The first is the desire to show that we can, and almost certainly will, have a happy and peaceful life when we don’t get that “take-home baby” after infertility. I talk about how we can get there, what helped me, the gifts I’ve gained through this struggle, and the advantages of getting where I am today.
But I also feel strongly that we should all have permission to talk about what’s tough. Parents move on with their life, and find that their “happily ever after” involves struggles, exhaustion, financial worries, ill or difficult children, or a myriad of other related life stresses. I have long been an advocate of parents after infertility feeling free to talk about the difficulties of their lives, rather than feeling the pressure to pretend that everything is fine and to feel forever grateful. Those of us who couldn’t or don’t have children shouldn’t begrudge them the ability to complain, even when they may have been through so much to have their children. However, those of us without children should be able to do this too.
Healing and “coming to terms” doesn’t mean the feelings simply go away, or though they often do recede or even disappear. I believe that it means we understand them, learn to live with them, don’t fight them or regret them, don’t wish it was otherwise or rant and rave, but see the way the world could help us by being different. I would argue that although some people expect us to have lost those feelings entirely, that is not healing. Banishing feelings without understand them is not healing. Learning to live with them, or to overcome them, is true growth and understanding. Just as parents know they can love their children but not like aspects of parenting, or even aspects of their children’s behaviour, those of us without kids know that we can love our lives, but not like all the consequences of that. After all, life is a compromise, isn’t it? Why should we be any different?
But it is hard – when we see that most of our extended infertility online community are doing everything they can to avoid being in our situation – to be honest about the tough times. We heal, and we move on, and though we never forget, we laugh and love and are happy. I want those coming after us to see that, to feel it, to understand it, and be pleased for us. I want to reduce the fear of those who might follow in my path, as much as I want to help and encourage those who have only just started on this path.
But I don’t want to be a fraud, and I need to be honest about the tough times too. I first posted about this in 2015, when I talked about issues that were causing me stress in my life. That was seven years ago, and since then I’ve been through the deaths of the last three parents/parents-in-law, a huge bill for house maintenance, the inability to secure further work, and of course, a pandemic. Despite all that stress, I continue to talk here about the techniques I’ve used over the years, or still try to use now, to bring consciousness, joy, and peace into my life, to balance any stress or negativity.
Rationally and logically I might be at peace with my life, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t still have ouch moments, feel some of the emotions that we all feel from time to time, or worry about the future without children. It was especially hard when we were going through the years of elder care, knowing we have no-one to do these tasks for us – or not with the same degree of intimacy. It doesn’t mean that the isolation of those of us without kids doesn’t affect me, or that I don’t notice and feel the bias of society towards those with children and away from us. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel a twinge when my rights or interests are given a lower priority, when a thoughtless, excluding comment is made.
Along with that are the very
personal moments of enduring loss. These can creep up on us, especially, as
anniversaries come and go, as August (which would have brought the due dates of
both my ectopic pregnancies), as December and the holiday season beckon, as we
lose the generation above us. These anniversaries might lose their searing,
breath-taking pain, but still they remind us of what we’ve lost. Sometimes I
think the sadness they bring is perhaps more about the reminders, about
remembering those tough times, and honouring what my husband and I (and all of
you) went through, than it is about the loss itself. I’ve come to terms with
the loss, I’m happy with my life, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t
occasional moments of sadness. And when they occur, I find it helpful to talk about them. I know that others reading this will understand, and there is comfort in knowing that others understand, who can provide support, even if I'd rather they didn't know from experience. There's comfort in not being alone. So, I hope that my honesty helps others who are struggling too, who might doubt their resilience, their strength, in facing the difficulties of their situation. Those who might worry that they're not coping as well as they think they should, and who could be reassured knowing that what they feel is normal, and that it will get better.
I think that everyone feels this from time to time, except perhaps for the extremely fortunate, or those who live in denial! It’s certainly not unique to those of us who don’t have children. It’s okay to feel sad, to feel pain, and to admit that. If I didn’t, I’d truly be a fraud. If I couldn’t admit it here, with others who understand, where could I do that? If I didn't admit that here, what damage might I do to our cause and quest for understanding, both within our community, and in wider society?
Ultimately, therefore, I've concluded that I don’t think there’s any conflict between embracing our No Kidding lives, yet still admitting to occasional moments of sadness over what we’ve lost. I will fight the feelings of being a fraud, and stick to honesty. The hope I offer is that those moments of sadness don’t stay. They come, and they go, and we continue to live and love and enjoy life. I’m not kidding.