What If You Can’t Have a Baby?

For the past ten years, Mara Kofoed tried to have a baby. When it started proving difficult, she tried acupuncture, IUI, IVF…nothing worked. Finally, this spring, she and her husband, Danny, decided to stop trying and instead focus on a life without children. Here’s Mara’s moving story and the happiness lesson she learned along the way…

On trying to conceive: For ten years, we tried extremely hard to have a baby. Doctors told me my infertility was “unexplained.” First I tried natural treatments, like acupuncture, herbs, teas, supplements, dietary changes, meditation and visits with holistic healers. These experiences changed my life in many profound ways, but they didn’t work to get pregnant. After that, I tried three rounds of IUI and two rounds of IVF. Nothing was successful. The last round of IVF used up every ounce of my energy and really sent me for a loop, physically, hormonally and emotionally. Finally, we decided we wouldn’t do any more treatments and to just try to live the best life we can.

On reactions from loved ones: Most people are very, very shocked that we don’t currently have plans to adopt or do more medical treatments. I think most people don’t understand why we just couldn’t continue trying. “Why wouldn’t you adopt?” Other people think we are choosing this because we actually want to be childless and so they act very excited for us and even congratulate us and say, “Yay! Awesome! You get to travel the world! So glad you guys are doing what you want!” We are not offended by any comments as everyone means so, so well.

But here’s what it’s like for us…it is very, very sad for us. The idea of a family seems like it won’t happen. But we’ve done what we can. After ten years, I don’t have any more stamina to continue the pursuit. Moving on is one of the most complicated things I’ve ever faced. But every ounce of myself is done with pursuing, pursuing, pursuing. It’s like someone has died and instead of dedicating a life to changing what is, we are going to move on and try our very, very best to live the best life that we can. And we’re trying to cultivate as much excitement and hope that we can for a life that looks nothing like we had planned.

On moving on: Adoption is certainly an option, but it is such a huge, huge, huge undertaking, at this point, I feel like it’s time for us to move on. I don’t have it in me to make one more phone call let alone 1,000. I know that many people choose to pursue adoption, foster care or many more rounds of IVF, and I root for everyone out there who is trying to follow their hearts and do whatever they can muster. But for me, the overall desire to continue has lessened. I am not sure why, exactly, but now I just couldn’t feel further away from motherhood. It has been so, so far in the distance for so long now that I can’t see it anymore. I used to feel closer to it, when there still seemed a chance that I could be a mother; I planned on it, fought for it, transformed my life for it, had a list of baby names, saved clothes. But now (and for quite some time now), I feel further away than ever. I can’t taste it. I can’t touch it. I don’t know it. It seems impossible to pursue adoption while feeling this way.

On explaining the decision to friends and family: Let’s say you really want to get a high school diploma and you’re working your tail off to get that diploma. And when all your friends are ready to graduate, the school comes up to you and says, Oh, you have to come back and do this for another year and then maybe you can get a diploma. So you go back and work and study and take all the tests, and still they say, I’m so sorry, you have to come back and do this for another year. I went through that for 10 years. Meanwhile, all your friends already have their diplomas and are living a completely different life. At this point, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be excited about getting a diploma.

Pursuing a child is an absolute lifestyle. Some people don’t realize how much time it takes. It affects everything—the food you eat, your daily routine, the phone calls, the red tape, the appointments—it holds you back from pursuing other things. I had been living my whole life with the idea that I would have a baby someday, and it affected everything: career decisions, which car I bought, the home that I bought. I lived my life in a way that centered around a future with a baby. Now I feel like I need to start over and redefine what my life is going to be.

On feeling isolated: I’ve felt sad about not being able to experience pregnancy, the miracle of birth, breastfeeding a child…I looked forward to sharing these amazing life experiences that have united women all over the world from the beginning of time. There is a sense of isolation not knowing what so many other women seem to know.

On fears about the future: If I were to ever lose my husband Danny, I would have no offspring, no nuclear family of my own. One of us will one day die and leave the other alone. I can hardly bear the thought. It’s weird to think we won’t have any lineage. We will basically disappear one day.

On being happy for other parents: The first year of having trouble conceiving, I was in a dark place. I didn’t want to hear about people getting pregnant. But now, surprisingly, it’s not sad to see other people with babies. I admire it, it’s beautiful. This last Christmas, we didn’t go to our family’s home, because we were moving, and my sister-in-law wondered if we didn’t go because I didn’t want to be around the kids. It broke my heart, since that couldn’t be further from the truth.

On a life-changing meeting: Early in the process of trying to conceive, I met with the most wonderful acupuncturist, Angela Le. She taught me about finding wholeness within myself. Her mission is to change the world one woman at a time. By some miracle, I met her, and it transformed my life.

On finding happiness within yourself: With infertility, at first, I would think, oh my gosh, if I could just get pregnant, life will be so amazing, and I’ll be so happy, and this child will just make my world. For years, my worth and identity was wrapped up in having a spouse and children. But then, I realized that I was putting pressure on this child to fulfill me, when in reality, it’s my job to find fulfillment, not anyone else’s.

If you’re seeking wholeness from another person—looking to your child or spouse or job—then when you encounter challenges in that relationship, you’re going to feel threatened. Your worth and identity as a wife/mother/business owner will be sucked in to every bad mood, tone of voice, stressful moment, etc. That’s a huge pressure on the other person. There’s no getting away from it until you decide to cut the cord and say, my wholeness is intact. It’s the most loving thing you can offer someone, because it allows you to absolutely love others and to stay stable, no matter what the circumstances are.

I know—with every ounce of my being—that joy in life is possible regardless of your circumstances, regardless of whatever hand you’re dealt. Now I live my life by cultivating joy and happiness myself and not relying on anyone else for it. The most important thing is learning to live a life motivated by love, no matter what your circumstances. That is what makes good parents good parents. That is what makes good people good people. And I still have that. We ALL have that.

