Get Over It

Yesterday evening I was directed via a blog post written by Lydia to an article in the Guardian, entitled ‘Mothers, Stop Moaning!‘ by Bibi Lynch. The crux of the article is that us women who are lucky enough to be Mums should open our eyes to how lucky we are to have reproduced and stop moaning about our lot, as she has recently found out that at the age of 45 she will be unable to conceive and our niggles to her are extremely painful and hurtful. You can see other excellent and thoughtful responses to this article by Katy, Marie Phillips and LadyCurd.

Bibi writes that yes, she understands being a mum has its difficulties but they are finite and surmountable and that really we mothers, whether stay at home or working, Have It All. To her mind motherhood is an idyllic state of being where our identity is leveraged to being superior to those who don’t have children and any problems we may face, from money issues to lack of sleep, can be solved by a cuddle with our bundles of joy.

Here it is: having a child is the most fulfilling, exciting, love-filled time of my life that I’ve ever experienced and having been told I had swiftly dwindling fertility at the age of 21 (thanks, Endometriosis) I am beyond thankful that I have been able to have kids. But it is also the hardest, the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have ever done, too. I don’t believe that in her article Bibi Lynch has given thought to the mothers who experience problems that may not be surmountable, or thought beyond that sweeping generalisation that all mothers are higher beings with fertile wombs and superiority complexes.

Our child was born with a rare and incurable genetic disease which affects somewhere between 80 and 150 people in the whole world. The chances that Will and I are both carriers of this condition and would one day meet and make a baby are completely mind boggling. Now that’s a part of parenthood that can’t be overcome by a squish of those adorable baby cheeks.

I’d like Bibi Lynch to be there on the days we wake up to an ill, unresponsive and floppy baby with eyes rolling back into her head whilst we rush around the house gaging how ill she is so we can decide whether to dose her with an oral medication, stick her with a needle or rush her to hospital. I’d like her to be there when we’re trying to explain to yet another doctor how emergent her condition is and how she must be treated whilst they’re fannying around with IVs and not listening to the ‘pushy parent’ because they have to follow protocol, though protocol doesn’t account for the treatment for her disease. I’d like her to be inside my head when I’m thinking about the future, worrying because nobody knows the long-term effects of her daily medications, worrying that Elfie will want to go on the year 9 Ski trip and I won’t want her to because if she breaks her leg she can fall into a coma within minutes. Then I’d like to hear her tell me to get over myself.

Every week I see fabulous jobs advertised that I would love to apply for; I had a great career before I became a mother and I hoped to return to it one day. But I can’t. I don’t stay at home to fulfil the Stay At Home Mother idyll, I’m here because if my daughter becomes ill I need to be here to advocate for her medical needs. I can’t bring myself to be more than a couple of miles away from her because if anything happens I need to be here to instruct doctors and to inject her. I’m happy to be that person but I still get regular pangs of jealousy at my high-flying, super-earning friends. That will never again be me.

The reality of caring for a child with needs like Elfie’s is exhausting but it’s life. It’s the hand we’ve been dealt. Just as it is others’ lot in life to not be able to have children, it is ours to be responsible for a child who has medical differences. That’s how I see it – this is our life and it is how we deal with it that makes us who we are. Every time someone asks me how we cope with the difficulties we encounter, or how we carried on when Elfie was deathly ill at 14 weeks, the answer for me is clear: we just do, and we did. Yes, it’s hard work and it’s emotionally horrendous sometimes, and perhaps we didn’t process what was happening at the time but there was no other option than just getting on with it. As tempting as I find it to burst into tears and wail about how life is unfair, I don’t, because it doesn’t help anyone.

Bitterness and regret for things that have or haven’t happened in your life breeds nothing but anger and hate, and if you can’t change your world why go there?

To Bibi Lynch I would like to say how sorry I am that she is unable to have children. Having never experienced infertility myself I can only imagine how heartwrenchingly painful this must be every single day. But the next time I have a bit of a grumble on Twitter about being woken up at 6.30am by my baby, don’t hate me for it, tell me to get over myself or think I don’t know how lucky I am; just understand that we might moan about the small stuff because sometimes the big stuff is too painful to bear.

