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.
I’m going to write this piece as politely as possible and my intention is to get everyone to think rather than offend people. This piece also is not directed at any one person as this is a societal norm.
Until infertility came along I never fully recognized the bias society has towards those with children. In the work place in families, in the media and everyday life people with children are given a break more so than those without children. If you have two employees one has kids who can’t stay late because of their kids softball/baseball game and the other doesn’t have kids but has a dinner date with their spouse it’s easy to know which one will have to stay late. Same goes for families with aging parents where the sibling without kids has to take on the responsibility of taking care of their parents rather than the sibling who has kids. The idea is the person with kids and their time and life is more valuable than those without children.
The situation when this is at its worst is when someone tragically dies young be it from cancer or some other awful tragedy. You’ll hear how a person died at the age of 34 and had two young kids and how awful it is. Yes, it is awful. Anyone whose life ends so young is an awful situation that is unfair. However, would it have been less awful if they didn’t have two kids? Would it have been less awful if it was just a spouse and other relatives that were grieving that person rather than adding on the kids? I know the intention isn’t to do this but basically our society is saying that those with children have more valuable lives than those without children. It tells me that my life is less valuable because I’m unable to have children.
Things like this can drive the so called “commodification” of children that opponents of third party reproduction and anti adoption groups talk about. Though none of them recognize or talk about the bias against those without children nor did any of them have to make the choice that those going through infertility have to. I’ve always taken them with a grain of salt and recognize their agendas that could care less about those going through infertility. But they do have a point in this regard, having children has become a status symbol in our society as the difference between the socially acceptable haves and have nots.
I don’t believe that all people with children are like this. I also don’t think they believe their life has more value than those without children. But I believe they have the power to think about the message they are sending to their kids and society that people without children are just as important as those with children. Next time someone tragically dies or faces some unfortunate circumstances I hope they recognize what’s happened to them regardless of whether they have kids.
I’ve stuck to being non controversial on this blog but I think the time has come for me to write a piece that I know will upset some people. I apologize up front but I think they need to be open to what I’m saying. Hopefully they are able to understand that I am not trying to offend them but to enlighten them to help all of us.
I’ve been in the infertility community long enough where I’ve connected with people who were going through treatments at the time I first connected with them who are now either pregnant or have had their babies. I’m very happy for them. To go through what they did to get the result they did is very well deserved. But some of these people who have graduated to the next step in their lives, forget where they came from. This doesn’t mean I think all people who go through infertility who go onto have children are like this, only some of them. Getting pregnant and having a child has made them forget where they came from. They forget that while they have graduated, a lot of us will never graduate. A lot of us will never have something to show for all of our suffering and pain.
Last week I had to unfollow someone on twitter who went through infertility who gave birth to their baby recently. The reason I did it was because she went from being an infertility advocate to someone who does nothing but talk about her baby. What’s even worse is that she is now one of those people that instead of being empathetic to those going through infertility to someone who is an unrealistic cheerleader. By that I mean that she is tweeting like everyone will end up being able to have a baby like she was able to. She has become what a lot of people in the infertility community can’t stand and that’s someone who had children thinking that it will eventually happen for that person. What she doesn’t realize is that she got lucky and that she could just as easily still be childless. Please don’t get me wrong I’m very happy for her, I just think that she shouldn’t forget where she came from.
My point is this if you are someone who is going through infertility, if you do go on to experience a pregnancy and have a baby don’t forget where you came from. If you have a twitter feed or a blog, you may want to stop your blog or just keep it strictly about infertility. It’s likely that those who follow are going through infertility and some of your talking about your child maybe triggering for others who are reading your work. You may want to create a new twitter handle or blog to discuss your experiences as a parent.
If you are someone who went through infertility who is a parent now, don’t forget where you came from. Recognize the fact that you were lucky. Recognize the fact that there are others out there who will not be as lucky. Be aware of that in your interacting with those going through infertility. Put yourself in their shoes and remember what they went through. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be happy about being a parent, it means you shouldn’t be the fertile friend you disliked when you were going through infertility. You shouldn’t have the “you’ll have a baby eventually” attitude. You should have the “I’m here for you always and forever”.
Not all infertility is created equal. What worked for one couple isn’t going to work for another couple. Everyone who goes through infertility will have different outcomes. Some will end with a biological child of both parents, others will become parents through third party reproduction or adoption and others will remain childless forever. We all need to recognize that and stick together and not change just because our outcomes are different.
If K and I do decide to pursue adoption and are lucky enough to be selected to become parents, I’ll likely just keep this blog about topics concerning infertility and start up a new blog. If I happen to become one of this annoying parents, I ask that you remind me to remember where I came from. You have my permission to tell me to STFU stop being an annoying dick and remember where I came from :-).
