Paying attention to life’s diversity: a coping mechanism for women facing subfertility

When you’ve not been able to have a child, it sometimes feels like not a moment goes by without you thinking about it. Every parent you see makes you think, ‘that’s what I want’.

Of course, it’s not like people with children are constantly feeling joyful and happy. They are probably quite often feeling weighed down by domestic and child-rearing routines, a bit grubby, a bit tired. They are probably hoping they’ll get through the next bit of the day smoothly, and thinking about what must be done after that. They undoubtedly wish they could have some time to themselves, or time to tend to their other relationships. And entertaining a child can be draining, especially when it started at 7am and there are another five hours to go.

I know someone who suffered multiple miscarriages before finally conceiving through IVF. She said to me that she wished she’d known what it was really like to have children. She was so focused on the idea of it, and the imagined fulfilment it would bring, that she had not paid attention to lots of wonderful things in her life. Life without children had seemed impossible, bleak and miserable. She now wonders, with hindsight, whether she could have found happiness without children, if she’d had to – if she’d only known.

It is easier said that done. As a woman facing fertility problems, I can’t simply cut off this yearning. But there must be truth in what she says. I was reminded of it recently after having had a profoundly honest conversation with someone I care about. It struck me afterwards that is was a very precious thing, and I was so glad that it had happened.

There is a risk that we view our whole lives through the spectrum of unattained motherhood. And it can make us overlook many important moments: moments when we really help someone, and they love us for it; moments of true companionship; moments of being around the people who make us feel safe and ‘ourselves’.

Yes, people who are being parents find themselves completely absorbed by their new role and purpose. But there are still many dimensions to life, and to people. And in that strange way, hardship can present opportunity – a chance to see and really cherish beauty in all its forms.