39 thoughts on “Get Over It

  1. Hi Alice, just found your blog via all the commotion surrounding this article. I really enjoyed your post and am glad to have discovered your blog. Thanks for sharing. Amy Xxx

  2. Over the last year, I’ve found out I can’t have children. My chances went from 3-6% to finding out it’s not 0.1-0.6% and I’ll probably have to have my ovaries removed in future due to cysts. Over the last year I took great comfort in Bibi’s Grazia columns and tweeted her a lot.

    In a similar position, I get what she’s going through. I get the heart breaking pain of seeing so many women around you have children. I get the sobbing, the tears, the anger she must feel every single second of every single day. I crave a baby. It hurts more than anything in the world.

    But Bibi is wrong. Get over it? No way. Do I think motherhood is the perfect answer and would be easy? No! As much as I want a baby more than anything, I can only imagine how hard it would be. Why should mothers stop complaining/moaning? Yes, those who can have children are so lucky but that miracle comes with worrying, heartbreak when your child is ill and everything else that goes with it.

    It upsets me that Bibi thinks motherhood is some perfect answer to her life. Like I’m doing now, she needs to try and fight the bitter feelings and accept the situation.

    You are a brilliant role model to mothers and women everywhere and I wish you, Will, Elfie and Little Boy Bump all the luck in the world.

    • Thank you so much for such a heartfelt and personal response, it sounds like you have such a brilliant attitude towards your situation. I’ve had a few cysts on my ovaries and my heart goes out to you for that, they are bloody painful thats for sure!!

      It really sounds that you have considered your situation and you have a very balanced viewpoint of the realities of motherhood, which whilst blissful is definitely not easy. I’m glad Bibi’s been of comfort to you, it must be invaluable to be able to speak to someone who knows what you’re going through. After tweeting with her a little today I think I understand a little more where she was coming from with her article: she’s clearly grieving for the baby she will never have and this emotion comes across as very raw. It’s an extremely emotive subject that is always going to incite debate, and whilst I stick by what I’ve said and don’t agree with her, I do understand it more than I did before.

      I’m not sure if you’ve looked into adoption/fostering yet but wanted to send you over to one of my favourite blogs: http://mattandkaraadopt.blogspot.com. It’s the story of one couple’s adoption, what happened when it went wrong and then their surprise pregnancy! I find it very inspiring xx

      • I’ve just seen this reply (been so rubbish at blog reading these past few weeks).

        Whilst having a baby naturally now would be our dream, I’m not sure adoption fits totally into our lifestyle at the moment. I’m made a decision to focus on my career, perhaps even moving back to London for the right role.

        I’ll happily read the blog though and I’m sure it’ll give me a bit more insight. I’m so put off by adoption but I’m fairly sure my opinion is- like most- wrong.

        x

        • Yes, do have a look, they had a heartbreaking experience with a failed adoption and are now miraculously pregnant… it’s such a heartwarming, beautiful story xx

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you have never experienced infertility. The pain is indescribable. That doesn’t make *your* pain of dealing with your daughter’s medical issues any less, but brushing off hers is not fair either.

    I am 37 and pregnant with my first child – after five years of infertility and finally resigning myself to being childless I fell pregnant naturally and completely by surprise. Those five years were torment. Being genuinely happy for friends and family when they announce pregnancies and birth and dying inside a little bit that it isn’t you, again. Having to decide who to leave our worldly goods to when there is no family to follow us. Having to decide what to actually do with our lives, and putting them on hold *just in case* we fall pregnant. Feeling useless and barren and abandoned by God and losing my faith. Feeling bitter and regretful is not a choice, it is what happens.

    The comments on the Guardian article make me laugh a bit. The “adopt if it matters so much to you” stance is ridiculous. We tried – adoption in the UK is RIDICULOUSLY hard. Particularly if you’re over 35 and especially if you’re single I would imagine.

    Despite the emotional turmoil, pain and difficulties with having a child with an incurable disease. Despite difficulties with finding appropriate work. Would you really chose infertility over having Elfie? Would you want to swap places with Bibi?

