Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's Not My Fault I'm Childless

I've just read an interesting article in the Daily Mail Online called: I'ts not my fault that I missed the chance to become a mother.  (Click on the link to read the article.) I wanted to leave a comment after the article but there were already nearly 200 comments and what I have to say, well, I want to say it publicly and I want it read.

The author of the article, Megan Lloyd Davies, laments that it was bad luck that she didn't meet the right person with whom to have a family. She isn't prepared to go it alone (as I did) and she won't freeze her eggs (even though at 40 it's a bit late to start considering this option) because she doesn't want to go through fertility treatment alone. She describes how she went through a period of grief and mourning for the children she would never have, starting at age 38. She labels her situation emotional infertility rather than biological infertility and states that it is just as bad. Eventually, she made some big changes in her life, has come to terms with the way things are and is making a good life for herself as an independent, single woman.

As you can imagine, I have a number of things to say about this. The bottom line, however, is that it is your fault. I applaud Davies for working through her grief and coming out the other end with a positive outlook. However, she hasn't quite missed the chance to become a mother but rather is choosing to focus on other things. Her choice.

Ruth and Naomi
I too held out for the traditional love, marriage and a few children, in that order. When I turned 40 and realised that it may not happen I did something about it. I suddenly woke up to the fact that many things do not happen unless you happen them. I could say that my single state at the age of 40, despite some very nice boyfriends and relationships along the way, was bad luck. But it wasn't. It was a result of my choices.

Like Davies, I also chose to hold on to relationships that were going nowhere because I was enjoying myself and hoping things would change - even though I knew deep down that they rarely do. When I started IVF treatment it was because I had managed to give up on the whole fairy-tale package and focus on what was most important to me - becoming a mother. I also wasn't oblivious to the friends who started out with the fairy-tale and tragically things went wrong.

Like Davies, I also chose not to do it alone while I felt I was financially insecure. I lived in rented accommodation throughout my 20s and 30s and I'm a teacher (nuff said). I was marginally better off by the time I reached 40 but it was still my choice to delay. It was only the shock of being 40 and childless that made me go ahead regardless. Whilst I no longer enjoy the life I once had vis a vis travel and entertainment (unlimited heat in the winter, a take out meal once in a while...), this is also part of the choice I made and I don't regret it at all.

I know many women in their 40s who are single and childless. I know married couples who were not able to have children. I also know many women in their 40s and couples who did not accept being childless. Most of them started out with IUI and IVF and if they were unsuccessful, upped the ante to donor sperm and/or eggs. I know those who have used a surrogate and those who have adopted. All these people could have been emotionally infertile (or as I used to call it circumstantially infertile) but they chose not to be.

I've said before that some of my friends considered going it alone and decided, for whatever reason, not to. That is a totally legitimate decision as long as we're all clear that it is a decision.

For me, becoming a mother was the most important thing, as I said, and I thank God that I realised this before it was too late. It wasn't an easy journey and I lost a few good friends over it on the way. I went through all my savings in the process and I didn't speak to my mother for almost half a year. Without going into details, I chose to leave behind any negative baggage in whatever form it appeared, and forge ahead with single determination. I was lucky to have the support of many good close friends but essentially I was on my own.

To Megan Lloyd Davies, I want to say that the period of mourning you experienced at 38 is probably largely biological as many women (even mothers) go through an intense broodiness as they approach the end of their reproductive years. It's there for a reason. By giving reasons why you would not follow any of the options open to you, you have made your decision very clear. I don't think any less of you for not having children any more than I wouldn't look down on women who decide not to marry or any other life choice. I'm happy for you that you have a fulfilling life and that you have such a great relationship with your nieces, nephews and godchildren. But all our lives are a result of the choices we made. It is your fault, sorry.

Disclaimer: I certainly don't want to offend anyone who has tried every possible route to parenthood and is still childless. There are people like this and I am not belittling your pain and loss. There are unfortunately, people with severe obstacles to parenthood.

Credits: All the illustrations on this page are taken from Google Images under childlessness.


