“You are not bad parents to want to keep it secret, I think it is often a braver thing to do”
The above quote is from the Non-Telling thread on Fertility Friends and it intrigued me. Could there possibly be any truth in the second half of this statement. So I started by looking up dictionary definitions of ‘brave’ and came across the following: “courageous, dauntless, perhaps a little bit daring; a person who is brave faces danger or difficult situations with courage”, which led me to try and understand exactly what ‘courage’ means. Apparently this is the ability to do something that frightens one – bravery or strength in the face of pain or grief.
Given these definitions it is very hard to think how NOT doing something that is clearly perceived as potentially causing pain and grief (whilst giving great pleasure in the form of a longed for child at the same time) could possibly be brave, but I thought I’d try it out.
Could it be considered brave to – not want to face up to infertility or the consequences of your own decision making; to go ahead with donor conception but carry on as if you haven’t; to lead others and your child to believe that they are genetically linked to both parents when they are not; to evade questions or lie when asked about family resemblances and habits; to hold a fundamental secret from a child when a parent’s first duty is to be their child’s moral guide and compass. I don’t think so.
But the Oxford English Dictionary in their definition of ‘brave’ did begin to give me some clue as to what the author of the quote above might have been referring to. OED says brave has to do with being “ready to face and endure danger or pain” and this is just what the non-telling parents on this thread seem to be doing already, even though their children are still tiny. One in particular is enduring relatives endlessly banging on about the child not looking like what is actually the non-genetic parent. The danger of energy being sapped by constantly being on the watch out for questions about family likenesses (and all families talk about them), of children picking up the clues about something being wrong because parents are pre-occupied and evasive, of rifts in relationships because of secret keeping. These and many other situations are likely to bring grief and pain in the future. Could it really be brave to be taking this on or actually rather sad, lacking in courage and quite the opposite of dauntless and daring? Fear is a very poor basis for raising a family.
So perhaps the non-tellers really are braver because I certainly don’t think ‘telling’ is particularly brave. It’s just the right thing to do…and so much easier than keeping a secret.