Does Infertility Make You a Better Parent?

BlogHer Original Post
Woman holding infant, man with arms around her and infant

The other night I must have gotten tired of shopping for shoes or bored by looking at porn or both -- once you pass a certain point there's really no difference -- because I found myself aimlessly clicking around infertility blogs. I read a lot of blogs, but this wasn't focused reading; I wasn't checking in on anyone I knew or following any particular conversation. Just clicking, and mostly skimming. My report from the field: Infertility still exists! And some find it challenging and/or discouraging! (My full analysis of the situation will be published in the upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed journal, Quarterly Proceedings of the North American Academy of Things That Suck Dong. Abstract available.)

Anyway, I ran across a post by someone who's in treatment now, with no children as yet. She talked about the feelings of isolation infertility can confer, the painful feeling of not belonging, the "us" and "them" of it, but affirmed that she'd found a few things to appreciate about the infertile experience:

[An]other benefit is one that I can’t be sure of yet, but that I have to believe in. The perk of being a better parent. Of one day being more hands on, patient and involved because we were on team “Us.” Because we know what it means to face the fear of never being a parent. Because we struggled, and fought, and sacrificed for that child who is now ours; and we will never forget what life without them looked like.

And I read this and thought, Huh. I thought that for a couple of days.

Let me be clear: Whatever gets you through the night. I think we all have or had a set of highly individualized beliefs to sustain us during the worst of it all, whether it's This will make me a better parent or At least we'll know we tried everything or Ten minutes after this negative I will be very drunk indeed.

So I'm not criticizing at all. But the statement really made me think, and examine my own experience. While it may work this way for some people who become parents after infertility, I don't think it has for me.

I am still not as present as I should be, as often as my kids deserve. There are times I resent the work of childrearing, the ceaseless drag of the care and feeding. My patience frequently fails me, and I make sure everyone knows it. I complain. I scold. I roll my eyes. I look forward to school and day care.

I cherish my children and appreciate -- believe me! -- the very fact of their being. But so do parents who had theirs easily. I love my kids like nobody's business, but that doesn't negate the rest of it. The sum of what I wanted was to be a normal family, and through treatment and luck we became one. Congratulations! You're normal, and, by the way, imperfect.

It's sort of a humbling realization. I'd like to convince myself that my kids are lucky we went through what we did, that there was some higher purpose to it. I wish I could believe they get the best of me because the worst has been transfigured. I'd like to be able to draw some superior resourcefulness or serenity or grace from my experiences when I'm in the clutch, but I swear just as loud as mortals do when I step on a LEGO barefooted.

I don't think infertility has made me a better parent. If anything, it's made me acutely aware that I am an average parent. If I'm more grateful than I'd otherwise have been -- and whether that's the case is utterly unknowable -- well, so what? Sometimes the only thing the gratitude buys me is the knowledge that I should do better, and the sadness when I don't.

Which sounds like a big damn downer. But I actually think it's beautiful. Isn't this what we all hope for when we seek to become families? The chance to try, maybe fail, and then grow?

What do you think about all this? When you imagine the future, do you see infertility making you a better parent? If you're already there, has it?

Read the fantastic comments on the original blog post -- they're thoughtful, well put, and intriguing.

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