Here, in the 21st century, we like to think of ourselves as highly evolved, as intelligent and aware members of a diverse society. We like to think that we can accept others for who they are, for the decisions they make, and for the lives they lead. We like to think of ourselves as open and welcoming. (For the purposes of this post, please, go with the generalisation).
But we know that we’re not. We stick together in our groups, with people who make us comfortable. We like to feel that we belong. We do this in real life, and on-line. One of the reasons for the recent discussions across the ALI community were the emotions that emerged when it seemed that one group didn’t feel it belonged anymore. And one of the outcomes was, as Mel and Loribeth and others have pointed out, the recognition that maybe another part of the wider group, our own subset of No Kidding bloggers, had also been feeling left out.
This was why I was so excited to see Nicole’s article featured on The Huffington Post for NIAW. And then to read Lisa’s article. Then get an invitation for mine to appear. At last, as I trumpeted, we were not being ignored. It was, I suspect, one of the first times that people living without kids after infertility were highlighted. It seemed to me to be a deliberate theme for the week. (In fact, Tracey has confirmed that they did specifically choose to highlight “infertility thrivers.”) And I was pleased at this theme. I mean, we all know that whenever infertility is mentioned we usually get the endless happily-ever-after stories of infertility treatments that finally worked (the miracle babies), or the adoptions that “filled the holes” in the couples’ lives. And if there is a place for these stories, then there is a place for ours.
And yet, even on a well-known infertility/ALI blog, amongst our own, amongst women who understand infertility, there was a comment that made me step back. I chose not to respond there and then. I thought ignoring it would be the best thing. But I can’t shake it. A week on, I can't shake it. (See, blog post commenters and anonymous HuffPost commenters ARE different). There, as I was celebrating the recognition of women who were living happily without children even when this wasn’t our original hope or dream, I suddenly felt as if I’d been slapped. I felt as if someone was trying to put me in my place, slap me back down. Someone commented on the number of articles on the HuffPost Women’s section about being childless. This person seemed to object to the Huff Post publicising the radical ideas that you could be happy without kids, and that fertility treatments might not work.
Well, as all of us know, fertility treatments don’t always work. In fact, for as many as 30-50% of couples, fertility treatments don’t work. That’s not a small number. That’s a lot of couples. Personally, I wish that more people knew this. That IVF wasn’t seen as the silver bullet of infertility. As we all know, adoption isn’t the silver bullet either, it’s not easy and it can be very expensive, and for some it isn’t an option at all, even if they would like to pursue it. The reality is that many couples are left with no real choice but to go forward with their lives without children. What is unusual is that we are now talking about this. Loudly. Proudly. (Read Loribeth’s Here us Roar post for a great discussion of this, and a song as a bonus.)
And so I was puzzled and, I'll admit it, a bit upset at this objection to our stories from someone I thought would understand. It seemed we hadn't made the progress we thought we had made. “Doesn’t she want me to be happy?” I thought. “Or doesn’t she want me to admit that I’m happy? Are we supposed to be seen but not heard?”
I'm still puzzled, though less upset now. This was a lone comment, and I like to think a lone voice in the wilderness. But it does make me think about our overall place in this community. Why should our stories be less legitimate than the stories of other infertile people? Even in our own community, amongst people we thought were our own, people who we thought would understand, or at the very least have some empathy, our voices are denied. In the words of the commenter, words I wouldn’t normally use here, "WTF?"