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Owning The Choice

Kamel and I sometimes laugh at the clichés of teenagers. Especially teenage love.

“But MOM, I LOVE him.” Mm hmm. Sure you do.

We giggle at the little goobers at the mall, thinking they are so tough, thinking they are such hot shit as they stroll through the food court, because we used to be those goobers.

I spent so many weekends at the mall. My mom or my best friend’s mom (Hi Emma and Emma’s mom!) would drop us off and then pick us up at 10. We frequented Wet Seal and the Candy Factory and Hot Topic and this other store that I can’t remember the name of that had a bunch of novelty items (Kamel edit: It was Spencer’s). And we would scope out the boys and hope we ran into them again and again and make eyes at them and we thought we were so freaking cool. So when my 13 year old kid tells me they are in LOVE, MOM! I will totally get it. And my mom totally got it. And my first thought will be, “Mmhm. Ok. I’m sure.”

And when my kid comes to me with massive heart break I will say, “It’s ok, you will see, this feeling will pass.” Because that’s my job. My job is to shine some light on the path ahead.

Many, many, many months ago, maybe even a whole year ago, I had a conversation with an older friend of mine. I told her that Kamel and I didn’t think that we would go down the path of fertility drugs if we weren’t destined to have kids. She shrugged me off and said, “You don’t know that. You don’t know what it will be like if you can’t have kids.” At this point we hadn’t tired at all. It was like the cat in the box: both dead and alive. I was both fertile and infertile at that point, it could have gone either way. And this attitude bothered me. It bothered me so much I can still remember it, remember where I was sitting, remember what I was drinking. And then it continued to bother me because it continued to be a recurring comment.

I’m bringing this up because comments in yesterday’s post had me thinking about this phenomenon again. The phenomenon where it seems adults are made uncomfortable by other adults’ firm decisions. When someone is certain on something, it’s much easier for the rest of us if there’s some wiggle room, a chance that maybe they won’t choose something so very different from the rest of us and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.  Different is a bit scary. Plus, at certain points, I think we have all really believed we know best. These are all human things.

The problem is I don’t like being treated like a child when I’m making incredibly adult decisions with my husband (or ever, but… let’s stick with the theme). This goes across the board, for anything and everything. I’ve come a long way from being 13, trolling the mall and feeling like a hot shot when I maybe wasn’t. I recognize my own ability to change my mind on a topic later down the road, but I am owning the decision I’m making about anything and everything right this minute.

Laura said:

I haven’t thought much about adoption, but I’ve often thought that if we a) decide to have kids, and then b) were faced with infertility, that I’m not sure if I would want to go through all the medical options. To an extent, yes–but I’m not sure how far I’d be willing to take it. Like you say, I do think we could have a fulfilling life without kids.

And, you know, not being currently in that situation…who’s to say?

And I kept thinking… you are. I wanted to reach through the internet and say, “But… but… but…You are the person to say, you are exactly the person to say.” We are all the people to say. I don’t have to have gone through something to make a decision on how to approach it. One person’s experiences do not have a universal truth about them. And I feel like we are all guilty of treating others like they just don’t get it. We give them the, “Mmhm. Ok. Yeah, surrree,” response. The, “well you can always change your mind.” The, “You’ll understand when you’re in it.” And the WORST, “You’ll see.”

Like when I saw Beth’s comment yesterday, I’m totally ashamed to admit that my initial response (in my mind) was, “Well you still have time to change your mind.” And I don’t even really believe or think that! But it’s the finality of decisions that freaks me out, except of course if they are my own… and then I’m all “Get off my lawn! You don’t know me!”

I want the world, starting with this bloggyland and me, to do a better job of respecting the grown up decisions that we all make, and then respecting the grown up changes-of-mind that we all may or may not have later down the road. Is it possible for me to talk about not wanting a sea of baby stuff without someone chiming in to tell me that, “Oh you’ll see! You’ll need it!” Or, to talk about a life choice that isn’t (or is) for me without having someone else feel as if I’ve said it shouldn’t be for anyone? Is it possible to have a comment discussion where lots and lots of people can have lots and lots of different approaches to the same life event and it all ends where we go, “Wow! I had no idea that so many people could do one thing all so differently. That is so cool. I will have to think about that!”?

I think it is. And I want to be better about being the lady who talks the talk and walks the walk.

45 Comments

  1. Yes, yes and YES. I married a man and brought him and his two daughters into my life as family. We’ve been married just over a year, and I can’t tell you how often people ask about when we’ll be having a baby of our own. More often than not, they are horrified (and very judgy!) when they hear that it’s not happening. Decision made. As someone in my position, there are few things more frustrating than hearing people tell me that I will change my mind. My husband and I are making the choice that is right for us, the one that is responsible for us and our situation, and people just don’t get it. So frustrating.

