The Birth Right: Loss

Here’s the first in a new series looking at the social impact of some issues surrounding fertility.

I was having a conversation recently with a lady friend talking about fertility. She’s currently got a medical condition that makes it unsafe for her to have children. Now, I think she would have been a good mother, but it got me thinking about other women I know who are very capable of motherhood but weren’t able to do so for various reasons.

We always have this thing about moms – and rightfully so. The good ones are highly revered, the bad ones are often disparaged and the institution overall is largely celebrated. It is why I tip my hat to women as they often have to somehow juggle motherhood with other aspects of their lives –  most notably career aspirations.

I suppose that’s why it is so devastating to be told when one is ready (or sometimes not) to enter motherhood that it is not possible. We are seeing trends for a while that shows if given the opportunity, some women may choose to delay motherhood for a myriad of reasons. But my point of emphasis here is being in a position where the choice is no longer on the table.

I have a lady friend who would make an excellent mother. She is a true late bloomer and only had one opportunity to be a parent. She decided that something about that opportunity wasn’t a fit for her at that time and made choices accordingly. When we last spoke about fertility, she was at the edge of her biological window and lamenting partially her choice in that situation and her reasons for not pursuing motherhood earlier. She mentioned she would have preferred to do so within the context of a commitmed relationship and only decided to be open to single parenting many years later. Listening to her anguish as she tried to make peace with her choices was heart wrenching.

My other friend who has her medical condition otherwise is in the peak of child bearing window. I have no doubt that she too had to go through her own emotional process. The most striking personal exposure to this topic was sitting in a fertility clinic waiting room once and remembering how intense the atmosphere felt. There were women of different ages, ethnicities and other persuasions (some alone, some accompanied by someone) present. You could see the gravity of where they were in their own journey to motherhood almost present – a quiet, hopeful somberness.

As a society, there still is some negative undercurrent as to what it means for women (especially) and men to not be parents. I remember my lady friend above also talking about how her reaction to her small niece who once asked why she didn’t have kids. It’s just one of those things were some people are perceived to be not “normal” or “defective” because they’re not parents, no matter the reason.

What can be done here? It’s likely one of those things were all we can do is be more supportive and less judgemental. No matter if one chooses not to have children or circumstances removed the power of choice, it’s always important to view and respect the individual’s autonomy. There’s more than enough emotional loss to be processed and piling on doesn’t help.

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