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?