The comments on today’s post have been really wonderful. Mara and I are delighted to hear the lessons many of you have learned as you’ve dealt with infertility either now or in the past. There is a lot of wisdom in what you’ve all said, so thank you very much. I suppose some of what I will say only echoes many of your words.
I write primarily in response to Molly, who asked…
Q: How do you deal with all of the awkward questions related to having kids?
I don’t know how often we get asked those awkward questions. That’s either because 1) many people already know our situation because we are very open about wanting kids and the nature of our struggles (hence a blog), or 2) I don’t feel like the questions they do ask are awkward to us any more. Although 1) is largely true, I think 2) has a lot more to do with it.
So why aren’t the questions we still get awkward to us? Well, I think it’s because Mara and I won’t let them be. We both more or less refuse to be offended (being offended, like many other things we’ve talked about on this blog…is a choice).
I choose to believe that most people have genuinely good motives behind even the dumbest/most insensitive things they say (just because they have good motives doesn’t make it right, but it sure frees me from being angry or upset about it). So if someone were to say to me “Now we just need to get you two a baby!”… I’m usually totally upfront and say, “I know, wouldn’t that be great!” Maybe add a little humor with “I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not for lack of trying”, or “I know, do you know where we can get one?”
The truth is, if your friends or family or coworkers knew that what they said offended you (or if they knew you were struggling with infertility), most people would never say it. And if that’s the case, then why do we walk around being offended and hurt? They didn’t even know…or if they did know they themselves are so awkward they don’t even know how to properly express anything…in which case they are the ones who need pity, not me 🙂
Maybe that person just really really loves kids and all the joy kids bring into their lives…so they wonder “why on earth don’t you have them yet, don’t you know how wonderful it is to be a parent?” They probably love kids just as much as you love them. Most people aren’t out to get us! If anything, they’re trying to spread around a little of what makes them happy, assuming that what they say will indeed make you happy. Or when they say something like “trust me, you’re lucky you don’t have one of these poop machines”…that’s their way of envying YOU without realizing you’d trade the freedom of no kids for an exploded poopy diaper any day! And the truth is, so would they, but complaining is part of normal social interaction, strange as that may sound.
What I’m trying to say is that even if you know someone who is really annoyingly tactless, they probably have your best interest at heart (or like I said, they’re just as guilty of envying your freedom as you are of their parenthood), and just don’t have a clue how to express it. The more I choose to see others in that way, the less I’m offended and the more I love. The more I love, the happier I am.
P.S. Although I haven’t felt any awkwardness surrounding infertility, I did feel that way a little regarding my divorce, especially when what was happening was known only by me. Even after my wife moved out I hardly told a soul for months…mostly because if she decided to come back, I didn’t want her to feel weird at future social gatherings. I wasn’t necessarily offended by what people said, but I was always anxious about avoiding the subject of wife / family / etc, mostly because I felt like I was lying to them. When I realized divorce was inevitable and became more open about it, things got a lot easier. In fact, I was often touched by how much people tried to lift me up now that they DID know. Funny thing was, by then I was doing just fine. Sometimes I wished I’d just opened up sooner so I didn’t have to pretend my home life was perfectly fine, it would have allowed people to extend a little extra needed love in my direction. Is it possible too many of us decide to keep infertility a secret?