  2. Hmmmm, I think this is a little hard. To start with, yes, it is presumptuous (and profoundly irritating) to act like a know-it-all and assume that adults will change their mind about their decisions (whether big or small). But on the other hand, I, as an adult, do change my mind about my decisions — and particularly, I’m noticing, in the area of children. First, I went through a process of transitioning from never-wanting-children to wanting-them-someday to how-about-right-now and now I find myself in flux about all sorts of questions on how I want to raise my kid(s) (for instance, I’m struggling right now with what kind of work schedule I want to have). The area of family and how you build it is so personal and so emotional that I’m kind of learning to only move slowly and softly towards decisions — and, while I respect the myriad of choices my friends have made/will make in this arena, I do so with a respect and understanding that those choices may very well change.

    • That is totally, 100% it.

    • Totally. Totally. Totally.

      I’ve found that people have a really hard time accepting that you’re making the best choice for you right now. And, like so many things in life, the choices that are right for Liz 2012 are different than Liz 2005 and will may/probably be different from Liz 2020. It doesn’t take away from the validity of the choices made in any of those times. Circumstances change, relationships change, money changes, jobs change but we are all smart, thoughtful, complex adults, how are we incapable of making the best choice for us right now? Hint: we’re totally not.

  3. Hey! I’m there! Quoted! It took my bleary not-quite-yet-done-with-coffee eyes a minute to recognize ME ;)

    “Who’s to say”–I think I’M not ready to say. I’m not ready to be 100% firm on my (ok, OUR) decision, either way. And you know, I’m fine with that. I’m ok with my current fluidity. And I think that’s largely because, at the moment, I am sooooo not ready for kids. Maybe we want them, maybe we don’t–but right now, nope. Definitely not.

    BUT. But. In the future, if I desperately want kids and encounter roadblocks, I don’t want to rule out any options. And yes, decisions can change. We can make a decision now and change it later. But we’ve been so wishy-washy on the whole thing that there ARE no decisions to change. And I am a-ok with saying, “We do not have a plan for this at the moment.”

    Hmm, you know–I just realized, that’s the way I am with MOST things in life. 5 year plans? Nope, never had one. Not interested. 1 year plan? Ha, not even interested in that :P It’s odd, because while I HATE change, I guess I’m pretty ok with most things in our lives being…well, fluid. (Which, yeah, can definitely cause issues–idea of buying a house? BUT THEN WE WILL BE STUCK! But that’s another story for another day, ha.)

    But YES–I agree whole-heartedly on the whole judging other people’s decisions thing. If we even HINT at, “We’re not sure we want kids,” most people respond with the “You’ll see.” Was there ever a response in human history LESS helpful than that? ;)

    Or, even better– a week before the wedding, random people (who barely know us) started asking my soon-to-be-husband, “When are you having kids?” Ummm, excuse?? Thanks for your speculative assumptions, but I’m fine without them.

  4. Lauren, while I really appreciate a lot of what you’ve been doing with your pregnancy posts – especially the ones about balancing pregnancy and careers… this is sitting badly with me. One of the reasons that as adults we sometimes patronize teenagers’ huge sweeping emotions and feelings about the universe is that we know that things change. You grow up, you meet new people, you get new information, you experience new things. I don’t think this is somehow limited to teenagers because they are YOUNG but because they are humans at a particular point in their lives. I really dislike the idea that somehow adults are in some priveleged position about this because we somehow know more? or are more solid as people? That’s like me saying to you as someone a few years older and who has dealt with a lot more in the way of infertility ‘you’re wrong’ (which is sort of where this post seems to be coming from, right?). What I can say is that when I was your age (which is a terrible terrible phrase) I might have said a lot of the things you’re now saying. But faced with really really shitty choices my hubs and I are doing the best we can, even if it includes undergoing difficult fertility treatments that quite a lot of people have said to me they would never choose to do. If they’ve said that based on anything remotely resembling the years of careful research and thinking and talking that we have then okay. I get it. But otherwise I really don’t think it’s helpful to make sort of sweeping proclamations (which are sometimes just judgements dressed up) about how you would ‘never do x.’ To me it’s more helpful to say ‘based on what I know right now in my life I don’t think I would want to x’ – these things are really different.

    • I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be undergoing fertility treatments to talk to somebody like me, who has the luxury and privilege of saying, “I don’t think I want to do that in ten years if things don’t work out how I expect them to,” without even considering somebody’s feelings when they are on the other side of the issue, so I really appreciate your perspective, alloallo.

      Fertility problems run in my family. They run pretty deep. So I think a lot about how long I’m willing to try to have kids for, what I’m willing to put myself through to have children, what I’m willing to put my marriage through. I’ve watched a number of my cousins go through fertility issues and struggle, and every time, I try to imagine what they are going through and say the right things. Every time I picture how they must feel, how hard it must be, I keep coming back to the same conclusion, “that won’t be me.” Even though the odds are stacked against me.

