27 April, 2016

#StartAsking for Recognition

This week is – in the US at least – National Infertility Awareness Week, and as part of it they have a Bloggers Unite Challenge. This year, the theme is #StartAsking. I don't always participate in their challenge, but this year their theme seemed appropriate to me.

To #StartAsking for help, asking for anything, is really tough for many of us. I’ve been reminded how hard it is to ask for help the last week or two. I’m sure if I’d only picked up the phone and asked friends to help out, they would have. But my husband and I were coping, even if it wasn’t that easy or that pleasant, and so I didn’t. To think about actually asking for help, for acknowledgement, for recognition, is often very difficult for us. So I heartily approve of their 2016 theme.

Whilst I know many bloggers will have gone public with their #StartAsking appeal, mine is actually to those in this community, those of us who come out of infertility to live our lives without children. For some years I’ve been doing this anyway, but it’s good to make a conscious choice around it. I want to start asking for recognition that not having children is a legitimate outcome after infertility.

I’ve written about it before of course. Those going through infertility don’t want to contemplate failure. Because that’s how they see us, at least when they are in the midst of infertility madness. I note that Fertility NZ's list of forums doesn't include one for those who don't have children, despite saying they are there to provide support during infertility "and beyond." The rest of society see us as pitiable. But we’re not. I’ve written before too that I think we are the true success stories, showing that it is possible to embrace an outcome that does not deliver our preferred way of life, to live good lives, and to be happy.

So I don’t just want to ask for recognition that not having children is a legitimate outcome of infertility. I want to demand it. People talk about getting their “happily ever after.” Well, it’s time they recognised that we get our happily ever after too. It’s just not the one we anticipated. It’s time we recognised that too.

So I’m going to continue pointing out to others that they can’t make assumptions about my life. I’m going to tell them the realities, be happy when I have reason to be happy, and be sad when I have reason to be sad or feel bereft. When parents worry about their old age, I’m not going to keep silent, but point out that they have it easier than I do (when it is true of course). “Cry me a river!” I recently said to someone who had no reason to complain. And I’m not going to keep quiet about the joys of sleeping in, or travelling outside of school holiday periods, taking advantage of cheaper accommodation and flights, and quieter planes and empty museums. We take joy in their joy as parents. They can take joy in my joy in living a life without children. We commiserate and help out when their kids are sick or troubled. We can ask them to commiserate and help out when we are going through tough times. Many of us of course have friends and family and colleagues who do this already, and I’m grateful for them. But when this isn’t the case, I’m going to start asking for legitimate consideration. I’m not going to be obnoxious about it, but will ask subtly, politely, firmly.

On a wider, societal basis, it’s time that we were seen as legitimate members of society, contributing fully, providing support, and valid members of the electorate and economy. It’s time advertisers stopped ignoring women without children, and that politicians recognised that not everyone has a family, that we pay taxes and vote too. It’s time the fertility industry acknowledged that there are some people they will never be able to help, no matter how much money they spend, and that this is a legitimate outcome, one that needs to be treated with respect and sensitivity.

Recognition. I’m not just asking for it, I’m demanding it.

Note:  Since publishing this post this morning, I have edited it post, removing links to NIAW and Resolve, after receiving yet another piece of spam from what appears to be one of their sponsors. None of their sponsors provide services to those of us without children, of course. Once we stop pursuing fertility treatments, we don't deliver the big bucks any more. 

The message of my post still stands. But now I need to also #StartAsking for recognition from Resolve too, and for freedom from irrelevant spam marketing.

Read Pamela's post about the role of their sponsors, and conflict of interest here.


  1. Wonderful, important, powerful post. I agree it's a demand and not an ask. I both can and can't believe that there wouldn't be forums for people living childfree after infertility if there were ones for parenting or adoption. I have a friend who is childfree after infertility, and she tells me often how isolating it can be, that she is not considered a whole person by so many and it is highly frustrating. The assumptions are infuriating. I keep giving her your website as I think it would be so helpful to not feel so isolated, since as you state so beautifully here, living a life that's different than you'd envisioned but embracing that life for all the joys it holds shouldn't be so lonely. Beautiful post.

  2. I agree, Mali, that more needs to happen on the emotional/societal front to promote ACCEPTANCE that not all people succeed with treatment...

    At the same time I, uh, just finished two weeks of research into RESOLVE and NIAW broadly and discovered some troubling conclusions about this 'community feel good' campaign. More here: http://blog.silentsorority.com/conflict-of-interest/#more-4093

    1. Argh! I wish I'd read that before I posted this. I received another bit of Resolve spam just before this post went live. So this year will be the last I get involved with Resolve!

  3. I just couldn't believe that Fertility NZ does not include the forum about living childless after infertility. So excluding, we don't belong anywhere. Luckily we invented our own ways to meet each other!

  4. I love your #StartAsking!

    This is a tough one for me....I love the idea of a whole week devoted to infertility awareness, but I hate pretty much everything about Resolve.

  5. It was a really hard theme for me this year ("start" asking? What have I been doing for the last 15 years?), but I really like your take on it. Cheering on the firmness in this post.

  6. I agree that recognizing one can resolve infertility by not parenting should not have to be something that is asked for. There's SO many misconceptions about this path (the couple not really wanting children, being seen as quitters or bitter, etc.). You're right about your life being full and that needs to not only be recognized, but celebrated.

    Conquering infertility isn't about giving birth. It's about moving beyond the trauma caused by this disease and finding a way to heal. There are many ways to do this, but each path needs the same amount of support and understanding.

  7. I agree. While everyone in the infertility community starts out with the intention of having children, not everyone gets that outcome and I think it is important to read and know people who did not become parents via treatments or whatever path. Because we don't know the future, but we should believe there's a decent life out there somewhere, somehow, even if not the imagined life. I will always remember a conversation I had with one of my older friends who was infertile (as was her husband). They were never able to get pregnant and she had plenty of other bad luck too (including a foster situation that did not go well). But everything this woman has done with her life is amazing. Knowing her gave me courage I could be ok even without children. As it turns out I did have a child but I will be always grateful for her honesty.

  8. I love your "ask"/demand (although I generally hate the use of the word "ask" as a noun, lol). It is well overdue! I also agree with you that it's very hard for women generally to ask for what they need, be it a raise at work, help with the housework, something intimate (!)... let alone help regarding something so personal and misunderstood as infertility. Posts like yours are a great wakeup call for those who don't understand our situation. Bravo!!