Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marriage and children and meaning

What would marriage really mean if what we really meant was "so long as we both have children together"?

There's this idea out there that the purpose of marriage is procreation, and while it's certainly nothing new, marriage equality always brings it up, it seems.  This is pretty shitty for a lot of reasons.  To be frank, it's demeaning to all marriages to whittle down the essence of marriage to the procurement of progeny.  It is demeaning to those who cannot procreate.  It is demeaning to those who choose not to procreate.  It is demeaning to those who have children, because does that mean that before your children, your marriage was meaningless?  It cheapens everything to reduce marriage to the binary of has children/does not have children =  valuable/not valuable, worthy of merit/not worthy of merit.  (The same can be said of any system of merit when it comes to marriage, just to be clear that I'm not trying to brush aside the true arguments being made by some.)

But these things have all been hashed out many many times before by better people than I, surely.  I'm certainly not alone in voicing hurt at the idea that anyone's marriage should be counted as less-than or meaningless depending on whether procreating has happened, or any random life happening that does not happen for everyone and never has.  To reduce the legitimacy of a marriage to factors like that is just missing the entire point.

So in light of the recent negativity, I wanted to open up the floor for a follow-up post that I've been mulling about lately anyway, that being: a post about the "good" (such as it can be, sometimes) that has happened in your life because of infertility.  Taking this further, it could also be the good that has happened with your partnership.  Has it added something to your partnership?  I'm not saying sugar-coat it; I don't expect infertility has turned anyone's life into a magical sprinkle-filled sundae of delights (although if it has, kudos, and please share and don't feel like I'm dismissing your experience). Simply, Has infertility added some unexpected meaning to your life?  To your partnership?  I want to hear about it, either in the comments or if you'd prefer, you can shoot me an email: hayley.deroche at -- I'm still working on getting back in the saddle with Alt-IF: Alternative Infertility (moving, being apart from Patrick, and starting a new job derailed me for a long time with that project), so I may decide to copy-post it over there as well if I get a few submissions.

I want to focus on the ways in which our lives and partnerships and marriages are not less-than because they aren't following the standard (an age-old hand-raising, I know).  I want to focus on the good.  Hitting the two-year mark of ye olde infertility road, I've been kind of a downer lately, so I'm trying to focus on the positives rather than the negatives, rather than raging against people who say my marriage and your marriage and your parterships are less than for any reason.  (But for this blog, particularly infertility, since that's my fun schtick these days.  I know it's hardly the real matter at hand regarding marriage equality, but it comes up all the damn time, and I'd like to add some positives to the universe rather than more negativity about a childless marriage.)

(PS. Carl & Ellie forever.)


  1. Thanks for this. I have been following the discussion on same sex marriage and I saw several comments on the subject that really rubbed me in all the wrong ways because someone was saying: "it isn't about procreation - it's about civil rights. Prisoners, old folks, infertile couples can all marry." It stung and hurt me because it makes it sound like being infertile is a choice, the consequence of your actions or like it is something you know beforehand. And as you know very well infertile couples don't even imagine they are so in MOST cases. This sh*t takes you by surprise and changes everything in a matter of months. (And if you are unexplained according to science there is nothing wrong with you.....).

    Anyhow, focusing on the positive. Of course I believe (always have) that marriages are valuable whether or not there are kids in the equation (parenting is just a dream,a very important dream for some of us, a common adventure) and something we would like to live, but ultimately nobody has any choice or control over whether we get to live that dream (contrary to popular belief). Some people are just lucky.

    There is just so much we can do together, so many adventures. The world is ours...

    Going through this (I just had my 5th IUI today, hope you don't mind the TMI)has indeed taught us a lot. Not to sugarcoat it, no. But it has made me aware of the little things. It has made me find joy in the most unexpected places. It has made me focus on the today, and finding the happy moments even when it is awfully hard. And it has made me realize how strong and solid we are as a couple, and that we will love each other no matter what.

    I actually wrote a post about this for Any Other Woman, I am not sure you read it? And I am not sure if you are interested in it... but here goes. It's called "How infertility taught me to find joy in the little things",it basically summarizes all of the above.

    1. Oh gosh, the lumping-in with convicts grates like no other -- for ANYONE who's not a convict, finding your group placed on the same general area on a board is infuriating and demeaning.

      And I agree about finding out how strong you are -- I never doubted our love or our capacity to deal with problems because we've always been good at it in general, but this new experience of long-term grief and frustration at a very core human level is definitely a long experience in discovering the...and I know it sounds corny, but the depth of meaning our relationship has for both of us, definitely.

      Thank you for linking to your article! It can be so hard to find joy, but so necessary to try.

  2. Oh, thank you for posting about this! I can only say, amen to all of what you've written. It's something I think about a lot too...Recently, I read an article which focussed (with an emphasis on same-sex or GLBQT experiences) on the need for a new definition of 'family' to include all those alternatives...excepting, I learned on reading to the end, couples without children. Apparently we don't qualify as a family if we're just two.

    This makes me angry in so many ways, not least because the love and committment we as infertile couples share is often so self-evident; I mean, we have to stand beside each other through this big shit storm, we have to be more committed than most to our family values and our desire to build on those, simply because they are continually being tested by biology and society and all the rest. When I compare that to lots of other (apparently 'legitimate') families I see around me, with all their various dysfunctions, and their accidental or unwanted children...Well, I won't go further, because I *know* I can be a judemental cow at times like this!

    But this experince of being challenged can also be a good thing. The fact that we've been through this together has strengthened and deepened our love bond in so many ways. For me, that's the good. And I don't want to sugar coat it, because we've only got here after much tension and different ways of coping and lots of isolation, before we both realized that we needed to communicate and stand together. But we've got here and we're stronger and closer than ever.

    Of course, there are also all the little superficial things that we as infertiles are not supposed to care about, but which I admit, on some days, are an inverse kind of perk which I'll take (though would readily give up) in the absence of offspring: spontaneity, sleeping in at the weekends, white trousers, being able to swear without thinking about it, and various other 'adult' stuff.

    Sorry for the meandering and gargantuan post, I know you didn't ask for a treatise! But again, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, and for getting us all thinking. I'm very interested in your Alt-IF project!

    1. Yeah, it's hard to think of many other medical conditions that seem to threaten the way society views your partnership. I like to think of our family unit as a "baby family" -- that is, we're small, but we are a family, dammit. Particularly when it comes to baby families that are struggling to grow, it feels like society should support them instead of tearing them down. Infertility is isolating enough without society butting its head in to say oh, and we know it must hurt to not be able to have a child, but also, we don't think you count as a family by yourselves, period, so have some salt in that wound.

      And that's the crux of it, really; we're often very committed to each other, and are actively living out our "in sickness and in health" vow much sooner than most expect to, and yet society wants to strip us of the power of family and what the word implies. In short, we deserve a place at the family table. If anything, I think going through this has really deepened my commitment to fighting for that right for everyone, you know?

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