Family Life, September 2018

The Childless Life

The childless life

by Lisa Tramontana

  • Did you know?
  • 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility?
  • 20% of all women reach the age of 45 without having children. 

For the childless woman, there’s nothing quite as painful as Mother’s Day. Sandy Michelet remembers walking into a restaurant and being greeted by the host with a carnation in his hand. “Are you a mother?” he asked cheerfully.

It was so unexpected Michelet didn’t know what to say. After years of trying to conceive a child, such a question seemed almost insulting, but she knew he meant no harm. “People say things that are insensitive all the time,” she said. “Usually they mean well, but it still hurts.”

Michelet married in her early 30s and tried for years to conceive, but it just never happened. “For a woman, there’s so much pain and shame associated with being childless. It’s different from being child-free. Childlessness is not a choice. And you really question why this is happening to you. Don’t I deserve to have a child? I remember wondering if I was being punished for something I did … maybe I talked back to my mom when I was 20 years old? What did I do?”

When everyone knows about your struggle, their first impulse is to offer advice. “Just relax,” they say. “Pray more. Start drinking apple cider vinegar!”

Holidays and social events are especially painful, Michelet said. Most people don’t stop and think about what it’s like to navigate the everyday world without a child. At Christmas, it seems like everyone has a child on his or her lap opening presents, she said. At family get-togethers, parents are either bragging or complaining about their kids. “So many times, people have jokingly said to me, ‘Well, I’d be happy to give you one of mine!’ Really? Would you?”

The jokes are probably meant to ease the awkwardness. “It just seems natural that women are supposed to have children,” Michelet said. “Over the years, I found myself often offering to host or provide food for family gatherings. It’s the only way I could feel that I had a purpose like everyone else.”

Although Michelet mourns the fact that she never gave birth, she is grateful for her stepchildren, now adults, whom she has loved since she married their father Craig 18 years ago. “They are wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had a full and happy life together.”

But it’s not the same as it is for a woman with children. Especially when Michelet thinks of the “family tree” concept. “I move into new phases of my life,” she said, “and new concerns pop up, especially as I get older. Everyone else has ‘branches’ on their family tree. But generations from now, there will be no children to trace back to me. It just ends. That’s part of the reason I started my blog (The Childless Life).”

Two years ago, Michelet sat down at the computer and just started typing … the words, the pain, the anger all started pouring out. “I realized I’d been hurting and hiding for so many years,” she said. “I just couldn’t keep it in any longer.”

Many women have benefitted from her blog, which gets thousands of hits every month. Michelet believes it’s her down-to-earth conversational style, her honesty, and the fact that she isn’t afraid to sprinkle in a bit of sarcasm occasionally. “I also understand the struggle with faith,” she said. “For years, I stopped going to church, and many women have that same experience.”

Michelet has found a new church that nourishes her spiritually, and she has come to terms with her childlessness. “It’s a hard thing to deal with, but I’ve accepted it and I realize now that I’ve had a ‘rich and satisfying life’ just as the Bible says in John 10:10. And John doesn’t say you must have children to achieve that.”

It took time, but Michelet has found happiness with her supportive husband, her stepchildren, friends, work, and her blog, which has become a meaningful ministry. “Not everyone can have children,” she said. “And if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you’re less than anybody else. You’re just different. Your life will just take a different direction that what you planned.”

For more information, visit TheChildlessLife.com.

Thousands of readers visit Sandy Michelet’s blog each month
(from left) Brant, Craig, Sandy and Erica Michelet
Family Life, July 2017

Pennington Explores Infertility

 

Pennington

Explores Infertility Gene

Mapping Study Seeks Participants

If you’ve struggled to get pregnant or know someone who has, there is a decent chance that a common hormonal disorder played a role. PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is the most common reason why many women have trouble getting pregnant. It affects 1 in

12 women around the world, which translates to 15 percent of women who are of reproductive age. “It can be incredibly frustrating for families who are trying to conceive and aren’t able to get pregnant,” said Dr. Leanne Redman, who studies maternal and infant health at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. She is

leading up a study with scientists and endocrinologists around the country aimed at better understanding PCOS. PCOS develops when patterns of hormone signals from the brain become irregular and the ovaries make more testosterone than they should. Insulin from the pancreas can also contribute to this process which is why many women who suffer from PCOS are also insulin resistant. PCOS commonly results in irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain and increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Because of the elevated testosterone, many women with PCOS also experience unwanted hair growth. “I’ve talked with many women throughout my career who have dealt with PCOS and it’s heart-wrenching for them, particularly after many months and sometime years of trying to conceive. If we can better understand the genes behind this disorder, then we may be able to develop better therapies to help women prevent a diagnosis or to better treat PCOS,” Redman said. “We already know that PCOS runs in families, so genes play an important role in the disorder,” said Redman, who holds the LPFA Endowed Fellowship at Pennington Biomedical. The PCOS Gene Mapping Study is underway right now and its goal is to identify specific genes that increase the likelihood of a woman developing PCOS. To add to the already thousands of women we have studied, Redman and her team are now looking for women of African American heritage between the ages of 18 and 40 to participate in the PCOS Gene Mapping study. “We also know that the number of women affected differs by ethnic groups, so by studying the genes of large groups of women from diverse ethnic backgrounds, this research study hopes to identify the specific genes that increase PCOS risk, so we can better understand how the disorder develops.”

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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