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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One in the Whole

Carolyn Hax recently had an excellent column that highlighted the idea of taking an individual experience--or even a common experience--and making it stand for the whole. A woman wrote in that her friend had asked her for help during IVF (the help was not specified) and when she pushed, the woman told her that "IVF is selfish and she should try adopting." She based her decision upon her own family's experience with adoption and her commitment to adoption due to her relationship with her brother. She also slammed her friend for desiring pregnancy and not choosing adoption, saying, "she'd never make a good parent if she can only love her own demon spawn."

Carolyn cautioned the woman to rethink how she judges her friends and the criteria used:
The world was different 30-some years ago. You don't know (nor do they, necessarily) that your parents wouldn't have tried IVF had it been as common and available as it is today. It wasn't an option for them: Louise Brown, the first such baby, was born in 1978...And, for babies, the demand is fierce, given the additional trend of delayed childbirth and thus infertility. The cost of adoption can be huge, the waiting lists long, and the hoops to jump through plentiful, if not prohibitive. So you used seriously out-of-date standards by which to trash your friend's character. Maybe this particular friend had it coming for other reasons -- for example, if she really thinks adopted kids get an asterisk. But that raises another point: Just as some people don't want kids where some can't imagine life without them, some women care more about feeling a kick, or men about seeing their wife's eyes in their baby. If people are honest with themselves about their attachment to these things and decide adoption might not be for them, should they be judged as demon carriers for that? Does that include couples who bear children without intervention, or does it fall only on the infertile? Is that fair? Should all be shamed? Into what, adopting?
I think, for me, this went beyond sound advice and actually highlighted an issue being grappled with within the community that was sparked by the movie Juno. In some cases, the discussion has ceased to be about the movie at all and how it portrays adoption, but rather, how the speaker feels about adoption in general. And this belief is usually based on personal experience and applied to be the definition of the whole.

Just like the movie, which portrays a single experience (regardless of how you feel about the portrayal, it is indisputable that the story follows a single person and not a diverse group of teenage mothers), our own experience as just that--single experiences. And while we can each quote study after study that proves our point, the reality is that the opposing view point can quote study after study too. There are few places in life that are black and white. We, unfortunately and fortunately, live in a very grey space.

Life happens to us and certain experiences touch us more than others and certainly, for the woman in the letter above, adoption has been a defining factor in her world view and I understand completely how an experience can create a lens. After all, I am obviously defining my world through infertility. And so I do have strong opinions on a whole host of topics within this vein--sometimes I express them, sometimes I do not. A lot of that has to do with what I need to write about in the moment as well as exercising circumspection at times.

The point is that infertility is not the only thing that has happened to me in my recent past, but it is the event that has defined the world for me and I do see other people's situations through that lens. It is hard to step back and say, "well, it's not the decision I would make" while still understanding that they're using a different set of criteria to base their decision. We are strongly tied to our beliefs. They are usually grounded in dirt that is deeply, deeply emotional. There is no way to know why one event strikes us more than another any more than we can know implicitly why we are drawn to our friends or partners. The gut tells us things are right and the gut decides the weight of an event when incorporating it into a world view.

It was said in one discussion on a blog that people write as an outlet. It's not that those who are not saying anything aren't unhappy, but that people use blogging as a form of "talking it out" therefore, it's hard to get a true grasp on the community simply based on what is being said. People can hold their hand quite close to their chest and without knowledge of all the cards on the table, it's hard to definitively call the game.

I'll use myself as an example.

I was in two abusive relationships--one emotionally abusive and one emotionally and physically abusive. When I look back on those years--yes, we're talking years, not weeks--of my life, I really don't know what happened. I can say that Melissa right now would never make those decisions, but I also don't know that for a fact because the Melissa back then sure did. And I just don't believe you can never say never with certain things.

I don't talk about it much not because those two events didn't bother me--they certainly did--but, for whatever reason, though they affected the trajectory of my life, they are not the lens by which I view the world. They are at best a tiny outside rim of the lens. I'm sure those events affect me profoundly and inform my daily decisions without me even realizing it. I don't think you can go through something like that and come out completely unchanged. But I think it's interesting to look at the fact that I write about infertility, I work with infertility organizations, I do outreach within infertility circles. But the same isn't true for abuse.

