A Party, An Infertility Survivor, and No Social Mishaps
Newsflash folks: It finally happened. I, I Infertility Honesty, attended a party where I hardly knew anyone and everyone had kids and…….wait for it……..NO ONE ASKED ME IF I HAVE ANY.
I repeat: I WAS IN A ROOM – WITH HUMANS, MIND YOU – A WHOPPING 15 OR SO, AND YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT, ALL WITH CHILDREN…….AND NO ONE ASKED ME IF I HAVE KIDS.
Wow. I know, right?
Chalk that up as a Christmas miracle. Or Chanukah, as it were.
I was very proud of myself for going at all, as it was something I would not have been up for the year prior. I still felt half there, half not there, as I’ve been feeling lately. After all, the life experience of parenthood is organically woven into the fabric of human conversation whereas the tumultuous trek from infertility to non – parenthood isn’t. If and when I bring up or contribute anything that is authentic to MY life in conversation, I run the real and constant risk of being minimized by my fellow humans, misunderstood and even judged. As an infertile, and especially as an involuntary childless infertility survivor, the remnants of speaking with people can easily belong to my already too high pile of human disconnect, as well as contributing to the percolation of my craving for solitude. This time, I didn’t add anything to the conversation regarding IF and childlessness, as there was no reason to. The gathering was the lovely idea of my spin class instructor – we got together to rally around of one of our class members who had broken her hip a few months back from a slip and fall.
And, let’s be honest, even the most tuned in public cannot “cure” the void I’m now starting to move around in, as the experience of my children not being here deepens with time. Even the kindest of souls cannot serve as an aversion towards the sparse feeling born from being in a room full of people with children, or more truthfully, in a room full of people none of whom are my children, that sparse feeling that propels tears forward on the drive home. But that really is all of the more reason for people to be sensitive to the traumas and losses that are inevitable parts of human reproduction now then, isn’t it?
I have no idea if the appropriate behavior at this gathering was random, or if the surge of IF related topics lately in the media has actually started making a difference. I know seeing a post on the “Why don’t you have kids?” and “When are you going to have kids?” questions go viral along with a couple of talk show hosts speaking out recently gave me hope – their overall message being “Stop asking!!”
I of course don’t fault people with children for mentioning them in new social situations. That’s only natural – as natural as the voicing of experiences like mine should be. The lack of inclusion and consideration arises with the all too common expectation that I, as a woman, can and should take an interest and be able to relate. It’s the all too pervasive presumption that whoever they are talking to isn’t having or recovering from a miscarriage (or their second or their third), isn’t going through the havoc and hell of fertility treatments, the person to whom they are speaking couldn’t POSSIBLY be someone who wanted children but couldn’t have them for whatever reason, or, like me and my husband, were not medically able to reproduce. Most of the time, truth be told, I want to hear in depth about a stranger’s children as much as they would want to hear about my husband if theirs had just died. And furthermore, just coming to the end of my second year grieving and mourning the loss of my children, this is normal.
I cringe when I think of how many of these inappropriate and thoughtless lead ins my husband has been bombarded with, being exposed to the public in his restaurant business. He received endless and unwelcome “Why don’t you have kids?” and “When are you going to have kids?” overtures while his wife was at home sticking herself with countless needles, recovering from numerous procedures, and grieving yet another loss. And the common question he gets now?
“How many kids do you have?”
It never ceases to amuse me how the fertile mind “works” – happy marriage + successful businesses MUST equal the ability to reproduce. Yes folks, 2 + 2 = 5….haven’t you heard??
“Zero”, my husband will promptly reply. And of course I just love his “Yeah, you want a number?? I’ll give you a number!!” approach.
I actually experience a strange peace when I’m around people such as the aforementioned party guests. I realize it may be completely unfounded and misguided, but it is a peace just the same. Being around people who don’t pester people like me and who are willing to talk about other things makes me feel that should their kids have to deal with infertility one day, such people will do a better job supporting them through it, as opposed to those who find themselves trapped in a constant drool of pronatalism. That things are better for the next generation is so important to me – there is absolutely no reason people after me should have to suffer the medical debacles, social isolation, societal misunderstanding and familial discrimination that my crew did.
Saturday’s gathering was what it was – important support for someone who was injured and is now on their way through recovery. But it was also a fine step forward, whether those present knew it or not, towards the truth our human race has evaded for far too long: Many people suffer trauma and loss on their path through reproducing, and, many people, whether it be individually or as a couple, as it likely has been since the beginning of human history, are not able to reproduce at all. As a society we must set up our verbal construct and social protocols accordingly.