It was such a delight chat with Aimee! I was fascinated by the way her career as a prenatal acupuncturist intertwined with her experience as a childfree woman.
We talked about being single, and strong, and independent, and vulnerable, and what it feels like to live as childfree women, surrounded by motherhood.
Why did you want to share your story with Anotherhood?
Well, I’m 41, and I’m single, and that’s something that I feel is missing in the conversation. We need to hear more stories of women in my age range who haven’t had the chance to conceive, or have chosen not to try without a partner. I’m also a fertility and prenatal acupuncturist. I love what I do and it lends a unique element to my experience.
I always thought I would be a mom. I love babies, and the foundation of my work is around helping people have babies, and it just never happened for me.
In my 30s, I dated a few people who didn’t want to have kids, so it was clear that we were on different paths and we decided to separate because I was so firmly on this path of wanting to be a mom.
But time went on, and my next relationships were not sticking. In 2017, I was in an on-again-off-again relationship that was in an off period, when I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis, with a blocked tube and fibroids. I had surgery for a cyst and some endometrial ablation, then because I’m a fertility specialist, I wanted to know what my numbers looked like.
So I got my fertility blood work done, and it was not good at all.
People were still saying things like, “Maybe it still can happen!” But I knew too much. The odds were already not in my favor, and time just kept going on without meeting a partner.
I went through a pretty rough grief process. I knew I didn’t want to have a baby by myself, so I had to go through all of it alone.
In my experience, my fertility feels very intertwined with my singleness.
I really had to just sit with it and come to my own acceptance, knowing that these are the facts. It wasn’t easy trudging through all that sadness, and I had a good pity party about it.
But I’m on other side, I think. Now I just have a lot of gratitude, and acknowledge that these are my present circumstances, and that was my past experience, and I get to ask myself what I want it to look like.
I will say, dating is a little weird now! I’m in this whole new dating bracket, and there’s a lot to think about – Do they want kids? Am I ok with other people’s kids? It’s a lot.
It’s so interesting that you’re able to weave the knowledge that you have as a fertility specialist into your own experience. How do you navigate conversations with people who project their own expectations of fertility and motherhood on to your life?
It’s tricky. I know people mean well. I have a few religious people in my life, and while I’m not a religious person, I have faith in the universe that there is a cosmic order, in a way. So the one that always gets me is, “Everything happens for a reason.”
That hits me so hard to my core, and it just creates a lot of shame.
I want to ask them, “Well what’s the reason? Did I do something wrong? If it is God’s will for me to not be a parent, then why was it God’s will for you to get that opportunity?”
And you’re right, I’ve witnessed a lot of other women’s struggles, so when people encourage me to “go it alone” or ask me why I don’t want to adopt I’m like, “I live in a one bedroom apartment and I’m self employed and have no family nearby. Do you want me to go be a mom by myself?” It already seems hard enough for a two parent household to raise a child.
Does being childfree-by-circumstance come up a lot in your relationships with the people in your life?
Sometimes. Every relationship is different. I feel very safe with some people and not as much with others. I don’t always feel like I fit in and I can be protective of myself by not sharing as much with some people because I don’t want to hear advice about what I should do with my life.
I think when I was really “in it” and in a low place, people wanted to help and offer solutions but now that I’m in a good place with my current circumstances, we talk about other things!
I have some amazing relationships that feel super loving and accepting. It has been really special for me that some of my friends are open to inviting me to a couple’s gathering and/or share their families with me. I get to be an auntie to some awesome kids in my life. And I have some friends in my life who are not moms that I feel grateful for.
I also feel blessed that my parents were never ones to pressure me to give them grandchildren or keep the family line going. I know that is not everyone’s experience.
Has being childfree had a great impact on your friendships with women who have become mothers?
Yeah, that’s a hard one. In your 20s everyone hangs out together and there are lots of group activities. As people’s relationship statuses change, they start drifting off into their couples and family lives. Everything definitely shifts.
I remember specifically, I was at a brunch with three other women, all of whom were mothers to young children, and that became the only topic of conversation. I was plopped down in the middle of a mom brunch, and honestly, I just felt like I was gonna die. After brunch, I remember calling a friend and just sobbing.
The connection became so different and we couldn’t relate to each other. As time went on, a lot of those relationships fell away. But I have a lot of other friends who are moms now and the connection is also really sweet. I think someone of them may enjoy hanging out with me because they get a break from mom talk. And I get to hold their babies.