On living a life motivated by love: In our marriage, if there is a moment when one of us is not doing so well, if one of us is tired or hungry or just stressed, we will try to tap into that love that we have for each other. Even if my husband is totally upset, I will try in that moment to see that as a trigger for me to offer even more patience and love to him. It’s easy to bite back and say “Well, why did you use that tone of voice with me?” or “Why didn’t you do this thing you said you’d do?” But instead I try to offer more kindness and speak in a calm voice. It gives him the space to get back to where he wants to be—if it takes one minute, great, and if it takes ten minutes, fine. Having that kindness offered to him is going to inspire him to rise back up to who he wants to be. He does the same for me, as well. We do this back and forth to each other. It can be really beautiful.

On learning how to be whole: I want to give women hope, the idea that there is another option, another way of life. Infertility is the reason I changed my life for the better. Books are also a great place to start. I love The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. They teach you to find into your deepest potential, your wholeness and worth. I’m sending much love today to anyone out there navigating the path to having children (or not) or raising children (or not). I’m convinced these are some of the most difficult paths to face. But also, they can be the most sanctifying paths ever found.

Read more on Mara’s beautiful blog, A Blog About Love, if you’d like. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Mara. xoxo

P.S. Another friend’s struggle with infertility, and would you ever decide not to have kids? Also, what if you’re not sure if you want kids or not?

(Photo by Kari Herer)

  1. What Zoe Royall said!
    Blessings on you and your husband, Mara. It sounds like you have opened yourselves up to life and I suspect you will find fulfillment in ways you could not imagine before.

  2. Mara, thank you. I struggle with infertility in a weird way: I never found someone to marry. I’m now too old to have children even if I were to find someone.

    The heartbreak goes unrecognized because since I’m single, people don’t see it as infertility. But everything you said about trying (I feel as though I’ve been trying for ten years, too!), moving on, feeling isolated, and fearing the future (!!) really resonates with me. For the first time, I feel as though there is someone in the world who understands my sadness and the effort it takes to live a good life anyway, and I thank you for that.

  3. This is one of the sweetest stories I have read. Such a wonderful heart!

  4. Mara, your words are like a balm. Truly a graceful and beautiful piece to read right now. I struggled with infertility for six years and then out of the blue became pregnant. The fears and feelings you write about are so familiar to me, as familiar as breath. The kindness that emanates from your soul moves me. I wish you could be a mother, but like other commenters have written it seems to me that your power and creations as a writer have the power to inspire and leave such an incredible legacy. Still, I mourn for you. It gives me pause, to consider how fraught the journeys of women and mothers, and Joanna, I thank you for offering up so many voices. Love love and more love.

  5. This is just what I needed to hear. My family looks very different from what I hoped for and sometimes I feel sad about that and other times I wouldn’t change a single thing for the world. There is great truth in not holding on so tightly to anything (including our children, families and marriages)that our identities are at risk of shattering should it ever be taken away. As harsh as that sounds, it is actually a great comfort during a loss.

  6. Thank you so much for this. We’ve been trying to conceive for about a year, and the only time there seemed to be hope, I ended up having a miscarriage. It’s been really, really hard – especially reading blogs like this one (which I love!) written by mothers, as well as watching my friends/coworkers all get pregnant, etc. It’s so difficult not to compare and feel sorry for myself, desperately trying to join a club that doesn’t seem to want me as a member. However, posts like this remind me that there are others out there who have gone through similar experiences and made it out on the other side.

  7. Thank you for sharing. You nailed exactly how I feel.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It spoke to me, and is helping me process some of my journey too. It is this kind of honesty that helps us all understand each other a bit better.

  9. So much wisdom, hope and bravery in this couple’s story! I especially love this line:

    “Even if my husband is totally upset, I will try in that moment to see that as a trigger for me to offer even more patience and love to him.”

  10. This is one of the finest pieces I’ve ever read on infertility…thanks for sharing your story Mara! You have blessed countless women by opening up like this. Sharing on our shop page! xoxo, Annie from Brimful

  11. This just broke my heart wide open. I am 2 years into my infertility journey and it can be a very lonely, isolating experience. I certainly don’t have the acceptance she does and I hope I can find it. Right now I mostly just want to punch anyone who tells me I should just adopt as if it’s as easy as picking up a gallon of milk.

  12. Mara (and Danny), your strength and gracefulness are stunning. Thank you for sharing your story.

  13. This was so sad yet beautiful. I loved the part about being happy with yourself and not depending on others to do that for you. I shared that quote with friends and a lot of them loved it so much.
    I’m 29 and not married and not close to being married. Although I feel much younger than my age I can’t help but think what if I pass that time line and can’t have a baby or what if something’s really wrong with the baby and I will have to abort…. And this is after not even being sure I want to dedicate my life to having kids :)
    Thank you for sharing this meaningful post.

  14. thank you so much for sharing your touching story, mara! i also always thought i would have children, but do not (and am too old now to even adopt!). it is difficult and sad but life goes on and happiness is still possible as you said! xx

  15. We made the choice to move on from infertility 13 years ago when I was 32 (after 5 years of torture trying-I wouldn’t wish infertility on my worst enemy). Had to train for and finish a marathon to feel some sense of control over my body after feeling so helpless. We have no regrets. You can be a parent or not. Both ways are great. Just be open to the blessings of a family of two – it may be what was meant for you all along.

  16. Loved this post. After having a miscarriage in January, it has been a difficult year. I do have an absolutely wonderful three year old and would love another, but realize that another child will not be in our future. I have been trying to deal with my grief and the fact that I won’t have another baby. This spring has been especially difficult with all the baby announcements and births. This post was just what I needed. Thank you Mara and Jo!

  17. touched by her honesty. thanks for sharing.

  18. What a touching story. After a 6 year journey trying to create a family, I appreciate knowing that others have survived regardless of their choices. Having experienced recurrent miscarriages, multiple procedures, and ultimately having twins; it is important to be kind to yourself throughout your journey and trust your decisions about what is best for you.

  19. This was the best, most real post you’ve ever had. What a beautiful, touching story.

  20. This was such a beautiful post. I’m so glad you posted it and I’m so glad she agreed to do it. She should definitely write a book.
    She has a rare and true voice and I feel a little bit stronger for having heard it.

