Some people see the headline or the picture that comes with an article about infertility and they don’t even start reading: they just scroll right down to the end without stopping. They’re looking for a clue that shows how the story finishes.
They might not be looking for the happy ending that the next person is looking for, but they are looking for a happy ending all the same.
I know this because I read the comments under an article in the Guardian a couple of months ago called ‘IVF: ‘It’s overwhelming and shocking at every single turn‘.
The article has a photo of a contented-looking couple at the top, so you start to read it thinking, ‘Ah! A rare story about a couple who failed fertility treatment but are clearly living a happy life without kids’. Inspiring.
You feel validated: this is about to affirm that all is well with your path in life. Thanks, Guardian, for once.
But there’s a niggle and you scroll down. There it is, the final photo: they’re now a family of four with twin daughters.
So you skim it, or abandon it, because it negatively challenges your own narrative, reminds you that you gave all that up. Failed. Took a different road.
Shove it, Guardian.
You couldn’t find anyone, out of the thousands who ended up without the family?
I’m not some kind of misanthrope. I counted at least twenty-five people in the comments section who said they felt the same.
No one blamed the family; no one wanted to take away their happy ending. But some of them, for reasons of self-preservation that others might scoff at, thought that the second photo should have been at the top.
And for a while that day I marveled, because I had honestly thought I was alone: scrolling down, fast-forwarding and page-flipping, seeking out alternative happy endings that match my own.
Because it will be a happy ending, just not the one that most people expect.