The Grief of Being Told You Can’t Have a Family

My fertility struggle.

Sam H Arnold
Sep 5 · 5 min read
Photo by Irina Murza on Unsplash

When I was 34, I found out the chances of me having children was very low. It broke my heart into a million pieces.

Throughout my early years, I had a life plan. I worked hard and got the career, I wanted. I was department head for a massive college, by the time I was 30. One of the youngest recorded department heads.

I was getting married to someone, I thought, I could spend the rest of my life with. The next step was the children.

During my teenage years and 20’s, I had been careful with contraception. I knew I wanted children, but they had to fit into my plan.

How wrong I was

Once we were married we started trying for a family. For two years we tried everything and I read every article about conception.

If an article had said fertility went up if you hung from the lampshade, I would have tried it.

Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving.

After three years nothing had happened.

So we went for help. Nothing to worry about everyone said. For some couples, it takes longer. We started all the tests and scans.

What did the doctors find, a cyst on my left ovary the size of a walnut. We can remove it with keyhole surgery, everything will be fine.

Except by the time the surgery came through, I was in agonising pain. The cyst was the size of a melon and had eaten my left ovary. Keyhole surgery was not an option. I was opened from hip to hip.

Incidentally, if I hadn’t been going through fertility scans at the time. The cyst could have gone undetected, burst and killed me.

The good news.

Once the operation was over I was informed that the loss of an ovary doesn’t reduce your fertility. It was all systems go.

Except it wasn’t.

More tests revealed that my husband had low mobility and a low sperm count. With him as my partner, I had no chance of falling pregnant.

It was the end

At the time, I didn’t know it, but it was the end of our marriage. This and the fact he failed the adoption meeting on purpose, a story for another time, was the last straw.

At the time I was positive, we would have kids another way, it was fine I could live without ever having children.

The bereavement of motherhood

A funny thing happens when you find out you can’t be a mother. You go through the five stages of bereavement.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

I was grieving. I was grieving for the life I could have had. I was grieving for the children and family, I would never have.

I threw myself into work and moved on. That was the outward appearance I gave. Inside I was dying. I had no reason to carry on.

The house I had worked so hard to build and renovate, meant nothing, it wasn’t going to be passed onto my children. It was never going to hear the stomping of little feet and the sound of laughter.

The teddy bear I had saved from when I was a child, would never be passed on. The love of football I had, would never be shared with my child.

Your friends can’t handle you.

The friends you have had, for so many years, behave like you are dying.

Friends who fall pregnant around you treat you like a baby snatcher. There are quiet huddles of people that share their exciting news with the rest of the office. Not with you though, you couldn’t possibly be happy for them, if you can’t have kids.

The strangers you meet who ask you if you want kids? No matter what you answer, you are done for. Answer, no actually I don’t (the safe option) and you get the look that says, what the hell is wrong with you? Answer, actually we can’t have kids (the honest approach) and you get the sympathy. They also instantly assume it is your fault, as the woman. Every part of you wants to yell, “it’s his fault, he is a Jaffa.”

So it goes on, the agony and torment.

You hear stories of couples that stop trying and then fall pregnant. Great, you think that could be us. How do you stop trying though, when you are disappointed every month you haven’t had an accident. I have stopped trying you think, why isn’t it working?

Something has to give

I admire couples who stay together, despite this. My marriage was not strong enough. I blamed him and hated him for taking the one thing I wanted, away.

My friend once asked me, “if I could see myself, old and alone with my husband or would I resent him.”

I knew the answer, I already resented him. Something had to give and it was our marriage.

Stop trying worked

When I relaxed and stopped trying it did work. My marriage was over and I was drawn to my new partner, by our shared longing for children.

Two-years-ago I was truly blessed when my adopted daughter came into my life.

The teddy bear has a home. She is supporting Manchester United, whether she likes it or not. My house is full of laughter and stomping feet.

The pain has gone and my heart is healed. She completes me in every way possible.

If you are struggling with fertility and all you want is a family, then move heaven and earth to get it. Genetics are irrelevant, love is what matters. Nothing will satisfy the need, if you don’t, no matter what people say.


Sam H Arnold is a writer and mentor. Using her 25 years of teaching experience and a degree in Education she can mentor the most reluctant writer. She also has knowledge of many topics in education and child development. It is these and private life experiences which are the foundations of her writing.

Stay in touch by joining her newsletter.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

Sam H Arnold

Written by

UK writer & mentor. I share articles on writing, LGBT issues, parenting, mental health & more. For additional articles & mentoring details, find me on Patreon.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

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