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.