This article by Bibi Lynch entitled “Mothers Stop Moaning” provoked an interesting response both in the comments below and on an internet parenting forum I use. Stella Duffy’s response on her blog is, in my opinion a good alternative version highlighting some of the things that Bibi Lynch was trying to say. The difference in the 2 articles is that horrible thing called time. In my mind Bibi is in the throws of coming to terms with the reality that she will not have children, Stella is 9 years along on that road and has a little more perspective.
Bibi’s article isn’t pretty and I am sure on reflection she may wish she hadn’t revealed her deepest darkest thoughts. Jealously is a vicious emotion that makes other people uncomfortable when it’s on display or admitted. I am sure however that many of us along the way have had similar thoughts. However I am astounded that the article can be read without leaving the reader with some sympathy for her and the depth of despair she appears to be in at the moment. Surely as a parent or infertile or somewhere in between you can feel sympathetic to another human being’s pain?
What I found upsetting was the way that people read the article and homed in on various points, on the forum I go on much was made of her dismissal of post natal depression. I read that sentence as depression is horrible, regardless of the cause, pnd depression is no worse to deal with than no obvious cause depression or infertility caused depression. I understood her opinion is that having depression caused by having a baby has in some ways got to be at least a cloud with a silver lining because you have a child. I know from seeing people that have pnd that it doesn’t always feel like that but I can’t help but feel that whilst she has worded it clumsily she is trying to say I too have suffered the pits of depression but as I climb out of the bottom of the pit that I reached I can’t look at my child and think it was worth it. Now maybe people don’t think like that, and they probably don’t but Bibi seems to think that she would and we have to respect that.
Others have made much of how she has to take some responsibility for leaving it too late. It’s easy to say but people are quite dismissive about age related concerns. I can remember saying after my 1st miscarriage when I was 36, is this likely to be because of my age, and was assured by doctors and friends that 36 wasn’t too late. Turns out it was because 4 years later we have run out of time. Do I regret not trying sooner? It’s a difficult one, Villa Boy and I spent more time discussing whether to have children or not than a lot of friends who had children earlier. We wanted to be sure that our child was wanted, that we knew what our expectations of each other were, that we could afford the disruption to our lives not just financially but also emotionally. So according to a number of internet forum goers this makes us stupid,naive and to blame for our inability to conceive. Ironically had we tried and failed earlier to get pregnant it may have been tougher as we wouldn’t have been able to afford the ivf treatment we need and can afford.
I know that a lot of comments aren’t aimed at me personally and that people would say “oh I didn’t mean it like that or it doesn’t apply to you” if we were sat in a pub but the sort of comments coming out do nothing to dismiss my deep held belief that people somehow think you are a bit simple if you can’t manage to get yourself pregnant successfully. There is no doubt to me that people don’t get that there may be no options to get yourself pregnant. I often hear “I’d try everything”, “you just have to keep going”, what they don’t seem to understand is that sometimes there is nothing more that can be done. Every avenue has been exhausted. The look you get is as if you must be wrong there must be more you could do, you obviously just are not trying hard enough or haven’t investigated enough options.
Which brings us nicely onto the “why doesn’t she just adopt brigade”. Yes there are lots of children that need homes, but not as many as you think and it is the type of children available for adoption that people don’t understand or maybe want to admit. Quite rightly society has moved on and as such there is no shame in being an unmarried mother, a source in years gone by of babies for adoption. In most cases social services try hard to keep parents and children together, this means that it is older children who are mostly available. What this also means is that these children have lived in not ideal environments and have not had the best start in life, which means that parenting them takes a lot of patience, a lot of skill and a lot of determination. We as a couple and extended family are not strong enough to take on this particular challenge and route to parenthood. I used to beat myself up about this thinking if we weren’t prepared to do this did we want to be parents enough? Now I realise it isn’t anything to be ashamed of it’s just not for us. My admiration for people that can do it is immense but I shouldn’t be ashamed that we can’t.
Who knew that a women’s rant could provoke such responses and upset so may people? As people play grief bingo over what is worse – parenthood or infertility; depression or post natal depression; your body being ruined by child bearing or by it’s inability to bear a child; being in a bad relationship with children or not being in a relationship and wanting children; surely we all need to just pause and say to our friends, family, colleagues “I’m sorry you’re having a tough time, is there anything I can do to help?”