Whenever an article is posted online about infertility, or living without children, I shudder at the comments. I know I shouldn’t read them – they end up making me feel angry, persecuted, and devalued. They tend to tell me one of three things. Either:
- I will never be a) happy or b) emotionally mature or c) know what love is, unless I have a child
- If only I adopted/tried IVF/just relaxed/tried sooner I’d have children; I obviously did something wrong and it’s all my fault
- I was never meant to be a mother and therefore in wanting that I was either going against nature or god’s will or fate, and it’s time I accepted that.
These themes are familiar and enduring. And can be painful. Following yet another public article, Mel posed these questions on Prompt-ly:
What is this doing to our psyches? To be constantly analyzed like this? What makes you put yourself out there again in the future when you get slammed like this?
Seven or eight years ago, these articles, and follow up comments, would have made me feel terrible. They would have reinforced my negative view of myself, and I hate to think the feelings these articles/comments induce in women who are currently trying to conceive. Women who fear that they will not be able to have children; women who are worried, and insecure, and question the reasons for their life, are very vulnerable. The constant message that the only way to bring meaning to your life is to have children is incredibly cruel to women who fear that they don’t have a choice.
These articles, or perhaps more accurately, the on-line comments, are usually so narrow-minded, written from a place of such innate bias, that whilst they make me angry, I think they also make me stronger. I question my life more now, the way I live it and the things I do, my beliefs and my values. And ultimately, I come out more contented. I know I don’t need to have children to feel that my life is worthwhile. I know I don’t need to have children to feel like a good person, to feel like I help other people, to know that I contribute to society. I know that I don’t need to have children to be kind and compassionate. And so, whilst I get frustrated at the ignorance of the view that says I can’t achieve these states as a “selfish, childfree person,” I know that ultimately, it isn’t true. Truth can hurt me. But unkind, intolerant lies can’t.
Let me qualify that, lest I sound like a hypocrite. I know I said I felt marginalised and hurt in my last post, when I felt my rights were dismissed as unimportant. But I think that was more because of where it happened, and who made the comments, than the actual views. After all, as I mentioned, they weren’t new to me. And so yes, I will admit that occasionally these attitudes and analysis can hurt. I’m human. I have good days and bad. Sometimes it gets in. Sometimes, I question the validity of these views, and of my own. But mostly, I don’t do that anymore. Perhaps I’m able to reach this state simply because motherhood was never my only goal. I knew there was more to life. More to me. Perhaps it is simply a reflection of where I am in my life now. Age, time, pain – they all help us grow.