      It feels like victim blaming, to be honest. It feels like saying, “if only Betty was okay with not having children, she wouldn’t have to put herself through this. I’m not going to be like that, I just will be okay and I won’t put myself through that.” or “I’ll just adopt, rather than go through IVF.”

      I feel like it’s impossible to make a statement like, “I don’t want to do fertility treatments” without sounding like you are judging others even though it’s a personal decision. The reason I’m writing an essay here is that I actually, literally, said that yesterday at lunch. I sat there and I said, “I think about that and I really don’t want to have to do it. I think if I’m facing IVF, I might just not have kids.” Which led to an interesting discussion of the drawbacks of IVF and the expense of fertility treatments. My cousin told me that I’m young and I told her that I could end up divorced and starting all over again in my thirties, which is a concern of mine.

      I genuinely believe that none of us can possibly know how we will feel when faced with infertility, just like we don’t know how we will feel when we are faced with cancer or alzheimers or a special needs child. Just like it is so easy to promise your mother now that you will never ever put her in a nursing home, it’s not a promise you can make until you have to face the actual reality of the situation.

      I believe in respecting grown-up decisions. I also believe when somebody says, “I want kids but I would never do fertility treatments”, and appropriate response is, “never say never” or “It’s fine that you feel that way now but I won’t judge you if you change your mind.” On the other hand, I totally respect people that don’t want kids and I respect that as a decision that grownups can make, so I’m not sure why I believe this is different. Except it feels more like saying, “if I have cancer, I won’t undergo chemo” than making a lifestyle decision.

      • “I feel like it’s impossible to make a statement like, “I don’t want to do fertility treatments” without sounding like you are judging others even though it’s a personal decision.”

        But it is not a judgmental statement. We can all make personal hypothetical decisions that come with explicit or implicit “I don’t want” statements that aren’t automatically saddled with judgement. For example, if I were offered a really good job in Arizona, I wouldn’t move there. Is your automatic response to think that I’m being judgmental of people who live in Arizona? If I say that I only want to attend graduate school if I get into program A or B, do you think I am being judgmental of people who choose to go to Program C? Do you think it’s helpful to tell me that I can’t say that until I am rejected from A and B?

        We are always making our best guesses about the future. The fact that we can’t predict the future with 100% certainty isn’t a good reason not to take someone’s opinion seriously.

      • “It’s fine that you feel that way now but I won’t judge you if you change your mind.”

        love this.

        • I wish more people said this.

    • alloallo,

      I think part of what this post is trying to say is that it’s it’s bullshit people are telling you that they would *never* undergo the fertility treatments you and your husband are facing in a way that invalidates your choices (you know, in a judgmental way).

      However, I have an issue with how you’re judging others sweeping proclamations while making your own about the way that things may change. As an adult (a young adult, but still an adult) I recognize that there is some small chance I may regret my choice to not have children. However, how is having or not having children any different from other choices we make in life? All choices open some doors and (permanently) close others. Am I forever to regret I wasn’t a geology major in college because I was a chemistry major instead? No! That’s absurd.

      Best wishes on your fertility treatments. I hope the future brings you all the joy you can hope for and more.

      • Hmm, I’m not totally sure where I made sweeping generalizations except to say ‘things change’ which seems to be about the safest generalization you can make. However I think there’s two good points that you’re making here:

        1- it matters how you say what your decisions are, not that you have thoughts about things. And I think this is where I agree with Lauren’s basic point but just add a caveat. I’m not against people saying ‘my decision is x’ but I’m against them saying it in ways that demonstrate a lack of sensitivity to others, or perhaps a lack of awareness of what is at stake in the decision. For some things it isn’t so important, like if you tell me ‘i’ll never eat offal’ I’d think ‘well that’s a bit extreme because lots of people around the world eat it and love it but you know, each to their own’ but if I’d just told you I’d gone to some kind of ‘nose-to-tail’ cookery course that I was really passionate about I would expect you to maybe modulate what you say a little. whatever, it’s a flawed analogy but go with it :)

        2 – there are decisions that you make *at the time that you need to make them* and then there is the example here which is about a decision in some hypothetical future. Of course I firmly believe that we all make decisions all the time that we should not or need not regret. Presumably there was some point at which you had to fill in a form and tick a box that said ‘geology major’ and there was a date by which you had to do it. So you made the best choice for you *at that particular moment* (though I assume based on taking classes, talking to people, doing the reading whatever). The whole point of what Lauren’s post is about is that it was a decision she felt she had come to before the decision ever had to be made… which is just hugely lucky and wonderful for her… but still I think feels weird for those of us who actually actively have to make that decision in the moment, not in some possible future reality.