  21. Almost my story to a “t”. Still in the moving-on phase, but I will get there. It’s always great to hear others feel the same.

  22. Thank you Mara. Hauntingly sad but full of hope. Sending love and sunshine your way. Loved what you said about being kind to your husband when he’s struggling. Something to strive towards.

  23. Thanks Rebekah :)

  24. This is my first time commenting ever…but I just have to say how much I love this post and want Danny and Mara to know my heart is with them and I get it. Mines has been a 12 year struggle and my husband and I wouldn’t change a thing as we have grown leaps and bounds together and our marriage is stronger for it. We have been through every stage of loss, as infertility is indeed a loss, a loss of what you imagined your life with a family would be like. Needless to say, it took many, many years to finally reach acceptance and let go and be okay with letting go. Once we were able to reach that final step, it was liberating! We chose to be happy and greatful for whatever life would bring to us, with or without children. That first year of liberation was glorious! However, a year later our lives took an unexpected turn when we received a call that a distant family member had a child in the foster care system that needed a home. If this happened any other time in our marriage, we would have pushed the idea away. School, work, marital ups and downs would have been our excuse. But, when the time is right, boy is it right. Needless to say, we have been on a rollercoaster of a ride with the foster care system, but it has been so very worth it. We have enjoyed every-single-day with our litte one, knowing he may only be ours for a time being. We are finally at the end of our journey and adoption is in sight. Family is what you make it, and we love how ours has come together. It’s definitely nothing I had ever invisioned, but beautiful nonetheless. We wish you both much love and all the best in your journeys.

  25. Thank you for posting this. But above all thank you for writing it, Mara. I wish I could be as graceful and as wise with my own issues. Infertility is a very dark place. I find it almost unbearable to read about or think about right now. But your article has made me feel a little better.

  26. Going through infertility treatments is hands down the most difficult thing I have ever been through. For me the hardest thing was how long it takes…years to figure out what is going on and treat it – it’s not like you can just have a blood test and that’s it. Parenthood is just such a default mindset that we have – I now never ask anyone any questions about their family plans because I learned the hard way that you just never know what someone may be going through.

  27. This is really beautiful and I appreciated it so much. Thank you for sharing your story, Mara, and thank you Joanna for posting this on your blog. It is so inspiring and wonderful, especially during a time in my life where it feels like everyone is pregnant (seriously, I found out about two friends just this weekend), to read about your journey and your acceptance. This is one of my favorite things I’ve read on A Cup of Jo. So good!

  28. As always, a huge thank you to Mara for sharing her story so beautifully & so gracefully. Her posts on infertility helped me so much during my struggle & I always wish I could truly thank her.

  29. I don’t often feel compelled to comment online, but thank you so very much for posting this Joanna, and Mara for sharing her story. I am 25 and getting married next year. At 20 I was told I have endometriosis, and a very low chance of conceiving. I have lived my life like I would have children one day, but with the knowledge that I might not be so lucky. Thank you for sharing your experience of how you managed to stop trying. It means the world to me.

  30. I don’t often feel compelled to comment online, but thank you so very much for posting this Joanna, and Mara for sharing her story. I am 25 and getting married next year. At 20 I was told I have endometriosis, and a very low chance of conceiving. I have lived my life like I would have children one day, but with the knowledge that I might not be so lucky. Thank you for sharing your experience of how you managed to stop trying. It means the world to me.

  31. Thank you Mara for your beautiful words, thanks Joanna for posting this. I want to feel as whole as you whatever I do in my life.

  32. Thank you for this post. In a world saturated by IG, FB and blog posts about baby bumps, newborns, kiddos in Easter outfits, it is so easy to become down and dark about the fact my husband and I do not have children. I have tried off and on for years to conceive and it’s just never panned out. Finding joy in the path and plan of life I did not expect has been challenging but it is getting somewhat easier. At 41, I am finally starting the process of letting go of the dream of motherhood. And it has sucked and brought a depth of grief within me I never knew existed. But, having childless friends and reading stories like these helps me to realize we are not alone in this path of life. It is now up to us to give, love and invest in our family and friends and pour the same love, time and attention into them that we would have a child or children. Thank you for sharing with us. Not many people truly understand/empathize. And I know you do, Mara.

  33. This post meant so much to me. Mara and Danny, thank you for sharing your story. I’m currently struggling with infertility and the loss of my daughter at 26 weeks and it is isolating and defeating and heartbreaking.

    Joanna, this post and the post about Stillbirth & Kate’s son, Paul, have both been so helpful for me. Without a doubt, they are your best posts ever. Thanks for tackling these tough subjects.

  34. Oh my goodness, I needed to read this. NEEDED to learn to feel better about infertility struggles. I will likely never have children and this post helped give me peace. Mara is so brave and beautiful.

  35. @Meadow Pregnancy and childbirth are not joyful or enjoyable for everyone, I’ll say that up front. But I loved both (despite the inevitable discomfort, annoyances, and pain). Pregnancy was a time to prepare for my daughter, to be amazed at my own body as it carried her; it just very cool to have another life within you, especially when she starts to move. :) Birth is hard and painful but I would do it all over again (and I will, if God gives us more children!). I came at it from a very “natural” standpoint, seeing it as an incredible thing that my body can do for my child, rather than as a medical event. So that made a huge difference in my experience. I wasn’t afraid and I am not afraid to do it again. (I do believe that children are humans from the moment of their conception, and so my entire pregnancy was, to me, a celebration of this new member of our family. Despite the nausea and itchy skin and stretch marks. :))

    In any case, to the original post. Very beautiful, very sobering. While children DO bring new love to your life, I absolutely do NOT believe that you MUST have children in order to experience “life to its fullest.” It took us a few years to get pregnant with our daughter and I learned the same thing: that if you cannot be happy and content in what you’re given now, you cannot expect that “getting what you want” will solve all your problems.