I don't volunteer in shelters for battered women. I don't do outreach. I'm sure that I could and I could have just as easily turned in that direction. But for whatever reason, I didn't. And I can't explain why. The point: these were cards that I have held close to my chest--not for any particular reason--and without my thoughts voluntarily being offered, it is impossible for anyone working within the abuse community to definitively say, "this method for helping a woman through abuse is the method all abused women agree help." It may help--I think they could certainly say that it helps some. Or even most. But they can't use all because some of us have not been forthcoming in our opinions. I do have opinions, but--for whatever reason--they are not where I choose to focus my emotional energy. My heart went with infertility.

You know what it's like? It's like the abuse has become a small scar that people sometimes notice and other times is covered up. I may know it's there, but others don't. And sometimes I wear short sleeves and people ask me about it. Sometimes I forget about it myself. But infertility, for me, is like a missing limb. It is always noticeable. It is always defining my day. It is something I keep close to the surface of the heart because I'm constantly navigating it. And this analogy is not to say that I sit here obsessed with family building (okay, I am obsessed with family building, but that's not the point), but that it's the difference between something that can be hidden and even forgotten for long periods of time and something that is constantly serving as a reminder for a trauma.

There are other women--probably readers of this blog--who become pregnant or start parenting and infertility is brushed into the background of their life. They remember the crisis and it probably informs their decisions somewhat, but it ceases to be their lens. That's how it happened for them. It isn't how it happened for me. Two people, the same event, different ways of processing and therefore, different statements about the profound nature of the event or opinions on how others should be affected.

Which is just a long way of saying that I find it dangerous when we start creating definitions for the group as a whole especially when we're standing in disputed, grey areas. You can create definitions where there has never been opposition. For instance, I have never seen someone write or heard someone say that abuse feels great and it gave them the energy to go through their day. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that abuse feels terrible and it sapped me of any energy I had to do anything more than lie in bed and stare at the wall, translation project be damned. If you can find someone who loves abuse and can state implicitly that it creates their happy space where they're most productive, I will eat my definition.

Treatments, adoption, surrogacy, donor gametes...these are all grey areas and we all know in our heart that they're grey areas regardless of our own convictions. We know that there is another side even if we think that other side is wrong. And when we disregard that other side and start creating definitions for the group as a whole, we start an argument. And those sorts of arguments are rarely the ones that bring about the desired changed. They're usually the ones that simply result in hurt feelings.

Tread carefully.

P.S. In full disclosure, comments left that bash another group of people or ignore the point entirely will be deleted but a "removed by the site administrator" left in place (counter my argument with your own=fine. Call another commenter names or tell me that I'm a bitch going to hell=not fine). I want people to exercise mindfulness in every area of life--even taking opinions to which they also agree--so I think it's important to note that opposition was voiced. But this is an extension of my home and I don't allow rudeness in my house or in my comments section. And all of these topics are ones that bring out strong opinions.


Tracy said...

This was an interesting post for me.

My husband desperately wants to "pass along his genes" whereas I very much want to adopt. But I understand his perspective - it's different from mine because he comes from a small family (he only has his mom left...the others have all passed) and longs to feel that "connection". I, on the other hand, come from a blended and large extended family. I have 20 first cousins, half siblings, and step siblings. And I'm close to all of them. I don't feel that need for connection he has, because I've already got that.

I guess the reason I'm sharing this is to reiterate what you've said - everybody's reality is shaped by their backgrounds, life experiences, and to a great extent, knowledge.

I wish everybody would just be more open minded.

As far as IF, I will always be sensitive to how damaging it is, but I will prefer to move has been such a dark phase in my life that I just don't want to dwell in it any longer than I have to. But I will forever be shaped by what I've learned while here.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

Bravo Carolyn!!

I don't know that I will ever fully move on from our infertility. Maybe once I've moved out of the child bearing age and have completed my family, but until then it will stay fresh in my mind.

Actually since my children will all come from donor sperm I often wonder if this phase of my life will ever really be over. I think that it will continue to shape me as a person for the rest of my life since I have the responsibility of nurturing children that came into this world through very different circumstances than most.

I agree that everyone is going to be shaped by their experiences differently and we should respect them.

Julia said...

You know, a couple of years ago my husband got upset that I defined myself as an infertile. We had a healthy child, we hadn't yet started to try for the second. Getting to that first was two years worth of hard work for me to defeat my PCOS, but he thought once defeated it was over. No, I said-- it's always here. And of course because it's PCOS, it's with me every time I have to choose what to eat.

