Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The real success stories


There’s been much discussion about women in the infertility blogging community recently, and about how they feel their place changes in this community as they get through to the “other side,” when they have “crossed over.”  It sounds like a death, but it isn’t.  This term is used by almost everyone to describe those who have become pregnant and had babies after infertility.  They talk about those still trying to conceive as “yet to cross to the other side.”  Those are, as far as most of these women are concerned, the only two categories.  The use of the word “graduation” particularly bothers me, because it implies that there has been a degree of application, skill and talent to get to the other side, which should be congratulated, when we know that unfortunately none of these have any bearing on whether our bodies conceive or not.  There is no acknowledgement of those who don’t have children, of those who are no longer trying to conceive.  They don't want to think about us, they don't want to contemplate our futures.

It is the same in the ectopic pregnancy boards I visit.  People talk about “success stories” meaning those who have gone on to have a successful pregnancy, in the right place, after an ectopic.  I have no problem with newly bereaved, shocked, traumatised women asking for success stories.  They are desperate to know that everything will be okay.  (Of course, there is a 90% chance that their next pregnancy will be in the right place, but as we all know, loss or infertility can cause us to lose faith in our bodies and distrust statistics).  But when those who have been around the boards start using the term “success stories” it bothers me.  Because if they are a success, then by implication, it must mean that I am a failure.

An aside here:  I started to write this before the Salons suggested by Mel, and here on my own blog I was prepared to be far more honest, and blunt, than I was in my comments on the Salons.  My draft post said “This irritates me.”  Even then I was, as you can see, self-editing!

I acknowledge that those of us following our path are scary, we’re the worst nightmare of the women going through infertility, and they see our lives through grey-tinted glasses, feeling that they are full of gloom, of loss, of despair.  They are focused so much on what they want, that they can’t see there are benefits.  They see us as childLESS. I know, because I was there once.  I remember a very dark moment, wondering what I would do if we couldn't have children, and I really just didn’t see the point  in anything anymore.  That didn’t last long – I think I’ve always understood there was more to life than children – but it was frightening even to cross my mind, and remembering that helps me understand those who are so fearful of us.

But you know, I’m going to speak out now.    I think that – of all of us who go through loss or infertility – we here on the no kidding path are the true success stories.  We are living a life that we never expected to be living. We’re not getting the reward we had hoped for.  We don’t win the lottery.  We had – at least at one stage of our lives, or perhaps all of our lives – expected children, expected to be mothers.  And we’re not.  But that is where our very success lies.  To forge ahead, to live good lives which are different to what we had expected, to me that is courage, that is real success.

We are not failures.  Yes, our bodies may have failed to conceive, but I don’t view an accidentally-pregnant-after-a-drunken-grope-in-the-backseat-of-a-car woman as a success.  So I certainly don’t consider myself to be a failure either.  I am someone who knew when it was right for her (and her husband) to stop  (ie I listened to my doctor!!), someone who accepted that life without children could be good.  Someone who decided that her relationships and sanity and life were all just as important – or collectively more so – than her need to have children.  Someone who could balance her need and desire to have children with the options that were available, assessing which were realistic and which weren’t.  To be honest, when I was faced with all this, it didn’t really feel like a choice.  (I was shocked to find myself shocked when someone on the healing salons commented on my “choice to be childfree.”)  But I could have tried to pursue additional treatments or explore adoption even when they were less than viable options for us.  I could have, but I chose not to, because I knew it was not right for me, for us.

So, in my humble opinion, my fellow no kidding friends and I are the real successes of the ALI community.  We are loving our lives.  We are busy, active in our communities, aiding family and friends, and even helping strangers through volunteer activities.  We are kind and compassionate, funny and strong.  And yes, we get to sleep in on the weekend!  We have a small part of our being that holds grief and loss and sadness, but this small part doesn't dominate our lives.  We are in fact living lives every bit as successful, every bit as fulfilled as those who have gone on to be parents.   

