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the stories that are out there

It seems to me that the happy-ending story that is so often "out there" about infertility is this: "Here is a couple who struggled and struggled to have kids, and then, finally, they had a baby. The end"...

I think something about this story feels like a lack of honouring of the losses felt along the way for infertile couples. I know life goes on, and I know it does no one any good at all to get stuck in grief or pain. But surely there is some kind of transition for people to adjust from infertility to parenthood? Maybe there is a certain loss that is always felt? Transitioning to parenthood seems like it would be a hard process following infertility battles, and different somehow from a "normal fertility" transition to parenthood which I am sure would be hard enough (and I think is spoken about a lot). Something about the "...and then they had a baby" part of the story seems a bit dismissive about the infertility dramas, or gives a message of- if you try hard enough and long enough, you'll get there, and then you can move on to happy endings.

Increasingly, I have found myself asking of the infertility story... but what if they don't have the kid? What if they try really, seriously hard, and just... can't? How does that scenario pan out to become a happy ending?

Society, (and even the internet!), offers far fewer answers to this question.

One answer to childlessness that I feel is "out there" is this... ok, no kids? well then, you have to be amazing. You have to shine in your career. You have to do something super humanitarian. Or maybe travel everywhere and have a lavish lifestyle. The pressure's on! Stand out! I wonder if this feeling of pressure to be outstanding stems from another strange perception out there that childless people are selfish... I don't understand the selfish argument. Well, for one, what if the childlessness is forced upon you by infertility... the outcome has nothing to do with the self... and, if childlessness is by choice, surely there is not a single thing selfish about that? (To be honest, the more I sink money in to infertility treatment the more I start to think, man, this quest to having kids is kind of a selfish endeavour, but that's another story!) The case could just as easily be made that childlessness is altruistic. My guess would be that childless people would end up working more, on average, than parents, and therefore end up paying more in taxes ... taxes which prop up the education and healthcare of other people's kids by the way!. Not having children, they probably have smaller houses to live in, use up less resources and therefore pollute less. If the decision to not have children is due to some sort of insight into their personality being unsuitable for parenting, then, that decision is amazingly unselfish.

But... I digress...

The thing I find annoying is that the happy-ending story you hardly ever hear of is... "this couple struggled and struggled for years with infertility, and sadly, they realised they were never able to have children. It was hard, but they managed to adjust, and went on to lead a fulfilling life. The end"

This story needs to be out there more!

The lack of this story gives us struggling with infertility far less direction, and less hope. Because instead we put all our hopes into the possibility of a baby, and it becomes such a fixation.

I think we have to remember our lives too, and remember that there are many ways to live out our days. Finding meaning in our short lives, and paving our own path is not so easy. In fact, sometimes I wonder if part of the reason that we are often so hell-bent on child bearing that it seems like a ready-made-life-meaning-making answer.

Since there is not really a clear social narrative about childlessness, there are things I am really very unsure of if that is where I am heading. The uncertainty factor makes it seem a scary option. Like... do I have to restructure my life plans?  Is there more expected of me? How do I get my need to nurture met? What if I can't cope doing my job any more, or I no longer appear to have legitimacy there (because I work with parents and children every day)... what's old age like when you have no kids? Do you use your support networks in a different way? I so, how? Is there a bigger search for meaning that needs to happen when you can't have kids? If so, how do people do that, how does it work out for them?

I still do hope, very much, to have a child, although I know that I can be ok if I don't have children in the end. I believe my own story can have a "happy ending", which ever way it heads... just as long as I consider what I want life to mean for me... a given part of the story, which needs to be respected and which I am sure is true for all of us, is that the story will have pain along the way.

Comments

  1. My partner went through something like 8 rounds of IVF when he was married to his wife years ago. From the things he's said, it was utterly exhausting and made them feel as if the whole thing was futile. It also drained them of money completely. But, I don't think they'd have had it any other way, even though it didn't work in the end. They gave it their best shot.

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    1. I agree, I doubt you would ever regret it. I'm not really one for regretting things in life in general!

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  2. There's a small but active blogging community of those who ended their infertility journey without children. One of our key messages - or mine, at least - is exactly the point of your last paragraph. It is possible to be happy after infertility, even if we don't get the kids.

