A couple of days ago I did something both spontaneous and stupid.
I was browsing on the internet and counting down the minutes until 5pm Friday, so I could leave work and start my weekend. I clicked onto a popular site that is completely geared towards women. Think articles about cooking, celebrity gossip, fitness and most definitely raising kids. Even though heaps of the articles on the site are about babies, I usually feel comfortable enough ignoring them.
But not that day.
At the top of the home page was an article about how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mum. The title immediately flared both my curiousity and my anger, so I decided I had to click the link. Oh to go back in time and stop myself from reading that story…
The article was written by a journalist who had recently given birth to her first child. At the top of the page was a gorgeous professional photo of the author, with her hair and make-up perfect, cradling her baby. In the photograph she looked happy and contented.
But the article was completely different. It went on and on about how stay-at-home mothers are invisible. Nobody cares about them or pays attention to them. The author complained that all she got to do all day was sit at home and feed her baby, change her baby’s nappies and eat family sized blocks of chocolate. She lamented the fact that she had gone from a fast paced job to a hellish sea of nothing but babies.
She then admitted the only time of the day where anyone paid any attention to her was every afternoon when she took her baby out for a walk and everybody on the street stopped to admire and compliment her gorgeous daughter. On one such occasion while out for a stroll, a drunk man in a pub leered and wolf whistled at her, basically insinuating she was a MILF. She was apparently so incensed by his behaviour she decided to turn her life around, start eating healthier and think more positively.
I was completely taken aback by the article. I was glad that it had ended the way it had, with the author realising she wasn’t helping herself or her daughter by feeling sorry for herself. But I still couldn’t believe that she actually thought nobody cared about mothers with newborns, or that she was somehow a victim because she had to raise a small child.
And here’s where the stupid and spontaneous part comes into my story. You guys, I decided to write a comment
on the article.
I tried to be very diplomatic about it because I didn’t want to insult the author, the way I felt she had insulted me. So I explained that I had been through four failed IVF cycles, experienced pregnancy loss, and desperately yearned to be a mother. I told her I would happily lay down on the road and let a car run over me if it meant I could have a child, and I would gladly live in a ‘hellish sea of babies’.
But then I went on to say that I thought she looked like a great mum who was doing the best she could, and her daughter looked lovely and happy. I basically just wanted to remind her that she was very lucky and even when things are bad, that she should remember that she was blessed.
Feeling quite pleased with myself, I posted the comment anonymously and then carried on with the rest of my day. I thought my perspective might give the author, and other readers, something to think about. I thought I’d done a good thing.
Yesterday I happened to log back onto the website in search of a recipe for Christmas slice, and saw the article again. I wondered if anyone had left a comment under my own, so I clicked back into the story again.
Basically, all hell had broken loose. The internet mummies, who typically spend such a large part of their days nastily attacking each other and tearing each other down, had all united against me. I was an infertile in a sea of mothers. They’d sniffed me out immediately, and closed ranks against me. I did not belong. I was enemy number one.
A lot of the mothers told me I was horrid, and I had no right to say what I’d said. They told me to shut the hell up. They told me I was insensitive, uncaring, and it was people like me who caused postnatal depression. My lack of sympathy for the author was apparently grossly unethical and frightening. More than one commenter told me that someone dying of cancer would gladly lie down on the road and let a car run over them if it meant they could just be infertile, and there were lots of people out there with problems far worse than mine. It was suggested that if I was so sad about the fact I couldn’t have children, why didn’t I just adopt one. How dare I say something negative to a new mother who was struggling to come to terms with her new routine. How dare I suggest that her life was somehow easier than mine. It was pointed out that I was clearly mentally unwell.
At first I just stood there, with my ipad propped up on the kitchen bench, staring intensely at the words on the screen. You know that sensation when you slip and land on your tailbone, and all the wind is knocked out of your lungs? For a minute you can’t move or breathe and you’re consumed with pain? That’s akin to what I was feeling. Then I started to panic. And then I started to hyperventilate.
I was shocked by how nasty these strangers on the internet had been. Bullying hurts, even when it’s online. I hadn’t meant to insult anyone. I’d told the author she was a good mum and her baby was lovely. I hadn’t expected such a vitriolic reaction.
Suddenly all these thoughts started running through my head…
Why had I read that friggen article? Why had I commented on it? Why had I ventured out of my little infertile bloggers community, where I am safe and protected, and surrounded by women who understand me? Why did these people think I was trying to be insulting? Why did I think I was allowed to comment on an article in a parenting community, when I don’t have any children? Why was it clearly not okay for me to have a negative opinion of the author, but it was quite acceptable for all these women to have a negative view of me? I am a horrible person. I am selfish. Infertility is nothing compared to what others go through. I should take that advice and shut the hell up.