About the main topic-- funny enough in my travels around the IF internets, I have somehow internalized this point about everyone's own criteria so much that now it surprises me when someone else insists on their one and only true point of view. Weird, right?

Kathy V said...

Well I would have to agree that our own experiences, background, beliefs, and knowledge do shape our lens for things. I know I never thought much about different things that plague people in the infertility world until I bought myself a ticket and landed here. Even though I am not in the same situations as many women here, I try to look more sensitively at what I would do when faced with some of their decisions. I would not want to be criticized for some of the decisions people here have to make so nothing gives me the right to criticize others. Some decisions are hard to make and some choices have no right or wrong answer. What is right for that person shouldn't be viewed through our own eyes because the decision may not be ours to make. I know in the past, (before IF struck) that I have probably implied that someone's choice has been wrong based on my own views. I try now to look at all things from a different view. I try to imagine what I would do when faced with the hardest decisions of my life. It forces me to think about things in a new way and realize that MY answer is not always the right answer especially if I don't take the time to see both sides. Mel, thank you for this post that shows people that there are still two ways of viewing things and not just letting our own view dominate. We all have different views on many different subjects (especially in IF) and that doesn't make somebody else's view wrong. Maybe it is different from what we, ourselves would chose, but not wrong.

Io said...

What a great answer from Carolyn!
I think what has been so interesting as I have begun this craptastic infertility journey is how not only has my lens been reshaped by my own experience, but how the experiences of other bloggers has given me such a wide angle lens. It's really helped me to say, well, maybe this or that wouldn't be right for me, but I can accept that it is right for somebody else.

SarahSews said...

Carolyn Hax rocks. Her comments on infertility and treatment lately have been so spot on I sometimes want to write her and thank her for being such a great stirrup queen, even if she wasn't IRL. Most people who haven't contemplated adoption recently would have no idea that the whole landscape has changed.

I was once judgemental too, before IF kicked my ass. The choices people make seem much more reasonable from this side of the fence.

Ann said...

If anything "good" is meant to come out of IF and loss, I would say that for me, my eyes have been opened more to "the other point of view," and I'm more willing to accept that not everyone thinks like I do--and that's OK! :)

Case in point: As recently as three months ago, I considered myself pro-life. I wasn't a sign-carrying activist, but I definitely had my opinions about the sanctity of life. My Bible study group (composed on several very conservative Christians; I would call my husband and me "middle of the road) last week requested that we pray for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. I had to speak up. I explained that our situation was technically an abortion, and they quickly clarified and said that of course, OUR abortion was acceptable; it's all the other ones that are not.

That wasn't good enough for me. How can you truly know about something unless you've been in that situation? How can you judge a group of people--"the aborters"--as a group when you haven't heard their individual stories. Yes, there were some of those people who made stupid, selfish decisions. But there were some who felt they had no choice at all.

I feel grateful that my lens has been changed. I think I'm a better person because of it.

Tammy's Thought Pattern said...

I think that Carolyn hit the nail on the head, full force.

I, like her commentor, am a little more "enlightened" about adoption since I am adopted myself. And as each person with IF has his/her defining moment, so does the adopted child.

I love my parents, adopted and biological. My mom did the best she could and worked with what she had. I am who am I because of the experiences I went through.

That being said, it is hard growing up when you don't look like anyone in your family. It is even harder when you are taller that everyone on one side of the family by the time you are 13 years old. You wonder why your mom didnt want you; what did you do to make her mad and give you up? Or, you dream of what life would be like with your biological family. Would it be different? Would I be the same person? How do I stop feeling like a 500 piece puzzle with 20 crucial pieces missing? Will I ever feel complete?

When DH and I talk about adoption (not even mentioning the insane cost and wait), I have those memories in my heart and head. Would I have the answers for the child? No, because I still don't have them myself. Although I have found my biological family and we are close, I am still missing pieces; memories they have growing up that I never will be part of.

And that is the other issue. I found my biological family and I thank God that I did, but it torn my mom in two. She was supportive but I know she felt like she was losing me to my biological mother. She smiled through the hurt because I needed them in my life, too.

I have to ask myself, could I be that selfless. I raised that child and now the incubator is back in the picture. Could I be the strong woman my mom was? COuld I smile through the pain? I don't know.