    Come visit my blog - I have a blog roll of No Kidding bloggers. I'm sure amongst us all we can give some answers - or opinions at least - to the questions you raised. I know I've covered most of the issues you've raised.

    Slowly we are getting the word out – with books, articles, interviews, even TED talks. Yes, it's a reality that neither the infertility community nor wider society are comfortable with, but we're doing our best to change that.

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    1. Thanks Mali! Yes I know there are some great blogs which has been super helpful for me. Only being new to the blogging world I am appreciating that there are definitely some more nuanced and considered stories being told out there, which I am grateful for.

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  3. You're so right, there is no "this couple struggled and struggled for years with infertility, and sadly, they realised they were never able to have children. It was hard, but they managed to adjust, and went on to lead a fulfilling life. The end" out there, at least it's not as loads parenting after infertility. I'm happy to see more people getting the word out though. It's important for people to know that it isn't a competition, and not only that, the path often is chosen for us. There's some choice in infertility (which treatments, how many, whether to do them, adopt?, surrogate?), but they aren't easy and there aren't many.

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    1. Yes exactly, it is not entirely choice We try to get a level of control and choice through these options but they certainly come at a cost.

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  4. Thanks for taking time to express this. I'm sure you're not the only one who feels this way. I know couples (3 that come to mind off-hand) who went thru the infertility struggle and never were successful. When they finally decided to "move-on", they really made a conscious effort to close that door and never look back. This may be why you don't hear as much about that transition. They had been so emotionally, financially, socially, & physically exhausted by it, once they made the decision that it was over, they really wanted it to be over. I'm sure some may still think about it, but none of them ever openly discuss it.

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    1. Yes I have a good friend who had different fertility issues - multiple early miscarriages. She lost 12 babies this way. She went through hell, and she is quite clear on leaving that behind her... which she had to do. She is a bit of an inspiration as she is embracing her childfree existence these days.

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  5. This is part of the reason why moving on is so hard - fertility treatment feels like gambling: what if we give it one more try?

    I don't think anyone who has gone through fertility treatment forgets about it. I assume that parenting is so much more overwhelming (in a positive way) that it shadows the dark times of TTC. They may not talk about it anymore but they remember it all.

    I imagine anyone who has been through this chapter, regardless of how it ended, likes to close the door on it eventually and move on. It's hard enough to go through it, let alone recall the memories and anxiety forever more.

    Wishing you much success on your next steps.

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    1. Yes I think it makes perfect sense to move on. I wouldn't expect people to wallow in something they have moved on from, but just a bit more exposure to these ideas in society would be helpful. I have realised going through it that there's a level of taboo about it really, and the management of hope is hard because of this

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    2. Yes, I agree. I understand why some people keep fertility treatment secret (i.e., wanting to compartmentalize) but I don't understand why it's so taboo in society. Pregnancy loss is especially common, even among fertile folks, and yet no one discusses it. I don't get why.

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  6. There are a lot of people here in the IF blogosphere, who broke their bank and their bodies aspiring for children. You are not alone.

    Wanting your children does not make you selfish. Trying to keep it sane, and being realistic is not wrong either.

    I know where you are coming from.

    I would fall in that category of women who struggled for year, and am now eventually a parent, but trust me, my life is not a fairy tale since then.

    I abide with you in your struggle, and have been in your shoes. Please know the same.

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    1. I know, it's why I thought I'll try this blogging thing out... I was starting to feel a bit isolated and know that so many have been through it before me and with me. Thanks for your comment!

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  7. "of women who struggled for year(s)"

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  8. Like Mali mentioned there are a lot of blogs of women who have ended up childfree after their infertility journey and it is nice to see that there can be life after that. You are right that generally society doesn't speak about cases like that though. It would help to have a crystal ball and to know if you will ever be able to have a child and plan accordingly, I find the not knowing really hard.

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    1. Yup. I'm all about the toleration of uncertainty and, the related management of hope.

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  9. I think it is SO important to recognize that not everybody gets the "happy ending" of a baby (and I say that as someone who did: once, maybe twice). But the people who don't have kids do have meaningful lives, and I think it's important to be reminded of that. One has to remember that that choice exists and us completely valid. As for parenting after infertility, it's complicated, but rewarding too. Can't say much else with certainty, being in the middle of the adventure, myself. Best of luck.

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