And that got me thinking about the considerable absence of childless/free (after loss & infertility) voices on the Internet. There are plenty of people out there who are childfree by choice and proud to say so -- but people like me, you don't hear much from, or about.
Most books about infertility contain, at most, a short section about childless/free living as an option (but usually just a few paragraphs). In the mainstream media, newspaper & magazine stories will include a paragraph or a throwaway line on the topic, if we're lucky. Society at the moment is so fixated on pregnancy & parenthood that a baby is seen as the only outcome of fertility treatment that can be considered a success. Childfree living just doesn't provide the requisite happy, fairytale ending -- even though most of us (eventually) go on to lead happy & productive lives after we abandon treatment -- & our dreams of having a family.
But we don't always articulate that very well. The thing about childless/free living & blogging is that most of the time, you're really just, well, living. While you're actively ttc &/or in treatment, there is always something to write about -- signs, symptoms, protocols, cycle day numbers & follicle counts, etc. -- a bit of daily drama, if you will.
For me, my ttc days ended a while ago. Now, as I've said before, there's not a day that goes by that I'm not thinking about my stillborn daughter & how I reached this point in my life in some way, shape or form. And there are still many days -- like when birthday party & shower invitations arrive, or a baby visits the office, or an "anniversary" date draws near -- that I find my eyes filling up with tears & my stomach lurching, and I need to share how I feel with people who understand, exactly, how I feel and why.
But for the most part, I'm just getting up & going to work and coming home again like everyone else in the world. Nothing terribly unique or exciting to report (or to read) about that.
Sometimes, especially when you're new to childless/free living, you need to step back a bit, distance yourself from the world of infertility, and get your bearings in the brave new world you're entering. Sharah, one of the first infertility bloggers I think that I started reading, recently had a great post to this effect, explaining why she might not be around as much, now that she is not ttc.
Part of it, too, I think, is there has always been some stigma or discomfort around childless/free living after loss & infertility. At Miss E's Musings, Ellen recently wrote about telling a newly pregnant (& not entirely happy about it) friend that if her IVF fails, she is planning to live childfree.
"For all her distress about this pregnancy and parenting, she seemed shocked that childlessness was our plan B and that we are excited about that possibility too. "I just can't imagine," she said and quickly changed the subject back to IVF."
In the comments section of this post, Irish Girl chimed in:
"I too have found it scares and shocks people when I speak about the option of living childfree as a resolution to our infertility. Though I can't say I blame them as it even took me almost five years to consider it as an option for us. But the looks I get, it's as if I've said I am considering injecting myself with the AIDS virus or something."
This stigma also exists (especially?) within the infertility community. I'm not always entirely sure that fellow infertiles want to hear what we have to say about life beyond infertility treatment (and there IS one out there!!). I can remember, on one of the boards I post on, that someone once wryly referred to us as "the black sheep of the infertility community." Pamela Jeanne had a great post, awhile back that summed up the situation nicely in its title -- "What Does it Feel Like to be Someone's Worst Nightmare?"
One woman posted on a CF board I frequent that she had announced, on her ttc board, her intention to stop treatment, live childfree, & begin posting on our board. She said you could have heard a figurative pin drop. While her fellow ttc-ers were happy to offer "baby dust" & condolences while she was cycling, hardly anybody commented, for better or worse, on her very difficult decision, or wished her luck or happiness in her future.
Understandably -- even though we all know the numbers & the odds of success for our respective age groups -- there are few people going through treatment who are willing to even briefly entertain the notion that it might not work for them -- that not everybody who wants a baby is necessarily going to wind up with one -- despite everything we go through and sacrifice in pursuing our dream (a dream that comes so easily to -- and is taken for granted by -- so many).
But if even our fellow infertiles shy away from us, what hope in Hades do we have of getting the rest of society to understand the impact that infertility -- whether we eventually do give birth or adopt, or continue to live without children, despite our best efforts -- has had on our lives?
That's why I was so touched to see so many blog posts earlier this month that discussed childfree living with sensitivity & respect. It sort of kicked off with an interesting post from Nancy at The New Life of Nancy, about how the mere category of childfree blogs on the Stirrup Queen's enormous blogroll scared her -- how she wanted to help & support childfree women, but wasn't sure how to do it, because the mere thought made her feel helpless. Nancy's post set off a round of comments & related posts by a number of thoughtful other bloggers, including Pamela Jeanne and Ellen.
Posts like these give me hope that people in the infertility community are willing to at least listen and learn more about childfree living -- what it took for us to get here, and what a childfree life can be like (i.e., not all bad) -- even if they ultimately decide that it's not for them. And that gives me hope that someday, fertile people might follow too. Eventually...!
Now we just need more women who are living childfree to speak up about it!