Would You Rather Be Blind or Infertile?

Dawn Davenport


would you rather be blind or infertile

Surely I’m not the only one who played the “Would You Rather Be Deaf or Blind?” game in elementary school?  We always started by saying that you HAD to choose—none of this sitting on the fence, being wishy-washy, and trying to cover your bases business with us.  No sir, we required commitment.  Sides were drawn pretty early and opinions seldom changed, but that never stopped us from arguing the merits and demerits of our chosen disability.

I received an email from one of our Creating a Family community who described a lunch with friends where she was ranting (her word) about the cost of infertility treatment.  She said she’d rather be blind because at least then treatment would be covered by health insurance and people would understand what she was going through.  Talk about a conversation stopper.  Her friends stared at her horrified, and one became angry that she would even think to compare infertility to a TRUE disability such as blindness.  “Living without kids is not a disability like living without sight.”

So I ask you– if you HAD to choose would you rather be blind or infertile?  Is a life without children a disability on par with living without sight? Or is this blasphemy as the friends thought above?

Is it Callous to Compare?

Looking back, there is a certain cringe-inducing quality to my childhood game—a bunch of able-bodied kids debating the plusses and minuses of disabilities we don’t have. Some might worry that it almost tempts fate. (Fortunately, my faith system doesn’t include a God who zaps people for such thoughts in order to teach a lesson.)

This game can certainly also be seen as callous. How dare a group of blessedly healthy, able kids debate the relative pros and cons of truly debilitating conditions. In fact, however, I believe that this game moved us toward empathy. In order to choose sides, we had to really put ourselves in the skin of someone who couldn’t see or couldn’t hear. We had to walk in their shoes to try to imagine what it would be like and then explain this to others.

Walking in the Shoes of an Infertile

Overcoming the pain of infertility is lifelong. “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”~Helen Keller

That’s what I wish others would do for the infertile—really imagine what it would be like to desperately want something that comes so easy to everyone else, but eludes you. What it’s like to not be able to achieve what you’ve dreamed of since childhood.

**To save every penny to pay for treatment, possibly again and again, without any guarantee of success.

**To know that by paying for treatment, you might not be able to afford your other options for becoming parents.

**To constantly have to reassess what it is you really want out of parenthood and life, and weigh the costs-financial and emotional.

**To have a disease or a disorder that receives so little sympathy from our society and as a result so little support.

Nowadays, I hate the notion of comparing pain; which disease is worse; which condition would I rather not have; who has the worst life. I recognize that suffering is suffering, and I pray for compassion, even if I can never truly understand or imagine the pain. In my deaf vs. blind stage, I read and reread The Story of My Life and The Miracle Worker.  Ms. Keller’s words are worth living by:

Although the world is full of suffering,
it is full also of the overcoming of it.
My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil,
but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good
and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good,
that it may prevail.
~Helen Keller

First published in 2012; Updated in 2018
Image credit:  Sasquatch I
Image credit: Cuba Gallery

29/08/2018 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 15 Comments

15 Responses to Would You Rather Be Blind or Infertile?

  1. Avatar POFPrincess says:

    Blind. I’m already blind in one eye and as a child I sometimes had to go days without my sight in my good eye to try and treat the blind eye. As a teen young adult sometimes I try to honor Hellen Keller by using my blind eye and practicing navigating and reading braille. I would be devastated if I lost my good eye. But I was absolutely horrified and suicidal when I found out I can’t have babies and that adoption is actually not as easily available as the general public believes. As a already less sighted person I believe I would be uncomfortable but okay if I was fully blinded because I researched blind mentors and I believe I would have the support and encouragement of my family and the blind community. But as a person with infertility I can say I would prefer to be blind. Know one in my family understands. They just say “You should adopt” without understanding the realities or challenges of the situation.

    If you are blind you can put bells on your toddlers feet to know where they are. You can cuddle your baby and feel their heart beat. When you are infertile you will always wonder where your baby is and hold other peoples children while desperately wishing you could hold your own.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Thank you for your perspective. It’s surely a poignant one, considering your journey.

    • Avatar JPF says:

      thank you for sharing – you hit it home – no one understands how this is not something one just “gets over” or “learns to live with” – there are reminders everywhere – we are face to face with our fate with every commercial, church service, BBQ, family visit, etc. It never goes away, and worse, it is NEVER accepted. jtc

  2. Avatar MJ says:

    As someone with IF, I would have to say: I would prefer to have both my sight and my fertility, but I would also prefer to live in a world where ALL people, regardless of their disability, would receive the resources and supports they need to live their lives to the fullest. THAT is at least something that we can all work towards. Thanks

  3. Avatar Brandley says:

    Thanks for some wonderful post. Gives me something to think about. I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the search for such info.

  4. Avatar alex p. says:

    Thank for posting when the question is on you then it is very personal; the answer is very different when it is from your heart.

  5. Avatar Shadow the Adoptee says:

    Thank you Dawn. I have to admit, as a blind person, the thing I have most struggled with is the loss of visual communication. Without the ability to see a person’s body language, facial expressions, well, a lot of the time, I’m, uhm, left in the dark? I am never certain I have interpreted the tone in someone’s voice correctly. Because I cannot see a person’s face, to know by their expression, if they understand what I am saying, I cannot be certain I have communicated what I really want to convey. It’s a bit like blogging, I suppose. You never know how the reader will interpret the meaning of your words. Yes, the inability to communicate fully, meaning visually and audibly, and with certainty, is a huge adjustment, and major loss. On behalf of deaf and blind people everywhere, thank you for recognizing the loss of communecation, the difficulty that loss brings about, and the importance of it. So many people really never comprehend that.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      I love your analogy to blogging and all online communication. I worry that my words or the words of others are easy to misinterpret because they are void of body language and inflection. As much as I dislike emoticons and the assorted netspeak acronyms (LOL, IMO, etc.) I do find that I use them periodically to reinforce my meaning and intent.

