Tall, asthmatic and childfree. These are three attributes that describe me. I didn’t choose them. They chose me. What’s curious is the way society assesses these attributes, especially the last one.
I came to this conclusion after reading a few posts this week about the notion of childfree. The first came from Loribeth who makes some compelling arguments about the hairiness of the term childfree (she did so earlier here, too). Like Loribeth, I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with a term that is open to interpretation. She writes: “we’re already sharing the ‘childfree’ label with the childfree (by choice) crowd (and being lumped together with them by ‘fertiles’ who don’t know there’s a difference) — now we have to share childless with people who actually do have kids, but think that not having them — once in awhile, anyway — is a peachy-keen thing.”
Then came Mel’s post as a contributing editor on the subject of infertility. She characterized ‘living childfree’ as the fourth path out of infertility.
Finally, Ellen made a strong case for how media gets it all wrong when it implies that the only way to resolve infertility is to have children. She, too, makes the point that many women (and men) resolve long-term infertility without children after considering a host of difficult and complex factors. (And to those who dare to utter the words “just adopt” — there is no such thing as “just adopting” so save your breath or keystrokes and do some reading instead about how hard it actually is.)
Each of these posts illuminate a very real challenge. Childfree after infertility stories, while full of drama and instructive in their own right, seemingly lack the necessary “sizzle” and the fairy tale endings that society craves, thus they are not told.
To random strangers meeting me this week, they’d find two of my three characteristics pretty evident. It’s hard to miss that I’m tall especially when a six footer like me wears heels. They’d also detect that my breathing is a bit labored. What’s less evident there is that it’s due to long-standing asthma aggravated by a respiratory infection. What’s completely hidden to them is why I’m childfree. That story is much more complex so it’s not one that’s easily told.
So back to those assessments. They’d get my height. They might be confused about my lungs, but they’re usually completely wrong about why I don’t have children.
While my path out of infertility tale may not have the irresistible cooing baby, my story is a powerful one nonetheless. One of these days it may get told in full.