08 April, 2019

How infertility affects our world views

My writing today was inspired by Pamela's post on the 10th Anniversary of her book, Silent Sorority. It has also turned out to be an opportunity for me to think about some issues I've raised before, but relate them to my life today. It's why I love reading other women's blogs, because a few comments can inspire me to think further. And because writing posts can take me in directions I never expected - as in this post!

Pamela went back into the archives and looked at a discussion on Infertility Amnesia. She suggested three possible reasons for why some women who have children after infertility seem to suffer from a degree of infertility insensitivity.

I had one or two additional thoughts to - or perhaps expansions on - Pamela's three reasons (a variation on survivor’s guilt; denial; or ‘false sensitivity’) for infertility amnesia.

I know that some women think that we took the easy way out, and that in contrast they "hung in there" and endured additional hardships to achieve their children. Their pregnancies and subsequent children validated their efforts, and proved them "worthy." They then felt that they earned the right to fully join the "mothers" club, and participate in all the rites of passage of being pregnant and mothers (scan and bump photos, using photos of their children as their profile pics, etc). They defend their right to do this, regardless of the fact that they know from experience that in doing so, they will hurt some women who are either still waiting to be pregnant/have their baby, or some of those who, like us, will never do so. (I have covered this in a slightly different context before, here and here).

But rather than revisit their insensitivity (which I did in my draft just to get it off my chest), I instead want to think about the fact that despite going on the same journey, sometimes for many years, different outcomes can lead to such completely different outlooks. One group sees that effort, hard work and perseverance pays off, and they are validated by that. Another group sees simply that they were lucky, and remember that they could have easily not achieved their outcome. A third group, the No Kidding women, see the opposite. We see that hard work, effort and perseverance can often make no difference whatsoever to the end result.

It's a classic example of how our personal experiences shape our world view. But it is also an example of how we can, if we are not careful, use those personal experiences to justify our views. When, really, it would be more honest to continue to test our views against evidence, to question their premise, examine them with sensitivity and compassion from all sides, and be prepared to change them if we need. Rather than being defensive when challenged, we need to try to take into account different perspectives and experiences.

It has been timely for me to reread these posts and apply them to my life today, and my approach towards people in it. I guess it's another example of accepting and choosing to use the gifts of infertility - of empathy, and humility. A reminder too that, as a commenter on one of the earlier posts linked above pointed out, in the absence of it from others we need to practise self-compassion.

And that is not how I thought this post would end!


  1. Thank you, Mali, both for the shout out and for expanding on the conversation. It's true that time and added perspective can shift not only our world view but others' as well. It would be a fascinating exercise to locate the women from the archived book club discussion and see if and how their views have altered. xo

  2. Such a great post on how we react differently to our experiences. I think that learning how to be empathetic goes a long way in how we interact with others who haven't had the same path. Infertility has so many twists and turns and decisions, and while we ultimately end up with one of 3 outcomes, the path to get there can be vastly different for each of us.

  3. Oh yes! I was just talking about Infertility Amnesia with a friend. It would be very interesting to see how time impacts people's perspectives on how they landed where they did in resolution. I have heard way too many times to count that waiting is the hardest part, that hanging in there just long enough makes everything worth it, that trying this or that was the key to success, when really -- no matter what the pathway -- luck, right-place-right-time, stars aligning just so -- that is such a huge factor. I feel like I sound like a sour grapes person when I say that, but it is true. I will never know what might have been right around the corner from our decision to end the pursuit, but I know from my own experience in the journey that I could not take more heartbreak, and so choosing what came next was vital to survival. I will be thinking about the thought of self-compassion and listening while caring for my own perspective, and not immediately jumping to defense. Which can be hard sometimes.

  4. I'm curious about your draft ;-)

    There's a lot to think about here. Reading makes me wonder how many times I have posted something hurtful due to not thinking/feeling from another's viewpoint.

    I love the focus on empathy, humility, and compassion (including self!).

    1. I could share my draft with you, if you'd like! ;-) I didn't want to write it here, as I didn't want it to be a beat-up of mothers after infertility.

    2. Correction: "I didn't want it to be a beat-up of SOME mothers after infertility."

  5. What an excellent and balanced post! Thank you, Mali, for your wisdom.
    Self-compassion really is key. It seems to be something I have to practice again and again... I find that it is both the most valuable and the most difficult lesson infertility and grief have taught me so far.

  6. I too am curious about that earlier draft. :) But I love that you resisted temptation & took the high road! -- Not sure I would have been so generous! I have written drafts that I never published -- it does feel good to get it all out, even if the post never sees the light of day!