        • and just to say also, I completely and totally respect the decision not to have children and think in a way that illustrates the point I’m making, that particular decision is one that you make over and over again, right? Because you make it up until the point at which it becomes a physical impossibility. And maybe at some point you decide differently, and maybe you decide to stick with exactly what you felt at the start. But either way there’s an immediacy to it.

          • Well, not having children does not necessarily have to be a decision you make over and over again…sometimes surgery and a final decision becomes the decision.

          • allo, allo-

            Making the decision that is best for us at a particular moment includes hypotheticals. In order to make the decision to try to get pregnant Lauren and Kamel needed to talk about the hypothetical outcomes, such as finding out they were infertile. They came to a conclusion and Lauren offered it without judgment of others. I don’t think it’s fair for you set an arbitrary bar (“based on anything remotely resembling the years of careful research and thinking and talking that we have then okay”) for when you decide someone can be taken seriously.

            It’s also important to remember that desires and decisions are rarely absolute. It is entirely possible and valid for someone to want children and also not be ok with going through fertility treatments. Women have the right to say what they are willing to do with their bodies, and that includes when and how to have kids. It’s not always an “either/or” decision.

            I get that it’s weird to see someone talking about your real struggle in hypothetical terms. It’s part of why it’s weird for us to look at teenagers in love and take them seriously. But I think you’re confusing Lauren (or any woman saying they do not want fertility treatments) for a teenager in love. She’s not. She’s an adult, who shared a conclusion she came to about her life with her husband to a friend, and the friend treated her decision like she was a 13 year old crushing on a boy at Wet Seal.

            She’s not. And all grown women should be treated like grownups, even (or especially) when others don’t agree with their decisions.

        • I actually went back and read your comment again and realized I responded a bit emotionally. Thanks for the well considered response.

          • I think what alloallo is getting at is that a “never say never” response might be OK. My husband and I found out in July that we would be walking a journey of infertility. We cried and held hands and said that we would try anything we could except IVF. We figured that the emotional and financial cost would be too much for us.

            I have an appointment to undergo IVF in the next month or so. Once we learned that IVF would be our ONLY option for biological children, we changed our mind. I don’t discount the decisions we made in July, but we were young in our journey then. Just like teenagers are young. I think making a decision and wanting that decision respected is perfectly reasonable. I just think that sometimes when people say, “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” or, “Well, we’ll just wait and see,” is kind of assuring the teenager that things change. And, just like the teenager doesn’t want to hear it, neither do adults. And that’s groovy. It just helps sometimes to think about where people are coming from when they say stupid things.

  5. I totally understand what you are saying…. and for stuff like the not-wanting-to-buy-a-ton-of-baby-stuff or other things, like, say, (and I am making it up) putting your kids in a Montessori school, or putting the crib in your room or not, I get it…
    But for the particular topic of what would you do if you had fertility issues… I see my old self tallking back at me. (I don’t want to say here that I know better than anyone else, I just want to say how this process was for me).
    You see, I always thought, in a very radical kind of way (and maybe I was too smug, maybe I had no idea what I was dealing with, and maybe I was just, well, mean, and immature a bit) that I would not go the medical way… because I saw it as artificial, because it is “unnatural” and because as a biologist, I thought, if it is not happening by itself it is because there is something inherently wrong with my ( or our) bodies that should not be passed down, from an evolutionary perspective. Probably that is why I have struggled so much to make the decision to actually go there, perhaps that is why I cried so much when we set a deadline and decided that we would be going that way, and I fought against it with every cell of my body. But we want to give it a try.. before settling down and making other decisions. Right now, I just see it like “medical help” or a “little push” to our bodies. Like novice wife said… we have learnt to move really slowly towards choices, it is more of a “I´ll see what I do when that happens”. even when I tend to have this very strong opinions about almost everything,
    And yes, a childless life can be very fulfilling (imagine all the travel) and the possibilities of doing big stuff…. but at this moment, we still want to keep fighting for this dream…I never would have imagined changing my mind so much.

  6. I can’t speak for everyone, but here’s part of what my experience has been: Before we realized we have fertility issues as a couple (as in, we both seem to have different issues), we talked about adoption. However, those conversations *before* were different than the conversations *after*. Before, it was different because we were dealing with what we thought were unlikely hypotheticals. Once actually dealt the blow that this would be harder for us, though, conversations carried a different weight. My feelings about adoption are similar, but there are more uncharted things we didn’t even consider when speaking in hypotheticals. The territory we talked about originally was on a map, but here on the trail, the path is weirder. More trees than we thought, that sort of thing. And the thing is, to go on with the map territory, some people are mapheads. They can look at a map and before even getting there they can give shortcut directions, they know the land, they’ve made their decisions and they know the route that’s best for them. Others are less mappy, more territorial. I might look at a map, but I might pick a different trail than the one I’d originally chosen once I get there. This metaphor is kind of breaking down, but my thing is, some people come to decisions differently in and of themselves, and once a choice is made, what is rigid for one might be totally fluid for another, and we may not even know which camp we’ll fall into. When talking about sensitive stuff like family building (so loaded and fraught, I know you’re walking a hard line on your blog), it’s hard to know if that other person is a metaphorical Choice Maphead or not. Do they want to hear my tale of the trail I took that made me change my mind and take the loop around the lake instead? Because for me, fertility meds have been fraught with maybes, maybes, and more maybes, and it seems like a much slipperier slope than I’d thought. And it turns out there were paths I thought I’d know, that I don’t. If this assisted cycle fails, what will we do? We try to draw lines in the sand, but they get washed away in a heartbeat. And so when I see someone drawing a line, I want to say, draw it, but it might wash away for you. Softly. Not in a “You’ll see” way. Because maybe they’re on a different dune, and the water may never reach them, and that’s great!