  6. Avatar Shadow the Adoptee says:

    Thank you Robin for your words. As a blind adult, I have experienced first hand what you have described. As a blind person, with a generally positive attitude, who does numerous things sighted people can do, and has never let my blindness stop me from anything, except maybe getting behind the wheel of a car and hitting the highway for a road trip (all by myself, cause would you get in the car with me), perhaps performing open heart surgery on a patient would be a teeny bit difficult, performing a root canal were I a dentist (Would any of you want to be my patient?), possibly directing trafic, at a busy street corner, might be a little out of the question too, (hmmm, but what a thrill for all that would have to be. lol), I can tell you that I, nor any other blind person, however, cannot do everything a sighted person can do. I am perfectly capable of doing many things, but I do them differently than a sighted person. I can never see a beautiful red rose, an eagle sore across the sky, or my husband’s handsome face. Technology has made my life as a blind person more enjoyable, given me many options Helen Keller never had, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. Yes, I can live a happy, satisfied life, but I can never live the life I lived before I lost my sight. Though I know many blind people, who will agree that they can do everything a sighted person can, I’ve lived as both, and as a blind person long enough to know, that is just not true. I spent years telling myself it was, until I had to face the truth, accept that I was “not” just like a sighted person, would never be, and that was O.K. I don’t have to be, do, whatever, just like everyone else, who has sight. I’m different. Sometimes, I need help because I cannot see, and that doesn’t make me less than a normal, sighted person, just different.

    Technology, a positive attitude, and determination, cannot make me just like a sighted person, anymore, than adoption can make someone,who is infertile, a biological mother.

    Whether it is blindness, or infertility, we all have unhappy facts about our lives we have to deal with and accept. For those of us, who were not born blind, but lost our sight later in life, yes, there is most definitely a significant loss to grieve. For those born blind, the loss is just as significant. As children grow up, and begin to wonder what does the color blue look like, what their mother’s face looks like, etc. Yes, blind people wonder, and grieve that loss. Like many adoptees, we just don’t talk about it, perhaps, because it makes us too sad, because we know it’s something we cannot change, perhaps because we don’t know how to express a loss for something se’ve never see, or can’t describe.

    FTR: I would rather be infertile, with the hope of adoption, than blind with no hope of ever getting back my sight. To me, that is the difference. As painful as infertility must be, you can still become a parent through adoption. I have a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. There is no cure, and though there are many treatments in the experimental stage, which give me some small bit of hope, not one of them is a feasible solution to getting back my sight anytime in the near future. Adoption is, and always has been, an option for infertile couples, even if it isn’t your first choice for becoming a parent. There is that hope. At the moment, even though medical insurance could cover treatment for my blindness, there is no treatment; no plausible hope for now.
    So I’d ask those of you, who said you’d rather be blind, to rethink that position. Really? FTR, Dawn, deaf or blind? Hmmm, been asked that one too. It’s a no win situation. Since I’m already blind, I answer I’d rather be blind, and have my music. Truth is I’d adjust to either, but both deaf and blind together? Wouldn’t want that for anyone.

    Shadow, the other blogger on The Adopted Ones blog.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Oh Shadow, how beautifully written. No, I can’t imagine being both deaf and blind either. I think the reason I read so much about Helen Keller is because I couldn’t/can’t imagine it. I taught deaf kids for a little while, and to me the hardest part about deafness is the loss of communication. I hope the resarch money comes in and that they are able to find a cure for your disease–soon! The lbog that Shadow referred to is The Adopted Ones, which should be on your list of weekly blogs to read. http://theadoptedones.wordpress.com/

  7. Avatar Robyn says:

    Well, I’d rather be infertile.

    I worked for a software company, and one of my main tasks was developing technologies to make documentation accessible to blind readers. The blind are seriously un- and underemployed. They face incredible obstacles. Not to mention the fact that they can’t see.

    Infertility could be included in the definition of “disability”. However, infertility doesn’t stop one from obtaining a job. It doesn’t make getting an education any more difficult. It doesn’t prevent a person from doing any number of important, everyday tasks that most of the sighted take for granted.

    Sherry, just out of curiosity, I wonder if you asked your daughter if she could have her sight, but would never be able to have biological children, which would she choose?

  8. Avatar Sue says:

    Yes, I would rather be blind. It is a terrible disability, but nothing compared to the despair that our infertility journey has taken us.

  9. Avatar In Vitro Fertilization says:

    Howdy! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I truly enjoy reading your blog posts. Thanks!

  10. Avatar Sherry says:

    Due to years of infertility, I moved on to adoption. I just happened to adopt a blind child. I would say I would rather be blind.Seeing my daughter and meeting lots of blind adults, I realize they can do everything I can. it is not near the disability I thought it would be. Instead of looking at what’s cooking in the pan, my daughter can smell it and tell what’s for dinner. However, with infertility, you can’t do things to compensate. It is a pain you just can’t describe.
    I don’t get the sense that blind people carry a deep emptinessby not being able to see.

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