No Kidding in NZ’s main message - to those who are struggling, or contemplating the end of their infertility journey - is that it gets easier. Eventually, we can even say it becomes easy. As much, of course, as life is ever easy.
Is that sending the wrong message to “outsiders,” a recent accusation? Does saying that “it’s easier or easy lead to outsiders dismissing the challenges that come with being childless after infertility?” Is it dismissing the struggle we’ve been through? Is it dismissing the painful moments we still face?
I don’t believe so. I feel no guilt for the way I write, and I have no regrets. But I do feel called to respond to this, in case there are more readers who feel this way.
First, I write this blog for myself, and those also experiencing this journey, than I do for those who have not been through it. Telling those in pain that it gets easier is both truthful, and compassionate. It’s not dismissing their pain. I believe that I recognise that pain here. But I don’t want them to think that the pain they might fearfully anticipate, or that they are suffering right now, will last forever. I want to convey my reality, and the reality of others I know who have been through this, that it doesn’t always hurt.
Secondly, I also advocate speaking out – not necessarily in public (that is great, but we don’t all feel we can do it or have the opportunities to do so), but in a smaller, more personal way, to individuals who might dismiss our struggles, or who might not recognise that what they think is inevitable doesn’t need to be that way. My recent posts here and here are an example of that. I am keen for people to recognise our reality of living without children, and its challenges in a society where 20% of the population who will never have children are largely ignored. I believe I do my bit in conveying to those with children or those who expect to have children that there are other ways to live in the world … and that there are challenges in doing this. Speaking out about the challenges is completely compatible with also declaring that our lives can be good.
I believe in honouring our struggle. We may have lost the life we wanted. But I very firmly believe that we shouldn’t also lose the life we have. Living well, enjoying life, and enjoying those parts of my life that are different simply because I don’t have children, is the only way I know how to honour my reality, my losses. I don’t feel guilty for that – though I have in the past. I won’t apologise for it. Because I think we should celebrate the good things in our lives, even if they are different than we once had expected.
I too, have always wanted to avoid pity. Understanding is one thing, and pity is another. By focusing only on the challenges, we do risk being pitied. By recognising the hard parts of a life without children, and by embracing the good parts, I think we better promote understanding that our life is just as multi-dimensional as it would have been with children, and, hopefully, avoids the pity that feels and often is, condescending and ignorant.
Finally, no life is without pain or struggle. In the infertility blogging community, there is much talk about getting the coveted “happy ever after” outcome. But this phrase isn’t an accurate reflection of their reality. There are many parents who struggle, who may find they don’t particularly like the day-to-day of parenting, who might have children with illnesses or special needs or personality disorders that bring great stress and challenges, who might struggle financially, whose relationships break up. No-one I know tells me that parenting is easy. The “happy ever after” outcome of parenting is as much a myth, I believe, as the myth that – if we don’t have children - our lives are over and sadness and regret.
Compared to those who are actively parenting at the moment, my life really is relatively easy. Whilst I have to save for my old age, knowing I’ll have to pay for care rather than rely on children to assist, I don’t have to save for my children’s activities or education or health care costs. I might worry about saving for my retirement, but I don’t have to fear the day I might need to pay for an expensive, potentially life-saving medication (that, in NZ, may not yet receive public funding, or that insurance might not cover) for my daughter, as my sister does. I don’t have to worry about my children's future, that they might not be able to get a tertiary education, or that they've fallen in with a bad crowd. There is no doubt - my life at the moment is easier than it would be if I had had children.
The thing is, “easier” is also a relative term. Those awful, initial days and months don’t last. But as a lot of people recognise, that healing period, when we still feel pain even when we recognise slow improvements and slow gains in strength, can last three to five years. So in that period, we have days when things feel easier, and days when they don’t. That’s to be expected. It’s hard and horrible, but can be interspersed with new adventures and fun and joy. The good days begin to outnumber the bad.
Gradually, that part of our lives that is affected because we don’t have children – our No Kidding lives – gets easier. That part gets smaller and smaller, takes up less and less emotional space. Sure, it occasionally pops up. But mostly it is tucked away in a corner, where it is quiet and causes little bother and virtually no stress. It is relatively easy, at least it is now for me, and has been for many years. That’s my truth. And I believe that it will be the truth of most, if not all, No Kidding bloggers.