    • Hi Sarah, thank you so much for your response and massive congratulations to you!

      Please don’t think that I am brushing off Bibi’s pain: like I said, I can’t imagine how infertility must consume you and take over every single aspect of your life. But I do feel her article lacked a little balance and perspective and rather than coming across as being volatile in response I wanted to give the point of view of a mother who in her eyes might have reached nirvana, but below the surface has her own struggles. The original article was extremely emotive and I think it’s struck a big chord in a lot of us whether we’re mothers or not.

      I would never choose infertility over the life I have now – even with all it’s difficulties – and thank my lucky stars that I met my husband at 19 so that we were able to try for children so young. It’s difficult to compare my life to hers as we are in such different situations but I really hope what I wrote demonstrates a different side to motherhood that she may not have considered.

  4. Having stared down the infertility road myself I know what she’s going through. Yes, I think I am extremely lucky to have been able to have a baby. Yes, I thank my lucky stars every day to wake up to our precious bundle of joy, even at 4am. Yes, I am enjoying being a stay at home mum for the time being. But is it perfection? No. Because there is no such thing. It’s joyful and wonderful and special but it’s also hard work. Every day. Everyone has the right to whinge and moan if they like. It’s all a matter of perspective in the end. And motherhood isn’t the silver bullet.

    K xx

    • I feel sympathy for both sides of the argument really. To be a parents is the most amazing gift, but I can understand when a mother has been awake 4 nights in a row with a colicky child and then has to go to work and deliver a pitch to a new client it’s hard to be grateful that you have been given that gift and it’s easy to be at the end of your tether. No mother is thinking “I am so glad I’m not infertile” when she’s dealing with the seventeenth load of washing because the baby won’t stop puking. Similarly, if you are infertile it’s hard to appreciate that mother’s *do* sometimes feel exhausted, depressed and emotionally empty because you would swap places with them in a heartbeat if it meant having your own child. Walking in other people’s shoes is difficult.

      I still feel for Bibi though and I think her column expresses what a lot of infertile women feel and often don’t say for fear of being branded bitter. No one *wants* to feel like that.

      • I think I understand Bibi’s argument a little further after tweeting with her today. I’m delighted that she has read my post and has taken it in the manner it was meant (as a balanced viewpoint rather than an opinion comng from a place of negativity or meanness). I now see that she is hurting a great deal, mourning the loss of the baby that will never be, and that her emotions are raw. I still don’t agree with her words and I stick by mine wholeheartedly but I do understand where she is coming from.

    • Thank you for your input Kitty. I know I feel horribly guilty on the bad days when I think about how lucky I am to be a mum and I’m simply not enjoying it, but it is seriously the hardest job I have ever done. Ever. Xx

      • I don’t think there’s a reason to feel guilty because you have a child. Mothers work hard and although kids are absolutely a gift, they are challenging too. Our little bundle is currently teething which means she likes to not sleep in the afternoons. That’s annoying, and I occasionally complain about having to carry an almost 8 kilo child around for 7 hours straight – because the reality is we all speak from our own experience. No-one has the right to tell others not to complain. Even those who have walked in our shoes.

        I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t read anything other than the article you liked too but if what Josie has written bellow is true – Bibi’s infertility stems from age rather than a condition that she didn’t mention – then she has no-one to blame but herself. Timing is everything – I get that – but it’s not like she has a condition like endometriosis, low ovarian reserve, early menopause or PCOS which would make having children very hard. She could have had children had she started earlier (or considered the idea earlier) and I guess that’s what makes the situation all the more bitter for her. It has been well documented that female fertility starts to decline at 30 – what made her think she would still have a decent chance at 46?

        Lashing out and getting angry doesn’t help. Nor does blaming people who have what you want for your current situation. It’s sad but true. I have immense empathy for her situation but being bitter about it doesn’t help anyone – least of all yourself.

        She is right on one score – being a mum is the best job ever. It pains me every day to think of the women who want it but won’t experience it – Bibi included. That is the ultimate message of her article for me – not the stop whining but that I should “appreciate every moment.”

