By Lisa Manterfield
Do you remember the game Chutes and Ladders? In the UK we called it “Snakes and Ladders” and I loved it. I had a nursery rhyme version with Jack and Jill happily climbing the hill on one ladder, and then tumbling down at the next snake (or chute). Humpty Dumpty, Rock-a-Bye-Baby, Little Bo Peep and her poor lost sheep were all there with their assorted joys and disasters.
In case any one is reading and has no clue what I’m talking abut, Chutes and Ladders is a board game. There are 100 squares on the board and you roll a dice and move along, trying to be the first person to reach 100. If you land on a ladder you get to follow the ladder up and jump ahead on the game. If, however, you land on a chute (or snake) you slide back down the board to a lower number. There’s no strategy involved in the game at all, and it’s pure luck as to whether you joyfully climb the ladder or careen back down a chute.
It struck me that life is a lot like chutes and ladders, especially when you’re playing the “coming-to-terms with infertility” game.
Case in point: A while ago, Mr. Fab and I had a great weekend. It was the first one in a while that we’d spent together just relaxing and enjoying one another’s company. We slept late, took a long walk, planned a vacation, and took a long afternoon nap. It’s on weekends like these that I realize all the positive things that have come out of us not having children.
But on Saturday night we had dinner with some friends at their home. They and the other friends who were invited have adult children, so the evening was spent talking about all kinds of other things not relating to the perils of parenthood. But in their hallway were photos of their children as toddlers, sitting in the garden, laughing those infectious toddler laughs, and for a few minutes I found myself just staring at the pictures and thinking about all that I’ve missed with not having children. My happiness hopped on a chute and slid back down a few squares.
I think that my life is always going to be this way, that I’ll keep making progress and moving gradually towards that place of being 100 percent at peace with being childfree, but there are always going to be chutes thrown in my way: the cousin’s pregnancy announcement, the friends celebrating milestones with their children, those moments when I rethink the whole thing and wonder, “What if we got back on the train? What if that risky and expensive treatment worked? What if we adopted?”
But, for every chute that comes along, there’s a ladder that will take me back up. So, the trick to maintaining sanity and finding peace is to keep living for the ladders.