  36. What a beautiful and moving post, thank you for sharing this side of the motherhood story.

  37. Thank you so much for eloquently giving voice to what so many of us have endured. After an agonizingly emotional struggle with infertility, my husband and I have chosen to go the egg donor route – a choice that brings with it an all-new set of difficult-to-address and painful questions, judgments and advice. People do mean well, and we have had tremendous support from family and friends, but even the most innocent of remarks can sting. I am forever grateful that science has provided this option for us, but I will never, ever forget the heartbreak of my own infertility.

  38. Wow. What a great post. Mara how many women are struggling alone with infertility. Your candor in thus topic is unparalleled. Best wishes with pursuing new dreams with your husband. Sounds like you have a very good, strong fulfilling marriage. Not everyone can say that.

    Thank you Joanne for sharing Mara’s story.

  39. Thank you Joanna and Mara for such a beautiful post. These are 2 of my favourite blogs and not one day goes by without reading both the blogs :) So much to learn about love. Thank you so much again!

  40. so beautiful. i love the lessons shared on wholeness. thank you!

  41. Thank you for sharing. After reading I felt inspired to share my own truth this morning with a pregnant friend after an awkward moment yesterday that stemmed from my pain with secondary infertility. I feel much better now that I put words to my feelings and let them go despite my fears.

  42. An amazing post of hope and clarity!! So many women struggle with fertility, myself included. While I was able to have my first child (no problem), the second is proven to be something that is just not in the cards for us. Like her, I got to a point after fertiliy treatments and a miscarriage, I lost myself. I was in a dark place for some time. I was a mother who struggled with “Secondary Infertlity” and I’m proud to say today (yes, proud), that I am no longer mourning the loss of having others. I came to a realization that I have a 3 year old little miracle walking around(well, running mostly), that is begging for my attention and love now – I was so focused on having another,but I have a lil freckled faced boy looking right at me. The power of acceptance is overwhelming and extremely liberating. For all those women out there, just know, your path will be right for YOU, and it will work out the way it’s meant to be – just keep fighting to find your happiness.

  43. A beautiful soul this woman has!

  44. It was the same for me.But ı tried IVF 6 times:) Then some bad things happened about my husbands work.He moved to another city for at least a year.It was so sad for me that I can’t breath.

    He went, he came, went again and then ı realized that ı was pregnant:)

    The wrok problems were over at the same days like a miracle.He was away only for one month:)

    My daughter is 3 years old now.I hope and pray that this miracle will happen to Mara, too.

  45. Beautiful, thoughtful post. Thank you.

  46. I’m so happy you posted this. I feel like the subject is so taboo. So many women go through trouble conceiving and they need our solidarity as women!

  47. Beautiful post, thank you for sharing Mara, your honesty and strength are extremely admirable!

  48. I have suffered a miscarriage and am now in the process of trying again. It is absolutely life-consuming, it is constantly in my thoughts, some days I am optimistic, some days I am simply scared. The thought of it never happening to us is absolutely terrifying right now. I know I am only in the beginning of this journey, but I am hoping from the bottom of my heart that God will fulfill our family with a child. It was enlightening to read your story!

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  50. Yes, this post is beautiful. I am a mother of 2, but I’ve been down the path of miscarriage, infertility, and ivf. I can’t agree with Mara more, and admire her for being able to gracefully accept what life has handed her. I know too how one can get so wrapped up in “life with a baby”, totally planning around it and making decisions based on it. Thankyou for sharing.

  51. This is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

  52. I was waiting for a post like this one to appear on your blog — thank you, Joanna. And thank you, Mara, for sharing your story of resilience. You’re an inspiration.

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  54. @ Anne – 11:06PM

    We certainly have considered many things, and have researched a great deal into gestational surrogacy. We also remain very open to things changing in the future. We do know we are done with fertility treatments. We also know that for the moment, we are too tired of all the insane hoops you have to jump through for adoption or surrogacy, and so it isn’t the correct decision for now. But it certainly could be one day. I’m not one to permanently close any door.

    In our case, I assure you it is not rationalizing away a decision, though I can certainly understand what you’re saying. The choice we’ve made is a very conscious and deliberate one that remains true to where we are right now.

    And, in no way am I trying to be combative or dismissive of your statement regarding the pure love and wholeness a child can bring into your life.

    But you must understand that we are capable of saying the same thing from a different perspective. There are no words to describe the love and happiness and wholeness and joy that we’ve found exactly because things have not gone as planned. It forced us to stop looking outside ourselves to other people and certain circumstances, and it caused us to develop happiness from the inside out instead of the outside in. It would also be appropriate to say I found it from the inside UP, as faith and God have played a large role in what Mara and I have learned.

    I feel closer to the principles of Love and Happiness because of what I learned through difficult moments like divorce and infertility.

    I have no doubt that parenthood would multiply those feelings in their own special way. But understand it is exactly because of infertility that Mara learned how to actually LOVE. You might enjoy reading this post she wrote on the subject –

    Mara and I put up a few other relevant links on our site today to help complete the picture Joanna helped to paint today.

    Again, I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m disagreeing with you. I’m not. I’m only adding to it, and saying that there are many paths to understanding deep and powerful and life changing love. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that most of us are only good at describing the path that we know best.

    I’m delighted you’ve found that in children. And if all doors are left open, who knows, we may one day know the same.

    With Love,
    Danny and Mara

  55. Loved this post. Reminds me of how much I appreciate the honesty I find on your blog, Jo, via you or the many wonderful people you meet. Thank you, Mara, for bravely sharing your story with us. I am so blessed to have a daughter, but the absolute miracle that she IS is not lost on me. Your strength and perspective, Mara, are truly inspiring and a wonderful reminder of how all of us should face our own challenges. xoxo

  56. Mara, your attitude is so brave, whole and balanced. Those 10 years sound grueling and tiring and sad. But I want to say something that I didn’t see mentioned. I find that when we are faced with negativity, we often rationalize the situation away in order to feel better. Is it possible that after you have had a couple of years to regroup, that you would consider a Gestational Surrogate or even a traditional surrogate?? Trust me, childbirth and pregnancy are SCARY and SHOCKING and STRESSFUL; it is only the outcome that changes your life. I have no words to properly describe how much pure love and wholeness having a child/being a mother brings into life. It brings a perspective that is unmatched. For what it is worth, it is important to recapture life after such a long journey. But, your story can’t end here; being a mother is too incredible.

