Thursday, March 24, 2011

say "never"

I had the conversation with my DH's cousin, S, the night before last. It was, of course, horrendous. Not in the sense that she wasn't nice, but no conversation in which you're constrained to say, "My husband told you I am unwilling to be your baby's godmother, and I am calling to apologize for telling you so late and also to tell you that, contrary to what he (for whatever reason) explained, the reason is because I cannot have children and therefore I find baptisms to be miserable," is going to be especially pleasant. Indeed, because she apparently did not understand the email my husband sent her well over a week prior in which he said that I would not be serving as the godmother (I read the email - it was absolutely clear), I had to tell her that she didn't have any godparents (the baptism is this coming Sunday), effectively for the first time. I thought I had just called to give her my miserable song and dance about why I didn't want to do it, and instead I had to be the bearer of bad news, as well. My husband has no concept of how much he owes me for this.

All in all, she was very nice about it (considering the position I put her in), and she wisely pointed out that she hasn't gone through this and can't very well claim to understand what it's like. But she did have a lot of trouble grasping the single fact that I do not want to attend a baptism. Certainly not in the capacity of a godmother. I'm honestly not sure what she thought - I think the idea of someone who is averse to babies was so foreign to her that she was just kind of lost the whole time. But she tried.

This does raise a small pet peeve I'd like to mention, though. I have a couple of girlfriends who share with me the ups and downs of their lives fairly unreservedly. Though I don't actually expect any emotional support, as a matter of policy, I will periodically interject something about infertility into my conversations with them. The reaction that I get is more or less "say as little as possible and wait for her to change the subject." I get that they are in some danger of putting a foot wrong, but I think that response is a pretty profound rejection of me as a person, isn't it? What woman has as a goal that her friends should feel reluctant to share their most personal thoughts and feelings with her? I may not be the most tender-hearted person in the world, but I do everything I can to encourage people to feel good about telling me things.

I have had single girlfriends say that they do not have the emotional stamina to throw one more bridal shower. I was married young and never felt this way about bridal showers, but what did I say? "I'm sure I wouldn't want to if I were you, either." What I want to know is why nobody says this to me. "Of course you don't want to be her kid's godmother. You have enough going on right now." I'm pretty sure what they're refraining from saying is, "Well, you know you can't avoid babies forever, right?" Yes, I know - more's the pity. Would they want that brand of "sympathy" if they were in my shoes? (I even have guy friends who will sometimes say how rough it is still to be single, or that they're lonely, or losing patience. And I listen. However, the unspoken rule that I am forbidden to mention infertility is painted in six-foot letters on their faces. Once in a while I give a tiny push at the edge of the rule, and the subject is instantly changed. What the hell is that?)

Anyway, I have come far afield of my original point. S also said something very odd which I have been mulling over. Early in the conversation, I said, "Obviously, we can't have any kids - well, I don't know whether that's obvious, but - " I always use that wording, simply because a lot of people, principally single people, spend no time thinking about other people's sex lives and have not given the matter any thought. Perfectly sensible approach. But someone who is married, got engaged after we were married, is aware of my frankly obnoxiously public stance on the Church's teaching on sexual morality, and has just had her third child - to her, it can't not be blindingly obvious. But she said, "I didn't know that." I was very surprised, but just said, "well, obviously, we're not using birth control." "Of course not," she replied.

I'm not going to ask her what on earth she is thinking, so I'm left to my speculations, and I only have one guess that makes any sense. Perhaps she has decided that we're having trouble having kids (this seems impossible not to realize), but doesn't think that at this point that equates to we can't have kids. If you have three kids, does trying for almost six years just seem like five minutes' impatience? Would it seem like "can't" rather than "not yet" if I were 39 instead of 29? I had another friend who said "I didn't know that!" when I said that we wouldn't be able to have kids, and I had brought up infertility with him several times, so I was stunned. At the time I thought he was really not mentally well (that is true of him in general) and had somehow not processed my previous comments. But perhaps it was the same thing - he didn't see "having trouble" (no matter for how long) as "can't."

This is a revelation to me. Maybe all of the good Catholic family-oriented people I know accept us as people who have been given a cross to test our patience and who will, when we have finished learning our lessons, finally be joining them in play group. Maybe none of them have contemplated having friends who will never share another stage in life with them - who will be retired early while they work extra years to pay for college tuition, and who will miss all their kids' birthday parties, not just the first few. Maybe they really want to understand us as late bloomers, not people whose lives are fundamentally different.

Maybe that's why nobody can understand when I say "I don't want to hold the baby" or "I don't want to go to a baptism" - why be sour? It will be my kids' baptisms they'll all be attending soon. Only it won't. They'll never buy me a baby shower present; never eat gross frosting at my kid's birthday party; never watch my kid while I run to the restroom, or babysit for me, or hold my child in a baptism photo. That will never happen.

Concededly, I only changed my more public messaging - you know, when people in the office ask inappropriate questions as if they were casual - to "we can't" from "we'll take them any time they're offered" maybe a year or so ago. But the whole "we'd love to have some" message was always a euphemism anyway; it was always "can't." I've just lost interest in sugar-coating it lately. And that sugar-coating is seeming more nauseating all the time.

