After almost 7 years since my initial diagnosis I’ve thought back to times before infertility and how different my perspective was then compared to now. Back then I was innocent and ignorant. I thought that everyone who wanted to become a parent could. I thought that if we tried hard enough we could become parents. And most importantly I had a completely different view on those who never had kids than I do now.
Growing up I had a number of relatives who didn’t have kids. My mom has cousins that weren’t able to have kids. My Uncle (Mom’s Brother) and Aunt (Dad’s Sister) never wanted kids for different reasons. I was never that close with either though I learned recently my Aunt was always fond of my brother and I. She passed away last August after a battle with cancer.
In the weeks and months prior to her passing I did contact her. I thanked her last June when she sent me a birthday gift. But looking back I regret I didn’t reach out to her more than I did. Let me be clear my Aunt was a loud know it all who had a sense of entitlement that rubbed me the wrong way. But when my Great Grandmother had dementia and when my Grandfather needed someone to care for him she was always there to step up. I’m not sure if it was due to her caring nature or it fell on her because my Dad had kids and other responsibilities.
My Mother who though I love her and wouldn’t be where I am without (beyond giving birth to me) shaped and influenced my feelings on my Aunt. She would always say that my Aunt didn’t have the responsibilities my father did and that she should take care of my Grandfather. It was painted that my Aunt was a selfish person which she may well have been.
Because of that my feelings on those without children were selfish people and I viewed them as being not as important than those with children. I viewed that not having children was leading a life not as valuable as those who had children. I viewed it as strange not to have kids. It wasn’t until after I found out we would be unable to have kids and when our journey to parenthood ended that we became the people I harshly and unfairly judged growing up and even in early adulthood.
Based on all of this I’ve become a hypocrite and have projected a lot of my own criticisms of those without children on myself. It’s led to me resenting myself and a lot of the insecurities I have as a result of my own thoughts and prior feelings. It’s led to me taking so many things personal when it comes to parenthood and viewing my own life as less than.
The challenge moving forward is now that I recognize what’s behind these feelings is what do I do about it to break out of this way of thinking? How do I stop comparing my life and what value it has to others? I’ve always been stubborn and my toughest critic. I’m a creature of habit and getting into a new way of thinking has always been difficult. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder feeling I have something to prove.
Is what I have to prove that I was wrong and that our life without children can have value? But how do I know if and when I’m able to prove that? I know this is a lot of rambling and hope it makes sense.
This is an interesting topic, both with reassigning value on life but also the point you made about your mom shaping your thinking. I would be curious if her own thoughts have changed, given your diagnosis which is due to genetics. Has her thinking shifted given this or does she also have a similar perspective you once held?
My own parents have struggled with my diagnosis, wanting to shift the blame solely on me (even though I never blamed them to begin with, which has been interesting). My mom in particular has struggled because she held this world view that a worthwhile life involved bearing children and yet she’s insanely unhappy given her own choices and there’s clear evidence of guilt given my diagnosis. Granted, I’m not close with my mom, so that’s a complicating factor. But it has been interesting to watch her struggle with infertility hitting so close to home (and facing the daily reality of how cruel she has been).
You would think my Mom’s thinking would have shifted but as she’s gotten older her filters are going. She’s said a number of incredibly offensive things in front of us. Most of it regarding my brother and his girlfriend getting close to engagement. She made the comment recently in front of both of us that my brother needed to get on it because she wanted to become a grandmother before she hit 80. So I don’t think she gets it. I think she sees her friends and sister with Grandchildren and wants to be a Grandmother.
I’m sorry to hear about your parents. It sucks when we have a complicated relationship with them then add infertility on top of it.
I hope all is well with you and your family.
I think that one of the reasons we are very hard on ourselves is because the rest of society has conditioned us to be that way. And until we personally face a situation, we don’t often question what we’ve been brainwashed with. We get messages – not just from our family, but from the media, from communities, from politicians etc – all the time that tell us we are less because we don’t have children. The message that we are selfish is such an unkind and untrue cliche. I’m really glad that you’re rejecting this message. But you’re right, it is really hard to ignore those negative voices.
I’ve written a lot on this, but you’re reminding me that maybe it is only useful when we are ready to hear it, so it might be time for me to revisit the topic. There are a few posts here you could explore – https://nokiddinginnz.blogspot.com/search?q=don%27t+accept+the+premise. I have used some of this reasoning, and these techniques, to quiet my own negative voices. And although I manage to ignore them most of the time these days, they pop up when we least expect it. I heard them just a day or so ago, and had to consciously think about them, and dismiss them. It gets easier every time I do it.
You’re so right about society conditioning us going beyond our family. I’m glad I’m not crazy and not the only one who feels this way.
Thank you so much for sharing your pieces on this topic. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to have connected with you and appreciate your guidance. You have been extremely influential on my progress.
I hope all is well with you and your family.
I can relate to the feeling of having that chip on the shoulder having something to prove. What I’ve learned is that chip I carried around with me was hampering my ability to connect with people in general, especially those that trigger me (Hi moms that freak out cuz their bio kid isn’t being identified as gifted and talented while my adopted kid struggles mightily with school). It sounds to me like you would like to break that sh*t up. How to do it? I did a lot of therapy and subconscious work with EMDR and then I went to this crazy-ass weekend that helped break through. What I read a lot from you is that you really want to change and maybe keep getting stuck. Keep working, keep trying different types of therapy (I’m on my third therapist). If you want to shed all that, you can, and it’s hard work.
Thank you for being one of the rare bloggers out there talking about life after infertility and attempting to move on after treatment fails. The world definitely obsesses over the meme of “never give up” and I’ve had arguments online even with those who criticize those of us who made the excruciating decision to end the journey. Even at 45 now, insensitive people who know our story still make the “you never know” comments about my body’s inability to accept an embryo (after 6 rounds and 9 donor egg embryos). It has wholly changed who I am.
PS three bloggers in relatively similar situations that I can recommend on WordPress are Different Shores, Infertility Honesty and Sliding Doors. They are my Lifesavers when it comes to reading blogs from people who have ended the journey and are trying to find in this new chapter.