Life Without Baby: Q & A With Lisa Manterfield

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I am honored to share a Q & A with my friend, author and fellow warrior Lisa Manterfield! Lisa has a new book, Life Without Baby, that I can't wait to read and add to my resource page!

Why Life Without Baby after I’m Taking My Eggs?

I wrote I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home because I didn’t know what else to do. There were no resources at that time and the only way I knew how to work through my grief was to write about it.

Life Without Baby is the other bookend of my story. I’m at a place of contentment in my life (somewhere I never imagined I could be) and I’m now able to look back and give some perspective to my experience. I can see the things that helped me to heal and the places where I could have done things a better way. I wanted to share myself experience so that others don’t have to stumble through the mess alone.

What is the biggest piece of your story you felt like you needed to share at this stage?

That there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even when you’re mired in grief and can’t see how you’ll ever make peace with not being a mother, there is a way forward. I never imagined I could ever be okay with not having children, but here I am. Your experience will always be a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define you.

What phrase or section in the book are you most proud of?

I would like for everyone to read the section about grief, because it’s the thing I struggled the most to understand.

When I first acknowledged that I wasn’t going to be a mother, I honestly didn’t understand the extent of that loss and how many aspects of my life and my identity were tied into those plans. And because I’d never met anyone else who’d been through this, I didn’t know how to talk about it. It wasn’t until I started to emerge that I understood the enormity of the loss and that all the wild emotions and crazy thoughts I’d had came from grief. Just like any other loss, this isn’t something you “get over”. Infertility forever changes you, but you learn to move forward and live with it. It’s the living that’s the important part.

How did you start and finish writing the book?

It’s funny how much the process of writing the book mirrored my process of healing. I knew I needed to write this book as the final piece of the puzzle in my own story, but I put it off for years because the task seemed overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. There is nothing linear about the healing process and when I looked at where to begin the book, the answer was “everywhere.” I needed to offer a glimpse of a possible future and also needed to write about drawing a line in the sand and deciding to take the first small steps. At the same time, I knew I needed to cover some practical aspects of getting through the day, such as how to answer “do you have kids” or what to do when a baby shower invitation arrives.

Finally, I decided to break the book into four distinct sections and write each as a short e-book, which also allowed me to break the project down into manageable bites with firm deadlines. I think this idea of taking small steps is a good way to approach any difficult task and “Go easy on yourself” is certainly a mantra I repeat throughout the book.

What are your favorite writing tools?

The one tool I can’t live without is nature. A lot of this book was written in my head on some long walks (and a few runs). I find I need to get away from the desk and the words in order to be able to see the intention and make sure what I’m writing isn’t just hypothetical nonsense, but is actually practical and applicable. A good editor is gold, as is a supportive spouse, and I was lucky enough to have both. Other than that, a laptop, some coffee, and a pen with lots of red ink are all you really need.

How do you wish readers to use this book in their life?

Anyway they choose, as long as it works for them. As I said earlier, this isn’t a linear process and there will be days of making progress and days of struggling even to get out of bed. Some days you’ll need a practical plan and others you’ll just need to read that someone else understands what you’re going through. Most people will likely have to jump around to get different kinds of help as they need it, however working through the book in order will make sure that the most difficult but important steps, such as dealing with grief, don’t get skipped over.

What do you hope readers get out of Life Without Baby?

My first hope is that they will find compassion, understanding, and the realization that they are not alone. Ultimately, I hope they will find a way to make peace with a life without children and go on to truly thrive. I also hope that by sharing my story and experience I can hold a beacon for the future and show that there is a way through.

What other authors do you enjoy reading, look up to or learn the most from?

I’m really encouraged by the growing number of resources on this topic. Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos’s Silent Sorority was the first book I read about a woman who decided to get off the infertility crazy train and make peace with a life without children. Since then several of our “sisters” have taken great leaps. Jody Day just re-released her book, now titled Living the Life Unexpected and is getting a lot of attention for our community in the UK. Here in the U.S., Tracey Cleantis has used her experience with infertility to reach a broader audience on the topic of giving up on a dream in her book, The Next Happy. It’s inspiring to see so many women stepping up and speaking openly about a topic that has been taboo for so long.

