The Fertility Files landed on AOL’s home page on Wednesday, with the headline: How Son, 2, Helped Mom with Infertility, linking to my blog post about how my son’s resilience helped give me strength while going through IVF.
Some of the comments insinuated that my “choice” to go through IVF was possibly hurting this resilient little man I’m raising, possibly leaving him feeling “rejected” and “hurt” because of his mom being sick, and not always up for chasing him around the house. Though the blog I wrote stated clearly how resilient he is, and what a happy, well-adjusted little boy I have, from whom I get my own strength. We all know children are a lot more resilient than adults, right? (Not to mention more forgiving…) My 2 ½-year-old has proven that theory to be true time and time again, but especially during this particularly difficult time.
I was putting a positive spin on an otherwise negative experience. Yet, my willingness to open up about this private, personal experience managed to bite me in the ass. Yes, I said ass.
Well, not entirely.
The post did land on AOL's home page and get upwards of 30,000 pageviews on Wednesday, which is incredible. But with those pageviews came a new crop of readers and commenters, many of whom introduced the topic of adoption (out of nowhere since I don’t ever discuss that here); there was also a comment about me being an “absent mom.” If I were an absent mom, what the hell would I be doing blogging about motherhood for the last two-plus years?
But first, I’ll address the adoption comment, for those of you new to this blog: My husband is adopted, so I know what a beautiful thing it is. Had his parents, my in-laws, not made that choice, I might not be here blogging about my life as a mom.
I will not pretend to know anything about adoption, other than what my MIL has told me. I have never looked into it myself; my husband and I barely speak about the fact that he’s adopted—it does not define him in any way—and that’s not the road we’re currently on. This blog is about me seeking the help of fertility treatments. If it were about adoption it would be called the Adoption Option, or something catchy like that, not the Fertility Files.
And to be perfectly honest, I don’t know that adoption will ever be something we’ll consider—maybe, maybe not. We haven’t thought it through enough to know whether or not it’s the right option for us. Similarly, some of those commenters judging me for going through IVF haven’t explored that themselves. I haven’t walked in their shoes, they haven’t walked in mine. And that's okay.
What I have a hard time understanding though is why women—particularly moms—waste any of their precious time and energy judging other moms for making choices that differ from their own. What’s the point? No, really, what is it? Aren’t we busy enough being parents to our own children? Who’s got time to worry about other people’s parenting choices? I’ve got enough on my plate. Don’t you have enough on yours?
We’ve been doing this fertility stuff for less than a year (even though it often feels a helluva lot longer than that), and my prognosis has been mostly positive. This feels like the right path for us, given my diagnosis of "unexplained infertility." I would love to be pregnant again, and get to experience all the highs (and even lows) that it brings. That, too, is a beautiful thing. If it’s in the cards for us, I’ll be thrilled. If it isn’t? We’ll figure out how we're going to deal with it.
Do I see myself doing the fertility treatments forever? No, I don’t. But I also wouldn’t judge another woman for doing whatever comes naturally to her to have a baby—even if it takes her 12 years of fertility treatments, like one commenter noted. To each her own seems like the responsible attitude to have here, moms.
I don’t judge other people for how they parent, nor do I judge them for how they become parents. We’re all built differently—I think it’s important we know what our own boundaries are, and I’m keenly aware of mine.
Isn’t that what’s most important? Shouldn’t we all worry about ourselves, our choices as parents, and be able to live with the choices we’ve made? Regardless of the guilt I often feel—and believe me, without the harsh comments I feel plenty of it, thanks—I am confident this is the right path for us right now.
This parenting thing isn’t easy. We’re all doing the best we can, right? Here’s a great article about this very topic that ran in the Huffington Post on Wednesday. What I’ve learned the hard way is, getting to be a parent (for a second time, in my case) isn’t always easy either. It’s hard enough without the judgments of others. Let’s ease up on each other a little, and build each other up instead of finding every reason we can to tear each other down.
Which brings me to the “absent mom” comment: Whether that was made because I’ve been going through IVF and, admittedly, pretty sick. Or whether it was made because I was a full-time working mom (I suspect it was a little of both), those are also my choices. And my husband’s choices. And what’s best for our family is certainly not what’s best for yours. It has nothing—actually less than nothing—to do with anyone but us.
I’m used to being judged for being a full-time working mom, which I suspect is where some of the criticism comes from. Right now I’m a part-time working mom and I’m home with Preston more than I’ve ever been (and, yes, I love it), but I might go back to being a full-time working mom again. Does that make me an “absent mom”? Hardly. It makes me a responsible mom who’s willing to sacrifice a lot to help provide for my family.
I grew up with a full-time working mom, and a dad who was in politics and spent a lot of time in Springfield, and do you know what it taught me? That hard work and sacrifice pays off. I want my kid (or kids, if I’m lucky) to know that life isn’t always easy, and it’s not handed to you on a rose gold platter. I want them to see what hard work looks like, and I like that my son has a strong working mom to look up to, the way I did. If me working means he can have more options in life, then that is a sacrifice more than worth making.
It’s kind of the same thing with infertility. While I wish getting pregnant came easier to me this time around, I’m not afraid of the hard work it’ll take to get there.
Growing up with two working parents (my dad’s an actual judge now, ya know the kind that wears a black robe and gets paid for it?), I never felt rejected or hurt or less loved; I never felt they were “absent” in my life in any way—quite the opposite. They were always very involved in everything I did, and I always knew they were there for me. Case in point: My mom drove carpool on her way to work, which added at least an extra hour to her commute every day. She had a big, important job in television and wore suits every day, and still got up extra early to drive a bunch of kids to a school that was in the exact opposite direction of where her office was in downtown Chicago. I still can’t believe she did that. But it shows me that you can be a working mom (and in my case a working mom going through infertility), and still manage to raise smart, happy, independent kids.
Judging by my son’s smile every day, and his resilience at only 2 ½, I think he'll do just fine too.
Have you been guilty of judging other mothers who've made lifestyle or parenting choices that differ from yours, or are you usually the one being judged? Be honest, it's okay, we've all been on both sides.