48 comments:

  1. You should be so proud for your determination in your journey to ensure DD came along. The "emotional infertility" is a tough state, but I do agree that medical or some circumstantial reasons aside, then if it is purely emotional then it is in effect choosing to stay childless. I think it is very important, as both you and Megan have done in effect, to think long and hard and prioritise what is most important to you, be it stability, a stab at the fairytale, career or children.

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    1. Thank you mouse, I agree and I applaud Megan for making a decision and dealing with it.

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  2. I read that article after tea tonight and I totally agree. Of course its your fault. Christ you are fertile from a very early age biologically you're probably meant to have kids late teens/early twenties its only society that dictates that you should do this that and the other first. I, as you know was born in 1973, we are the generation who were told to have a career blah blah and now a quarter of women my age are childless because of this. Yes it is your fault if you didn't dump the bloke that was still dragging his feet about committment. I was with someone from 17 to 25 and though this bloke is a dick and I don't want to have kids with him. I then met my husband who had 3 kids from his previous marriage - at age 29 (he 39) we had a very emotional chat about how I wanted kids and he didn't really need to. we were and still very much in love but I said I want kids and I can't compromise on this. I knew that I would have to leave him to give myself a chance of finding someone that did before I hit 30. Luckily he changed his mind, we got married after 2 kids and he was just as much up for our third. Re the mum's feeling envious about travelling, freedom etc. I had freedom in my 20's, I travelled. I feel no envy for people without children on elaborate holidays and the like. I understand it helps them come to terms with being childless and makes it less painful but to me I couldn't think of anything worse filling time with holidays, me time and the like. I will have time to do all that when my children are adults and if I don't then I don't care x

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    1. That's what it's all about Natasha - making the right decision for yourself. Good for you for sticking to what you wanted and being so strong about it. However, I think it's important to also respect those who have decided not to. The sad people are those who say they want children and do nothing about it.

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    2. yes agree if you don't want to have children that's fine and dandy and I feel the pain of those who can't and are desperately trying but really we are grown women and if you know you would like a child then you are in control of your own destiny. I really don't believe there isn't any suitable man out there during the course of two decades x

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    3. Well I did it without a suitable man so even if there are any....

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    4. I meant to write *aren't any....

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  3. Interesting post... Someone forwarded me that article earlier today and even though as you say, it is totally down to the individual, and I think it's great that the author found peace with her decision,I also felt it might discourage others from really pursuing their dream slightly...

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  4. Well said hun. I also agree that our lives today are a product of our decisions - good and bad. It's always fascinated me that our decisions surrounding parenting and whether to have children or not, become matters for public debate. When I met my husband (six years younger) he was in his early thirties and childless, I had (as you know) three children in their teens and tweens. He made a decision that my children were enough for him, and we made peace with that decision. Like you it would have been difficult for me to have another child with him, and in our case it would have meant surrogacy, but the option was still there. We chose not to take up that option. For us that decision has worked well. Yes of course at times we wonder what could have been, but then quickly remind ourselves that if we truly had wanted it to happen we would have (as you said) happen it. How lucky we are that we live in an age where those possibilities exist. It's just unfortunate that other people become so worked up about decisions which really are private. I think DD is so incredibly blessed to have you as a Mum. Vix x

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  5. I did think that I am only really talking about women of our generation. A woman only ten years older than us would not have had all the opportunities I had and society was not so accepting then. The most important thing, as you say, is to make your decision, one that is good for you and your family.

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  6. I like your article, I just don't like the word fault. In general, and here, I feel it's sort of pointless. Finger pointing in a negative way which doesn't tend to help.
    I'd say: Okay, so it's not your fault. Does that change anything? Does it make you feel better?
    Whether or not it's your "fault", it was your decision to make and therefore you are responsible, to yourself if to no-one else, for your decision and its consequencies.

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    1. I agree that the word fault is problematic as it implies blame and guilt in some way. I used it because Lloyd Davies used it in her article and this is a response to that article. The message is, as you rightly point out, that our lives are largely the result of our own decisions and choices (barring any major accidents and/or illness). Btw - I value your opinion whoever you are but it is nicer if you leave your name.

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  7. I do not think you are being fair.

