Bibi Lynch is 46 and always thought she would have children. Her recent article in The Guardian, ‘Mother’s Stop Moaning’ is the guttural shout of a woman who knows that it is too late. It is one of the most honest and moving accounts of childlessness that I have read. Pain and grief lash out of the page in angry waves. It is unmadeup, uncombed, undressed, raw emotion. This article was written from the gut and it is all the better for it.
If Bibi Lynch had written this ten years ago when I was in a similar situation, she would have done me a great service. Back then there was no one to reflect the secrecy and shame, to share the dark and unkind feelings with. I fixed myself with a rictous smile and rarely did it slip.
She has been much criticised for the swipes she takes at ‘moaning mothers’ but such criticisms miss the point. Hers are not the polite considered musings of a mildly disappointed woman, they are the unreconstructed, uncooked ventings of the grief-stricken. And no matter how marginalised mothers feel, society views motherhood as the norm for women, from which all deviants are judged. Bibi’s howls may not be polite and ladylike and they are loaded with bile and hatred and frustration but they are unflinchingly honest.
Bibi Lynch both predicted and provoked the attacks her piece received, particularly by referencing Mumsnet. The resulting thread started off being well-balanced and considered before degenerating somewhat in the way these things do. She was accused of being ‘bitter’, an accusation she heaped upon herself anyway. She was also much blamed for her situation (having reached 46 without having met a partner with whom to have a family) which was deemed by some to have been her choice, as though life’s path is merely negotiated via a set of logical decisions, no random fluttering of butterfly wings involved. There was also much indignation that many are worse off than her, which goes without saying. Raw pain is not a logical, thoughtful emotion. Other writers were referenced, who were judged to be dealing with it all in a more acceptable, palatable grown-up and lady-like fashion. Maybe they are better women than Bibi, but infertility is a long old road and how you feel at the start is not how you feel in later years. One day is not necessarily the same as the next. In November you may be positive, by Christmas you may feel like strangling yourself with fairy lights.
Quite a few respondents pointed out that Bibi still has options; she could use egg donation, become a step-parent or adopt. Yes, just like that. Easy. The underlying message is shut up, go away and get on with it. It is no wonder that she had to scream to make herself heard but I am glad she did.
It is a heart-wrenching piece, but the irony is – you point out that the reaction to her is “shut up, go away, get on with it”, – and that’s exactly what she seems to be saying to anyone who is blessed with a child or two.
Of course mothers know that anyone who has tried and failed to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term, is worse off, but that doesn’t mean to say their own disappointments or concerns aren’t valid. Victoria Beckham, even with all the help she has, is probably very knackered. That’s all she was saying. She has never said she was worse off than anyone else. Ditto most mothers who complain about being tired or depressed.
It’s not a competition.
You’re right, it’s not a competition. Childlessness can feel like looking in through the window on a party, which everyone else has been invited to. They might not all be enjoying the party and some of them are feeling tired, but looking in is very different from being there. Life looks different. And it’s not a logical, or even sane response but perspective is everything. And I say that as the Queen of moaning.
Thanks for your comment.
Hi Sally. Thankyou for writing this. I left a comment on another blog along the same lines. As someone who’s in the middle of it (well on some days, near the end on others), I recognised Bibi’s feelings. I’ve had them all. Sometimes I’ve had them all in one day or on the worst days in one hour. They stayed in my head and that is the ONLY difference. Those feelings caused a lot of self loathing too, which is a nice partner for the jealousy, anger, frustration etc!
I haven’t read the mumsnet
I hit “comment” too soon. That’s self-moderation in action!
Was just saying hadn’t read mums net and probably won’t. I don’t need to reopen those wounds. Thanks again x
I’ve replied below.
It’s comforting to know that these feelings might be quite common. Unfortunately the subject of infertility is so shrouded in secrecy and shame that it is difficult to connect with anyone else experiencing the same. On top of that, others can be overwhelmingly insensitive. It’s an arduous experience. I wish you well Lisa and thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
I hadn’t actually ever seen the link for the article or read much about it other than seeing some snarky references on twitter, so I was glad to have read this and been able to now read the original article. As someone who always wanted to be a mom, childlessness sounds unimaginably painful to me.
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Thanks for reading and for setting up the Real Adoption Blog Hop. First time I have blog hopped!
I haven’t read the article yet, Sally, but I certainly will do. Just reading your post alone made all those ‘buried’ emotions well up inside me. It’s a peculiar feeling. We finished our IVF cycles in 2007 and committed to the adoption route. We were ready for it at that time. Though I would have argued that I was ‘over’ my inability to conceive, recently it has reared its ugly head again. I think approaching the big 4-0 is a huge part of it, but when I do allow myself to think back, those emotions are actually far from buried. I never held any bitterness but I certainly have felt ‘less of a woman’ and it hurts deeply inwardly. Your description of “looking in on the party” is a great one. Writing this now, I have had watery eyeballs. The first time for many a year. A great post. Thanks for sharing
Complicated. I think whenever you fixate on the life you wanted rather than the one you have it leads to suffering.
She is in some way imploring mothers to recognise what they have and be happy for that – but a starving women in Rwanda who has seen her family massacred and been frequently gang raped by state sponsored gangs would not be wrong to say that she should focus on the life that lies at her feet and be happy for it.
Emotions are powerful – and they can drive you for years and years, narrow your view and consume you – but if you can shift your focus to you being the space in which they occur rather than who and how you are – then you can perhaps recognise that all things are the result of how you see them – and to have flexibility on how you see things is empowering.
Perspective gives that flexibility, which in turn allows you to live the life that leads from your feet. It doesn’t mean you won’t carry a wound – but it will be a wise wound.
As a bloke I would normally encourage a more pragmatic approach, but after my experiences with infertility, I know that ranting, shouting, screaming, venting … whatever you choose to call it is what is needed. This is a great post – well done.
That’s a good post Andrew.
I encourage you to keep getting your word across. Those moms just can’t be content enough without broadcasting to the entire planet. My wife and I couldn’t conceive and it is frustrating as hell.
I think the mistake we women make is thinking that having a child is a great and wonderful life. Having children is NOT what it seems. Its HARD work and SACRIFICE and its REAL life. Why do you think that some of these women be killing their kids in the news and stuff? Because some mothers dont have the patience it takes of raising a child. Having children is NOT for everyone and if you dont have the patience and finances it takes to raise a child then DONT HAVE CHILDREN. Actually I feel sorry for the mothers who are having children in these days because college tutition, food, is EXPENSIVE its NOT cheap raising a child. At least a single woman can focus on herself and travel the world instead of being at home changing stinky diapers, watching Barney all day and staying up half the night trying to comfort a screaming, crying baby. Stop glamorazing motherhood because its NOT all that it seems to be. Satan is REALLY after these kids and thats why you hear about kids being bullied in school or having mental issues and as a parent YOU are going to have to DEAL with THAT.
But, if you really want children, there are plenty of foster and adoption agencies and egg dotation agencies that would be more than happy to help you and you can be the caring, loving mother that you want to be because these kids didnt get the care and attention they needed at home. But, I pray for you and pray that you find God and that He will bless you with children