        K xx

  5. Pingback: Oh Bibi | knocked up, knocked out

  6. “I still feel for Bibi though and I think her column expresses what a lot of infertile women feel and often don’t say for fear of being branded bitter. No one *wants* to feel like that.”

    This is the bit that utterly resonates for me.

    As a woman who is struggling to conceive I hate feeling like this, but what I hate even more is that if I express how upset I am then I get branded bitter. Yeah I probably am, for good reason, but telling me I am bitter doesn’t help me. It just realises my pain further.

    • Thank you for your input and you are absolutely right – after tweeting with Bibi I understand a little more just how raw her emotions are and I think a lot of her anger was coming from a place of hurt and grieving.

      I’m so sorry to hear you are struggling to conceive and wish you all the best x

  7. Unless I remember incorrectly Bibi is only infertile because she left it until 40 to try and have a child. *If I’m wrong here, apologies*.

    If that’s true I don’t really have any sympathy for her beyond what we extend to anyone that has regrets about life. It might sound harsh but it’s not exactly new knowledge to anyone that beyond about 30 really it can get much trickier to have a baby. And I appreciate she wanted to wait for the right man and situation, but I have always wanted a child so much there’s no way I’d wait until 40 before trying on my own.

    So this is why the article pissed me off so much. She just seems bitter and miserable and lashing out, albeit in a restrained articulate way and that diminishes any point she might have. Being childless must be horrible for her and for that I have sympathy but I don’t see how that gives her the right to attack mothers for things she really doesn’t understand.

    p.s your blog post was beautifully expressed.

    • Thank you Josie!

      I completely agree with you that the article has an undertone of bitterness and jealousy but after tweeting with Bibi a little today I do understand where she’s coming from a little more. I completely stand by my viewpoint but am now perhaps a little more sympathetic to the fact she’s currently grieving for the baby she will never have. The difference between us I think is that I would never have the platform of a national newspaper to broadcast my thoughts and feelings!!!

      It’s such an emotive topic and great to hear so many women’s opinions on the matter.

  8. I read this article in the Guardian yesterday and didn’t feel annoyed at what felt like a sweeping attack on a whole demographic, just pity for Bibi Lynch and her outlook on the world.

    I cannot imagine how painful and frustrating it would be to be infertile, however I do struggle to have much sympathy for someone who can’t have children because she just didn’t get around to it. It is not really in the same category as someone who has been desperately trying all possible avenues to have a baby for years and not succeeding, or someone who has a condition that makes pregnancy impossible. I do get that it was never the right time – I very well could have been in the same position – however we all have regrets in life (big and small) and blaming other people is completely unproductive .

    Echoing some comments on this article, a child is not a cure all tonic that will make your life better in an instant and I think that it is seriously misguided to think of them as such a commodity. They aren’t just there to make you happy. I love my son. He drives me crazy sometimes. Just as my husband, friends or my colleagues might drive me a bit crazy sometimes. Everyone is allowed moments of frustration (and an avenue to vent for a few minutes) and I think that it is unfair to say that parents are not allowed these moments because they are parents. It’s just silly and not very healthy.

    I also don’t think it is fair to say that child related problems are surmountable – yes the day to day stuff usually is, however perhaps Bibi Lynch should consider what life would be like as the parent of a terminally ill child, or a child with a life threatening condition. Not really surmountable stuff that you just ‘woman up’ and get over.

  9. Great post. Totally great :)

    I struggled with secondary infertility but luckily eventually had a very healthy Clomid baby in the end. YET, I still moan about the little things. Not as often these days as my kids are 7 and 3 and let me sleep almost normally, but I am still on medicaion for PND (now THAT’s a fun thing to have) and I while I appreciate and treasure my kids every day, some days are just a little bit harder than others and “I might moan about the small stuff because sometimes the big stuff is too painful to bear.”

    • Thanks Mrs B! Secondary infertility… now that’s something that must be so hard to deal with, once you have a baby you think you can have as many babies as you’d like, don’t you??! Good to hear I only have three years to go until I can sleep properly again (waaaaaah) xx

  10. Hi Alice.

    A beautiful and well written post. I loved reading it, Thank you.
    Its amazing what life chucks at us & how we just carry on, like you said there is no point in having bitterness and regret.
    Kyle was born premature and the first years of his life were spent in an out of hospital, I still can’t bring myself to write all about it as the pain is to much, instead I tell everyone about how he never slept etc when they ask what he was like as a baby, its the only way I keep on smiling.

