It’s important to note that this feeling doesn’t last, and that we are not in fact left behind. It’s important to say this, not only for those who – in their No Kidding lives - might be feeling this way, or for those who are still enduring infertility and see friends and even other IVFers have children before them – but also for those who have “crossed over” to parenting. Because we know (we read their blogs, between the lines or sometimes explicitly) that sometimes they look at us as if we are left behind, left “on the other side,” and are cases to be pitied. Perhaps simply because they can’t imagine being in our shoes, they can’t imagine that we don’t feel left behind – they just can’t imagine the alternative.
I think we should note this applies throughout our lives, for all of us, and isn’t just related to infertility. As I wrote here, I think it is natural to feel left behind sometimes in our lives. I’ve also noticed, for example, that friends/colleagues of mine think that, just because I’m no longer a diplomat, and for 12 years haven’t worked in full-time employment, I haven’t been left behind. Just as I have to look at them, and remind myself that just because I have been working in different companies, learning new things, learning independence and governance as well as management, that they’re not left behind. Just because they’ve stayed in the same organisation, it would be unfair to assume that they haven’t changed since I left. That’s the key, isn’t it? We’re not in suspended animation. Being childless before infertility is different to being childless after it. Just because someone takes a different route than us, it doesn’t mean they’re left behind. They’re not. We’re not.
I truly don’t feel left behind. I’ve written before about walking a different road. I feel that deeply. But in walking that different road, I know I have had to overcome difficulties that are different from those on the parenthood path. They may not be as obvious as those of a parent, dealing with work and sick children, etc etc. But I might not have sleepless nights because of a child waking me, but I might have (had) many consecutive sleepless nights because of grief and fear of my childless future. Just like a parent who sleeps well once their children sleep through the night, I too sleep well now. I might not have financial concerns about offering certain advantages to my children, but I have financial concerns about my old age, knowing there is no one to fall back on. I might not have the problem that I never get any time to myself, but I might feel that the house is too quiet at times. I might not feel the pressure of competition with other mothers – “am I a good parent?” “Is my child as clever/pretty/athletic/musical/artistic/scientific as the others?” etc – but I might feel the judgement of all those collective mothers for not being one of them.
So we’re walking different paths, encountering different obstacles and overcoming them. And you know, in some respects, I feel way ahead of some of my parent friends/family and acquaintances. I feel ahead because I’ve had the time to be able to come to terms with a lot of my issues, to grow emotionally, to grow in awareness, and compassion.
Mentally, emotionally, in terms of strength and resilience, I have had to develop reserves I didn’t know I had. I have had to face my flaws as well as my abilities, to embrace them and accept them. Yes, parents have to do this. Parents of children with illnesses or special needs have to do this even more so. Doing this is what moves us all, moves any of us, forward. I know I still have lots of work to do. I guess if I felt I was a complete, enlightened person, well … I’d be Buddha! I’m not. But I certainly don’t feel lesser, and I don’t feel left behind.
I look at the other No Kidding bloggers I follow, and I see what they have been through, and I see the people they are now. I see the hard work they’ve done coming to terms with their situation, and I want to praise them enormously. I see the kindness and wisdom they display to others, and I know they’re not left behind. I hope they/you don’t feel that way. Mostly, I don’t think so.
And if you’re struggling right now, know that I don’t see you that way - even if that’s exactly how you feel. It won’t last. You won’t feel like this forever.