Our path is a very legitimate, and potentially very happy, outcome of infertility.  It is time it was recognised as such, rather than hidden away, ignored, and feared.  Surely our stories, showing the truth, the pain, and the joys, should help those going through infertility, should give them confidence that no matter what, they will be okay.  They WILL be okay, because we are okay.  Surely stories like ours should help take away their fear, not reinforce it?

42 comments:

  1. I LOVE this post. I actually never thought of "success stories" the way you did, but you had a point there.

    One of the most beautiful things one can say to me was that she respected the fact that we decided to stop, that we knew when to stop.

    This was said to me by a woman who can never get pregnant 'coz she had ovarian cancer and it was bad enough that her womb had to be taken out. She's now married and gone on to adopt a child (she said those words to me after she had adopted the child).

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  2. I think of "crossed over" slightly differently (I don't really think of it at all, but to me, it means no longer ttc...for whatever reason), but I absolutely think you (and others who are childfree) are success stories. Many people who don't fulfill their heart's desire become consumed either with trying to fulfill it or with despair over "failure." Gaining the perspective to see that life is what we make it takes a lot of strength. Dealing with disappointments without letting them take over your life takes a lot of strength.

    You should be a model for others - to know that you're not settling for a substandard existence. You're living the life you have without focusing on the might-have-beens.

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  3. You make me want to stand up & cheer after reading this, Mali. : ) Thank you for this!! I want to call this our Declaration of Independence or something along those lines -- it has that inspirational ring to it. : )

    I still struggle with the idea of choice -- that we "chose" this path in life. But however we got to this point, or think we got to this point, we are here, we're still alive & kicking -- & I think most of us are managing to make some pretty damned good lemonade out of the lemons life threw in our way. ; ) I say we raise our glasses (maybe add a slosh of vodka or the like, lol) & toast ourselves. ; ) Here's to redefining success! : )

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  4. Well said. I really struggle when people place pity on my situation and I have to try to convince them that I can have a good and happy life.

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  5. I'm still ttc and lately I've been feeling a loss of hope. I've been wondering how I can go on if I never become a mother. This post has given me a lot of hope that life will still be ok, even good, if I don't have children.

    Thank you.

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  6. I read this post this morning on the way to work, via my phone and Google Reader. It uplifted me for the entire day. I have never thought of things in this way, but you are entirely right.
    Thank you.

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  7. Thanks for this post: it's made me realise that when people say that those such as me who have stopped TTC have 'chosen' to be childless, it's because they NEED to believe that, from a position of fear that their own journey will not end in a child. Maybe this will help me to be less frustrated by them.

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  8. dear Mali,
    I had a hard day today.... and reading your post lifted my soul. Thank you for that.

    I was quite active on different infertility blogs during all my IVFs (and since I had 10 of them, you can imagine I was active for many years). But at the end I just felt a complete loser, not belonging anyhere. Yes, there is enough space only for two types of women on many infertility forums:
    1. women TTC
    2. women with kids (majority of them: gave birth to a child, some of them adopted)

    No room for women like you & me & our friends.

    I also reject being seen as a failure. I am not. We are not.

    I love my life. It is just different as I planed it. But not less beautiful.

    I love John Lennon's quote:
    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

    So, I stopped planning. And started living.

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  9. mhmm, I see what you mean...
    but I'm not there yet. Not ttc anymore but still looking at distant treatment options because I don't want to let go. Not yet.
    Still my life on hold, not making choices or decisions, will not be celebrating my (40) birthday, not acknowledging the passing of time...
    Then again, it took me 7 years to get my university degree, knowing full well that was longer than most people, but also knowing that I would live with that 'choice'. And this infertility thing is only my 5th year. It's getting old and so am I, but maybe I take longer than others.

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    1. Valery, we all have our time limits. They're all different - and we can't compare. If it's right for you to keep going, it's right for you. I hope you don't feel as if you have to justify it ... ever.