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  58. Thank you so much for this post Joanna. I am truly grateful.

    Mara, your story spoke to me like no other today. It has helped me accept my conflicting emotions and find validation, especially with the distance I have felt towards motherhood (truly felt alone in this), after our many years of attempting to become parents. Like you, we worked with Dr. Toledo, who was fantastic! But with all that, we were never able to get our diploma.

    Again, thank you.


  59. Thanks for the reminder that some of my best gifts in life came from experiencing something that was not in my “plan”. Thank you for sharing your life lessons you learned by going through something challenging. Maybe something deeper and more meaningful to your true self is in store for you, but your consciousness doesn’t know it yet! I struggle with the idea of children being in the cards for me as I approach my latter part of my 30’s, but I continue to remain open to what the universe has in store for me and take it one day at a time. I appreciate your willingness to share.

  60. I relate to this so much. Thank you for the comfort. I too will carry this with me.

  61. jm says...

    Mara, Thank you so much for your thougtful and hoenst story. I completely loved what you said about keeping your “wholeness intact.” That really resonated with me and I think it is so important. i love that you react to your husband with love and give him space to get back to who he wants to be. You sound like such a lovely person. I loved reading your story. And thank you, Joanna.

  62. Mara – thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I have been struggling with infertility for four years – we’ve seen doctors, done procedures, and suffered a loss. Your words resonate with me so much.

    Joanna – thank you for sharing this. I’m not sure if you were aware but last week was National Infertility Awareness Week so the timing of this continues to bring awareness to this disease.

  63. What a strong amazing woman! I work in adoptions and read everyday of how people cannot have children. It is wonderful to be apart of a process to be able to watch people become parents. Other than the delivery room doctor not many people can say they get to witness that at their job! Many times when the family comes in to finalized their adoption the impossible has happened…she’s 6 months pregnant! Everything happens for a reason and I believe God has a plan for everyone. Now that I am carrying my 2nd child I worry I will upset our adoptive parents that were unable to conceive but it’s the opposite they are as happy for me as I am for them. There is no difference just that my baby is growing in my belly and their baby grew in their hearts! Best wishes to you Mara!

  64. Thank you for the amazing post. Keep up the good work Joanna. And thank you so so much Mara for sharing your story that has touched me to the core.

  65. Thank you for putting this into words! I’m going through the exact same thing…10yrs and exhausted!
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  66. Just wanted to add another thanks for the article on to the pile. After many years I just had to make the decision to stop trying to conceive. It’s such a hard place to be because the pressure to keep going is so intense. But my body was worn out and just couldn’t take the trying anymore. Thanks for modeling grace and wholeness in the face of profound sadness.

  67. I’ve enjoyed reading this blog for quite some time but never more than today. Thank you, thank you, thank you-Rachel

  68. I absolutely loved this post. I’m 35, single, and don’t like work at dating so I’m its starting to be more and more likely that I won’t have a family. I just went to a baby shower and I wished I could share the experience. Just trying to say I related very much even though we have different struggles. Thanks!

  69. Mara, thank you for sharing an honest piece of yourself here in such a beautiful way.

  70. This hits home for me, after a ovarian cancer I had a hysterectomy 1 month after my 29th birthday. It’s been 13 months since the surgery and every single day is a struggle. Thank you for this post, and for a new blog to read!

  71. This hits home for me, after a ovarian cancer I had a hysterectomy 1 month after my 29th birthday. It’s been 13 months since the surgery and every single day is a struggle. Thank you for this post, and for a new blog to read!

  72. Thank you for this post. I think there must be many people out there who relate to Mara, but we are all so isolated. My husband has a degenerative genetic disorder, and we have decided not to have biological children in order to avoid passing it on. Now, we have also decided not to adopt because we are not sure that it would be a responsible choice with the state of my husband’s health. It is so hard to face this when you have planned for a child your whole life and when all your friends are experiencing the joys of motherhood. I know now that God blessed me with the characteristics of a caretaker so I could care for my husband as his health declines. I praise God that He blessed me with an abundance of love in this life, even if it is without a child.

  73. Just beautiful. Thank you for this.

  74. *E says...

    The timing of this article couldn’t be more poignant — I’m a years-long reader who rarely (if ever?) comments, but my husband and I have been dealing with infertility and just completed our first round of IVF this past weekend. The entire experience was harrowing and now we are in the nail-biting “two week wait.” Without going into detail, in our case, this is sort of our only shot so though we don’t yet know the outcome (now that we have completed a cycle, we’ve been given a 25% chance of pregnancy…) I can relate to many of her sentiments regarding a sense of the loss of that future. Infertility DOES feel like a death – the grief is constant – and it’s a feeling I never could have imagined until I was in this position. And believe me, I never thought I would be; I’m ashamed to admit that I used to think people who couldn’t have kids should “just adopt” or at least “accept their circumstances” — oy. It’s not remotely that simple, and I think Mara captured that truth in a way that may really explain it. Anyway, not sure where this comment is going, but I’ll end with a thank you, to Mara and Jo, for the meaningful post.

  75. Amazing. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for over a year. While that doesn’t compare to what Mara went through a lot of these things resonate with me. The worst is the inappropriate questions people think they can ask and the remarks they make. At Christmas a coworker told me I should give my husband a baby and kept making comments. Needless to say I wanted to punch him.

  76. The tone of Mara’s story reminds me of Kate’s story about the birth/death of her son. Both so touching and enlightening bringing one close to an experience never actually lived. Thank you!

  77. Thank you for including the thoughts on finding happiness and wholeness inside. When life doesn’t turn out the way we planned, it’s so tempting – and very accepted in our culture – just to throw yourself into another direction and lose yourself in action – work, exercise, travel, fashion, material possessions and so on. I’m learning after a long and winding search that happiness has been there inside me all along. Thanks.