I don't tell friends that we can't have kids, because everyone already knows we're infertile. But if they're all telling themselves "later" because "never" makes them uncomfortable - if they figure that we'll eventually adopt, like our other friends, and give them some baby stuff in common to talk about - then I need to start my publicity machine again. I have to live with never. A pregnancy at this point would just be the beginning of a beautiful miscarriage [N.B.: I've never been pregnant and don't ever expect to be, but because of my endo and hormone issues, I would have a substantial risk of miscarriage if I were]; but if by some medical anomaly I carried a child to term, it would be an incongruous deus ex machina ending - plucked from the grasp of fate. It would change who I am completely, for good and ill. I'll accept it if it happens, and endeavor to be properly grateful, but I don't get to wait for it expectantly and define my life in light of its imagined inevitability. Neither do they.


  1. I think this is very sane actually. Lay it out there. God, people NEVER DO listen do THEY. I am sorry I read your blog all the time yet I am not 100% sure about your situation in terms of have you had miscarriages before? Sorry to say it so bluntly like this. The only reason I say it is because I really do believe the Dr. Kwak-Kim is the best doctor in this area in the world. Throwing it out there because it was strangers who put me on the right direction which helped me to have a child. And, since I am a stranger, you never know!!

  2. I also feel like I'm done sugar coating. AND...people




    what it means to a person to know they won't have a child. I am very much encouraged by my family to *get over it*. No one has had the balls yet to say it to my face, but I know its there through actions and comments.

    My not being able to have a child makes everyone uncomfortable and no one wants to talk about it.

  3. YOU DO NOT have to attend such functions or do anything baby-related you don't want to do. All of us here know that, of course, but there's no way to explain it to the fertile people of the world. I wish for you understanding people in your life. :(

  4. Fertiles have no idea. Absolutely none. The divide between "us" an "them" is so huge and of course, it seems like the ones on this side are always the ones that are put in the difficult position of having to explain ourselves.

    If the fertiles had a glimpse of the daily pain that we suffer they would not question us. Ever.

  5. Wow, I think you're right. Most people just ASSUME that you'll have a child one way or another and just don't get it. Or at the very least, they assume that you should just "get over it" already.
    I'm glad you got through the conversation with your cousin-in-law. That would have been hard for me to do (I would have chickened out and emailed).

  6. I know!! People understand the same situations surrounding different crosses...but not infertility. I get sick of it! I do believe my friend that it was your blog where I read awhile back a post that basically said, if you have any other cross in life, people rush to your aid to make your cross lighter. But when you have the cross of infertility, it's up to you to make your cross lighter for everyone else...God forbid we make them the slightest bit uncomfortable. Truer words never spoken.

  7. i also think that most (fertile) people assume that everyone will have a child eventually, if they want one, and that you're just having temporary trouble. praying for you as you try to help others see your point of view...

  8. I will never forget the day that a fertile person commented on my blog something along the lines of this:

    "God has put desire for motherhood in your heart and he will fulfill that desire."

    Umm, that isn't the way it works and it's naive to think so. I did a whole post on it because it frustrated me so much.

    I think people do just assume that it will only be a matter of time, and while admittedly, it was for me (assuming this pregnancy continues successfully), I had previously come to the conclusion that it wasn't just a matter of time. I had given up on biological children; it wasn't going to happen for us. We felt (still feel) like we are supposed to adopt, but if we weren't called to that, we would have firmly believed that we would never be parents. And that is the case for some people, no matter if fertiles want to admit it or not.

    I hate when those struggling with IF feel like they have to make their burden lighter on everyone else so they aren't uncomfortable. Forget them; be uncomfortable for a minute, it'll be good for them.

  9. You know, you are right that people assume it will just happen and you are childless "for now" instead of childless "forever". I'm afraid I've been guilty of that, too, and I even have childless family members. I get it.

  10. I wrote out a big long response the other day which wouldn't publish. And since it's Lent, I will refrain from reacting the way I REALLY wanted to react. Grrrr...

    But the gist of what I wanted to say is that I try to make a habit to never say "never" when it comes to the future. Not because I'm some cockeyed optimist (far from it), but moreso because I don't want to presume I know what God's plans are. Additionally, I've seen how hurtful it has been to read time and time again on some infertile's blog, "I can never get pregnant," and then, poof, they're pregnant almost immediately. (Come to think of it, maybe this is all you needed to do all along. Do you have any hpts handy? Lol!) I resolved to not be "that girl" who said never, making the REAL nevers (whether they knew it for certain i.e. total hysterectomy people, or just felt like they were "nevers) feel even worse about themselves if Poof! I became pregnant.

    But I certainly understand where you're coming from, and especially when it comes to the baby shower/birthday party stuff. Baptisms for me are cathartic, but I do completely understand that they are the polar opposite for many, if not most, infertiles.

    What I hate the most about this cross is, as you expressed, the overwhelming feeling we are made to feel by the fertiles that causes us to cater to THEIR comfort levels. WTH?? Oh, I apologize, is my suffering making you uncomfortable? Here, let me take on a little MORE suffering so that you don't have to suffer seeing me suffer. Really? C'mon now.

    As always, I appreciate your honesty, and I'm praying for you.