      (PS I didn't want to celebrate my 40th either, so I can relate. I'm also ambivalent about my ... cough ... 50th this year, but for different reasons!)

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  10. For everyone else - your comments made my day. This is why I blog!

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  11. Great post Mali. I read your blog regularly but don't always comment as I can't always think of anthing intelligent to say. Your posts are always well thought out and interesting.

    I totally agree with you, you haven't failed to graduate, you are living your life in a different but not inferior way.

    I have always thought of you as a success and I started to read your blog to reassure myself that if having children didn't happen for me and my husband, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Instead it would be end of how I thought my life would be and the beginning of a new one. I realised it might take me a while to realise it for myself, but your blog made me see it was possible.

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  12. This is an incredible post. And so needed. It had me thinking for days afterward. Very few posts touched me like this one.

    It's interesting, but when I was struggling with TTC and loss, I didn't know of any living childfree blogs. I never came across them but I don't think I was specifically avoiding them. Maybe I was. At the time I don't think I could have thought much about living childfree. It was too terrifying to me. I did read Pamela's Silent Sorority and found it very moving. But I remember thinking that reading it was a way to prepare myself for the worst possible scenario.

    Now that I've had my daughter I feel I'm in a much better space to better understand how people come to make the choice (if it is viewed as a choice for them) to live childfree. Honestly before I had my daughter I could never understand how people could not do EVERYTHING possible to have a baby. I didn't understand how people could not choose DE or surrogacy or adoption, it were financial feasible for them to do so. I just NEEDED to be a mother and I didn't see what life would have had to offer without that. But honestly, looking back, I realize that I felt that way because I was so fundamentally unhappy in my own life, and not because I wasn't yet a mother but because so many things were broken, like my relationship and my job. I wasn't happy in any other aspect of my life and being a mom was supposed to fix all that was broken and then it became one and it didn't fix anything and I had to try to fix it all with a baby around, and I realized how much I wanted and how much people without kids could actually HAVE. Before all I saw is was the HAVE NOT and now I see the HAVE and it's really remarkable.

    I wish I could have seen all that then. I wish I could have known how hard parenting is and how it DOESN'T fix that which is broken, in fact it fractures much of that more. I wish I could have taken time to nurture my relationships and to realize how rich life could have been without kids. Maybe if I had I wouldn't have been so scared walking the uncertain path of TTC after loss.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I hope those who are still "in the trenches" as we say, can read it and gain the hope I wish I would have gained if I had read it when I was where they are.

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  13. Oh and I meant to add, I absolutely think the defining factor of success in this community is happiness and fulfillment. If one has achieved those two things they are a true success in life.

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  14. Really, really wonderful post.

    I'm not there yet either, but if my path leads me away from having a child in my life, I only hope it doesn't take me too long to work through the sense of failure about what life I had imagined, and what life I can actually live.

    I hate the idea that the infertility blogger community has no space for those that have come out the other side without the baby. It's not a race, a baby is not a prize to be won. It's not a zero-sum game.

    The women (and men) like you, Mali are truly the ones forged by the crucible to come out the other side stronger, smarter, wiser and more compassionate... I would never, ever consider anyone like that a "loser."

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  15. Amazing post and bloody inspirational. I remember you wrote on my salon blog that it wasn't a choice that you got to make it was a choice made for you. It really hit home for me and made me sad. But I shouldn't be sad because children don't define who you are, YOU define who you are and this post sends that message out very clear. Whatever road you are currently on, you should always remember that.

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  16. Why are we so quick to blame ourselves and use the f-word (failure) in this community? Living Child-less or Child-free isn't the right definition, either, is it? How about just "living" Period? I think it really depends where you live. On the edges of the country, plenty of people don't have kids and don't think twice about it. Au contraire. They think it's great to sleep in, etc.

