Being part of the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community has its many benefits, as I’ve noted before. But it also brings its pressures and judgements. And one of those judgements I find in living a life without children after infertility is that we have chosen not to have children.
I know that some members of this community can’t imagine how we could go on to accept our lives without children. I get the feeling they think that we can’t have wanted children enough. I have read comments along the lines of “I knew I would do whatever I had to do.” The implication being that they would never have been in our situation. But perhaps they never had to test their ultimate limits. And for whatever reason, perhaps their limits were different to our limits. I personally have very good friends who, after loss and infertility, never went on to IVF. There were good reasons for this. They had limits, limits that I didn’t have. They might have chosen these limits, or the limits might have been imposed on them. I never went on to donor egg, adoption or surrogacy. There are very good reasons for this too. (I know I haven’t really gone into these, but will one day). But it doesn’t mean I feel I had a choice.
So when others talk about our choice to live our lives childFREE, that we chose freely to live our lives without children, I sense a degree of judgement (in addition to the inevitable judgement over my spelling of judgement with an “e”). Yes, I know this might be in an effort to legitimise and validate our situation, and I appreciate that sentiment. But behind that I sense a feeling, a judgement, that we chose our situation, and if we’d only tried harder, we would have succeeded, just like they did, that they would never have given up, like we did, that we are quitters. Or perhaps, if we’d been better people we too would have had our own “miracle.” Recently, I read a comment that implied that the only time that we can say we didn’t have a choice was if we were below the poverty line. This relates back to my previous post. How much should I have gambled away in my pursuit to have children? There is a huge difference between poverty and having a bottomless discretionary fund for numerous (or endless) IVF treatments, or for adoption, or even more for surrogacy. And it also ignores the obvious. That money doesn’t solve everything.
And so tell me, how much of a choice is it, our choice to live life without children? Is it a choice if you’ve already lost your financial security? Is it a choice if you live in a country that doesn’t have medical insurance, or that has strict regulations around IVF, sperm and egg donation, and surrogacy? Is it a choice if you cannot physically conceive or carry a child? Is it a choice if you are of an age, or have medical conditions that preclude you from being able to adopt? Is it a choice if you’ve lost your emotional stability, your relationships, your confidence? Is it a choice if, in pursuing your dream of children, you stopped living your life, put decisions on hold, and focused only on your fertility for year after year?
How far are we supposed to go before it might actually be acknowledged that it was Hobson’s choice? That is, a choice that is no choice at all. What was our choice? To continue trying, against all odds? Or to “choose” to walk away? That’s really not a choice. And then we find we might be judged for that too?
Now, I know some people want to own the fact that they had a choice. I completely respect that. Wanting to feel in some way in control, empowered, after the complete lack of control and vulnerability we feel around infertility and loss is completely understandable. I too will own the fact that I had limits. But do I feel as if I had a choice? It certainly wasn’t my first choice, and not my second, third or fourth choice either. So, no, not really. I’ve accepted that. I’m not bitter about it.
Now, for me, the issue is not how we came to live this life without children. The most important issue is the choice we have now. We have a choice to embrace our lives, our situations, and make lemonade out of lemons. Because the only other choice is to dwell in grief, sadness and isolation. I choose to live, and live well. I choose to embrace my life without children, recognise the advantages, and enjoy them. I don’t spend my days imagining what my life would be like if I had children. What a waste of time and energy that would be. There is joy in my life, and in accepting that, I am not betraying the infertility battles and losses I went through. I am, I guess, moving on. I am living. I am happy. And whatever life we live, there really is no other choice, is there?