    You were driven enough by your desire to be a mother to see it through without a partner - and you were lucky enough to have your body comply. Not everyone is able to contemplate going it alone, and those whose desire to have a family is compromised by not finding the right guy experience infertility because of circumstances (whatever you want to label it). It is not fair to say that because someone cannot take on single-motherhood (for whatever reason), she is *choosing* to be childless. Only when someone feels that she *could* go it alone, but would prefer not to - only then is the "infertility" by choice.

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    1. Good point, up to a point. You could say that she chose to be a mother only with a father/partner whereas I chose to be a mother at all costs. And if my body had not [eventually] complied after over three years of trying, I would have gone on to investigate adoption. There is no getting away from the fact that at some point you have to make a choice even if it is a difficult one. And I do not in any way, shape or form wish to imply that this is an easy decision to make.

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    2. Anything can be called a "choice" - but if a woman *feels* that she has no choice, then insisting that she does only makes a depressing situation far worse - for one who already feels that she has no choice. If someone doesn't have the emotional strength you had to choose to be a mother at all costs, then she doesn't. Telling her that really truly she could have done differently (if only she'd been you, with greater emotional strength, whatever - or strength in this particular direction) is what I think is not legitimate. We now know enough to know that telling someone who is clinically depressed (God forbid) to pull themselves up by their boot-straps is not productive. Ditto for physical limitations. So too here - though I would suggest that being able to go forward with single-motherhood is more an unusual strength, and not that the person who can't is "weak," since the "default" in our society so far is the two-parent model.

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    3. There's also the issue of: what if she doesn't have the same financial resources you have? What if for her it is not a question of cutting back on luxuries, but a choice between being childless or living in poverty, not even being able to provide a basic home+food+education for the child?

      You could argue that a woman's choices led to her not having enough money to have a child on her own, but do you really want to go down that road?

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    4. I really only have one point to make and that is that the lives we have are a result of the choices we made along the way (some good and some less fortunate). Therefore, it's incorrect to say that it isn't your fault for the life you have. Obviously everyone has different variables to contend with at every stage in their lives and completely individual to them.

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    5. You are completely ignoring the factor of privilege. Everyone has choices -- but everyone is starting from a different platform. Some people have advantages that others do not. What you do with the cards you are dealt makes up your life, but you are conveniently ignoring the fact that no one completely controls their cards.

      Beyond the obvious issues of money and class, there is the card of personal talents (the woman who is a doctor or lawyer or VP of a successful company has many more choices vis-a-vis childcare, rent, etc than the woman who does not have an aptitude for science, law, or business). There is the card of culture and background: the woman who is assured repeatedly by role models that "of course" she'll get married is coming from a different starting point than the woman who was raised to never count on anyone or anything but herself.

      Are you ready to take this the whole way? Are you going to say that a person who is, for example, raped, was raped as a result of the choices she made along the way, that led her to be at a particular place at a particular time? She now has the choice to overcome her trauma or not, but the choice to not be raped is past. Are you saying that her lack of good choices is the result of her decision to be at that place at that time, and she should "own" it?

      You say you give people a "pass" for things like illness; why only that? Why is that the ONLY thing you can think of that is beyond a person's control?

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    6. At every fork in the road (read: hurdle, crisis, opportunity, setback, tragedy, whatever)we make a decision, based on our perceived options, about what to do next. That decision shapes the next bit of our lives and influences future decisions. Where we end up is a result of all those choices. That's all I'm saying.

      I do not say, nor would I ever, that you should take responsibility for being raped and such a trauma definitely influences your choices thereafter (speaking as a friend of someone who was molested as a child I know that to be true).

      I also sat back and waited to be enwifed - as was the custom in the community in which I grew up - and it didn't happen. I chose to be a teacher because I thought it would fit in nicely with being a good wife and mother to several children - LOL. Not all my choices have been the most helpful towards getting me a life in which I can be content. I just kept on making choices and changes until I found a comfortable place for me - and there's still plenty of room for improvement.

      I know that not everyone gets a baby, a husband, a nice house with a garden in suburbia, and financial security. So far I've got 1 out of the 4 so I'm not exactly the authority on how to make the right choices. what you have and where you're at doesn't mean that you are a strong or weak person, good or bad, wise or stupid. It just means that you made a set of choices that brought you to this place. And that applies to everyone, the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate.

