Onlookers stunned and baffled, sources say
In a parallel universe not yet known to man, childless not by choice infertility survivor Sarah Chamberlin decided to hold a press conference following the six year milestone of her last failed fertility treatment. Actual humans attended.
AS a childless not by choice infertility survivor, Chamberlin knew she was going to be told – not asked – how things are for her. So as she looked upon the starry eyed crowd who came expecting all themes resolution, uplifting, and most of all peripheral, she knew she’d need to exercise some control.
“Ok, ok”, Chamberlin, who didn’t just become childless yesterday, bellowed as she tried to chorale the crowd.
“Chances are if you’re here you identify with one of the four following groups: Eager Beavers, you can sit on my right. Transformation Sluts, take the left.
“Parent Martyrs, you’ll sit up front close to me” she invites as a vaguely sinister smile curls across her lips.
After she relegated the “Everything Happens For a Reason” brigade to the back, which, as far as Chamberlin is concerned, is at best where they belong, she was ready to take the first statement.
“Tell us about ALL you’ve accomplished since not having children”. The first “question” came from the Eager Beaver crew, naturally, and was stated in a tone that was decibels too zingy for the situation and with a facial expression infinite notches too eager for all things grief, trauma, and life generally not going very well.
“Uh, ok” Chamberlin fumbled as the Eager Beavers awaited the Mother Theresa like resume presumed to spring forth.
“Well, um, I got through the raw phases of grief, and have come a long way in my trauma recovery. I started and still write a blog that has helped some people. I thought I’d have a book out by now, but you know, life just keeps on shitting!”
After the first of what would be many awkward pauses, Chamberlin continues.
Studies show awkward pauses are the number one occurrence resulting from childless not by choice people talking honestly about their lives.
“So in the midst of all this I came down with post infection dysautonomia, a disregulation of the autonomic nervous system that resulted from catching the wrong virus. My neurologist said the general state one’s immune system is in during grief would have made me susceptible. And I’m sure people not being very nice to me in the face of the loss of my children didn’t fucking help. Anyway, at its onset it’s as debilitating as heart failure. I couldn’t go food shopping on my own for 14 months.
A sense of restlessness wafted through the room along with whisperings of “Am I in the right place?” and “But there are no childless people over thirty in the pharmaceutical commercials….”
Chamberlin goes on.
“So uh, yeah, so in the midst of everything aforementioned I managed to complete the requirements for my yoga teaching certification, but then injured my shoulder which led to me addressing scoliosis and now I’m not sure if I’ll be able to teach. Meanwhile, the current administration is trying to rescind the TPS program, my husband’s immigration status, so we have had to go on what will end up being a four year long multi thousand dollar legal oddessey to try to get his status adjusted, the first two years of which we weren’t sure we’d get to stay in the country.”
Chamberlin pauses to assure the audience she is, in fact, NOT auditioning for a role as Debbie Downer, and in her words this is just “the bullshit that happens in life”.
“So what are you doing now?” the Eager Beavers nervously asked, boundlessly desperate for a resolution as that is how, in their world, life works.
As this was going on, the Everything Happens For a Reason brigade sat there mildly confounded – teaching yoga would have been the PERFECT ordained by the universe usage of a childless not by choice woman, after all.
The Transformation Sluts however were totally turned on, thinking of and only of all the change and “being a better personing” that would come from the above strife.
“I didn’t know people without children were affected by immigration policy”, one of the Parent Martys scratched her head as the rest of the club sat there utterly bemused that there was something they couldn’t, as parents, lay exclusive claim to.
In addition to depth of emotion, stake in the future of our planet, ramifications of global instability and overall general worthiness, reporters find that people who get to be parents are also on a crusade to lock down their perceived monopoly on financial woes, chronic health issues and overall general exhaustion.
“Now? Oh. I’ve been running damage control as my husband’s businesses are in a free fall of sorts. High rents and the increased minimum wage are ruining the restaurant business, at least here in New York, so, we’re living off retirement as I finish out my nervous system disorder – thankfully!! – and we figure it all out. We’ve pretty much lost everything and will likely have to start fresh in our late forties, and on the heels of all the aforementioned at that! Hopefully I can at least go back to work soon though.”