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  17. This is an amazing post. My TTC journey got a lot easier when DH and I started having open conversations about life beyond TTC and living without children if need be. We also see that we can have a happy, full life either way. But, I don't think many IFers see it that way. I wish we could skywrite this post.

    Here from My Lazy Ovaries.

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  18. Thank you for this post. It brought tears to my eyes. A couple of years ago, I made a commitment to myself and to my husband to find happiness in our lives despite not being able to have children. I have done that, yet I never looked on myself as having suceeded in the ALI world as a result. You have given me a whole new perspective. Thank you so much!

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  19. I think you hit it on the head here - it's not situation; it's attitude. The success story is resolving your infertility, however you resolve it. And because of that, I don't necessarily see any failure in the community -- just pre-resolution and post-resolution. Those are the two sides for me. And I see parenting a very separate thing from resolution. Especially since not everyone will parent a live child, will move on from infertility that way, even though they are obviously a parent. Loribeth is a case in point. She is Katie's mum and she will always be Katie's mum.

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  20. I love this post! Here from the round-up.

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  21. I think you're bang on. You go through treatment, or fighting against IF, and it either works or it doesn't - it's not to do with the individual. Your life changes depending on what the outcome is, either way, but it doesn't make any path more or less valid.

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  22. This is an absolutely fantastic and inspiring post. I wish that I had read this years ago. What a fantastic reminder that success is out there waiting for everyone who manages to find their way through infertility, regardless of what is waiting on the other side!

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  23. thank you for enlightening the perspective on this! enjoyed reading it and the comments! :)

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  24. Thank you so much for writing this!

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  25. I think this post was spot on. You are 100% right -- I tend to avoid childless / childfree blogs because I don't want to think about my life ending in that direction. But WHY do I think that way? WHY do I hang all my happiness on my opportunity to parent? I don't have a really good answer for that. Thank you for the many good points to consider. Oh, and you are definitely NOT a failure -- in fact, I admire you so much more for being able to find happiness and peace in the face of what, as you wrote, is many of our "worst nightmares." I don't know that I am as strong as you are.

    Hugs,
    Jo

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  26. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post! Thank you, Mali. I think back to when I first started contemplating my life after infertility (some nine years ago). It was scary -- pure and simple. I felt no support whatsoever because of everything you'd laid out here. There was no acknowledgement of women like us.

    What a difference today and what a joy to read so many success stories. We've carved out a path in what was once a tangled thicket, and it's all the more satisfying because we've had to do it the hard way -- without the copious support that greeted those on other paths.

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  27. Thank you very much for the post....I 'll look at the post again much later on, when I'm out of the 'black cloud' here... It is still raw for me even after two months when I lost my uterus (not by choice). I am feeling myself in limbo in all this time. Logically I know it is -OKAY- to live without children, but the heart isn't there yet. And it is much complicated with finding infertility blogs where women announce pregnancies here and there, and nothing about us who cannot have children at all. I think that's one of many reasons why I write my blog to push that women like us do exist out there and this shouldn't be a taboo to avoid addressing about. You know?
    Thanks again..

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  28. Wow! I am facing my last step and know that it is my last step. As much as I want to be a mom, I can not justify going any further. So thanks for helping me see beyond my fear of the BFN. I keep telling myself that I am blessed either way. I will have a good life either way, but they would just look different.

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  29. What an amazing post!!
    Thank you for this...although we have not decided that we will never TTC again, at the moment, we are content with living child free. Don't get me wrong, I understand that "Taking a break" and making that final decision are very different... but, I do agree with everything you wrote! YOU are the real warriors! Living child free is not easy, I am sure, yet it doesn't mean you're depressed and pathetic... rather - you've moved on and are finding a new purpose for your life! I commend you, and I think you success story is just as inspiring as those than end in a baby -- because it means that infertility will not always rule our lives, no matter what happens -- we can find joy again! :)

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  30. beautiful put :) So true and I appreciate that you've brought this to light in such a truthful and clear manner. Thank you for singing the praises of so many women. You are truly outstanding Mali!