    I agree with you, to be clear. We should own our choices, and if someone says they’ve made a choice about something, I think that should be respected and not wheedled with. BUT I think you can respect someone’s choice, and also bring up the fact that they may change, but not in a “You’ll seeeeee” sort of way or a “I told you so” sort of way. In a “Hard stuff changes people and sometimes changes opinions. I changed, and maybe you will, but maybe you won’t. And I’m glad that you made a decision that is right for you right now.” It’s like….these are two truths that I want to somehow meld: choices should absolutely be respected, and choices made also can change. And that’s okay. Like Novice Wife alludes to, there’s a certain fluidity to life choices when it comes to stuff like this. Some choices may turn out to be more rigid than we’d thought, while others may be more fluid, and others we may hit a bullseye on, never wavering, sticking to it, knowing it was Exactly Right. I want to acknowledge and respect other people’s choices, but also want to share my experiences, a way of saying “I felt like that, too, and now XYZ has changed me, let me show you that path I took, because if you find yourself there ever, don’t be alarmed.” The problem of course is that’s just me, and we live in a world where the “You’ll seeeee”’s are endless, and some statements about possible change which aren’t you’ll seee’s may be lumped in nonetheless.

    What it comes down to for me is a difference in you’ll see’s. Some you’ll sees seem like baited traps, waiting for you to change your mind so people can crow and then commiserate with you after about how horrible your first choice was and aren’t you glad you saw the light? That’s condescending and kind of annoying as hell, I get that. But there are other kinds of softer you’ll see’s, the ones about choices that are harder, where the water laps at the lines drawn, and these seem to be different to me, because they aren’t saying, I hope your line gets washed away and you feel like *me*, but rather, hey, if your line washes away, that kind of thing happens, look, it happened to me.

    • Mmm. This. Beautifully expressed :)

    • Hayley, I really love this.

  7. I’m concerned from the comments that people are missing some of what I wrote and I want to be clear: I think it’s important to respect people’s choices up front and I think it’s important to respect them when/if they change their mind. I also never said that people should know everything right this second and stick to it. I think I made that clear in what I wrote and I am feeling like that’s not being understood.

    I am also going to be really clear on something else: Talking about our process and where I’m at with things in my life is what I do here. I’m going to tell you: We don’t want to adopt and we won’t. We made that decision before we started trying. There were certain things I would do with fertility treatments and some things I would not have done. Anyone can go ahead and say that I am judging others for the choices they are making, or that I have no idea what I’m talking about… but that is completely untrue. I think it’s really hurtful to discussion and not at all what this place stands for to tell me or anyone else that they are judging others for the life decisions they are making for themselves. I realize this is a sensitive issue and everyone handles it differently and as people are faced with surprising life discoveries things may change. But the things I’m doing in my little life with my husband hold no judgement over the things you are doing in your life and the decisions you are making. This is a place for discussion and seeing what other people are up to and how they are dealing with the experiences they have. I think it’s very easy to point a finger and say “You’re judging!!” when someone says something you don’t agree with or wouldn’t choose for yourself. I’m not judging anyone’s choices, I’m telling you what we had decided for ourselves before we got pregnant.

    • I don’t really have anything much to add to this conversation, but it’s definitely interesting. Personally, I’d rather adopt than do the pregnancy route and I definitely don’t want to do fertility treatments. That is a statement that I can make about my own preferences. It doesn’t mean that I think there is anything wrong with people getting pregnant or anything wrong with people not wanting to adopt.

      Yes, people might say that I am young and could change my mind in the future. OK, that’s true, I could change my mind; I’ve changed my mind before about other things, based on changing variables and situations. But saying I could change my mind has nothing whatsoever to do with the validity of my personal opinion regarding my plans today. I have to make decisions and, like Beth said, I can’t go around regretting the paths I didn’t take, and I can’t plan for every route. my god.

      • “I have to make decisions and, like Beth said, I can’t go around regretting the paths I didn’t take, and I can’t plan for every route. my god.”

        So true. That’ll drive anyone nuts.