So, I ramble on to say, adoption isn't always the easy answer. It is not the cure all or the end all to infertility. There are issues that people don't see coming, questions they may not be able to answer, hurt they may not be able to mend with the adopted child. Yes, I could identify with my child better in that way but I am not sure I could make him/her feel any differently than I did growing up.

If I, as a child of adoption, struggles with whether I can do it, I cannot even begin to understand the struggle the non-adopted child has to endure.

We need to be slow to judge in areas that we have no experience, or there will be a whole world that is alienated because of it.

loribeth said...

Very well said, Carolyn Hax, Mel, and all of you who have commented so far. We try to emphasize this in our pg loss support group, that everyone's truth is the truth for them, and we all have to respect that. Every situation is so different, and one solution does NOT fit all. And you never know just how you would handle any given situation until you are knee-deep in the middle of it yourself.

Ellen K. said...

Quite possibly one of your best posts ever, Mel. Thank you for sharing your experience and helping elucidate the different types of lenses.

And Carolyn Hax rocks.

MLO said...

You know, when I read stuff like this, I am honestly amazed that people have to be told this. My extended family is huge and diverse. Everything from uber-rich Texans to trailer trash in Appalachia (what they call themselves!) and everything in-between.

Sure, people gossip about what so and so did, but always the refrain I was taught, my entire life, was "you don't know what you would do/feel if it were you."

How is it that so many in society miss this most basic of lessons? I really don't get it. This is BASIC. This should not be something people have to learn.

That they have to learn not to fear technology, I understand. That they have doubts about safety and success, I understand. That they doubt their own ability to deal with whatever may annoy me, but I understand.

That people think they can dictate what I or others can do or what we should feel, I do not understand.

Beagle said...

Well, you already know how I feel. I am tired of being called selfish. Whether it's selfish to want to try IVF or now selfish to want to adopt. Just selfish in general to want to be a parent, I suppose.

It's a very basic human desire to have and raise children. To call this selfish is just ignorant. To not agree with how someone wants to achieve parenthood is one thing but to tell them how to do it? That's just wrong.

Would these same proponents of the selfish argument feel they also had the tight to show up in a fertile couple's bedroom and coach them on the how-to's and the why-for's of procreation?? To me it's a lot like that.

How I manage to build a family is very personal and I don't want to be told what's right and wrong any more than I want to be told which kama sutric position I should prefer.

(How'd I do with my analogy, Ms. Analogy)

Kate said...

Well put. Thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Mel. And I'm sorry to hear of the abusive situations in your past.

This post really resonated with me because I think it could apply to IF sisters who don't know how to support fellow IF'ers who chose childfree as their path. I first really expanded into the forum & blog world in trying to understand the possible decision of a dear friend of mine - she and her hubby really wanted children and tried some interventions which did not lead to pg. Then they lived the CF decision for about a year (and have since decided to try tx if things don't work out naturally soon).

We have many parallels, as dh & I also went through IF. However in our discussion of options, CF was not something that felt right for us and not something we spent alot of time on. It was hard for me to wrap my mind & heart around the thought of wanting a family so much, and yet choosing CF (or considering CF very strongly) if that is where the path leads.

I wanted/want to be as supportive as possible to *all* my IF sisters - including those who chose CF. That is why I admire & am thankful for the work of IF-CF bloggers like loribeth (road less travelled) and PJ (coming2terms). I think their voices are important in helping others to be educated, and even more in helping them to *feel* how that path may be. Education, or walking in someone's shoes, is IMO one of the best ways to break down these barriers.

Of course one also has be to aware that "this could happen to me; it could happen to anyone" - not something the general public wants to hear about IF, or any health conditions, etc. Humans tend to prefer to believe the bad things can't happen to me ...

Great comments on this too. Adoption is something I would like to consider in the future so I really value some of the perspectives shared here.


Duchess said...

I found this post so interesting for the fact that I tend to forget how naïve (definition n. artless, credulous, uncritical) I am. I was already reading a few IF blogs before I knew having a family was going to be difficult. I stumbled onto a popular IF blog and I was amazed at the sense of community people had managed to create, the act of taking back a piece of control. The first time I read a blogger being attacked for her choices, I was stunned. I am all for people caring and sharing and giving realistic honest feedback, when it is done respectfully.

There are many things that have shaped my lens in life. Some I have shared, some I hold close. There is one in particular that sometimes still shapes me and now as I look to a future of unknowns and really face the fact that I have fertility challenges I am forced again to refocus my lens.