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  31. Wonderful. I was hoping to convey something similar with Loribeth's story in my latest Faces of ALI post: that she's living a good, fulfilling and happy life. That her life is very successful. Because that is quite clear from her writing :)

    I really love this idea of redefining success. Just because I was lucky with treatments (and I know that's what it was) doesn't make me more successful than anyone else. What a silly thing to call people who've had babies "success stories"!

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  32. Bravo Mali. I'm late in posting, but not in reading. Would not our lives be made easier if we were not bombarded with looks of pity, or condescending words meant to convey a feeling that our lives are less than those of mothers? The very rational and intelligent part of me has always known this is not the case... that the world is full of women leading happy lives who have not had children, and yet I surcame to this all too prevalent societal perception. Sometimes I think that message of failure or a life lacking put out there by others has been the biggest source of my fears and sadness. Your words here, should be posted on every Infertility messageboard, website, etc. I for one think I'll share this link in a couple of places.

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  33. LOVE this post - I often tell people that the worst thing about infertility is that it isn't like many things in life - you can't obtain success by working hard or throwing enough money at it like you can for that VP position at work, or saving to buy your dream house. It is all chance (I don't even like to say luck because it implies that those who live their lives without getting pregnant are unlucky). We have all spent many more dollars than ever imagined, and sacrificed our time, hearts and relationships to try and achieve a goal we may never reach. And while some haven't reached their original goal, they have chosen to be happy with a different path. And that to me is success.

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    1. I totally agree with you about use of the word "luck" and I admit I felt slightly uncomfortable when I used it but didn't think about why I felt like that. You've articulated that for me, so thanks.

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  34. This post was fantastic! I agree with you on so many points!! We are the true success stories! What a beautiful way of putting it. I've been pretty content about my decision to stop trying now for a little bit, but every now and then I come across a post as inspiring as this and my spirit is renewed. I feel encouragement to be proud of where I've been and how far I've come.
    And yes, we do get to sleep in on the weekends!!! :-)

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  35. Wow... I really, really needed to read this post tonight. I'm going through "the trenches" of infertility right now. After 4 years of TTC without a single BFP and 2 years waiting to adopt (and still no luck there, either), I'm trying to figure out what to make out of life. I especially admire what you said about women who are childfree and happy with their lives as the true success stories. I think that if I were able to find joy in my life again, it would definitely be success, as right now, I'm still caught up with the whole "I need a baby to be happy" feeling. Maybe once I leave my terrible thirties I won't be so caught up by the peer pressure and feelings of loss. Thank you so so so much for what you wrote. I needed to know that I can choose to be childfree at some point and still find joy in life.

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  36. this post is amazing. my Hubs and I are just embarking on one road, gestational surrogacy, that may or may not lead to parenthood. Our other road is adoption, and our other road is choosing to be childfree and be AWESOME Uncle and Auntie! Having spent 10 years trying to accept that I will never carry a child I know the chances for us are equal on all three paths and I will always, always plan for all three equally. You are certainly a success and you write about it beautifully.

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  37. Hi from ICLW

    I agree to your story about success, especially yours personally, as I can only imagine the process it probably took to reach it. However, I have to disagree that it is more successful. I think anyone who fights infertility and wins, whether with children or without, are successes.

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  38. You make some very good points, things I haven't really thought of until now....

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Hopping over from ICLW (#86)

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  39. oh my goodness, you are absolutely not a failure! the if community can be very black and white, those of us who have had children and those of us who haven't, but there are quite a few gray areas. as for me, i was lucky enough to be one of the ones who got, and remained, pregnant. technically i am not infertile anymore, but that feeling never really goes away, so i'm not really sure where that leaves me. i guess, even though i have had a child, i will always identify as infertile.
    iclw

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