  78. @Christina Jackson: I really don’t want to come across as insensitive with my comment, but you WANT to experience childbirth and pregnancy? I want to have a kid… but I see pregnancy as a means to an end. The thought of being pregnant (and especially giving birth) absolutely terrifies me. It’s the main reason why I am not ready to try to conceive yet. Can you please tell me what sort of joys you’re talking about? I’d like to get out of my negative mindset if possible. Congratulations on your lovely baby boy… I am sure he is very lucky to have you as a mom! :)

  79. Thank you so much for this post! Sometimes it feels few and far between that I read a story similar to mine. This is such an important side of the infertility and motherhood story to tell, thank for your courage in sharing it! I write about my story and really about my recovery at my blog, Ever Upward, at Thank you again, Justine

  80. thank you so very much, jo and mara! i am a loyal reader of both of your blogs, and so grateful for this story. my love to both of you for your courage and your support!

  81. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You have done us all a wonderful service in being so honest about your struggle.

  82. Thank you Joanna for publishing this story and thank you Mara for sharing. I could not believe I was reading this. This could have been me talking. I am close to making the same difficult decision but fear letting my husband down. I am so so tired.

  83. Thank you for sharing. It is exciting to see friends have babies but I too think I will never be a mother as I have a chronic fatigue syndrome like disease and cannot see myself having the energy to take care of a child. It is hard to know this, to see my friends have what I very much want someday but I think more and more people are choosing or finding they will not have kids. It will be okay you will have the rest of us childless couples to keep you company and it’s fun to be the Aunt to some child you can give back.

  84. I adore Mara and Danny and I am so thrilled that they have chosen to share their story. It’s such a powerful life decision that can leave so many people feeling alone.

    Smooches to all of you.

  85. Thank you for this post Joanna and Mara. It was refreshing to read this brave post on a topic that is all too often not discussed. I’m glad that after such a long struggle that didn’t end how you hoped, you have been able to find peace and happiness.

  86. Thank you, Joanna, for sharing this honest glimpse into a life less traveled–the perspective of a freed infertile. Though I now have a young daughter after 4+ charred years and 7 rounds of treatment, I will always consider myself an infertile, as it forever changed my perspective on life.

    The only way I came through it was to mourn deeply, heal with a limp, and finally let go. That brutal process towards liberation changed my life and I teared up reading Mara’s heartfelt journey through it too. It’s so isolating, but at the same time so unbelievably universal–the act of finding yourself again after the ashes have settled. That found reflection, that earned happiness, is truly beautiful.

    My favorite post yet,
    The Shaded Acorn

  87. I was preparing myself for crying throughout this but actually found it very uplifting, thank you for sharing.

  88. What a refreshing voice of peace and reason among fertility bloggers (anyone read Amy Klein lately?)

  89. @ Chelsea 4:13 PM

    Mara and I have dedicated just about our whole blog to helping people as they go through these difficult situations in life (like infertility, divorce, loss, etc.).

    I do hope you’ll come and visit the site and spend some time. I assure you, if you look at what we posted today for those of Joanna’s readers who link over after reading the collaboration here, we provided a number of links to describe some of the things that helped us both, and Mara in particular, find joy, health, happiness, and healing in the middle of the difficulty, and not just after (if there ever is an “after” since for some like us, it doesn’t go away.)

    We truly wish you the best on your journey, and hope you too will find in time that as difficult as it all is, and whatever the outcome may be, your experiences will have taught you how to be a better human being, capable of offering and receiving love to others in more powerful ways.

    Danny and Mara

  90. Thank you for this moving post. Ferility treatments, especially IVF, are farmore emotional draining than I had ever imagined. There is so much build up to the event and then the wait until you know that it hasn’t worked and you are filled with disbeleif and pity. Moving on takes such strength Mara, I am so happy that. You are finding peace andhappiness.

  91. Thank you so much for this. I love motherhood mondays, but I am in the great infertility boat, going on two years of ttc. I have re-read Monica’s article about 100 times, and always hope to hear more over here on infertility. Joanna, you always seem to have the best guest posts- maybe you have other references for us ladies enduring the struggle? I know I would love that. Thank you so much Mara, for your beautiful and inspiring words. xo

  92. Very moving. This idea sticks with me: “It’s easy to bite back and say ‘Well, why did you use that tone of voice with me?’ or ‘Why didn’t you do this thing you said you’d do?’ But instead I try to offer more kindness and speak in a calm voice.” Our struggles can be the moments where we channel the greatest compassion and kindness for ourselves and others.

  93. Thank you so much for this beautiful story and message! I’ve been down a similar path, but for a few less years than the author, and am reaching the conclusion that I will probably live a childless life. I’m okay with that now. I didn’t really know how to verbalize my peace with it, but Mara wrote very eloquently on the same things I’m thinking/feeling. Thank you for giving me this perspective!

  94. Thank you so much for this beautiful story and message! I’ve been down a similar path, but for a few less years than the author, and am reaching the conclusion that I will probably live a childless life. I’m okay with that now. I didn’t really know how to verbalize my peace with it, but Mara wrote very eloquently on the same things I’m thinking/feeling. Thank you for giving me this perspective!

  95. This is such a beautiful post. It’s equally heartbreaking and heat warming. Having just had a baby girl I cannot imagine what it must be like to go through this and as much as it is something I have always wanted after ten years of trying I can completely understand mara’s decision.

  96. Hi Jo and Mara,
    Thank you to both of you for this post. I actually have to let go about some stuffs in my life right now, so it really helps to read your words.

  97. Such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing, Mara.
    PS – That beautiful rose again, Joanna! I need a rose bush in my garden… :)

  98. Thank you, very much, Mara, for this brave and inspiring story. Made me cry, but also smile, big. The idea of finding this wholeness in yourself, it’s striking and amazing. We just had a second miscarriage in a row, at 16 weeks, and the pain of suddenly losing something that we thought would bring such enormous happiness and complete our lives, is unbearable. Reading your post really put a healthy perspective on it. Thank you

  99. This was so beautiful and thoughtful. Thank you for posting this!

  100. Thank you for touching on all aspects of motherhood, not just the joy of having a family. For those of us struggling in this area, reading blogs with references to motherhood (even if they aren’t mommy blogs) can be really hard.