I have had many people suggest to me that I "just adopt" as though that option is as easy as buying milk on my way home from work. After seeing the movie Juno my first reaction was if only it was as easy as taking out an ad in the nickel pages as I am very photogenic, but it was indeed just a movie. A well written moving portrayal of one pregnant woman making her choices based on her lens.

As I move forward with treatment and step further into grey, there are cards I hold tightly until I am ready to be open to others opinions. I find myself at times not discussing certain things because I don’t want to step on another person’s toes. Even though I have no problem with whatever course of action people chose. There are things I have sworn up and down that I would never do and those same things are the perfect fit for another couple. I am also acutely aware that I have changed my mind on so many things already.

What I will never understand is why people can't be open to the grey. When I read someone's blog or listen in person to someone telling their story, I try my very best to put down my lens and look through their's and as my mother taught me when I was five, if I don't agree or having anything nice to say then I can learn something new and keep my thoughts to myself, and if that makes me uncritical, credulous and artless then so be it.

Ally said...

Mel, this is another fabulous post.

We are all so deeply etched by our experiences and it's difficult sometimes to get past that to see how others view the world. I remind myself often to listen as much as, if not more than, I talk.

I hold my own opinions dear but, as an adult, I've gotten much better at being willing to listen to and respect the divergent ideas of others. I may not agree, but I need to give people the space to have their own opinions and thoughts on things. This is easier said than done sometimes. (Especially when I am convinced I am right!)

Thanks, as always, for your thoughts.

Erin said...

WTG Carolyn Hax, and I hope the woman who bashed her friend's choices has one less friend now. The poor friend.

I think this is a very, very well written post. It really is true that we never know what we would do until we get somewhere. When I was younger, before I knew that I have PCOS, I would likely have called people who did IVF selfish and wondered why they didn't adopt. I would never have said it to their faces, but it would have been in my mind and that's essentially the same thing. Now I get it. We've chosen adoption for our second child, but had we not gotten lucky and managed to produce a biological child, I don't know which path we would have taken. I believe that we'll both try IVF in the future and adopt again, and I would never have imagined trying IVF seven or eight years ago. But now that I know more about it, I have more empathy and understanding for others.

This is such a painful process anyway that the lack of understanding hurts even more. But when you haven't been there, it IS hard to understand. My sister insists that I'm not really infertile because we have a biological child. It doesn't matter that he was only conceived after treatment for PCOS. It doesn't matter that a 2+ year attempt, including some ART, to try to produce another biological child failed. She doesn't understand and therefore has no sympathy for why it hurts to not be able to fulfill that primal desire. Were she ever in the situation, I think she would quickly "get it". But I hope she never is.

Fertilize Me said...

Thank you for exposing my mind to all sort of information.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lori said...

No "removed by the site administrator" yet. Maybe the people who most need to hear the message aren't tuning in.

I think the longer one lives and the more one lives through, one's level of judgmental-ness diminishes.

I say this because the younger me judged people more harshly, having fewer ways (and less practice) to understand another's situation.

Before I experienced IF, I probably had some harsh judgments about people who did. Before I experienced adoption, I may have had judgments about people who did. Before I parented toddlers, I'm SURE I had harsh judgments on parents who let their brats (er kids) kick the back of my airplane seat before I was the harried mom trying to juggle everything and beggging silently for mercy from fellow passengers.

There are so many other things I still haven't experienced, but I have learned (not completely) to withhold judgment. "There but for the grace of god..." and all.

Great post. I can't imagine the Mel Today as the Mel you describe. But I believe you. It gives you another facet of compassion.

Let It Be said...

The comments from the one woman to her "friend" were pretty shocking. If there's one thing that I've learned through my hardships in life, including IF it's humility. I have a hard enough time figuring out what the best path is for me and my family let alone presuming to know what is "right" for someone else. I feel very fortunate not to have encountered these types of judgments during our struggle to build a family.

Jess said...

I think infertility is likely going to be my "lens." I know tht it hasn't been LONG since I've been parenting, but it doesn't seem to go away. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad.

I agree with your post. People need to be respectful of other people's opinions. HOWEVER sometimes people are not respectful and voice unrealistic opinions. Eg. the other day when someone said that adoption should be outlawed, or someone saying that adoption is stealing another woman's baby. I don't agree with those, and I'm not sure they're respectful to those of us who adopt. Perhaps those type of opinions are better kept to yourself or close friends?