    Give Elfie a cuddle from me, such a beautiful little girl x

  11. Hi Alice
    I have been reading with interest the comments that have sparked from this article and I really can have understanding of both points of view. I am lucky enough to have 2 healthy boys but the 1st took 8 years to create after numerous fertility treatments and the 2nd came along after a 4 year gap,more fertility treatment, an ectopic pregnancy (ouch!) and IVF. He was premature which resulted in additional complications. I really should write a book as there are not many fertility issues I have not experienced, at some time! It is very painful to experience infertility, but even I was surprised at the strength of my feelings when I struggled to create my 2nd child. Despite everything I had been through and how lucky I felt, I was incredibly emotional (read that as insanely jealous/bitter etc) that other women could get pregnant so easily and I couldn’t. I remember the wobbly smile I had to put on to congratulate one of the Mums/ friends who were going to gain a sibling for their little one…and the hollow feeling and tears that followed. In fact, knowing how much my 1st child meant to me, I think I felt even more pain. Now, I would love to have more children but I know I am truly blessed.I can never just make love and let it happen -it would mean IVF, money, planning and so though my heart will ALWAYS say YES YES YES!, my head has to say NO (well actually it says probably not -can’t I can’t face saying ‘no more’). I don’t really understand the daily and small moans & groans parents have as I really really love and value having my children but I probably still grumble sometimes. I can see that having any child with special needs makes the whole job much more difficult and comes with it’s own pain and challenges. However – to summarise I think that despite Elfie’s illness you would not swap places with Bibi…ever! Yet she would probably willingly swap places with you – that’s what the difference is.

    • I think the crux of all this is that if you don’t know how it feels – you don’t know how it feels. I have no way of knowing how difficult it is to conceive (apparently Will need only sneeze on me to become pregnant, despite my issues with endometriosis, and that’s something I’ll never take for granted) and it must be physically painful to see women around you becoming pregnant at the drop of a hat. After tweeting with Bibi a little bit on Sunday I understand more than her article came from a piece of grief and raw hurt and I was pleased that she took my post in the tone it was meant, as an alternative point of view. It’s a very emotive subject and it’s been wonderful to read so many different takes on it so thank you for your input xx

  12. First, your voice and point of view is so eloquent. Reading this almost made me cry! You have a real gift with words and I feel blessed to read them here in your little corner of the internet. I am really in awe of how you gracefully handle the hand life has dealt your family and I keep your sweet girl in my prayers!

    Second, I read her article and as a fellow “infertile” (at least for a time), I honestly could not relate to it. And it’s not because I am pregnant now either! We struggled to conceive a child for 4 and a half years and the majority of my married friends all had between 1-3 children during that time period. Every time they complained about their baby with colic, or their struggles with breastfeeding, or their lack of sleep, I didn’t take it personally and get upset that they couldn’t see the good they had. OF COURSE they could see the good, but that didn’t negate the hardships of motherhood. Pain and struggle is relative and it’s not always an apples to apples comparison.

    I think her article caused so much controversy because she wrote it from a place of hurt, bitterness and anger. It might have come across as a more educational piece to mothers if she talked more about what she has learned from this experience of waiting until she was 40 to explore IVF, not “finding” the right man to have a baby with, and how it has shaped her as a person. She sounds full of regret and people full of regret tend to have very little room in their heart for joy or hope. I really do feel for her but at the same time I want to tell her that she should have grieved first, then written about it. Her voice would have been stronger and her message would have been better received.

    Third, thank you for the sweet mention about our story. We still plan to adopt one day and I think it is a beautiful way to create a family. I’m biased of course!

    Hugs!

    • Kara, thank you so much for your input. Every time I think about your story I am inspired at how you are able to remain such an obviously loving, warm and positive person, you are going to make the best mother and your little one is so lucky to have ou and Matt as their parents!