Then the rational side of my brain kicked in and I started to negate the stupid arguments these commenters had made.
First of all, nobody can directly cause postnatal depression. It’s brought on by a hormone and chemical imbalance in the brain, following pregnancy and childbirth. The author did not have postnatal, but even if she did I was not the cause of it. It was irresponsible of these women to suggest that.
Secondly, it is certainly understandable that new mothers struggle. They’re tired, confused and overwhelmed. If a new mother came to me seeking help or support I would gladly do everything I could for her. But this was not a new mother reaching out to her family and friends for help. This was an article on a large, popular website written by an award-winning journalist, carefully crafted to generate interest. The headline sucked you in! The author had written a controversial opinion piece. It was meant to be thought provoking. It had provoked a thought in me, so I had left a comment. Wasn’t I simply doing what the author wanted me to do when I voiced my own opinion?!
I wasn’t off-the-cuff leaving comments on the internet about how new mothers need to suck it up. I was commenting on an article about how tough new mothers have it compared to the rest of the human population. I was allowed my opinion on the article, and I didn’t see why I was being roasted for it.
Thirdly, I have never in my life said that I have it harder than people dying of cancer. That is a gross exaggeration of my opinion. If the article was written by someone dying of cancer, and I’d left a comment saying “Suck it up Buttercup, I’m infertile. Try that out for a day or two and see how you like it.” I would expect to be abused by everyone on the website.
But I was comparing having a child to childlessness. I was comparing two sides of a coin. This lady was basically pointing out how awful it is to be the mother of a young child, and I was counter pointing out that it’s even worse to not be the mother of a young child (when you badly want to be).
But comparing infertility and terminal cancer is like comparing apples and oranges. It was not what I had intended at all. Of course people dying of cancer have it much worse than me. I never said they didn’t! I’m not trying to say my problems are worse than anyone else’s. Am I making sense at all here?
Finally, I feel I should address the good old “why don’t you just adopt” throwaway condescending line from mothers who have never experienced infertility. Oh my gosh! You guys! I should just adopt! This never occured to me before now! How silly that I’ve been wasting my time and money on IVF! I can just go down to the shop and adopt a baby! It’s practically the same as adopting a stray dog from the RSPCA!
Never mind the fact that Australia has the lowest adoption rate in the developed world. Never mind that adoption here takes an average of nine years, once you even get onto the waiting list, and many couples “time out” because they get too old waiting to reach the top of the list. Never mind that I can afford to go through at least eight to ten cycles of IVF for the same price as adopting one child. All my problems are solved! Yippee!!
In all seriousness though, I just want to sincerely apologise. I genuinely never meant to offend anyone with the comment I left on that article. I feel like saying that, even here on my blog, will somehow get this weight off my chest. I didn’t mean to hurt the author, or anyone else who read my comment.
Maybe the others who commented didn’t mean to hurt me, although I suspect they did. Maybe my tears and sorrow were for nothing. But don’t worry, I have well and truly learned my lesson. I feel awful. I feel like a sub-human. I feel unworthy to breathe the same air as everyone else.
I will never, ever, ever step outside my blogging community again. I’ve noticed that some of the nastier comments have now been removed by moderators, but it’s too late to unsee what I have seen. I won’t try to give fertile people perspective. I see now that they really, honestly don’t want it. They will just resent me for trying. They don’t get it. They’ll never get it. They don’t want to get it. They don’t want to even try.
It’s two days until Christmas. That author will be celebrating her first Christmas with her new baby. Her first Christmas as a mother. I will be miserable, and barren, and alone. If anyone is angry at me for my comment on that article, maybe they can remember that fact and they will feel satisfied that I have served an adequate punishment for my words.
Now I’m going to push this whole incident out of my mind and try not to think of it again. Like the author, I want to turn this story around and end on a positive note.
So here’s three great things about being me, so I can remind myself that I’m lucky to be me:
1. Later this week I’ll be jetting off to Malayisa to enjoy my first overseas holiday. I’m so grateful.
2. Even though this is my last week in my job, I get to go back to another job next year. Sure, it’s less pay, but so many people are out of work at the moment. I’m so lucky to have a permanent position.
3. I have amazing friends and family who rally around me to support me all the time. I know not everyone has someone they can turn to when things get tough.
See, isn’t that a much nicer way to end a post? 🙂