Non-Moms and Moms Bridge the Infertility Gap

Kudos to all who dropped by to read or participate in this week’s To Mom or Not to Mom open salon. I think we pushed each other out of our comfort zones and reached a new level of understanding … I know I did.

The impetus for this idea? It stemmed from my awkwardness about Keiko embarking on a donor egg IVF cycle last month and what I should say (or not) as she worked her way through the difficult and uncertain process.

We first met in NYC in September 2010 at the RESOLVE Night of Hope ceremony. Keiko, still in the fertility treatment trenches, was being lauded for her infertility awareness-raising video. I was the odd duck — the non-mom accepting an award for a book that chronicled the painful picking-up-the-pieces process when fertility treatments fail. Repeatedly.

Fast forward two years later to September 2012. I was conflicted. I know how hard it has been for me (as well as other women in my shoes) to read about successful treatments and feel misunderstood, or worse, left behind. Most of the women in my real or bloggie life today are either mothers after treatment/adoption, or like me, transitioning to or well on the way into new lives as non-moms.

I’m rarely exposed any more to those trying to conceive (TTC). From where I sit, it’s easier to stay out of the TTC community for fear of appearing like the “cooler” or “angel of death” who might jinx a cycle. I’m also happy not to be constantly reliving that drama. For all those reasons I didn’t say anything until after Keiko’s beta came back positive. Even then I felt uncomfortable. I sent her a private message of congratulations and explained why I had been so quiet.

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At the same time, I was also nursing some hurt about her aborted attempt to read and review Silent Sorority last summer. You see, it ended up in her category of books “I can’t stand to read” (ouch!).

After an email exchange a few weeks back, Keiko proposed this open salon, blog to blog. I was on the fence, worried that it might lead to more fur flying or further misunderstandings that often come with crossing over and/or feeling left behind. I know many of my blog readers are still fragile and crave a place where they can contain the conversation rather than have it co-opted or, worse, feel patronized (matronized?).

My backup plan until last week was to keep the dialogue contained on Keiko’s blog entirely. Then I relented.

A balanced conversation is not easy to come by these days, but I think we managed to tackle more than a few tough topics this week and build a new bridge in the process. Earlier today, we engaged (along with many others) in a TweetChat. The full Twitter exchange and our posts this week are contained here. (Many thanks, Keiko, for summarizing!)

Through the exchange this week, and the comments and posts from those who participated, I’ve learned a lot about where I’ve been, where I’m headed and where other paths have led, too. I’m happy to see many of our paths cross again.

Jody Day, who coaches women childless by circumstance, summed it up best today, “Women supporting women is the way forward – whatever the issue. Individually we’re great. Together, we are awesome!”

Now it’s time to raise a glass: May we always celebrate and include all women in the conversation regardless of whatever path we may be on.

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11 thoughts on “Non-Moms and Moms Bridge the Infertility Gap

  1. This salon has been very powerful for me and I know if has been the same for other. I’m so grateful that you participated, it wouldn’t have worked without your voice. Your thoughts, and Keiko’s inspired one of my best posts in a long, long while. I feel honored to be able to participate, in important discussions like this. I really do. Thank you for helping make it happen.

  2. Carolyn Savage

    I cannot commend you enough for your open and honest dialog this past week. You’ve given me so much to think about, that I rarely allow myself to consider. Now…I must read your book!

  3. THANK YOUUUUU both of you, Pamela and Keiko, for having given a chance for us to voice our thoughts and feelings. THANKS SO MUCH for caring! :-D God bless you both!

  4. Kudos to both of you for “seeking first to understand, then to be understood” — or at least on working both ends of the statement and taking us all along.

  5. this was a great idea, and I’m glad you thought so you and participated. It has been nice getting back in touch with you. Thank you for the opportunity to share my news which has left me wondering where I now stand in not only the ALI community by life in general.

  6. I know what you mean about avoiding ttc-ers… I do read some of them, particularly longtime bloggers that I’ve followed for awhile, but I don’t always comment because, as you said, I’m a reminder that these things don’t always work & I’m not always sure my presence &/or words are appreciated.

    That said…! I am so glad you agreed to do this! You are such a great voice for our part of the community and I am sure you gave a lot of people a lot to think about this week. I am just sorry it’s all over… perhaps you & Keiko can consider a return engagement in the future??