    If anyone is interested in a Christian perspective on fertility, I was recently given a wonderful book called Hannah’s Hope. It’s been a great resource for me as someone who is struggling with infertility. It also touches on adoption, miscarriage and other struggles related to motherhood. She voices the same feelings I’ve had and the same thoughts in my head, and I feel less alone. Just wanted to offer that up to anyone who enjoyed this and wants to hear from others in a similar position. Thanks!

  101. Danny and Katie–Thank you for your advice! It makes me feel better to know that my actions thus far have been helpful (I think!). I have just cried with my friend and I’ve told her even though I can’t understand her pain, I’ll always be there. Thanks again!

  102. So beautifully written, such heartfelt sharing. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your story!

  103. I’d like to respond to the comment left by MANDY. I hope she sees this message. I had to have a hysterectomy as part of my breast cancer treatment (I had to have both breasts removed plus my ovaries, uterus, etc.). It was a devastating ordeal for us because we desperately wanted to have children. But I can happily say that we are now the proud parents of our adopted one year old son (We adopted him at birth, I was present in the delivery room!) I still sometimes feel pangs of envy when I see pregnant women, knowing that I’ll never give birth, breast feed, or know any of the joys of natural childbirth. But I am every bit my son’s mother despite his being adopted… He is my heart and soul. So Mandy, you have a lot to look forward to, when you and your husband eventually adopt! It’s the greatest gift in the world!

    And Joanna, THANK YOU for this wonderful post. Mara is the most eloquent, courageous, beautiful person for sharing her story. On behalf of all of us women who have battled infertility and ultimately lost in the struggle to conceive, I send her my love, gratitude and admiration.

  104. Mara’s beautiful story left me with a lump in my throat but peace in my heart – and I feel so awed by her bravery to share and am grateful for her insight. I’ve traveled a similar path, so can relate on so many levels – especially on that fear of being alone some day. Just recently went through several months of helping my parents transition into assisted living, and it’s scary to know that no one will be here do that for me. Mara’s commitment to live with love is something we can all embrace. Thanks to you both for a beautiful, thoughtful post.

  105. Thank you for posting this. I’m lucky enough to have a little boy Anton’s age, but it was a very difficult journey. I don’t think people who got pregnant easily, or who haven’t tried, often consider that people may not be childless by choice. It was often very difficult to cope with the comments, especially from family. I wish they could all read this.

  106. What a beautiful and heartbreaking story. I’m young and nowhere near of having children, but from as far as i can remember i’ve always wanted to be a mother, and the thought that i might struggle with infertility one day terrifies me. I saw my mum completly broken as she suffered several miscarriages and i will never forget how helpless i felt at the time; i couldn’t understand what she was going through and she couldn’t really explain it to me, the pain belonged to her only. I understand better now. Thank you for sharing your story.

  107. gw says...

    Beautiful post. So thoughtful and honest. I wish we could all hold each other in the light more often. I can relate to so much of what Mara expressed here. Even though we ultimately chose adoption, there is still grief associated with it all. Mara’s willingness to open up her heart and the journey she traveled is brave. Thank you for sharing!

  108. Thank you Mara for sharing this and Joanna for publishing! You are clearly a spiritually advanced wonderful being and I wish you and your husband everything magnificent. xxx

  109. This post was so beautiful and encouraging. I’m in the midst of “unexplained” fertility and trying to decide which path of pursuing treatment or not is right for my husband and I. It is challenging and hard and we have learned so, so much the past several years. Thank you for sharing your story and encouragement that no matter your life situation you can have a life of joy and love!

  110. @ Lee Taylor Penn – 2:20 PM

    Saying the right thing to another struggling with infertility can be a very difficult thing, especially if you haven’t struggled with it yourself.

    No matter how well intentioned and full of wisdom your words might be, to someone who is currently hurting, they might not gather any strength from the words at all, and might actually come away offended.

    It is so tricky. Perhaps just letting them know that you love them, that you are there. That is often all that can be said.

    You can also tell them you read about someone else who has struggled with it, but has found happiness and fulfillment and meaning in life, even though children never came.

    One of the reasons we created our blog was to create a positive place to discuss the healing that can and does occur in our lives even when circumstances are anything but what we want.

    An infertile friend is more likely to listen to another who has struggled.

    So, send her along to the blog. You never know :)

  111. Thank you for posting this! As someone who has been mostly single her whole life and feeling further and further away from creating a family of my own, I have a fear that I may not be able to have kids one day.

    But reading this shows me that resilience and readjusting expectations can still allow you to find happiness.

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  113. Yes, Mara, you absolutely should write a book ..

  114. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. The more women that talk about infertility, the less alone we all feel. Although I struggled with infertility for (only) two years, it felt like a lifetime and I felt very alone. I also appreciate that you addressed the “why don’t you just adopt” question so thoughtfully. Thanks, Jo, for always giving your readers such great stories about motherhood, in all forms.

  115. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this post. My husband and I cannot have biological children together as I chose to have a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer at age 26 … the cancer is gone, thank goodness, and I don’t regret my decision, but as for a baby, our only option now is to adopt (my husband was adopted, and he’s an amazing soul … I’m all for it!). I can’t lie that it grates on my soul to know that I can’t experience the joys of pregnancy and birth, but I know that everything happens for a reason, as cruddy as it can seem, and I hope we do adopt a child someday.

    Thank you for acknowledging those of us who can’t become pregnant with our own babies, Joanna. It means the world.

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  117. I have tears in my eyes, for the trying so hard and so long , for the acceptance of how this is the way it will be .. and I grind my teeth and want to hit someone every time I hear about people saying inappropriate things, ..because who asked their opinion anyway ?! about a life decision !!
    People need to learn that lesson … shut up.. be sympathetic or comforting but don’t suggest or question or advise unless you are asked.

  118. this was so beautiful. thanks for sharing, joanna!

