Infertility Support for Those Not Pursuing Family Building Options

by sockii

Why Are We Ignored by the Infertility Support and Awareness Community?

Is there room in the infertility support and awareness community for those who haven't or won't undergo fertility treatment?

I'm saddened by how often I've come to feel that the answer is no, there is not. Whether it is within national organizations such as RESOLVE, or independent support groups on Facebook, blogs and elsewhere, the majority of the discussions, information and means of "bonding" between community members all seem to revolve around medical treatments for infertility. People talk about the many side effects and health hazards of the fertility drugs they've taken; they compare notes on success rates of their procedures including in vitro fertilization (IVF); they despair how their marriages are struggling under the burden of their treatment regimes but they are still "saving up" for another round of treatment after the last procedure (or two, or six) didn't work.

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Yet for many infertile couples or individuals, pursuing active medical treatment for their fertility, or family building through adoption, is not the path they choose--nor one they can even realistically consider. They might not have the financial means to undergo expensive medical procedures which aren't covered by insurance and only have limited success rates. For instance, a typical IVF procedure can cost between $8,000 - $15,000, and for women over 40 the successful live birth rate is only 6 to 10% (Source: American Pregnancy Association). They might also have religious or moral objections to certain types of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).

Some couples may choose not to put their relationship through the emotional strain of regulating their sexual--and other--activities around invasive medical treatments and ovulation cycles. Adoption can also be a long, expensive and invasive process, with no guaranty of successful placement despite the many children currently in need of loving homes and families. In addition, both partners in a couple may not be on the "same page" about wanting to actively pursue treatment or adoption if natural conception isn't working.

These concerns are all valid and real, and issues which an infertile individual or couple may wish to find support for within a community of peers. Yet instead, these individuals are often ignored by the very organizations and people supposedly there to support them on their infertility journey. They are made to feel--or even outright told--that they just "don't want a baby enough" if they aren't doing everything within their means, and then going far beyond those means, in order to possibly give birth to a child.

Medical treatments for infertility have made great progress in recent years, but they are still not for every couple or individual struggling with fertility problems.

On RESOLVE's 2012 official member survey, they did not even have an option for individuals who couldn't afford or weren't even sure they wanted to pursue alternative family building options or medical treatments, until several people (including myself) complained about this omission on the RESOLVE Facebook page. Those of us in this situation are often dismissed as having "chosen" to live "childfree". In reality, we may be struggling to come to terms with the likelihood of a childless future and need support from the infertility community as much as anyone else.

In fact I was so frustrated that year by the lack of acknowledgement for people in my situation that I wrote a blog post for that years NIAW "Don't Ignore Me" theme: Don't Ignore Me: My Message to the Infertility Community

Deciding against spending every dollar in one's bank account and not pursuing every medical treatment known to mankind does not mean infertility is any less devastating or traumatic to a person. I hope to see the day when the infertility community can come to realize that, and accept us all as equal members in this painful sorority.

Exposing the infertility industry?

Books and movies examining the darker side of trying to have a baby through medical science
Eggsploitation: The Infertility Industry Has a Dirty Little Secret

The infertility industry has a dirty little secret. In the U.S., the infertility industry has grown to a multi-billion dollar business. What its main commodity? Human eggs.

View on Amazon

The Price of Ovulation: The Truth about Fertility Drugs and Birth Defects and a Solution to the P...

For Doctors, Lawyers, prospective Moms and Dads, and anyone who cares about the next generation yet to be conceived! 750,000 women in the U.S. alone take fertility drugs annuall...

View on Amazon

In Vitro: My Journey Through the World of IVF: An Inconvenient Truth about In Vitro Fertilization

"This book is a personal testimony from a patient who underwent 15 In Vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments over a 7 year period. It is a story about male infertility combined wi...

View on Amazon

What about "childfree" communities?

Unfortunately, they are not typically the answer, either.

As I personally moved on from feeling "childless" and started to embrace my life without kids, I tried spending some time in various "childfree" communities and forums online. I wanted to be in a place where I could look positively on things I could do in and with my life more easily than if I had been a parent. I wanted to share and understand with those who saw being without children as a positive in their life and not a negative - and who also shared in the experience of society sometimes treating them in a discriminatory way for not being parents. 