As big of an advocate of the infertile community and the issues that impact us I am, I am also very interested in the children who grow up in families via adoption or third party reproduction. The only way we as a society can learn as to how to better parent these children is by hearing the voices of adults who were children in these families. So I was very interested when I saw that for once MTV wasn’t doing one of these trashy shows like “16 & Pregnant” or “Teen Mom”. Instead they were going to do a show on a group of donor conceived children siblings who are in search of the man who donated his sperm that conceived them called “Generation Cryo“.
The group of children come from all different types of families. Bree, who is the main character of the show has two parents who are lesbians. She is the child who is really driving the search for their sperm donor. There are two other families who had an infertile father. Though one of the couples was actually able to conceive a daughter after they used the same donor sperm to conceive their son. That was an interesting situation where I would be interested to know what their dad’s diagnosis was. And finally there were two other families with children whose single mothers used the same donor sperm to conceive their children.
The level of interest in finding the man responsible for donating the sperm varies in each child. Unlike donor conceived children in the past all of the children on the show were told of their conception story at a young age and for the most part are comfortable with it. Though the main character of the show appears and one other child appear to have some hurt over their conception. The main issue the show is bringing awareness to is not only donor conception but more specifically anonymous sperm donation.
As a viewer I really feel for the kids that have an interest in who was the man that makes up 50% of his DNA. I don’t think it’s right that they should have to go through an extensive search to find out who he is. But on the other hand thus guy donated his sperm under the agreement that he would be anonymous and not responsible in any way for the children that might have been conceived from his sperm. It’s a very emotional show on an emotional topic.
The parts of the show that hit home for me were the segments involving the infertile dad’s and how much they care for their children but at the same time still hurt from their infertility. I have to admit there were times during these segments that I teared up thinking about my own pain. It was a reminder that regardless of whether my wife and I become parents the hurt will always be there for me.
Overall the show is very well done. MTV deserves a lot of credit for putting together a show like this and not making the show trashy like they’ve done with other shows. I think it’s an important show for people to watch. I hope it doesn’t become a show where people turn to hate and judge infertile couples, same sex couples and single women who choose to build their families this way. Instead I hope our society first learns that changes are needed to how sperm is donated, second that they empathize and support these donor conceived children and third that they realize the demand for children for those who for whatever reason are unable to conceive a child.
Over the last almost year at this point I’ve had time to reflect on why I desired to parent and what being a parent means to me. Believe it or not my wife and I made a decision this year for our never conceived child. I’ve shared info about my infertility, what I haven’t shared is that there was one chance we had to have a child and that was for me to have a biopsy done to see if any sperm extracted. We declined on that for two reasons, the first is that there has never been a reported case of any sperm being extracted from someone with my microdeletions and more importantly even if they found sperm I would pass along this condition to a male offspring. Pursuing that would have been selfish on our part. As much as I would love a little mini me running around (though I question whether my wife would) I couldn’t have lived with myself knowing that my selfish desire was the reason my son was infertile.
Which brings me to a blog post that was written by one of my favorite adoptee bloggers Kat Stanley. Her work is powerful and hits the reader with raw emotion making you think about how you would feel if you lived what she did. There are so many times reading her work where I am angry at the adults in her life and the things they said to her. Kat deserved so much more than what she got.
Today she wrote a piece that in my opinion should not only be a guide for adoptive parents but any parent for that matter. It’s about how parents at times when pursuing parenthood ignore the reality that there are going to be difficult times in a child’s life where a parent is going to need to step up check their ego at the door and be there for their child. Sure there are fun times when they are an infant and toddler but also challenging times as a child and teenager where you need to be there for them.
Was it only my childhood you wanted?
Do you have dreams of seeing me with my little friends at a slumber party? But when I get older, will you show me contempt when I get into trouble at school with friends because my issues with adoption have started to surface?
There are many parts of the piece that are powerful but this one stuck out to me. For me my parents probably didn’t imagine I was going to have the issues with ADD and social issues I did when they decided to have children. But when those problems came up they got me the help I needed and provided the support needed. My mother used to drive me to tutors and summer workshops to help with skills to help me in school. My dad used to drive me all over the state of NJ to drive me to swim practice and meets to help build my confidence as a person. That’s what being a parent means to me. Making sacrifices for your children and when things get tough for your child you step up and do everything in your power to be there for them. To answer Kat’s question, it’s not just a childhood I want to be there for them, I want to be there for the child until death due us part. Whether they want us in their lives as adults is up to them but our door will always be open no matter how good or bad things are. Being a good parent for me is how well they handle the difficult situations not just the happy ones.