Monday, December 01, 2014

Thoughts from The Barren

I have invited The Barren to post as often as he would like,
as he is an amazing wordsmith and I love to hear inside his head, 
no matter how painful or sad. As we know, writing can below is a piece he has been working on/through.

I fear I may be hiding within the empty lattice of a working life, focused on getting by each day instead of making this childless life my own. One way I see this is with how I react to questions about our childlessness - specifically that I'm left out of them. The cuts and calloused comments question only the woman I share this burden with, and in being ignored or feared by those careless questioners, the vacuum of any engagement leaves me feeling more alone than I would have expected. That part of me that wants to get angry at someone for the morning-news interrogations merely aches and folds back in on itself, without satisfaction or even the shame of an outburst. Does it rot there, stuck in the folds of itself? Or is it potential energy, waiting to be unlocked with the turning key of a kind or cruel thought?
Irrespective of my anxieties about folded emotions, I like to think it is the panoply of what each of us holds dear in that dream of having a child which gives rise to so many critiques - to the apparently obvious solutions and the baffled, furrowed, even scornful faces that accompany them.
A particularly painful accusation that is made by friends, family, and acquaintances with equal casualness is the "You haven't tried hard enough" comment, though it is never spoken so directly. It can be variously rephrased as a peppy "Don't give up" or the more bard-like rendition of "I had a friend in your situation, and they just kept at it and it was years later but you know what she got pregnant and now they have three kids and they are so happy I mean it's a miracle don't you think..."
There are many tangential lines to that initial focus on work-rate that expand the theme of not trying hard enough - not exhausting all options: "I'll have your baby, use my womb!"; "You should try IVF..."; Have you used egg-whites as a lubricant?"; "my sisters best-friend got pregnant after she went to an acupuncturist...", "I read on CNN that supplement X has gotten lots of infertile women pregnant, you should try that!"
Each solution caters to one or another price to be paid, but what they all hold in common is the end-goal: the acquisition of a child. This focus on the goal warps into pathology for many couples, with the result often being broken bodies, hearts, and unfortunately, many marriages. The goal is achieved! The couple acquires a child - success! And then divorces because of the immense stress and suffering caused by the process. Really? Goal achieved?
Inevitably the conversation turns to Adoption. Why don't we adopt? This question nags at me more than any other that I hear, because it assumes that the end-result is really what matters and moreover for the fact that it derives that end-result through commerce. Our desire was to create through the union of our mind and bodies a progeny, a physical manifestation of our love for one another and an expression of the universal mystery of life. In our case the end-result we were dreaming of was not just the child - it was the child created as a result of our union.
No path exists for us to achieve that end that does not compromise some essence of what is ultimately a matter of spiritual conviction.
The popular counters do little to answer or support this conviction. For example, the standard " will come to love them as your own...". A painful twist on this is promoted with heart-felt and honest emotion by the adopted themselves; after all, they can attest to the love and meaning that their parents brought to their life! See? The goal is achieved!
I do not doubt that I would love an adopted child with all my heart; that they would be my child and I their parent with all the associated joy, sacrifice, tears, and elation that any other child brings to the world they inhabit. My wife and I have spoken of our willingness to let such a child into our lives; our willingness to commit with our entire being to such a journey. But to buy into that experience? To go shopping for a child - a human life? To visit orphanages and adoption agencies with the same commercial details you would find in the purchase of a new car? To negotiate on a price? The dark-skinned children cost less. Older children cost less. They have been valued by the market and found to be...less?
I do not pretend to know a better way! The stories of Russian and Chinese state-run orphanages are stomach-churning and convincing enough to avoid any kind of centralized government method for finding good homes for the parent-less. All I know is that I can't participate in the current system. I don't begrudge anyone their participation! I just can't do it myself. This is a price I'm not willing to pay, to put it in the context of that most-common of underlying themes: "how badly do you really want a child?"
So this is the syllogistic critique of the infertile couple: "you haven't tried hard enough / you must not really want a child". It hits at the core pain experienced by an infertile couple - that they are to blame for the infertility - while at the same time trivializing that pain - it's just a decision to really want it, after all...what's so hard about that?
What's so hard, indeed...


Amel said...

WOW! THANK YOU for sharing this. I'm going to reshare this, as I think the world needs to hear more a male perspective on childless-not-by-choice life.

Mali said...

Well, that was a treat for a number of reasons. The Barren's writing is eloquent and heartfelt, his worthy perspective about being ignored is often only cursorily acknowledged, and his thoughts on the implications that none of us have tried hard enough are ... well ... thought provoking.

Thanks so much for this.

nicole said...

This is such an eloquent and well put piece. While I never got a chance to attempt to get pregnant, so much of what he said really resonated with me. The "You can use my womb" thing is something I've gotten so much. And his feelings on adoption, much mirror mine.

The idea that the end result is most important is such an American issue. We can be so goal driven, that we can forget why we even are doing what we are doing.

A family member of Ross' had twins by surrogacy about a decade ago. They had one child naturally, and several pregnancies that ended in miscarriage. So, they went to all lengths to get more natural born children. They had twins from the surrogacy (born premature to add to the drama of the situation). But what's so weird to me is when i look at the family now, they don't really pay much attention to these kids. it is like "we had to have them and we love them so much!" but they lack of interaction between parents and children is saddening to me. It's almost like they put so much energy into that process that now, they don't actually have the energy for the twins. (it's very evident b/c the relationship with their older child is different.) It has been interesting to observe and has left me contemplating a lot of things the Barren discusses here. Thanks so much for bringing the Barren into our blogging world! Great to get another perspective.

And you are right, writing can be oh so healing.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly put!

I am often asked why I don't look at donor eggs and people can't understand my wish not be part of an international industry that exploits finanially disadvantaged women.

torthĂșil said...

Here from the Round-up. This is a beautifully expressed post. After living with IF, it is hard to understand how anybody could be so entitled as to assume that "want" always leads to "get" (in this case children). And yet for a great many people want does lead to get pretty consistently. We just have SUCH a different perspective. I am glad that you found your voice and put it so well here. I think it makes a difference when people express these feelings and put them out there; I hope it leads to more compassion and understanding between people.