And while to an extent that was good, I eventually found it incredibly difficult to be in such communities as someone who understood what infertility felt like and had ever wanted a child at some point in my life. There was so much hate and criticism in these forums directed at infertile people who didn't "just adopt" — because that is, apparently, the only "acceptable" way to become a parent to some of these individuals. Any infertile person who pursued treatment, especially more extreme and expensive forms of it, was simply selfish and sometimes declared "crazy". There was little if any sympathy for those who find things like baby showers or pregnancy photos hard to deal with because of infertility. The mindset of the childfree-for-life individual seems so different from someone who once wanted a child and couldn't have one, and then became (mostly) okay with that, that it seems hard to find any common ground, at least on-line. In day to day interactions, I've found my "real life" childfree friends are much more sympathetic, understanding, and ready to share in our similar experiences and attitudes toward life.

 

Does it matter which term you use: childless or childfree? While many may not understand the distinction, there is a very strong one for some and it's important to understand why.

Do you feel it is hard to find a place to fit in?

If you have faced infertility and chose not to pursue treatment or adoption, did you find it hard to get support for your choice?

Concluding thoughts

It has been a number of years since I first struggled with coming to terms with infertility and what it meant for my future life. These days I generally feel very happy with my life and how it ended up. Especially in our uncertain world today, and with the difficult struggles I see many parents facing, I truthfully am glad I am not trying to navigate those issues myself—particular as a woman in her forties who can't imagine what it would be like to have to rearrange everything to fit in a baby or young child now! There are many other ways I seek fulfillment and leaving a lasting, positive legacy on the world, including my writing and my art.

But I do still feel for those who might be like I was, searching for a supportive community out there online where her choices won't be judged or dismissed out of hand. I still hope that that situation will change, that more will realize that it isn't always so easy to put one in a box of "childless" or "childfree", parent vs. non-parent, and that we can all try to learn from each other by listening instead of lecturing.

For further reading

Books on moving forward with life after childlessness
The Mother Within: A Guide To Accepting Your Childless Journey

FINALIST-2015 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDSThis passionate and heart felt guide reveals the author's own journey and invites other childless women to acknowledge their maternal selv...

View on Amazon

Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness

More American women are childless than ever before—nearly half those of childbearing age don’t have children. While our society often assumes these women are “childfree by choic...

View on Amazon

Kidfree & Lovin' It! - Whether by Choice, Chance or Circumstance

Twice as many people today are not having children today compared to 30 years ago. In an unprecedented survey, Kaye Walters polled 3,800 non-parents from 55 countries to find ou...

View on Amazon

Updated: 02/05/2017, sockii
 
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Veronica on 02/06/2017

Hopefully someone who is struggling similarly may one day find this lovely post on google. We never know what hearts we reach on Wizzley.

sockii on 02/06/2017

At one point I actually did try to start a Facebook community for this particular group but it was hard to get much activity going, to be honest. Same thing happened on Reddit.

These days I have enough on my plate that taking on another online website/community would be a bit munch for me, and it's been a few years since I've really had to work through my own issues.

Veronica on 02/06/2017

My friend gave up trying after twelve years only to become pregnant at 41.

You are intelligent, vibrant, capable and active. Have you thought of starting an online community yourself ?

sockii on 02/06/2017

Veronica - I think some of it is that people who are currently undergoing treatment, and hanging their hopes and dreams on success at any cost, don't like to hear about those who didn't beat the odds and didn't end up with a baby. And hearing from those who decided to forgo any treatment or stop after basic testing? Also can perhaps place those seeds of doubt in a person's mind they otherwise don't want to acknowledge. (It also perhaps isn't good business for the fertility industry to have people choose to simply work on accepting their fate instead of spending a fortune to fight it at all costs.)

And on the childfree side of the issue...I will say most of the childfree by choice people I know in real life are far more understanding and easy to talk to about these matters. I think that when you deal with people drawn to an online community to talk about one specific subject—being childfree in a pronatal world—that they tend to be those with more intense feelings on the subject. People who never EVER wanted children, who might dislike children intensely and focus on negative interactions they've had with parents in their lives. So when someone comes along who says "Well, I really thought I was going to be a mother, but that's not going to happen now. How do I move on to be more happy about it like you?", those people aren't really in a place to provide a supportive answer or understanding.

Anyway...thank you for the comments. It is a tricky position to be in, and with all the forums/sites out there today, you'd think there would be a good one to serve this niche already.

Veronica on 02/06/2017

Community support can make a huge difference to any of life's blow. I am astonished that there is no support for the group which you highlight. We have friends who are childless by choice and friends who are childless having decided to opt for treatment, friends who have opted for treatment I wonder what support they found.

You have highlighted an important gap in provision and I wonder if it is just in your country or more world wide.

Thank you for standing up for this group of people.

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