There will always be malcontents. There will always be those whom you do not agree with. The good news is that we get to choose how/if we react to those people.

Michell said...

I think you are so right that we are shaped by what we live. Having been adopted myself I have no problem with the idea of adoption other than the cost and the difficulty of doing so. Granted yes I would very much like to feel my child in my womb but if I end up not getting that I will survive. I don't know for sure how infertility will affect my life in the long term though. I would like to be able to go on and somehow help others which would leave me still in the infertility world.

Anonymous said...

excellent post, mel. it's a shame that it needs to be spelled out so, but bears worth repeating all the same.

there is no perfect one-size-fits-all solution for i/f, we are all indivs. with our own unique circs. compassion and not judgment is what is needed to support others...

and I am also grateful for your lens (though I wish it was otherwise for you) -- it enables so many more to see...

Ms Heathen said...

Thank you for a wonderful post, which resonated in many ways with my own thinking.

As Luna says, there is no 'one size fits all' definition of infertility - there are only individual stories. Sometimes we may share common threads of experience, but sometimes we may have very different ways of thinking.

But what is vitally important is that we are able, if not to embrace, then at least to tolerate differences of opinion. If we as a community are not able to respect each others' decisions, then what hope is there for any broader understanding of the difficult dilemmas all of us face in our attempts to become parents?

Pamela Jeanne said...

Great post, Mel. And thanks for the pointer to Carolyn's column. There's nothing quite so likely to generate disagreements as the gray areas in life. We think we know how we'll handle them, but when they present themselves we often respond very differently. Disagreements aren't inherently bad, but applying judgments (therefore, this person is bad or that person is good) is not only small-minded it just opens up great divides.

It's only when we apply our energies to helping people (much as you do so generously) that we can make a difference.

Samantha said...

Thanks for alerting my to Carolyn Hax's column. She is so wonderful in showing empathy to both the woman doing IVF and the woman who judged her friend so harshly. What makes me sad about that situation is that both women are obviously hurting, and rather than being there to support each other, instead harsh words were spoken, which would be very hard to overcome.

thanks for a great post.

Paz said...

This makes me think of a friend. Once in a brief convo about babies/IF, she confessed that she just can't handle the disappointment. I think she meant the month after month disappointment or the more pointed pain of a BFN. She is now 40 and they are "trying" still after many years, but she won't talk to a doctor to determine what the problem is. It is hard for me to be quiet and allow her to decide what is best for her. But I realized she is "trying" in a way in which she can deal with the outcome. So, even us IFers have to let other people not join us...if that is what they need. I find it soooooo hard to not ask her about it or worse, advise – but I have succeeded now for a year. Every time I see her and she asks about my miracle baby, I want to bring her into the fold, give her the name of a doctor... point her to a few cool blogs. But I don't, I won't.

Aurelia said...


While I agree with some of what you said, I have to say that both sides don't have an equal amount of studies on their sides.

For example, the reason that the UK and Canadian parliament passed laws prohibiting the sale and purchase of donor sperm and eggs, is because of direct testimony from children of donor sperm and eggs who did not appreciate having a price tag.

Many many ethicists and psychologists have studied the effects of donor children, of anonymity and payments, and decided, after a hell of lot of study that the price the children paid for that was too high.

I know MPs who voted on this, and they truly struggled with it. Many if them were infertile as well. The evidence was very very compelling.

Known donor is different, free is different. Parents who tell the truth and are open and disclose to the kids is different. (Not problem free, but lightly less problematic.) And regardless of what you read in one of the books on IF on the tour, to be absolutely clear donor eggs were widely used twenty years ago in Australia and Canada. My RE pioneered the technique used back then in Toronto.

In study after study after study these children, now adults, are not happy about the circumstances of their conception. Could there be exceptions? Perhaps...but I like to go with the idea that if lots and lots of people tell you something similar about their own life experience, maybe we should listen.

Same with adoptees, and birth moms, and yes, large numbers of adoptive parents who truly hate the system in the US. They want reform, and they aren't saying ban, but they are trying to keep their eyes open and talk about the serious structural issues in adoption in the US and even in Canada.

For an adoptee like me, reading US bloggers who adopt is like walking through the looking glass. I wasn't even going to bother mentioning adoption on my blog for example, until a number of adoptive parents started commenting on my blog and when I read their blogs?