The sharing of her desire to obtain a masters degree in counseling in order to become a bereavement counselor leaves audience members notably underwhelmed as they have all determined that Chamberlin, as a married childless woman, has been privy to enough time, funds and bandwidth and should really have her PhD by now anyway.
Continuing their dance of futility, the Eager Beavers persisted.
“But what do you DO? I mean, what’s your exact title?”
“It’s not like I went to the store and they were out of chicken” Chamberlin quipped in reference to the loss of her children, parenthood, grandparenthood and all that followed.
The Eager Beavers floundered in trying to to wrap their heads around the novel idea that one generally doesn’t plow through raw grief, recover from PTSD, relearn oneself and the world in its entirety, spend three years with a debilitating illness and forge a new life path all at the same time.
That Chamberlin was fresh out of patience was nothing short of understandable. She was loosing count of the times people had spoken to her as though she came right out of multiple failed fertility treatments with a new life popped right from an easy – bake oven, immediately knowing how to be a writer and having a handle on her sudden interest in sociology, linguistics, and all other things that explain why people suck.
Rapidly approaching the need for a forklift to facilitate the Eager Beaver subject change, Chamberlin pushed on.
“Next Question” she directed.
“Tell us about your extensive travel” one of the transformation sluts demanded.
“Oh, I can absolutely spell that out for you” Sarah declared.
“My husband recently went back to El Salvador for the first time in decades to see his ailing mother. My least favorite part of the trip was fighting with ass hole immigration officers – and I really do mean ASS HOLE – to get him paroled to travel as they are supposed to do as per the TPS statute. The best part of the trip was that his father packed a pistol and machete everywhere they went, serving as a body guard of sorts. That was nice. And my husband even got readmitted into the United States, which was technically not guaranteed, so that was also pretty good.”
Chamberlin clarified to a befuddled audience that no, she didn’t actually go ON the trip herself by pointing out that “people with autonomic nervous system disorders, even the childless ones, generally don’t get on airplanes.”
Reporters later confirmed that her pseudo upbeat cheeriness was indeed palpable.
“It’s like they were expecting a freaking Samantha Brown travel diary or something – sheesh” Sarah later grumbled.
In the meantime, Chamberlin, who now curiously feels ambiguous yet persistent pressure to either water ski on one leg across the Pacific, spend each season in a different country, commandeer a dog sled across Antarctica, or perhaps do all three at the same time because, you know, she doesn’t have kids to worry about, pressed on.
This time someone from the Parent Martyrs “asked a question”.
“At least you don’t have to put kids through college” a gentleman reeking of a middle aged false sense of certainty stood up and stated.
As there are about a billion other things she’d rather hear, among them “I really hate going out on my yacht”, “Having good health is such a drag” and “At least you don’t have a trust fund to manage!” Chamberlin draws in a long breath and pauses.
“You’re absolutely right, I don’t”, Chamberlin beguilingly offers. “In addition to that, I also don’t ever get to see my kids, hear my kids, know my kids. I miss all daily interactions, milestones, the entire parent/child relationship. I don’t get to know how they would have struggled and who they would have become. So at least YOU didn’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to loose your children that you never got to meet. Not to mention the money lost in the years afterwards from not being able to work or find direction in life. At least you didn’t have to spend the first leg of your middle age completely unmoored in raw grief and trauma recovery. At least you don’t have to be constantly drained by having to invent a new way forward. At least you are getting to live the life you chose. And at least YOU don’t have to be a part of an unseen and unheard minority whose losses, and even worse, hard won wisdom, go entirely unrecognized.”
A far cry from the “Oh yeah, you’re right, it’s all Ok now!!” happy dance everyone had expected Chamberlin to break into, exit polling showed.
As being yanked from the “my life would be so much easier without my kids” rabbit hole is never smooth, audience members went off in search of a defibrillator in case the gentleman flatlined in the absence of the self congratulatory blanket he was used to being covered by.
Moving on, Chamberlin puts her hand out as someone from the “Everything Happens For a Reason” brigade stood up to participate.
“I so don’t want to hear from you, like at all. Seriously, don’t even.”
And while she didn’t distinctly hear them, she knew full well that utterances of “she should get a dog” were buzzing to and fro across the room, and thus decided to address the issue.
