Sometimes I feel like I have now made the decision to not have children, the decision to stop trying to have a baby. Sometimes I feel like I have come to terms with it and am ready to move forward. I think, in fact, that is probably correct, that this is it, now. That whilst I don’t want to give up, really, this is what we are doing. This is now the reality, not hoping and longing, but dealing with it and learning to accept it. We booked a posh holiday to Mexico for next year, for example, with no thoughts of when IVF might invade our lives again, with no thought of having to save the thousands and thousands of pounds needed for IVF. So, even though I might not be very good at saying it out loud, I might not be ready to distinctly bring that knife down on all those years of trying, I am acting it out.
But then we get to the desk to book said luxurious holiday and they mention the Zika virus and warn us about trying to conceive and ask us if we are pregnant and it’s like I cannot get away from the question. We just say no. And a little brick of hope, somewhere inside me, falls away with a clatter. This is hard. This is all so bloody hard. This week I have almost, almost put the stuff in the baby drawers into storage. Almost. But I have to be in the right frame of positive moving forward mind to do this. And there keep being these triggers that put me back a few steps.
I visited an old school friend in her new house this week, she has three children. We have, on occasion, had some very rocky times, my friend and I, because of the children/infertility situation. But over the last few years we’ve rekindled our friendship and found a way of being friends that we both enjoy. Her children are wonderful, intelligent, beautiful, like their mum, polite, happy…just really great kids. I’m always a bit awkward around other people’s children anyway, because people are always watching me and pitying me and there’s no way round that. It makes me feel a bit like a freak show, though, this care and compassion and pity, so I find the easiest thing is to avoid it. I can’t remember when I last held a baby. I would, frankly, get more excited about holding a baby guinea pig now, but don’t tell anyone.
My friend and I meet probably three or four times a year, birthdays and Christmases and occasionally for coffee and usually we talk about work, a bit about her kids and usually the thing we talk about with me is IVF. The last few times I’ve just said that I didn’t want to talk about it because it’s such a bloody depressing ball of pain. And she’s been very sensitive about that, which I am incredibly grateful for. However, I am actively trying to put the words in my mouth now, ‘we are no longer trying’. I avoid saying it out loud unless I’m asked directly, because it’s not a subject I want to particularly linger on, I don’t know how to yet, I don’t know how to protect myself from the hurt, and again the pity and sadness people look at me with is quite hard (I get mad, though if people don’t acknowledge the magnitude of it, so no one can really win can they) and I don’t want advice. I don’t want to be asked if we have considered adoption, for example. Because it makes me want to scream. As if in thirteen years, over five rounds of IVF and two miscarriages and the death of my baby, I might not have considered surrogacy or adoption or fostering. The thing that I want to avoid most of all, though, is being told what we can do now, with no children. I don’t want to be told how lucky we are to be able to go on fancy holidays and be able to go out without worrying about childcare. And I’m sorry if this sounds angry, but it does make me angry. Be reassured that I don’t react with anger in real life, I come home and write ferociously in my journal instead, because people just want to help and really, it’s my problem if I can’t accept that, isn’t it? I fear being seen as bitter or resentful, because that is the automatic response. People seem to just see jealousy.
Sometimes when I post in anger on social media about some perceived injustice or lack of understanding or empathy towards IVF and infertility that I have seen on the TV or heard on the radio, or about something doing the rounds on social media (the meme that has someone rolling their eyes and the caption: me, when someone without children tells me they’re tired’ is a particularly rage inducing one) I get angry, stung responses saying that individuals will not be afraid or guilted into not posting pictures of their children, or statements about their children, that everyone has problems and that people try their hardest and no one knows what to say for the best. …etc which is great, I don’t think anyone would ask any parent to not celebrate their child’s life. But equally do not trample over my right to speak openly, honestly and if I want to, in detail about my experiences of miscarriage, infertility, stillbirth because that further marginalises people that are already on the outsides of a society that is naturally geared towards children and families.I am sorry if that makes people feel awkward or embarrassed or targeted, but telling me that I am making them feel bad further exacerbates the taboo around speaking about it. I have to say though, that social media is a godsend too, I have received so much support and connected to so many other people in my shoes, it is worth those few angry individuals. And I really am, genuinely sorry, if I upset people or make people feel bad, it’s not my intention.
I don’t get angry at the person making suggestions about the great things that we can now do, because people are inherently good and want to help. People don’t want to see you in pain and want to shuffle you out of the pain so that they don’t have to see it, it hurts them to see you sad and the automatic response is to want to help. Sometimes people are just…lacking in empathy, they CAN imagine what a luxury it must be to not have to worry about children, to have a glass of wine without planning, because THEY are sometimes struggling to have a life away from their children. But they struggle to imagine what it is like to have to change your entire life to fit in a completely different one. I do get it, I get that the grass is always greener, I get that every one has a cross to bear, every one has problems I get it, I get it, I get it. I do not need telling. It does not stop it hurting.
What is helpful, I find, is when people understand that 98% of the time I am positive, I work hard not to be resentful, bitter or jealous. I spend time meditating on it, I spend time working out how to have my daughter’s death in my life, how to have infertility in my life. It’s not passive. To be able to move forward being childless (not by choice), you have to embrace ‘plan B’. And I do, I am. I make lists. But it’s my right to make those lists and come to terms with it that way, it is not for anyone else to tell me what should be on my list or how happy and grateful I should be for the things on my list. It is not helpful. Yes, I feel brilliant knowing that I will never have to compromise my career, will have time to write, can go on writing retreats if I wish, I feel happy that I will be able to go on holidays, I can have a two seater car if I want, I can have a one bedroom house if I want, I will never be puked on or shat on. I will never be embarrassed by a screaming child in a supermarket. I can go for a drive/bike ride/walk when I want, without planning, I can have as many animals as I want, I can go to the gym when I feel like it and no one compromises my glass of wine and reading time. I can lie in on a Sunday morning, eating croissants and reading the paper. I can do all those things, and yes, it’s bloody brilliant. But it’s not my choice to do any of those things. A person who can conceive might have chosen to not have children so that they could do those things, I didn’t. It’s all hole filling. It is all packing of a wound. I am packing the wound with career and life and fun because I can’t have it left open. It is getting easier to be this person. But it is not a case of, oh well, look at the things we CAN do. It is a case of , right, let’s get on with this, this is how we can make our lives worthwhile and exciting, by focusing on what we have, not what we haven’t got.
This probably really does sound bitter and resentful, it isn’t meant to be, it’s supposed to be honest. Because anyone dealing with life changing circumstances has a right to be a bit miffed about it, to be quite angry and fucked off it about it. And to have a bloody good rant about it. Rant over.
**tried to find the person who took the adorable photo on the top of the page to credit them, but can’t seem to. If this is your photo, please contact me so that I can credit you **