  119. I have hypothyroid, PCOS and high prolactin. I don’t want children now…but I do in a few years. I have a constant nagging fear that if I wait too long I’ll have missed my (small) window of opportunity, and will regret my current decision. Thanks for showing that life is still beautiful (and maybe more beautiful) even if things don’t go “as planned”

  120. This is such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing Mara. Sending love your way too.

  121. The response about finding Happiness Within Yourself is deeply moving. Thank you for that, it was beautiful.

  122. Love to my good friends, Mara and Danny — both are great people doing wonderful work by sharing their lives in such an honest and loving way. And, thank you, Joanna for putting this out there. This kind of post is so comforting to so many of us who have struggled in some way with infertility. It is an excellent example of how to navigate the unexpected with amazing humility and grace.

  123. Lee Taylor-Penn – just be there for your friend. There is nothing you can do to ease her pain, but it helps knowing someone out there cares. Keep checking on her & asking. I’ve been struggling with infertility for 2 years & have had 3 miscarriages. Very few people ask how it’s going anymore & it feels like people don’t care. After my last miscarriage, my best friend emailed me & told me she sat and cried for me when she found out. That’s one of the most helpful things anyone has said to me.

  124. FINALLY. It seems that the blog world is obsessed with babies and motherhood, which is fine- but that about the rest of us. I recently got a stomach bug, and everyone joked about how I might be pregnant. I broke down crying in front of friends one night after I couldn’t take it anymore, never having told them that I can’t have children. You have no idea what someone’s private struggles are and how much an innocent comment can sting. I wish more people realized that. Thank you for this post!!

  125. There are already so many beautiful comments on here and I’d Mara and I would love to respond to them all :) Certainly won’t be possible.

    To Zoe – 2:11 PM –

    Yes, you are very correct! Though it is certainly one of those fears that can crop up every now and then, it is not one that is with us often.

    More frequently than the fear of disappearing, is the joy we receive from doing the very best we can with the life we have, and in the process being “metaphysical” father and mother to many in need of help along their road of healing, just as others have been to us.

    In that sense, anyone can be a parent. We try our best to embrace that role. We have formed some very meaningful connections with others as a result of what we’ve felt “called” to do.

    Thank you for your comments.

  126. This was absolutely lovely and beautifully written. Mara, you are a courageous, wise person, and thank you so much for sharing your story.

  127. I found Mara’s blog as I was looking for other women who have struggled through IVF and infertility. It amazes me how strong she and her husband are. The part that really struck me was ” if I could just get pregnant, life will be so amazing, and I’ll be so happy…” This post was a wake up that even though I can’t have children right now, I need to focus on being happy and whole as I am. Thank you!

  128. Mara, thank you for your sweet and joyous honesty. I find myself sitting with many of the things you mentioned, and I feel like I will carry them with me for a while. Thank you.

  129. Wow that was very inspiring, she is so strong and resilient! I really admire her honesty and ability to share this powerful story. I wish her and her partner all the best.

  130. I love Mara and have been following their blog since the beginning. I have learned so much through her words and their posts–a truly amazing, inspiring and admirable couple.

    Well written, Mara, thanks for sharing, Joanna.

  131. Mara-Thank you for sharing such beautiful, heartbreaking and inspiring words with us! I would love to ask your advice–I don’t have children yet, but my best friend has struggled with infertility and I don’t know how to comfort her. Do you have any advice for what to say to a friend that is struggling with infertility?

  132. Thank you for educating me about how others may feel in similar situations. I feel like I am a better person and can be a better friend for having read it. Much love to you and to living your life with beauty and grace. You are an inspiration.

  133. Wow. What a powerful, beautifully written post. Thank you, Mara, for sharing your story.

  134. Thank you-what a beautifully written post. I couldn’t have verbalized it better myself (how I feel about not being able to have children). She really spoke what I couldn’t….thank you for sharing.

  135. Mara is such an achingly beautiful, brave woman. I think that the world will give her a child, or many children, at some point, either physically or metaphysically (if that is the right use of the world metaphysical, not sure). She seems to already be a parent of and to many souls. She will never disappear, as she fears, because she will touch so many people in her life.

  136. We gotta do the best we can! I’m having trouble getting pregnant as well, so I know how you feel. Lots of love for you and your husband. Xx

  137. Resiliency – the ability to “bounce back” – when life deals you a setback (no matter how big or small), is the key ingredient to a happy life (knowing that the definition of a happy life is as individual and unique as the person living it). You have found resiliency Mara in the way you discovered a deeper love for yourself and your husband and a new meaning for the reason you were put on this earth – if not to be a mother. I can’t imagine how hard this whole experience was for you, but life is never an easy ride to take, but it’s better than the alternative to never having experienced it.

  138. right before clicking over to the blog, I thought about what to say to the next person who asks me why I don’t have a child, and then what to say when that person inevitably asks if I’ve tried x,y, and z treatments, and then what to say when I’m asked if I want to adopt. What a wonderful surprise and joy to read this…if only because she says what’s been almost impossible for me to express to other people. I wish I could just link everyone who asks me about kids over to this post. Thank you.

  139. This is beautiful and wonderful to read no matter whether you have or don’t have kids or want or don’t want them. Thank you for sharing these lovely thoughts and ideas.

  140. Thank you so much for this, Mara, for your honesty and for being so transparent. I hope your story can help me to talk to and love others better.

  141. This was really beautiful and heartbreaking. I’m so moved and impressed by the writer’s acceptance and self-awareness, but I just hate that, after so much effort and singular dedication, she didn’t get the result she had hoped and planned for. I applaud her strength, but I also hope that she is able to find the distance she needs from this trying and frustrating experience to reevaluate how she can become a mother. There are so many ways to start a family and so many children who need to be loved.

  142. This, along with the post about the woman who lost her son, are the two best things you have ever posted. Thank you, Mara.

  143. what a beautiful story. i’m 27, almost married, but don’t plan to have children for many years. with that said, one of my biggest fears is not being able to have children and the longer I wait, the harder it will be to conceive. after reading a story like this I feel guilty for choosing to wait with the anticipation that it will be easy… I suppose I can just hope for the best, and, like this woman, learn to be ok with the fate I am given…

    jenn @ beyond the stoop

  144. What a beautiful, graceful post. Thank you for sharing your story with us.