“Oh yes, the dogs” Chamberlin sighs as the childless not by choice social media threads oozing never ending dog pics – dogs dressed up in Halloween costumes, real human clothes and who knows maybe even in drag coupled with endless dog commentary – flashes through her head.
Receiving an F in diplomacy an average of nine times out of ten, even Chamberlin knows she’s got to handle this one not just honestly, but also carefully.
“I respect the relationships people have with their dogs and I acknowledge the place dogs have especially in the lives of those of us who wanted children but couldn’t have them” she treads carefully. “I truly honor the love people have for their dogs and the deep loss and grief people feel when their dogs die. That said, I myself don’t like dogs much and couldn’t stand having one. They always seem to like me though for some reason.”
Of the three childless people in attendance who had summoned the bravery to step out into the world that day, one let out a booming gasp, one fainted and one shouted “Traitor!!” at Chamberlin as she continued. “I’ve been known to form bonds with my friends’ dogs so long as they are well and properly trained” she said, referencing what is, in many cases, a complete and utter anomaly.
“I have had some thoughtful and meaningful conversations with my cnbc friends about their relationships with their dogs that I appreciate…..I melt at service dog stories…..Chamberlin desperately tries to clarify but at this point she is being pelted by tomatoes thrown by everyone and remains at risk for being the first human shunned from a demographic that is so stigmatized barely anyone will even acknowledge its existence.
Chamberlin reports that while she wanted to be “a writer, an advocate, do altruistic work and shit like that” in this second chapter of her life, things are working out differently. “Meaning schmeeening” she snorts in response to the “create a life FULL of meaning” assertions from the “I am childless hear me roar” crew.
“This year, I’m just going to try to hang onto my house” she says, alluding to the recent restaurant crisis. “What does that MEAN? I don’t really know.”
As the only place society has managed as of yet to carve out for them is online, the childless not by choice tribe was mostly not physically present at the press conference.
Chamberlin admits that the audience is not the only one struck sideways. As the possibility of a life without children moved more into the forefront six years ago, she did her research. The things that a childless life promised, according to parents and non parents alike, were no doubt alluring. An endless supply of disposable income flowing out from one’s ears and every other orafice simultaneously, perpetual home renovations, a guaranteed second residence, advanced degrees and career satisfaction galore, bountiful time with one’s partner, travel of course, rainbows, unicorns, and oh the freedom. DON’T FORGET THE FREEDOM.
“First of all, my husband is working at least eighty hours a week to keep labor costs down, so we’re lucky we even recognize each other. On top of that, everywhere I go people have and talk about that which I sought ferociously and lost. I’m expected to answer for my childlessness while providing concern and empathy for things like empty nests and when it rains on the day of someone’s kid’s first communion. I mean, find a way to freaking muddle through somehow for god’s sake. And like, I’ve had to assess my neurological condition, take medication and salt tablets and drink buckets of water any time I left the house for the past three years. And even then I would often get dizzy. I couldn’t drive at night for the longest time. And now I’m stuck here in New York – on Long Island of all places – due to restaurants that are now COSTING money to operate. Call me crazy, but I haven’t found much freedom in all of this.”
“So yeah, it’s a little different than anticipated” Chamberlin says of her life after infertility trauma and life altering loss as she sneers and rolls her eyes up to what is likely the very top of her head. She was also heard expressing relief that she didn’t know what lay ahead of her following her attempts to conceive – “There’s not always some damn rainbow after a crisis” – and responded to a reporter’s query of how her life was now with “It sucks. It just totally sucks.”
At the close of the conference, Chamberlin noted that, as per usual, she had just spent much time communicating with her fellow humans “who yet again fail to get to the fucking point.”
“What about the hard won wisdom of me and people like me? And all of the other things that come from our experiences – that don’t make it necessarily ‘worth it’ of course, but can be looked up to and learned from just the same. Like my ability to roll with the punches of life, to adapt to crap. My ability to have a broader perspective, and my ability to vigilantly and unapologetically take care of myself. The potent view of caring deeply for the greater collective, and a depth of understanding of the human condition. I’m sure most of my fellow involuntarily childless comrades have expanded capacities in some if not all of these areas. Why isn’t anyone asking about THAT?”
Inside sources report that Chamberlin, in spite of her incisive cynicism, holds out a few shreds of hope for her fellow humans.
“Maybe we’ll talk about these things at the next press conference” she was heard musing.