      I'm writing a long reply as this is my last attempt at explaining what I mean. After this you get an OK. It's not a hard philosophy to understand nor is it insulting or offensive (unless you choose to be insulted or offended, in which I can't help you). It may be hard to come to terms with if you choose to believe it (although one comment said she found it comforting). You can say it's a load of bollocks if you like. I won't mind as this is MY oppinion that I chose to share on MY blog. I can handle it if you disagree.

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  8. I suppose it might not be that she 'chose' not to have IVF, but felt unable to cope with life as a single parent. There must be many women who know they would not manage well rearing a child later in life and all by themselves. And then, of course, they'll be some whose religious convictions prohibit it. I salute the courage of those, like you, who have gone ahead, but sympathise with others who, while unhappily childless, feel that it isn't an option.

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    1. I also sympathise with with anyone who is unhappily childless as I was in that same boat for many many years and know only too well what it feels like. I am very sad for anyone who feels that single motherhood isn't an option when they really want to be a mother.

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  9. This was a really thought provoking post - and I can see both sides to the argument - fundamentally there is a choice, and personal responsibility for deciding which choice, and then living with the consequences. Making a choice to become a single mother at middle age I don't think is for the 'feint hearted', and its a very big decision to make - and a woman might not have the necessary financial savings to get the 'job done', which might be circumstantial due to things like redundancy, and then for other women, she might have been a very committed relationship and then one day 'Mr right' turns around and says 'sorry love, I don't want this any more.' I don't think I could do it on my own, turns out I had bad post natal illness, which would have been made worse, maybe, if I'd been single. That's why I so admire women like your self - who have steely determination and a wealth of emotional strength - I wish I had some of your chutzpah, which is so clearly visible in the way you write. That said, if you really want something that badly, you will do what ever it takes to make it happen ... and then we are back with personal responsibility again. X.

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    1. I think we have to acknowledge that at some point the options run out and this will be at a different stage in life for each person. And obviously everyone starts with different circumstances and resources. However, in the end, the choices you make throughout your life result in the life you have. I even think that subconsciously we get what we really wanted in the end because we pursued that most important thing despite ourselves.

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  10. I read this article in two minds. I found it v difficult to accept what she was saying, having not had my chiuldren until I was 41 and 45. I still think her options are open and it is still possible she might have a child. But I stayed unhappily married just in case mine might come. Even though I didn't have sex with my husband for two years a one off night resulted in my being preggers. Seeing as the writer is single, she is covninced it may not happen for her, but, do you know what, I'm not!? Brave ladies we are to go it alone and I reckon she'll be among our ranks one day. Can't explain it, just feel it. Ev crossed for her accordingly X

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    1. That would be an interesting twist. Then she'll of course write a series of articles for the DM about being an older mother. I heard they pay very well compared to other papers. Anyway, I hope she gets what she really wants in the end.

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    2. You write such insightful things. I hope you one day tell me about your Kundalini Yoga experience
      Liska x

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    3. Thanks Liska. Do I have a Kundalini Yoga experience?

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  11. As you know my decisions to have children didn't work out as I expected, but as you say my circumstances are as a result of my choices and there is comfort in that x

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    1. I also find comfort in the belief that my life is largely a result of the choices I made. I acknowledge that we can't control everything (nor should we try to) and we don't necessarily get the life we ordered. But none of us were born yesterday into the life we have, we worked our way here via the choices we made. Thanks for commenting xx

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  12. I agree that a lot of what happens in our lives are about the choices we make. When she writes about not having children, she tells us about the boyfriend she had in her twenties. That was a long time ago! Over the years she could have had different opportunities if she wanted to. I think a lot of times in life people do have choices - but they are not willing to compromise from their ideal . That is a choice. For example if someone is unemployed and is only willing to take a specifc type of job and will not "settle" for another reasonable possibility (even short term), when given the opportunty, than they are choosing to stay unemployed. If the fairy tale doesn't happen one can modify that fairy tale!

