Saturday, 7 April 2018

Childless Success Stories Revisited: Our Declaration of Independence

Loribeth’s post about a New York Times article (which I didn’t read due to the paywall, and didn’t feel I needed to, given her excellent recap) which essentially gave the message "never give up" added to a comment on a post, from someone who said they always liked "hearing success stories about infertility." I was frustrated at both these instances, and the view that the only success stories are those who have children after infertility.

Six years ago this month, I wrote a post about this subject called The real success stories. Go read it if you haven’t – I was going to repost it here in its entirety, but realised I had some more things to say, so in the interests of brevity I’ve just provided the link. Because you see, six years later, I’m frustrated that pretty much every word of it is still relevant (though of course, I hadn’t really expected change in society to occur that quickly).

And so, once again, I wonder why, in this supposedly more accepting age, in the 21st century, people still focus so much on the so-called success stories (ie, those with babies). They don’t want to hear the stories of those of us who didn’t have children. But why don’t they? What is wrong with hearing the stories of those who battled bravely, didn’t achieve their desired outcome, but went on to live good, full lives? What is wrong with thinking about those of us on a different path than we might have wanted? What is wrong with acknowledging that there are some of us who have suffered real loss? Why does it make them uncomfortable? And what is wrong with acknowledging that there can be happiness and pride and fulfilment in a life that is different from theirs?

Why are people so uncomfortable and afraid of the different? The answers are obvious, of course, but I think today I needed to rant! So in brief, I know that humanity finds it hard to cope with the idea of “different.” There are myriad examples of this, in every society, all over the world – discrimination and bias are, sadly, key features of human nature. And those in the majority like to feel that theirs is the best, the happiest, the only legitimate outcome. Hence the inability of so many to acknowledge those of us who don't come out of infertility as a parent.

Actually, though, if I think about it, maybe some things have changed. International discussions about childless leaders now invariably criticise discrimination against women without children, rather than accepting and justifying it. Here in the ALI community, our numbers have grown, and we are becoming harder to ignore. Mel’s Round-Up, for example, regularly includes posts from the not-so-Silent Sorority of No Kidding bloggers* on the road less travelled and on different shores, living the next 15000 days of our lives without baby, rising from the ashes of infertility, sometimes brutal in their honesty, bent but not broken, inconceivably eloquent. Posts are written, interviews given, articles printed, and books published giving our perspective. I’m so proud of everyone doing this.

But I say again, in our Declaration of Independence, so-named by Loribeth in the original post's comments, that I believe we are the true success stories. We are the ones who fought to get what we wanted, who did everything and (sometimes) more than those who have children, and still didn’t get what we wanted. So we learned to want what we have. We may have endured agonies, perhaps years of grief and adjustment, but we learned to retrain our brains away from the if-onlys, to find new hope for different things, to blossom and thrive on an alternative path, to embrace ourselves, and our lives. Born out of hardship and disappointment, we are the true success stories. I celebrate you, and I celebrate us.





* Those other excellent bloggers not able to be mentioned here are included in my blogroll.

8 comments:

  1. Sorry about the paywall, I sometimes forget about it because I have a NYT digital subscription, although they do sometimes let you read so many articles a month before the paywall kicks in. Love how you managed to cram in so many blogger references in that one sentence! ;) And of course, I so totally agree with you. I'm happy for people who finally do get their babies after infertility & loss, of course -- but I think people need to know, a baby and the traditional happy ending is not the only outcome -- and it's not the only outcome that can be a happy one, just because it's not the norm. Personally, I think our stories are more interesting ;) precisely because they don't conform to the generally accepted narrative.

    P.S. The link to your old "success stories" post is not working... but I remember it well!

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    1. Thanks. The link is corrected now.

      Glad you liked the blogger references - once I had mentioned the road less travelled, I got on a roll!

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  2. I LOVE this post, so much. (I went to your archives to get to "The Real Success Stories," because the link didn't link...)

    I HATE the word "graduation" with infertility. It really bothers me that there is this sense of moving forward as a parent being the only acceptable option, or at least the only one that is seen as a success. I feel like a success. I feel like getting from the point of being beaten to a bloody pulp emotionally to accepting a life as is and moving forward towards a future that isn't the hell of limbo is every bit as worthy of congratulations as having a baby in the other ways to resolve. To pick yourself up after incredible loss and make a life that is different from what the media typically shows us, that is definitely success. Loving the fireworks. Thank you for putting this out there and reminding people that success has many, many different outcomes and one should not be seen as better than the others. Make them ALL accepted and honored, dagnabbit!

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    1. Goodness, Jess, you are a complete success, and in such a relatively short time too!

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    2. Aw, thank you! I think perhaps my latest bout of crying on the floor of my office says I am a total work in progress (um, yesterday...), but I have been working it! :) Can't do it without mentors out there, hint, hint. <3

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  3. Absolutely agree with you!!! And with Loribeth! Your stories and insights are voices that are desperately needed in a world that still pushes one outcome for a happy ending. I think the reason there’s such resistance is rooted in fear and this idea of quitting equaling failure. Both need to be addressed and the best way is through sharing your stories and insight.

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  4. Perfect timing!! I feel like I've read so many stories lately about people going through infertility, but every single story ends with a baby. I've been really frustrated that no one tells my story, the one where you go through infertility and don't get the baby. I love that we are the success stories. Seriously, perfect timing. Thank you. And I love the firework!

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  5. Thank you Mali - I love this post and the firework display says it all.
    Jane P (UK)- from LWB

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