With time to ponder on a long flight home I formulated a new travel-related analogy to characterize the difference between living life fertile vs. infertile. The fertile contigent lives life to a large degree on autopilot with many of life’s milestones neatly laid out: first baby shower; baby’s first words; first tooth; first Halloween; first day of school; first tooth fairy visit; first puppy love, first date, first driver’s license and the list goes on. With clearly anticipated milestones come a set of life plans, actions and reactions. While there are course corrections and bumpy roads to be sure, there’s comfort in knowing (generally) what lies ahead and that someone will be there to help in the twilight years.
We infertiles, meanwhile, live lives that lack a clear, well-marked path. Often when we stumble across a sign it leads us to a cul-de-sac. For example, the first doctor appointment followed by the first diagnostic tests followed by random acts of infertility treatment. Two weeks of hope followed by a week or more of worrying and then defeat. Back to the starting line to try again. Even the minor successes pursuing IVF aren’t cumulative. Fertilized eggs that become embryos don’t always lead to babies. Instead we’re often directed back into the dreaded cul-de-sac.
Some of us run out of gas and once the IF treatment road trip to hell ends there’s the decision about how to navigate the future, what new road to choose — most of which come with their own wandering twists, hairpin turns and dead ends.
Yes, there are certain advantages to plotting one’s own course, but it also means you get lost more often. I’ve often felt over the years that I was idling in neutral while my fertile friends and colleagues took off, map in hand on a mostly pleasant ride with plenty of pit stops to stop and share their trip photos or compare notes with fellow parental road warriors.
I’m not so naive as to believe that parenting is all fun, games and sunshine, but for those of us left eating dust it’s sometimes hard to summon the energy to make the next turn. You see while there are no guarantees that children will bring happiness to each parent’s life, the odds are pretty darned good.
I’d be a very wealthy woman if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard some variation on the following themes: “My life’s greatest accomplishment is raising my kids” or “I never truly had purpose or meaning in my life until my kids came along” or “When all else is bad, I can look at my kids and feel like the world can go to hell as long as they’re there beside me.”
Implicit in those themes is the notion that those without children somehow lead less meaningful lives. I’m hoping to prove them wrong, but first I need to get un-lost.