Friday, 3 June 2016

It gets easier

No Kidding in NZ’s main message - to those who are struggling, or contemplating the end of their infertility journey - is that it gets easier. Eventually, we can even say it becomes easy. As much, of course, as life is ever easy.

Is that sending the wrong message to “outsiders,” a recent accusation? Does saying that “it’s easier or easy lead to outsiders dismissing the challenges that come with being childless after infertility?” Is it dismissing the struggle we’ve been through? Is it dismissing the painful moments we still face?

I don’t believe so. I feel no guilt for the way I write, and I have no regrets. But I do feel called to respond to this, in case there are more readers who feel this way.

First, I write this blog for myself, and those also experiencing this journey, than I do for those who have not been through it. Telling those in pain that it gets easier is both truthful, and compassionate. It’s not dismissing their pain. I believe that I recognise that pain here. But I don’t want them to think that the pain they might fearfully anticipate, or that they are suffering right now, will last forever. I want to convey my reality, and the reality of others I know who have been through this, that it doesn’t always hurt.

Secondly, I also advocate speaking out –  not necessarily in public (that is great, but we don’t all feel we can do it or have the opportunities to do so), but in a smaller, more personal way, to individuals who might dismiss our struggles, or who might not recognise that what they think is inevitable doesn’t need to be that way. My recent posts here and here are an example of that. I am keen for people to recognise our reality of living without children, and its challenges in a society where 20% of the population who will never have children are largely ignored. I believe I do my bit in conveying to those with children or those who expect to have children that there are other ways to live in the world … and that there are challenges in doing this. Speaking out about the challenges is completely compatible with also declaring that our lives can be good.

I believe in honouring our struggle. We may have lost the life we wanted. But I very firmly believe that we shouldn’t also lose the life we have. Living well, enjoying life, and enjoying those parts of my life that are different simply because I don’t have children, is the only way I know how to honour my reality, my losses. I don’t feel guilty for that – though I have in the past. I won’t apologise for it. Because I think we should celebrate the good things in our lives, even if they are different than we once had expected.

I too, have always wanted to avoid pity. Understanding is one thing, and pity is another. By focusing only on the challenges, we do risk being pitied. By recognising the hard parts of a life without children, and by embracing the good parts, I think we better promote understanding that our life is just as multi-dimensional as it would have been with children, and, hopefully, avoids the pity that feels and often is, condescending and ignorant.

Finally, no life is without pain or struggle. In the infertility blogging community, there is much talk about getting the coveted “happy ever after” outcome. But this phrase isn’t an accurate reflection of their reality. There are many parents who struggle, who may find they don’t particularly like the day-to-day of parenting, who might have children with illnesses or special needs or personality disorders that bring great stress and challenges, who might struggle financially, whose relationships break up. No-one I know tells me that parenting is easy. The “happy ever after” outcome of parenting is as much a myth, I believe, as the myth that – if we don’t have children - our lives are over and sadness and regret.

Compared to those who are actively parenting at the moment, my life really is relatively easy. Whilst I have to save for my old age, knowing I’ll have to pay for care rather than rely on children to assist, I don’t have to save for my children’s activities or education or health care costs. I might worry about saving for my retirement, but I don’t have to fear the day I might need to pay for an expensive, potentially life-saving medication (that, in NZ, may not yet receive public funding, or that insurance might not cover) for my daughter, as my sister does. I don’t have to worry about my children's future, that they might not be able to get a tertiary education, or that they've fallen in with a bad crowd. There is no doubt - my life at the moment is easier than it would be if I had had children.

The thing is, “easier” is also a relative term. Those awful, initial days and months don’t last. But as a lot of people recognise, that healing period, when we still feel pain even when we recognise slow improvements and slow gains in strength, can last three to five years. So in that period, we have days when things feel easier, and days when they don’t. That’s to be expected. It’s hard and horrible, but can be interspersed with new adventures and fun and joy. The good days begin to outnumber the bad.

Gradually, that part of our lives that is affected because we don’t have children – our No Kidding lives – gets easier. That part gets smaller and smaller, takes up less and less emotional space. Sure, it occasionally pops up. But mostly it is tucked away in a corner, where it is quiet and causes little bother and virtually no stress. It is relatively easy, at least it is now for me, and has been for many years. That’s my truth. And I believe that it will be the truth of most, if not all, No Kidding bloggers.

14 comments:

  1. I agree with that. I'm not finished with infertility treatment yet so not sure how my story is going to end but if it turns out that we cannot have kids even though I would be devastated at first and have to grieve I can imagine I would be able to be happy again with my life and I also wouldn't like the idea of people pitying me.