    • I do really hear this and don’t disagree at all with what you’re saying, but do feel like in my mind I have to amend it somewhat. You happened to bring up a super emotive example which is why you’ve had so many thoughtful and sometimes differing responses. Ultimately I’m just ridiculously jealous of your ability to have that decision to make, it isn’t true for us and that is a sad real thing. It doesn’t make your decision at all less valid, but it also doesn’t mean I don’t get to have a reaction to it.

      • As much as I appreciate the different view points and experiences expressed here today, I do not appreciate at all most of the sentiments you have expressed. I feel that you have made this a combative space and said things that go completely against the point of this post and the vibe of what I’m trying to do here.

        This statement in particular: The whole point of what Lauren’s post is about is that it was a decision she felt she had come to before the decision ever had to be made… which is just hugely lucky and wonderful for her… but still I think feels weird for those of us who actually actively have to make that decision in the moment, not in some possible future reality.

        Really shows me that you missed the point. And it really does make me sad that instead of talking about how we make decisions, and what decisions others have struggled with, today has become about defensiveness and asserting that our decisions don’t mean placing judgement on others. Me, or anyone else, making a choice about their bodies or fertility is making NO statement on the choices you are making. I do not like how this has taken over the blog today and though I do welcome and value differing opinions, I am not ok with telling me or others that voicing their own paths is making some sort of statement on how they feel about others, or belittling those decisions because those making them have not walked in your shoes.

        I have been purposefully not speaking much on the blog today because I do want to leave room for other people to give their own thoughts, but I wanted to be very clear with where I stand with this. However you decide to handle your body, or not to handle, or whatever – is cool with me, and I want everyone to feel good about talking about how they came to whatever conclusion they came to. Mind changing, circumstance changing, all of it.

        • I don’t think alloallo made this a combative space. I think she is merely disagreeing with the assertion that one can ‘own’ a decision that one never had to make. Which I think is reasonable.

          We can all discuss what we might do in a hypothetical, and that can be useful to a conversation about whatever the topic might be. But it is not the same as having made an actual decision. It’s fine that you have made the decision that you would do x,y, or z if you were struggling with infertility, but because you are not struggling with infertility, those statements mean something different than if you were. That’s not to be dismissive of your feelings or your reasoning, it is just to say that for someone who is going through infertility struggles, it might not be that helpful.

          Like if a man said to me “I would never have an abortion.” That’s fine, and I would listen to him, but if I’m being totally honest, his opinion does not carry as much weight for me as a woman’s opinion because he will never have to actually make that decision. And I think that’s ok. It’s not being dismissive of the man, it’s just recognizing that there’s a certain wisdom that comes from experiencing something first hand.

          I appreciate that you are trying to create a world in which saying “I would hypothetically choose x” does not equate to “I am judging you for choosing not x.” However, I think it is also important to remember that for a person that is actually choosing not x, your hypothetical choice is going to carry less weight than someone who is actually going through that choice. I agree they shouldn’t respond with “You’ll see,” but I think it is fair for them to disagree based on their own experiences.

        • Wow. That made me pretty sad. I didn’t feel like I was making the space combatitive so much as expressing an opinion that was different from yours, based on an experience that is different to yours. I think a lot of other people made wonderful thoughtful comments too, so yay for that. Either you’ve really misread what I’ve said or just don’t want to hear criticism – which I get – but feels a little disappointing.

          • As an outsider — I don’t have a dog in this fight — I think what you (alloallo) wrote seems totally reasonable, polite, respectful and well articulated.

    • In thinking about it, I am very much a person who feels judged when other people make a decision that is different from my own. I assume others feel the same way, and when I put myself in the position of somebody undergoing IVF, I know I would feel judged by somebody like current me, who proclaims that she does not want to undergo IVF. It sounds to me like this is my problem, not anybody else’s, so I apologize if I acted like a jerk.

  8. I feel like the “never say never” reaction to your statement of “I don’t want fertility treatments” is just another shade of the “you’ll change your mind” reaction when any woman says “I don’t want kids.” People are uncomfortable with the idea that women might want lives that are not motherhood-at-any-cost.

    • Totally. Completely and utterly.
      For a while, soon after our wedding, i went through a phase of “I dont want kids” (a lot down to in-law issues). Now we are pregnant, and I own that change of mind, because I worked through the issues of why I didnt want a kid (and most are still relevant to why we are only having one, an argument we are already having with said in-laws and this ones not even done cooking yet).

      Its a never ending battle you cannot win, because the norm in society is still that EVERY woman should want as many kids as she can get. And not every woman wants that. My limit was one pregnancy of more than 8 weeks duration. If I lose this one now? We wont be trying again. Instead, we will dedicate ourselves to our nieces and nephews and friends kids and work on developing my stagnating career.

