I'm very sad today. I just found out that the childless living message board I used to frequent is closing by the end of this month. (I don't want to name names, but it's one of the ones listed in my sidebar links.)
I found this board almost exactly 7 years ago, in June 2001, & started posting in July, after lurking for awhile. My dh & I had just made the painful decision to stop infertility treatments, & I was looking for other women in the same boat who could relate to the pain & confusion I was feeling, & tell me I was going to be OK. I had belonged to a private e-mail list for pregnancy loss & subsequent pregnancy, so I knew the power of the Internet to create healing communities, but this was the first public board that I had gathered up the courage to post on.
I found a home there. We had a wonderful, active, supportive group of women here for several years -- until some format/technical changes were made that made it difficult for many members (including me) to access the board for a long time (which sent me into a total panic!). Eventually, I was able to access the board again -- but by then, many of our former members had drifted away, and it's never been quite the same. I have stayed in touch with several past members (mostly through a private board that one of them set up for us, when we weren't able to access the old board where we'd all met), but often wonder about what's happened to some of the others.
Some, like me, were survivors of pregnancy loss & infertility, who had finally had enough of riding the rollercoaster. Some had husbands who promised them children -- then changed their minds. Some had husbands who had children from previous marriages and didn't want more -- or had had vasectomies, and later reversals did not work. Whatever the reasons, all of us had assumed we'd be mothers someday, and all of us were facing a much different reality. I know of one former member who is going through adoption right now, but the others I've stayed in touch with have remained childless.
The board hasn't been very active in recent years (I've found very few such boards that ARE active)(& I'm guilty of not posting there much lately), but a handful of oldtimers like me have stuck around to welcome any newcomers & answer their questions. Many of the threads have hundreds of views, which tells me someone is reading out there, even if they're not actively participating. Childlessness is such a painful topic -- it is very hard to put yourself out there & acknowledge that parenthood is not going to happen for you. (Just look at how the recent New York Times coverage featuring Pamela Jeanne had childless/free after infertility women coming out of the woodwork, on her blog & in the Times Well blog comments section, to share their stories.) There are so few resources out there for childless-not-by-choice women. I hate to see one of them disappear.
The thing that REALLY irked me was the suggestion from the powers-that-be that we could post on the childfree by choice board instead (!!!). I lurk on that board from time to time, and they're a pretty good bunch of women. We do have some things in common -- they have a lot to teach us about the good things about living without children, and I think both of our groups are often badly misunderstood & misjudged by parents.
But we are coming at living without children from very different places. They don't want to be called "childLESS" any more than some of us like being called "childFREE." This is a choice that most of them have embraced enthusiastically (some childfree people don't even like children very much), when most women in my shoes don't feel we really had much of a choice. At the very least, it was a choice we arrived at after a lot of heartache. And to have someone from outside our little community (& no doubt a parent) say that we can just go over to their house & play with them from now on tells me that our feelings & needs are not being heard or understood. :(
Someone once said that childless women were "the black sheep of the infertility community." That's certainly how I'm feeling today. :(