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  2. Thanks so much for writing your truth Mali, this is my truth too.
    Yes life does get easier & life is easier for us than if we had children. Yes let us honour the life that we didn't have but not let that overwhelm the life that we do have. As you say we should celebrate the good things in our lives, even if they are different than we once had expected. We have freedom and flexibility and there are many things we can do that we couldn't if we had children.
    Yes our life didn’t turn out as planned, but it can still be a great life and let's not aplogise for sharing our truth because it really helps others to see what is possible.

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  3. To me, your message has always come across exactly as you explain it here. You do give hope while at the same time acknowledging that it is hard at the beginning. I can only thank you for that.

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  4. I've been thinking a lot about the "easier" theme that people rally against. It can seem so dismissive of the pain and grief one is experiencing when ending the journey to expanding family without the desired outcome of experiencing pregnancy and parenting. The other part is when it comes from those who have never walked to path or at least seem to not understand.

    I do agree with you about the pain dulling and things getting easier. That is a natural consequence of healing and resolving. But what I think people don't understand or recognize is that you're not forgetting all that happened. You're not minimizing the loss. You are just moving beyond and embracing the current path.

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  5. I love this so much! First it gets less hard, and then gradually it gets easier. Infertility and childlessness no longer consumes me like it did in the early days. It's a piece of me and it always will be, but today is easier than a month, year, or several years ago.

    For someone in the early days who can't yet see the light at the end of the tunnel, this may be a hard post to read, but it's true, I promise.

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  6. Childless not by choice is hard enough as it is. At some point we have to move on or we risk being stagnant and whiny. I spent years being whiny. Sometimes I still am, but I stop reading whiny blogs after a while. If others prefer to wallow in pity and that's what they want to see and read, that's up to them, but I needed the light at the end of the tunnel. I needed to know the sun was shining somewhere

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  7. I also want to thank you for writing. When I was in the darkest times of my infertility, reading your blog helped me greatly. With the help of your writing I got assurance that it gets easier.
    I am confirming, it really does.

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  8. I don't know if you're responding to a specific comment or a general statement over time about what people should write about, but I've always appreciated that you told your truth. I've never seen you as speaking for the larger whole, but instead telling your version of how you see/navigate the world. And that is always helpful and welcome.

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  9. I don't think there's anything wrong with saying "it gets easier." It doesn't mean the same thing as "it becomes easy." I think that's a wonderful message for readers who are in the thick of it, who are beginning a childfree life that was different than what they originally envisioned...that it doesn't always hurt with such ferocity as when you are first facing that new reality. I loved this: "We may have lost the life we wanted. But I very firmly believe that we shouldn’t also lose the life we have."

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  10. This is my truth as well. I like what Jess says above about how "it gets easier" doesn't mean that "it becomes easy" -- that life is easy, period, and everything is wonderful now. I don't want people to pity me, but I also don't want them to think that I don't bear any scars from what's happened either. I just want some acknowledgement & respect for what I've been through and the life I've managed to build despite the trauma I've faced.

    "It gets easier" puts me in mind of the "it gets better" campaign a few years back, begun by older gay people to provide encouragement to younger gay people facing harassment. http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

    Maybe life never gets perfect, or the way we hoped it would be, but I think most of us come to realize that it can still be a pretty good life after all, even if it's not the one we originally had in mind.

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  11. Thank you for your thoughts. They are wise and valued. I enjoy reading your blog. It helps me to feel better on down days. There is life to be lived with joy, happiness and hope however it may come to be.

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  12. I think that the message you send is helpful to whomever needs (and is ready to) read it and share that truth. It's your truth first, and if someone else can see themselves in it, isn't that one of the powerful things about blogging? You're not writing for the entire IF community, or for the people who have decided to end their family-building journey. I'm glad you're here, and sorry that someone said otherwise!

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  13. I was just diagnosed and it's good to know that life will go on. Not only that, life will be good again soon we just have to get through the grief, feel the feelings and move on. This gives me hope for the future, thanks

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  14. This is a great one. I try to talk about all sides of it with people. Yeah, there are a lot of bummers, but I get to sleep in late and I get to connect with a lot of kids. I was talking to one of the other track coaches after we got back super late after one track meet and I was saying how I slept until 11am and he was like "that must be nice. my kids woke me up at 7am". And I thought about what a great perk it is to sleep as late as I want. Ross and I often just spend our weekends reading books and I talk to my best friend with 2 little ones and her weekends involve all day laundry, birthday parties, etc. It sounds well stressful. So, I do try to point out the upsides and that I am generally overall happy with my life.

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