  7. Jes

    I am just now seeing all of these posts because I have been avoiding the ALI community for almost a year when I cancelled IVF #6, left my husband and watch my life crumble before my eyes. There is a pecking order in this community and I have witnessed IF conversations go sour when it becomes a competition on who has gone through more hurt – the fact of the matter is, IF is NOT fair to any of us and it’s even less fair when some get to the other side and others stay stuck. I have nothing but compassion for the lot of us, but sometimes I do find myself feeling jealous – jealous that a friend got pregnant and the pregnancy resulted in a baby or babies, jealous because they have more follows on their blog or twitter, jealous because they didn’t have to do IVF and IUI was all they needed. It’s hard not to feel envious when each of us, at some point in the journey, has tried everything in our power to have a baby and still…it remains out of our control. I commend you for your honesty and the title of your book is even more fitting – there still exists silence in our ALI community because even though we are a community that included so many, some of us still feel like we don’t belong. I met you in 2010 – I was a volunteer and I have to tell you just how much I admire you. I am sorry for all of the pain and sadness you have felt, I walk with you in that. I am sorry for the separation and isolation that has been felt by others continuing to pass us by, but mostly, I am sorry that IF happens to women that don’t deserve it. I wish you hope and joy in your life…thanks again for being such a strong and clear voice in our community!!!

  8. Kirsten

    The notion of being a jinx or an “angel of death” is one I know.

    Pamela, I had a friend who refused to even touch your book. I recognise her in Keiko’s explanation for not reviewing your book, and it brings back that feeling of being the spectre at the feast: as if my friend felt tainted by association. This friend of mine was desperately TTC at 40: in tears most of the time, her marriage failing, yet URGING me to reconsider my decision to get off the infertility conveyor belt. It was as if not having children were a death sentence for her.

    I, however, had recently had an epiphany (which I attribute in part to reading Silent Sorority!): why was I ruining my life trying to force my body to bear a child; was it really that the alternative life wasn’t worth living?? I dropped out of a donor egg cycle overseas one month before I was due to start the drugs. I had been feeling increasingly ambivalent about having a child by any means available; I experienced a violent backlash: WTF was I doing, suspending my life in this way, feeling unhappy on a daily basis, losing friendships, bitter, feeling sick about all the estrogen I had to take, believing that having children was the answer to everything?? I almost laughed out loud with relief the day I decided to quit.

    I raved about your book to this friend. She fell pregnant (vastly different factors to me: could conceive quite easily, but always miscarried). When she announced her BP to me, she was in floods of tears thinking I would be devastated at being left behind. I explained that I had given up, I couldn’t face the donor egg rollercoaster and I felt more & more relieved since I had given up. To this she said vehemently “Has that stupid book (Silent Sorority) made you go mad??”. There followed an hour of her deliriously urging me to continue, as if having a baby were the utter be-all-and-end-all. Her sorrowful conviction that a life without children is not a life worth living just further fanned the flames of my backlash. How dare people suggest that if I don’t attain a baby by any means possible, my life is crappier than theirs?? A baby was worth all the drugs, heartache, waiting??? I had never even liked kids that much. Maybe I’m different from most TTC’ers, and for me it was just “panic IFV” – insurance against future regrets – but the scales fell from my eyes.

    Reading Silent Sorority helped cement my decision to stop treatment. I haven’t looked back, but I do still feel angry towards this friend who was horrified at my decision, couldn’t countenance a life without a baby and who made me feel like the angel of death whenever we subsequently met. She has since had her baby, but ignored a gift I sent over and hasn’t replied to messages. I’m all for mutual support between mothers, IF survivors and childless/childfree women, but personally I will be staying away from those at the rabid TTC stage: we’re mutually incompatible. Sorry for long post.

  9. Pamela

    Thanks, Kirsten, for sharing your story. Your experience has prompted a new blog post, which I’ve begun writing this morning…

  10. I’ve spent a pleasant and relaxed weekend reading and responding to both your blogposts as part of this salon, and feel disappointed I wasn’t able to participate in real time. But then, I was off being a woman without kids in Africa, communing with warthogs and lions and baby elephants, and that was pretty good too! Cheers to both you and Keiko for being prepared to discuss this from our different points of view.

  11. […] – Christina Gombar: The Mother Divide – Friends With Children and Friends Without – Joseph Campbell Meets Anne of Green Gables – Bridging the Infertility Gap ~~~ […]

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