08 August, 2011

Public Reactions to Infertility

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.


  1. NEver read the comments. Never. Never ever. I learned this recently when Mike's hometown was under threat of flooding and every idiot on the internet said "let it flood, save the farmland instead."

  2. I'm with Bridgett there. I'm already surrounded by stupid comments that I cannot avoid in real life. At least when it comes to online comments I can choose not to read them.

  3. I read the comments in the beginning, and all I could think was how incredibly stupid, asinine and clueless the majority of the population (at least the ones commenting) were. I still shudder and feel sort of a detached pity over those commenters; they don't know just how breath-takingly stupid they are.

    So I also judge them. The ones that were the rudest, most horrible and clueless? I would look for the spelling/grammatical errors and feel superior. Small-minded idiots deserve to be judged and looked down on.

    At least, that's what I do... but mostly I don't waste my time reading them any more. Who needs more stupidity in their lives since we're constantly surrounded by it? ;)

  4. I recently read the comments on a Huffingtonpost on a story regarding childless couples and divorce. To my surprise the comments were overwhelmingly supportive of the childless by choice or not by choice. It was one of the rare times when reading the comments was actually therapeutic and put things in perspective. The overall message was "there's more to life".

    Today I was switching stations on the radio and I came across this Tim McGraw song. It left me with a good feeling... nothing on being a good dad or mom, but on being a good friend, husband, son,loving deeper and living life to the fullest.

    I went skydiving
    I went rocky mountain climbing
    I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
    And I loved deeper
    And I spoke sweeter
    And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'
    And he said some day I hope you get the chance
    To live like you were dyin'

    Verse 2
    He said I was finally the husband, that most the time I wasn't
    And I became a friend, a friend would like to have
    And all of a sudden goin' fishin, wasn't such an imposition
    And I went three times that year I lost my dad
    Well I finally read the good book, and I took a good long hard look
    At what I'd do if I could do it all again
    And then

  5. I think the vast majority of people who comment on newspaper stories are arseholes about everything.

    Exhibit One is the Daily Mail comments section, where I generally find it a bit alarming that these people actually exist somewhere. See the Speak Your Branes blog for further examples.