What is next for you?

Despite having written two books now, I never set out to write non-fiction. My first love is fiction and I’m anxious for that part of my work to find its way out into the world. I’m hoping my first novel will make its debut in the coming year. That said, Life Without Baby has been an important part of my life for six years now and it’s helped me in ways I never envisioned when I first launched the site. Even though I feel this second book is the final piece in my story, I can’t imagine life without this wonderfully supportive community.

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Lisa Manterfield is the creator of LifeWithoutBaby.com, the online community that provides resources, community, compassion, and support to women facing a life without children. She is the author of Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen and the award-winning memoir I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. She lives in Southern California, with her wonderful husband (“Mr. Fab”) and overindulged cat, where she is working on her latest novel.

I Want More: Can We Define a New Tribe?

The invisibility of infertility is part of my normal. As I have written, I never expected to feel invisible during my own community’s awareness week though. Couple that with this piece by Lisa over at Life Without Baby and reading Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos's latest e-book Finally Heard (which I HIGHLY recommend) and it all has me thinking  and feeling quite a bit.

Is the infertility community no longer my tribe?

Do I no longer belong there?

When I think about some of the people I am closest too in the community, even they may not fit in our tribe much longer as many of them are pregnant after their infertility struggles (which is technically what we all want as our get out of this tribe ticket). They may actually get shoved out of the tribe which doesn't feel all that different than not be acknowledged.

Am I holding onto something that doesn't even want me any longer?

I get it, some really struggle with my story. My story does not include successful treatments and ends without children. I think it is safe to assume my story makes our community sad and scared.

Why am I holding on?

I'm not ready. Especially as a therapist working with people in the throes of the infertility journey, I am not ready to be left behind yet. Or, is it that I am not ready to move on yet?

But more than that, I'm not done. My advocacy and impact hasn't yet been felt enough for me to walk away without regret.

Do I care too much?

Is change even possible?

I want more. I want more as a survivor of the infertility journey. And, I want more for those still fighting the battle because I see the devastation on a daily basis in my private practice.

I simply want more, and as an advocate I will fight until I get it.

I want us to demand more from our infertility clinics; to be more than just their paychecks, to demand more mental health support and actual resources and to demand acknowledgment that sometimes we must stop treatments to save ourselves.

I want us to demand more from our culture; to help others understand that making a family is not always simple and hardly easy for many of us, to demand more fertility compassion and to practice more empathy than sympathy with one another.

I want us to demand more for and from ourselves; I want more than what we are giving ourselves permission for in the infertility journey. I want us to be more than our quest to become parents. I want us to trust that sometimes never giving up is the actually unhealthiest thing we are doing; we must practice hope balanced with active acceptance. I want us to know that we can write our own happy ending and it doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s.

I want to help instill these messages into my infertility community for many reasons.

  • Because I am a helper. I am most myself when educating, helping and practicing my spiritual gift of mercy.
  • Because I think these permissions could actually help our treatments be more successful and in the least help us not be completely destroyed by the journey.
  • Because I want us all to have the glory of being the happy, healthiest and most engaged versions of ourselves in this life.

And so, I want us to define our new tribe.

One that supports one another through empathy and trusts that there is room for all of us to belong. That if we are actually in this together we can change the unhealthy messages that surround infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery. And even though we may be in completely different places along the journey, we all can identify with what lies underneath this battle; the lifelong losses of what we had dreamed about and hoped for.

I am not ready to walk away from my infertility tribe but I also know and feel that it is not the healthiest place for me any longer. And sure, maybe I am simply in denial of my limbo land but I don't think so. I think we all need this new tribe, we need these messages to change and we need to fight for ourselves; to rise ever upward.

Who's with me?

 
Defining a new tribe; together in the
Defining a new tribe; together in the