10 November, 2012

Sharing our stories ... or not ...

As I mentioned before, one of the joys of being on holiday is just “being.”  We travel without labels, other than perhaps our nationality and first names.  At the end of our trip, we visited another game reserve.  There were two American couples on our trip, one a young (30-ish) honeymoon couple.  So inevitably the subject of children came up.  The second couple (40-ish) didn’t have children, and talked briefly one lunch-time about how it had never been an issue for them.  They were undeniably childfree.  The woman then turned to me across the lunch table, and joked that “oops, you must have kids.”  I shook my head.  “Nope,” we said.  “But you’re happy, right?” said the childfree,.  I nodded and laughed.  “We’re here, aren’t we?”  And the subject – around us – never came up again.

I didn't share my story.  It wasn't the place for that kind of conversation.  We were all meeting each other for the first time, a communal group of about 14 people at a long table.  And I felt comfortable not sharing.  In fact, I felt more than comfortable.  I felt free.  

I felt free, not having to justify my position to indignant parents.  I felt free, in a majority of people without children.  I felt free, not having to face people’s pity.  I felt free, feeling normal, not deficient in any way.  I felt free, not having to explain what ectopic pregnancies are, or blocked tubes, etc.  I felt free, not having to answer any questions about “why not?” or “did you consider adoption?”   I felt free.

Later, there were conversations we were on the periphery of, with the honeymoon couple.  He wanted to try for kids in the first year, she wanted to wait another year or two.  Our young ranger and his wife (the lodge manager) were expecting their first child, so the subject came up around them too.  One night, as we stood out in the middle of the African Bush, with a drink in hand as darkness feel, and as the giraffes skirted the vehicle, nibbling on the thorn trees, he was asked if they had been trying.  (I rolled my eyes.  This is such an intrusive question!)  “It wasn’t happening,” he said – and in those few words I understood the enormity of what he wasn’t saying, of what she (they) had probably gone through, of their fear, of the shaken confidence in their bodies.  “But,” he said ... and my heart sank.  You guessed it.  His explanation, in summary, was that “we just relaxed and it happened.”  A discussion ensured on the benefits of “just relaxing.”  I couldn’t contribute to this conversation (I was feeling decidedly under the weather from what turned out to be a brief bout of food poisoning).  But I was screaming in my head “you know that’s an old wives’ tale.” 

I left it at that, and we continued to enjoy our safari.  But I did go over the conversation, and questioned myself about whether I should have said anything or not.  Then I got home, and read posts about “passing or not passing,” and whether or not we have an obligation to put our stories out there.

Unquestionably in Africa, I didn’t put the entirety of my story out there.  Maybe I should have.  Maybe it would have helped both the ranger and his wife, and the young honeymoon couple at some stage.  But I didn’t.    I needed the space.  I needed the freedom.  I was still true to myself.  We are happy after all.  And perhaps having that knowledge, seeing our example (and the example of the second American childfree couple) will have helped the ranger and his wife, and the other couple, in some way.  Perhaps seeing a happy relationship that has lasted 20+ years, and learning about fulfilled lives without children, might just make those couples think when they meet others, or even help them through some of their own difficult times.  And I have to say, having the choice about what I wanted to say (or not say) just felt right.


  1. It is a freedom - to share your story when you want.
    And keep it to yourself when you don't want.

    When trevelling, I never ever share my story. I travel (also) to escape my infertility, to forget about it. So I never ever feel like talking about it.

    I enjoy travelling - most of the time nothing identifies me, except the first name and nationality (Where are you from? - I love this sentence when we are travelling - it is part small talk among travellers).

    When travelling, we meet lots of couples in our group age (40 - 50). It is interesting to guess - some are childfree, others have already adult children.... but it isn't really important. At least not when travelling.

  2. LOVE the conclusion of this post. :-D I must say I bristled a bit when I read the phrases "we just relaxed and it happened". I posted a link on FB once concerning IVF and infertility and some of the commenters still believed that they knew "a friend who quit job and relaxed and then got pregnant." Dohhhh!!!! I responded by saying that a close friend of mine was REALLY stressed out when they tried baby #1 and she got pregnant that same month.

    Anyway, I remember in the beginning when we first decided to surrender to life without kids, I felt the need to "defend our decision" (because it's not a "popular" decision considering we hadn't tried anything much). Thus I had more or less prepared myself mentally on what to say whenever someone broached the topic to me. However, as time goes by, I feel less need to defend myself because I feel more confident that it's the best decision for us. And that the world doesn't crumble down even though we're facing life without kids. :-)

    1. Oops...I mean a close friend of mine was really stressed out at work and of all the months of TTC, she never thought it would be the month when she got pregnant.

  3. When I travel, I'm only a part of myself. I leave the infertility, the lack of (living) children, the process of getting to where I am today, behind in London. Travelling me is just me - no explaination required.
    I loved this post.

  4. That's such a tough call. I agree, there's a time and a place for these conversations and doing it while meeting everyone isn't the time. But the later conversation. Just argh. It would be one thing if you were being asked those questions, but to be on the outside listening . . . I don't know if I would have had the guts to say anything unless I felt included in some way.

    I think you handled everything the best you could: you didn't jump in an derail the conversation, but you did stay true to yourself. No apologizes for where you are and no hiding behind an untruth. I think your last sentences of this post summed it up beautifully.

  5. Haven't read the other comments so apologies if this is repeating....

    I do not feel like anyone such as yourself has to be the "living childfree/less" diplomat for the rest of their lives.

    You are a beautiful example of how it is possible to come through infertility without having achieved the goal of baby - but achieving another goal of being sane, happy and still in love with your partner, with a rich, full life. It is wonderful and very brave that you do share your experiences with others and every time you do, you open their eyes to what is possible and you teach others (fertile/infertile) out there that there are "just as good" outcomes in the end... but you should NOT feel obligated to carry the torch for the cause with every interaction you may have that might have a reproductive angle.

    I think that you should not feel the slightest bit of guilt or reluctance to hold back that part of yourself if you just want to be in the moment.

    It is a part of you, but you are so much more than a woman that came through infertility. And there is nothing wrong with just being you instead of attaching that label to yourself if it's not something you want to deal with right then.

    I hope you had/are having an absolutely splendid time. :)

  6. The thing is, sometimes you can talk and talk to people and they do not hear a word you say. I suspect the ranger was in that space - he had the experiences he had, and yours would have made no difference to his world view. Therefore, keeping your experiences to yourself probably save you some irritation.

    It's your story to share as you see fit.

  7. I think people should talk when it feels right, without any sense of what we "should" do. It felt better for you not to speak. After what you've been through, you deserve the right to speak when YOU feel good about it.

    I have come from Stirrup Queens, and I am hoping that you get your wish :) Good luck to you!

  8. I agree with the others; you're under no obligation to share, and even if you were to share, it doesn't mean the word will be received, sort of like all gifts.