      And I do believe it is entirely possible for someone to ADAMANTLY say that they would NOT undertake any form of assisted reproduction and mean it. I know what it means to go through, with a close friend doing it now, and well before we decided to start trying for a family, we talked to a friend who had had success with it, and what she told us about it solidified our agreement that we just did not want kids that badly. (basically, as much as she loved her son, for what it did to her body and mind, it was not worth it) As someone with a history of depression and anxiety, why would I put myself through all that? Pregnancy hormones are bad enough, and I really just did not want a baby badly enough that I was willing to make myself a suicide risk again.

      Unfortunately, to some people, that makes us “bad people”, that we have conceived a child that we didn’t want so badly we were willing to leave all options on the table. I firmly believe that if we had not yet conceived, I would be deep in the throes of preparing to re-start university next year to study nursing, and planning our next overseas jaunt. And I would be happy. And I would be telling the world that we had run out of our allotted time to try and would not be having kids.
      But then, I guess I am lucky in that I managed to make having kids into a rationalised decision for me, its not something that consumed me, heart and soul, as I have seen it consume others.

    • On the flip side there are (probably a smaller number) people in the world who are uncomfortable with the lengths that couples will go to in order to be parents. It’s a loaded minefield, and either way the decisions and statements we make about our bodies, reproduction and family seems to get judged and weighed and our decisions somehow go from a private sphere to a very public one, even for super private people.

  9. I love that you referenced Schrödinger’s cat. It seems to apply to so many places in life where we haven’t been yet and multiple realities are possible.

    • I got so distracted by the other comments I forgot that I meant to tell you how excited I was to see a Schrödinger’s cat reference. SO GOOD.

  10. Kind of off topic, but this has got me thinking about how whenever I’m told I can’t have something, omigod, do i want it MORE. i’ve always been pretty firm that adoption and fertility treatments are not for me because i just have never wanted kids that badly, but now i wonder if infertility wouldn’t make me want them more because it’s akin to somebody telling me something i can’t have…

  11. I think the discussion in the comments, although it has shared some interesting and personal stories about people’s hard and real-life decisions (ie kids, fertility, spouse decision making practices) that make me want to give many a hugs – has distracted from the main point of Lauren’s post – which is “this is my life, these are our decision, we have thought hard about them, this is what they are, please do not belittle or invalidate them”. I think there can be a reaction (amongst all of us) to have a “but THIS!” reaction – bc when we react in life it is 85 percent about US, me, me, me, what about me and my stuff, my thoughts and my life – and I think it detracts from the “I” in other people’s statements. Lauren and Kamel (and various other people or couples in this discusison) have said “I/we” at the beginning of their statements – and the compassionate and “attuned” reaction should be to focus on that word. That is where people are coming from, they are taking about their lives and their decision and not others. They are sharing an experience that is uniquly theirs and uniquely right for them. The idea is that our decisions are right for us. this blog is about including all voices, and lauren – you share yours with extreme courage and are asking for what you wish for others also (and what we all deserve) – respect and validation.

  12. Great blog Lauren! I can understand where you’re coming from. I realize that I risk enraging people with this generalization but I just have to put it out there: Isn’t it fascinating that guys don’t engage in this sort of discourse? They just don’t. Whether discussing fertility treatments or cars, you will never hear a guy say “But you said you guys would never explore fertility options,” or “But last year you said you would never buy a Ford.” A more likely response is “Okay.” Maybe we can learn something here?!!
    However, as a woman, I most certainly will have an opinion regarding an emotional decision made by someone I care about. Just because you put an “I” in front of a statement doesn’t mean it doesn’t involve others in your world, or shouldn’t elicit a response. Note: This does NOT apply to strangers. Don’t really care. Won’t be around for the consequences, good, bad, or otherwise. Someone I CARE deeply about. Will be around. For everything. If we want our decisions to be respected by others, we must also be willing to respect that others will inquire, ask questions, and make suggestions. Most likely because they care or have some further insight. If we could simply peel off the suffocating masks of defensiveness and stubbornness, we might enjoy the conversation and learn something!

  13. “The problem is I don’t like being treated like a child when I’m making incredibly adult decisions with my husband (or ever, but… let’s stick with the theme). This goes across the board, for anything and everything. I’ve come a long way from being 13, trolling the mall and feeling like a hot shot when I maybe wasn’t. I recognize my own ability to change my mind on a topic later down the road, but I am owning the decision I’m making about anything and everything right this minute.”

    All I really want to say is: YES.

    While I’m not married, I have been with my boyfriend for 7 years and we talk about kids often with 1 steadfast conclusion—we do not want kids. But even if he were out of the equation, I still do not want kids.

    I don’t want children for many reasons (which I won’t go into). But it makes me incensed/infuriated/pissed off when anyone tells me “you’ll change your mind” or “you’re still young” (which essentially means the same thing). It’s never been an understanding “you’ll see,” like Hayley mentioned above (which I hope I’d be receptive to). It’s always in a dismissive, snide, belittling tone.