How has your relationship with your body evolved throughout your journey?
It’s complicated because I feel like I’ve been betrayed a little bit.
When I found out that I had the endometrial cyst and I was going to have surgery, I did all these ‘natural’ things. I was doing Mayan massage, diet changes, acupuncture, and herbs, and supplements, and castor oil packs, and none of it worked. I tried so hard to be healthier and do X, Y, and Z and it wasn’t working. It felt like it was my fault even though I knew intellectually that it wasn’t.
Now, I still do a lot of those things because they help me feel better and they do work to manage my symptoms. I feel grateful for my body and sometimes look in the mirror and feel happy to have my 41 year old childfree body.
Is there anything that you wish people would view differently about childlessness?
The notion that Woman = Mother.
And the shame for somehow not being enough if you aren’t both. Shame that we put on ourselves, shame that we get from outside, from other women, from society.
The biggest thing that I have learned from this experience that I really want to share with people is that when you’re in it, it feels like it’s never going to be okay. But there is a place on the other side that can be super joyful, and even celebratory.
Honestly, I’ve begun to embrace the fact that I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to get out of bed until whenever I want. Nobody wants breakfast. Nobody (except my dog) wants anything from me. There are a lot of perks to being childfree.
As women without children, we have the ability to flip the script.
It’s interesting to me that your work centers around women who are struggling to become pregnant, yet you know that’s not going to be your path. What is that like?
After I had my surgery, I asked myself, “Is this what I want for my life path? I’m going to help other people have babies and I’m not going to have a baby.” I didn’t know if I wanted to face that every day. I had to think very deeply about it, and it isn’t completely resolved yet, but I feel at peace in a way.
When I first started my career, I thought it was something we were all going to do. I’ll have a baby, you’ll have a baby, we’ll all have babies!
But it’s also true that not every woman in my practice gets pregnant. It’s not all exciting and joyful. There’s a lot of struggle and a lot of sadness, and there is not always a happy ending.
I’ve just had to really go soul searching and ask, “What do I want to do?” I just put it out into the universe and said, “If this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing then bring different people into my practice,” and different people came, and it was really fun! Now I work with a greater mix of people.
And yet I’ve always loved pregnancy. I still get excited when anybody in my practice gets pregnant. I’m feel like, “Yay, there’s a baby in your belly!” probably 99.9% of the time. Sure, I’ve had my struggles and feelings of sadness, but I still feel excited about childbirth and pregnancy for other people, and it feels like work I’m supposed to be doing.
I’m giving myself space for that to change at some point. Maybe it feels like that now and then when I’m 45 or when I’m 50 maybe it’ll be different and I’ll do something else.
What have been some of the most challenging aspects of your experience?
The feeling that I don’t quite fit into a community of women. Some women are childless due to infertility, or childfree by choice, or childfree by circumstance, but that all feels like a very coupled experience. I feel the lack of community around childlessness and single life – not that I want other people to have to be single if they don’t want to be, but I do feel like I’m in this little limbo spot.
I think that right now that’s the most challenging thing, But in the past I think just going through my grief process felt pretty low at different points. And I’m sure it was hard for the people around me to witness me being in such a low place.
What about some of the most rewarding experiences?
It was kind of interesting to think about that question because we’re in this sheltering time. All the things on my list are freedoms that I’m excited to have but need to be put aside for now during quarantine.
Ultimately though, I can really celebrate my freedom and solitude, and I can write my own story. I can travel! I didn’t travel very much when I was young, but now I’m a self employed lady and I can take myself on trips and dream about going all over the world and doing whatever I want.
I’m taking singing lessons, and trying to learn how to play the piano. I’m taking Spanish lessons, and doing things that enrich my life and are fun and exciting. I have tons of time for self-care and my morning practice.
I’m finally to a place where I feel such gratitude, and I’m learning to really live in the moment. If I’m present in this exact moment, everything’s okay. I’ve been able to really feel like I got to that place of, “I’m okay, no matter what happens.”
Even within the context of singleness, I’ve begun letting go of all the anxiety of, “When am I going to find my person?” or “When am I going to have a baby?” I’m just not feeling that anymore.
If something happens that’s different from this, I will welcome it and I’ll be excited about it but right now I feel good with where my life is.