I’m cheating. It's allowed when you're on holiday, you know! The following is a post I wrote on A Separate Life exactly one year ago. It was perhaps the catalyst to starting this blog. I realised I had things to say. So here it is:
I don’t have children. That’s no secret, but I don’t make a big deal of it here; I have other avenues for that. I don’t make a big deal of it here; I have other avenues for that. And besides, this is about my life. Every aspect of my life. And my life here. Whilst I am definitely living a life without children, and whilst every day I think about it (and I volunteer for a charity devoted to raising awareness of ectopic pregnancy), I don’t want to be defined as “Mali, who couldn’t have children,” or “Mali who is childless.” I’m Mali. I’m happy, and I have a great life. But my infertility and childlessness is part of my life. A separate part of my life, perhaps, but one I can’t, and won’t deny. I don’t want to hide it. I am not ashamed of it.
My infertility and pregnancy losses have given me something wonderful. They’ve given me enormous self-awareness and empathy, and some wonderful friends scattered about the globe. These women, the ones I’ve posted about before and who I am proud to call my friends, have enormous empathy and humour, especially when life hasn’t always gone their way.
But then there are the others. For some reason, lately I’ve been exploring the blogging world in the areas of both the childless and childfree. Some of these blogs and their comments are inspiring, women going on and living great lives after all their dreams were smashed. Others are hilarious. But I find there’s an intolerant stream running through pretty much everything I read.
Even on the site that helped me so much, I see intolerance. Women who, after the trauma of one, two or more pregnancy losses and sometimes years of trying to conceive, get pregnant. In the right place. Celebration! But I find them complaining about friends who aren’t over the moon at their pregnancy, or about people – including those who don’t have kids - not being understanding that this amazing pregnancy is the most important thing in the world. They don’t stop to consider, at any time, that maybe these friends or people without kids might be in exactly the same situation as they were a few months or years ago. There is no sense of empathy, despite the fact that they were pleading for this themselves for so many years.
In the childfree pages, I find women who legitimately have made the decision not to have children. These women undergo the same forms of social pressure to have children suffered by those who are unable to do so. But there is rarely any empathy. Only scoffing, scathing remarks about wanting to have children, and why don’t they adopt?
Then you get the numerous articles written in newspapers by so-called journalists or columnists, supposedly exploring why some women or families choose not to have children. These articles seem to take the position that there is something aberrant or wrong in this decision. And they do so by justifying their own decisions to have children as the “right” decision, the only one any logical human being would make. As if Couple A’s family of 2 or 10 children is any way affected by Couple B’s decision not to have children, or Couple C’s decision not to adopt after years of painful infertility.
The thing that disturbs me is the vitriol in the posts, the articles and of course, the comments. But let's put the comments aside for a moment. Largely I find that even in the original articles, there is no attempt to understand another’s point of view. To accept that each person or couple makes the decisions that are right for them. To understand that it can be painful not to have the life you had wanted. Or to accept that lives not lived exactly the way you live them are legitimate. There is no understanding of diversity, no celebration that we are all different, and that that’s what brings the excitement, the ideas, the progress, the colour and music and poetry into this world.
I realise that the infertility/childless/childfree world is not alone in this. The internet brings us such a wide variety of opinions and options that we can go to the ones that reinforce what we believe. But doesn’t that stifle our thought processes, our learning, our debate, and most of all, our empathy for others?
I am as you can see becoming increasingly intolerant of this intolerance.