but we decided that it wasn’t the right thing for us (I could write a whole other post about this, but won’t get into it now). We did, however, feel that fostering might be. Both of us loved the idea of helping many, many children over our life, and fostering would give us that opportunity. After going through the assessment process for around 6 months, we were approved as foster carers and within weeks had a funny, boisterous 9-year-old living with us.
I took to being a “mum” like a duck takes to water. I treasured every school run, every bedtime story, every kiss and cuddle. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, and in less than a year, I was completely defeated by the inadequacies of the fostering system and my mental health had taken another nose dive; we had to quit. Our little boy went to live with another wonderful carer and we’re still in touch with him – he’s doing brilliantly. In hindsight, we never should have been approved. We were assessed by a student who was easily persuaded, due to my background in social work, that we would be perfect. My mental health and the family finances were glossed over because they were just so desperate to have us on board, and we didn’t question how easy it had all been because we were desperate to be accepted.
It’s been almost a year since our little boy left. We’ve moved into a smaller house and I’ve turned my back on a decade-long career working with children, because it’s just too painful. Instead, my husband and I are navigating this new reality where having a child of our own is no longer the goal. I’m truly lucky that I have a good relationship with my stepchildren, and one day I may even be “Nanny”, but for me, coming face to face with my childless future is a journey I have only just started. There are many questions for which I may never get a satisfying answer (who’s going to look after me when I’m old?) but I will find my joy, I will leave a legacy, and I will pursue my Plan B. And it starts here.