I think that the most difficult thing to face (aside from losing my baby) as I walk my way down this road is the dreaded, “So, do you have any children?” question from people. One thing I have learned from my infertility journey is about the level of personal questions one should ask a stranger. Let’s face it if you’re asking me if I have children, then we’re pretty much strangers. The people who know me well, know I do not have any children, know about my IF journey, and know about my loss.
That question, of all things that we have to face everyday, is the worst. The conversations about children and pregnancies can be drown out by focusing attention elsewhere, or using the suggestion I found on Pamela Jeanne’s blog. (post from 9/10/2007) Thanks, by the way, for that wonderful idea! The pregnant bellies, I can choose to only look the person in the eye and not allow my eyes to move downward toward the belly. Seeing babies or hearing them cry, I can look the other way or run away as fast as I can. But the question is inescapable. It is asked directly to you, most of the time with other people around.
Our society defines people by the number of children they have. I don’t know why after explaining to someone I’m meeting for the first time about myself, my hobbies, and my interests, they still feel the need to ask about children. Is that the only thing that matters? Isn’t who I am just as important, even without children? I suppose people are just looking for some commonality and most people my age do have children who consume a big portion of their lives. So that’s what they ask about. That’s what they talk about. But I think the world could use a little etiquette lesson.
I’ve been asked the question lots of times and still have not learned how to answer. I haven’t learned how to hide my humiliation or hurt when it’s asked and I’m stammering. I haven’t learned whether or not I want to share with these strangers that I do have a child, he just was never born, he’s just not living. Most of the time, I simply answer no and try to move on as quickly as possible. But it doesn’t always feel right to do that. At times, I feel like if I don’t speak up, and help people to realize how uncomfortable it makes people to have to go around a room full of people and tell how many kids you have then nothing will ever change. I won’t be doing anything to reach my goal of working to educate people about the emotional toll infertility takes.
Sometimes, I can anticipate the question being asked and those are the times when I feel like I should be more open. Now the dilemma occurs when I try to decide which approach I should take for this game. Should I try to be the first one to introduce myself and set the tone by talking about my hobbies, and my interests and not making any reference to children or families? The question could still be asked. Or should I let the other person (or everyone else in the group if that is the case) give their bios and when it’s my turn say, “Hi, I’m L. I don’t have any living children. I do have a cat who I treat like my baby, he often sleeps right between my husband and I, we love him dearly, would you like to see pictures? Oh, and I spend my free time cycling (fertility treatments, not bikes), reading books and blogs about infertility and pregnancy loss and trying to advocate for insurance coverage for all infertility treatments.” Seems snarky, but why is it ok for the infertile person in a group to be made to feel uncomfortable and not ok for others to feel that way?
There has got to be a happy medium between not saying anything and my (maybe) overly dramatic remark. Where do I find the middle ground?
I will bet my house that I will be in this situation next week at a work staff meeting. We have a new employee starting and the meeting is her first day on the job. I’ll be pondering this topic until then. (**suggestions appreciated**)
And, I’ll have the added benefit of being under the influence of Gonal-f at that point so who knows what will happen! Could get crazy! Fun times, fun times.