    I almost feel like women who choose not have kids are looked at like they belong in a circus and that, to not want kids is unnatural or even selfish. It’s the 21st century, are you kidding me? But that is a separate topic I suppose.

    Basically, on a life scale, yes, I’m young (mid 20s). But I’m not 13. I have experienced and witnessed things that have helped shape my decision. And I want it to be respected. Not shrugged off as a child’s naive or fleeting outlook.

    “I recognize my own ability to change my mind on a topic later down the road” ­–- I agree with this. Who knows what obstacles and challenges I’ll face later in life that may alter this decision. I certainly don’t. And if I do change my mind, I want people to respect that too. Not rub it in my face (and people have said to me “I can’t wait till I say ‘I told you so’ ”). How incredibly insulting.

    Other people have already mentioned this: family planning is an extremely personal and emotional decision/process. I love kids and I totally respect women/partners/couples who decide to have them in any manner that they go about it (natural, adoption, drugs, in vitro, surrogate, etc).

    All I can say is that for me, right now, this chica is owning the decision to not have kids. :)

  14. I also want to point out, (perhaps totally off topic), that it is perhaps as important to take teenagers seriously as adults. Yes, teenagers have limited experience with which to make decisions and think about the world, but I would point out that we also feed them expectations that nothing they do is serious and limit their experience until they are older. A lot of times, teenagers in love end up not at all in love a short while later. But sometimes they mean what they say, just as much someone might mean what they say when they say “I do/don’t want children someday” and then change their mind with new experience.

    I’m speaking as someone who told my mother at 17 that I planned to marry my long distance, met online, first boyfriend. Like most people would, she scoffed, and repeatedly said she wanted to be able to support me when I had my first breakup. Nearly 7 years later, we are still together, stronger than ever, with a surprisingly healthy relationship given the poor examples I saw growing up, living a life together, planning a life together, and planning to marry in the next year or two. Which is just to say that while teenagers are full of bravado and lack experience to put their lives in broader context, I also think that teenagers make poor decisions and change their minds a lot, it doesn’t help that we expect them to, and hold them to higher standards than adults. Folks laugh at a teenager proclaiming she will marry a boy and then breaking up soon after, but folks don’t laugh at adults who do that. I have friends plural who have as adults.

  15. First of all, I LOVE it when people change their minds. To me, it means that they learned new information, gained experience, have been thoughtful and reflective. That’s a good thing! So, I embrace it, even when it is scary, but especially when it is empowering.
    Also, I did not read alloallo’s comments as combative. Rather, I thought she was adding another thoughtful (and sensitive!) perspective/reaction to this conversation. Reading her perspective works toward that thing you were mentioning at the end of your post: “Wow! I had no idea that so many people could do one thing all so differently. That is so cool. I will have to think about that!”?” So, that’s a good thing, right?

  16. Wait, actually, I think you’re both saying the same thing re: making our own decisions, things change, but honoring those decisions while we’re there making them. Right? Maybe I’m just tired and it’s bedtime :) Thanks, as always, for starting the conversation.

    • Yup that’s exactly it. Rock on with the mind changing, but let’s have compassion for people as they make decisions and not do the “wait, I thought you wanted XYZ… what are you saying that you were WRONG?” because… blah. It’s just unproductive.

  17. There has to be a better way we can respond to large proclaimations like “I don’t want kids” or “I wouldn’t adopt/do fertility treatments” without going to the “we’ll see”. It’s just not a productive conversation for either side, and it’s dismissive and belittling to give the “you’ll see” response.

    But my question is what sort of responses would be right? I lean towards asking people about how they came to the decision, and why they feel so strongly on the subject. Maybe even to ask if they think that’s a decision they’ll ever revisit. What concerns me with that is it seems a little nosy and invasive, sometimes. Maybe it’s just a matter of being able to gauge our relationships with the people we have these conversations with to know whether or not we can go down those routes.

    • I love this idea. I like knowing how people came to their decisions and asking questions. Maybe that is nosy, but it definitely honors their thoughtfulness, at least from my perspective.

Who the hell is she?


Lauren

I am a writer living in Seattle and I believe that life is a grand adventure and only boring if you believe it to be. Plus! You don't need money to have fun.

I live with my husband, a photographer by education and a maker-of-video-games by trade, and a baby named gabe in an apartment on the hill.

I am romantic about most things and I cry... about almost anything. I tell stories to entertain you, I spread stories to keep you in the loop. I am not a grammar freak, but I do know how to spell it. I am exceedingly proud of my scrambled eggs and I really could eat an entire pan of cupcakes. If I met me, I would be my best friend. I tend to be irreverent.

If you would like to chat with me or see what else I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter (betterinrealife), on facebook, or email me at betterinrealife at gmail.


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