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    1. I think it's essential to be able to modify the fairytale. This thread took an unexpected turn when people thought I was saying that they had chosen or are choosing to be childless. In fact my only point is that the life we have is a result of the choices we have made along the way - for whatever reason we made those choices or felt we had to make those choices. One reason could definitely be that the person is holding out for the fairytale. The problem is that you never know the future when you make the choice. Thank you for your comment.

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  13. Wow, that's one hell of a story. I'm 24 and have always wanted the fairytale life of marriage and children, specifically children. Sadly I am still single but your story has put the seed in my mind that should love not come my way it may not be the end of the fairytale, but just it taking a different direction.
    Thank you.

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  14. A wise woman once told me that you have to be responsible for your own happiness. I wish you the best of luck in whatever direction your life takes you. Thank you for commenting.

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  15. "your fault" tired of people telling me it is my fault I didn't have kids in my 20s. It takes two to tango. Why is it not the fault of irresponsible young men who want to use women for sex and then toss them aside, too afraid of the responsibility of a relationship or being a father.

    I think it is perfectly legitimate to want to have a father and the emotional support of a father there to raise your child or children with.

    Fine, go off and get pregnant on your own and be happy about your choice, but don't tell young women who had hoped for love, support and romance from men that it is "their fault" for not having children sooner.

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    1. The life you end up with is a direct result of all the decisions you make along the way. If you decided to stick it out for the full fairy tale then I respect your decision - but it was your choice. It's true that some people regret their choices and that's very sad. However, very few people in the Western World in this day and age, live a life forced on them by someone else.

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  16. I also would like to reply. I agree with the author that the other writer could have tried to have a baby on her own earlier. Yet, I myself already start with artificial insemination at 33 and it did not work (I am 35 now). There are women who do take the route of trying to become a Single Mom by Choice, yet that still does not guarantee children. Perhaps the author was still lucky to have a baby round the age of 40. Is she would not, would she not have blamed yourself too? Children are a blessing, but going at it alone does not guarantee children. I know several women who are 40 or 40+ who tried having children alone from the age of 38 onward, and they were too late...

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    1. I did say in the post that there is a big difference between being medically or physically infertile and being emotionally or circumstantially infertile. I agree that you cannot choose your way out of a medical condition and that you may have to explore other options. I wish you all the luck in your journey towards motherhood.

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  17. I find your article completely insensitive. I am unable to have children biologically because of a medical condition. Did not find out how bad it actually was until I was 43. On top of it all at 40 I finally found axman who I thought was the one, but after three years together he dumped me over the phone. I had decided I was willing to adopt, but low and behold I became ill and had to quit my job as a successful attorney. So, now, I'm 43, alone, childless and unemployed. It is the most terrible existence. Especially because when I was in my 30s all my friends who were getting married and having kids told me it would happen to me someday too. Well it never did. And my life has only gotten worse. Having an illness and being alone and without income after having graduated from law school is beyond depressing. So, no, I don't believe you have the power over your own destiny. Glad you could have a child and fulfill your dreams, but I can't and my dreams will never come true.

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    1. Look at my penultimate paragraph. I said that there are people who have severe obstacles to becoming parents and I don't belittle their pain. This post was specifically to the writer of the DM article who was not infertile but made choices resulting in her not having children. Only you know if you could have made different choices along the way. My bigger point is that where we are in life is usually as a result of the choices we make along the way.

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  20. I very much disagree with you that "where we are in life is usually as a result of the choices we make along the way." I have two friends whose younger children have cancer, and I do not think their children getting sick has anything to do with any decision they made. It is just bad luck and very unfortunate. And these children likely will die before they hit the age of 12. That is just unfair, bad luck. I believe luck has far more to do with our lives than choices we make. If IVF had not worked for you and you did not get pregnant, would you then say that the IVF failure was because of a choice you made? I do not think so. You are one of the lucky ones it worked for, and that is a blessing.

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  21. As I wrote earlier, you can't choose your way out of a medical situation. In my case, if I'd not been successful with IVF I would have chosen whether to go forward with adoption or not. Whatever the outcome it would have been because of the decisions I made as far back as my 20s. I also agree with you that the at some point the options run out.

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