      I totally agree with the point you made and now understand Bibi is grieving for the baby she will never have. She is very angry which I believe has led to the outpouring of a lot of raw emotion. I still wholeheartedly stand by my words and opinions but am now able to step back and see her point of view more :)

  13. Beautiful post Alice. This is a really hard one. I do definitely sympathise with Bibi – infertility is heartbreaking and devastating whether you already have children or not. But, as wonderful as it is to be a mother, being a mother is sometimes hard and we should not have to always paint on a smile and tell everyone how perfect our lives are. Surely that would be even more painful to hear?
    xx

  14. Hi Alice,

    First off, I read the article earlier in the week and it was a sucker-punch to a good day. I felt so much sympathy for Bibi, yet couldn’t quite understand what made me feel so annoyed at the piece, too. And your post sums up my feelings, and explains it more, so thankyou. Whilst I’m at it, thankyou for sharing all that you do on here. I think I vouch for most when I say despite having never met you, there feels like a bond between you, Will and Elfie, and said reader. It’s a fantastic thing to do, and that’s why we love the blog so much!

    As an 18 year-old fella, I’m yet to suffer or enjoy the big milestones in life. Moving out, marriage, kids, growing old, and all that jazz. Having seen some of the comments thrown about the Internet the last few days on the subject, it’s angered me beyond ways I can express it. Just because I’m young and not actually trying for a baby doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on something of this nature.

    I feel so much empathy for those who cannot conceive. I don’t fear many things in life – death comes to us all, money problems can always be solved and there’s always a way round family feuds. But the one thing that absolutely terrifys me, bar being alone, is not being able to have children. I cannot comprehend to you how scared I am that in the future, when I am so in love that I want to have kids, a doctor brings the bad news.

    My ideallic life involves living in a modern house, with my beautiful wife, with our children running round. A little bit of you that you know will grow up and you’ll be so proud of them in whatever they do. What if I can’t do that? What, if for some reason or another, I can’t have kids? What’s next?

    The one thing that makes me feel uncomfortable about your post is this:

    ‘Just as it is others’ lot in life to not be able to have children, it is ours to be responsible for a child who has medical differences.’

    I don’t honestly see how it can be someone’s ‘lot in life’ not to be able to conceive? There could be considerable reasons for that; both medical and otherwise. Obviously, my life experience isn’t that of everyone, but I can’t see how luck can be brought into such a sensitive situation. It’s all well and good to be able to say you can have and will have children, but putting others’ misfortune down as pot luck feels a little insensitive.

    I can’t honestly wait to have children. I’m the only person I know of my age that looks forward to the day they can start a family. Maybe that’s down to the fact I’m in a long-term relationship. But I honestly don’t know what I’d do if that opportunity is torn away from me.

    Love to you and E,

    Adam
    xx

  15. Great post Alice, my heart goes out to you and Will but at the same time I know that you clearly “just deal” with it all and all the joy and love Elfie gives you makes anything worthwhile. At the same time, I get where Bibi is coming from. It took us 3 years or so before I successfully conceived and that led to an actual baby coming into the world, after a pregnancy that had to be terminated (due to the baby having triploidy) and then a miscarriage at 7 weeks, I thought it would never happen for us and all around me it seemed like the world was getting pregnant and having babies and it was just never our turn. It’s a hard thing to deal with, you feel like you’d give anything and everything to have that baby, your baby, and it’s just the one thing that you can’t make happen when usually in life there are proactive ways for you to get out there and get what you want. Not having a baby, not being able to have a baby, is one of the most all consuming emotions and experiences I have ever had and even today, with a 13 month old Richmond Baby in our lives, I still pinch myself that she is here and she’s ours and she’s perfect. I will never ever stop being thankful at how lucky we are to have her, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognise the hard days and the days I wish I could just get some sleep and have a tidy house and not have snot on my clothes – but again, all totally worth it no doubt xx

  16. I think you’re amazing! I understand why you say you just get on with it (what other option do you realistically have?!) but I’m sure it’s not easy. I don’t have any children myself, but I have a nephew who was born extremely premature so I understand a little about the difficulties that come with unwell babies. A very well written post! I think you make a good point and made it well.

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