I've never seen such stunning ignorance of issues around adoption. I've been sent emails calling me an ungrateful bitch for finding my birth mother. I've read cruel descriptions of birth mothers that I cannot even reprint in your comments.

So it gets my hackles up.

For example, I've worked on adoption reform for years and I've always known that adoptive parents return kids that they have already adopted at a rate of 20-30% depending on the jurisdiction. It's just a fact we knew about. Family court knew, social workers knew. Adoptive parents are not always the good guys, and screening is supposed to get rid of people like that ahead of time, but it doesn't really work.

But when I mentioned it in the blogosphere, I got called on the carpet as anti-adoption, when in fact I like to think I'm pro-adoptee, pro-child. Cause as sad as I am for infertile couples, I can't help but think about the kids.

When Time and Newsweek published that fact recently, I felt vindicated, but not happy.

People need to know that these routes will never be the same as having a kid like Fertile Myrtle did. They can be good ways to build a family, but they will be different, and when they only hear cheerleaders and love and happiness from others in the community, it promotes an aura of fakeness that will only lead to disappointment later.

There are some facts and some truths that we know for sure, and I can't simply say--live and let live. I can't just go along like that.

Nearlydawn said...

Thanks for this post... I sure wish I'd had a copy last Saturday when I met a none-too-happy 2nd time pregnant lady at a party.

You can read the details on my blog, but the meat of the issue was that she didn't support the use of fertility treatments. Specifically, IVF. She was willing to throw out the whole IF community with the roll of her eyes.

I know we all have our stories to tell, but I can't help thinking of this lady and being amazed at how different my world view is from hers.

What separates us in our views is just a few months of gestation, along with a sea of experiences.

Malloryn said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Mel. I think one thing IF has taught me is to be more sensitive to people around me. Not long ago, I tended to shy away from people in distress as I really didn't know what to say to them. Through dealing with IF and reading blogs of others in the same or similar situations, I've learned that it's so important to reach out. Just a small comment can mean a lot.

The IF lens has certainly changed how I see certain issues. I hadn't given much thought to AFT and adoption before IF, and back then I didn't understand why people would want to put themselves through it. Now I can't imagine questioning someone's choices in trying to build a family. Everyone must find their own path, and I wouldn't feel right passing judgment over them.

Anonymous said...

I understand that infertility is where you have chosen to focus much of your considerable energy and that, no doubt, is for the good. And I agree that issues that infertiles face, particularly the judgements from others regarding what they should or should not do, are inappropriate at best and crude and ignorant at worst. But you have turned your infertility and your blog into a cottage industry and that is where I find you in particular to be especially commercial and self indulgent. Your blog may be an extension of your home but I, for one, do not open my living room to the entire pc owning world. I actually found this post surprising balanced and nuanced in comparison to most of what you write these days.

Wordgirl said...

I'm saddened somehow -- in the same way frankly that I was saddened not too long ago when women were bashing Hilary Clinton -- not because we all need to be Hilary backers because we're women -- but I was saddened by women using the kind of patriarchal b.s. to criticize her -- if she doesn't cry she's too tough -- if she does cry she's too soft...etc. Why talk about this?

Because in this little corner of the 'blogosphere' populated by so many people (mostly women I dare say...sorry Frank) drawn together by the heartbreak of infertility -- struggling as best we can to make sense of it -- making choices and sharing those -- this is a place to respect and honor one another -- not that respectful discourse isn't welcomed -- but there's a line between respectful discourse and barbed attack -- I think.

In my profession all I do is work with words and context -- and I press my students to realize the power of those words -- and how readers read between them -- see the intent as it rises of the page or screen as the case may be...words have tremendous power and we that wield them have a responsibility.


m said...

I have a lot to say about this statement:

"But you have turned your infertility and your blog into a cottage industry and that is where I find you in particular to be especially commercial and self indulgent."

But then my comment would be completely off topic. So I will just say that such perception makes me sad and that I 100% disagree.

And that I really appreciated this post, Melissa.

You cannot be self-indulgent when you have helped so many others find their own voices and their own strengths.

GLouise said...

Great post, Mel! I think you are quite brave to do a post about Juno *and* adoption! :-) As you know, I felt like I needed to go pwp after completing our adoption, due to all of the weird comments I started getting.