My husband and I met in our late twenties. We are both the oldest children of big families and neither of us was particularly fixated on having kids. Instead, we spent an amazing ten years working and traveling. One of our first big experiences together was moving to London, and from there, we also lived and worked in Barcelona. 

In our late thirties, while we were living in New Zealand, we both felt the pressure of the biological clock's countdown but still remained ambivalent about having children.

We talked about it a lot and always agreed that if we did or didn’t either way, it would be fine for us, but it remained a difficult space to inhabit. We loved the life we had built for ourselves, the opportunities and travel, yet the chance to have children was closing in on us. 

When we decided that having a child was a path we wanted to pursue, our first pregnancy happened quickly. I remember feeling hope and trepidation at the journey we may have begun before it sadly ended in a late-term miscarriage. 

Our miscarriage was one of the most traumatic experiences in our lives. Between the healthcare system not being set up to manage the full process well, we were also both physically and mentally drained. Shortly after this, I had a second miscarriage, and it was then that we decided to embark on fertility treatment.

The fertility process

The first time we engaged with fertility doctors, they advised us to go straight into the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process because we were in our late thirties. Our first step was starting with genetic testing for us as individuals to check for any critical issues. 

This was a very difficult place to be, with the trauma of miscarriages and the ever-reducing sand in the hourglass of fertility. We felt in a vacuum where time seems to pass quickly, but not much really happens. Our ambivalence remained, too - was this the right thing? Was it what we really wanted? 

When we finally received the embryo test results and found out that none were viable to proceed to IVF, it was a bitter pill to swallow after everything we had been through.

We then had to decide whether to try continued IVF rounds with genetic testing of embryos or consider other avenues of becoming parents, such as egg or sperm donors. 

Deciding to stop fertility treatments

We were referred to a fertility counselor to support our decision on the next steps. While we only had one session, her guidance was so helpful. She advised us to take some time to look at the big picture of our lives before diving into decision-making on fertility. We took a trip away, weighed our values, hopes, and dreams, and planned the life we wanted to build together.

One of our shared values in life is the freedom, to travel, try multiple careers, and live an untraditional life - we got very excited about this. It wasn’t until we looked at what we wanted out of our lives that we realized we were happy to do this without children. 

We personally found our fertility treatment to be a very commercial process. The medical advice seemed to align with our friends going through the same procedures, but it was very impersonal and I likened it to a well-run factory. 

In particular, egg retrieval was one specific area that differed from those of my friends going through the same process in the UK, US, and Australia. In New Zealand, where we had the fertility treatment, I was not offered a general anesthetic for this very invasive and painful process, just a sedative. 

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No longer time for grit, but rather for grace

My General Practitioner, who had gone through multiple rounds of IVF herself, gave the best advice we received when she said: “The IVF process is tough. You need a summon a lot of grit to get through it. You will know when you want to continue or not, whatever you decide is right.”

After the mental and physical trauma of two miscarriages and fertility treatments, the disruption to our personal and working lives of multiple tests and doctor visits, and the cost out of our own pocket (equivalent to $18K US) - our grit had well and truly run out

Life is chaotic and uncertain, as is the fertility treatment process. Sometimes you have to step back and let the chips fall where they may while having the grace to see what’s next.

The opportunities and gifts that come from this difficult journey have been amazing. I have moved from a legal career to running tech companies and have just begun advocating for women’s healthcare and building a community for women living outside of society's traditional expectations. I have the freedom, time, and space to think and experiment. I think all people have many life paths, some work out, and others don’t, but there is nothing more rewarding than making the most out of the one you have.

And that is how we both feel today as a childfree couple. Even though the path to get here was difficult and traumatic, the gift that came out of it clarified the life we wanted to build together and the freedom to do it.

Kirstie Marsh is a freelance writer, storyteller at the Uncommon community, and women’s healthcare advocate at Gaia. She is passionate about reproductive health and justice and currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband and their Boston Terrier, Bobby.