Saturday, June 11, 2016

Something a bit different...

I've been toying with writing this for a while but couldn't decide whether I could a) bring myself to do it or b) handle the exposure.

But you know what, if it helps someone else feel less alone then let's go for it. Maybe it will encourage people to think before they speak too, and avoid them inadvertently causing untold heartache.

No one does it deliberately, or with malice, but for the media/law trained among you, this is a strict liability offence. The intent, or lack of it, in no way mitigates the crime.

The "offence"? Commenting on, or even asking about, someone's childless status.

"Do you have children then?" This was the first question the beautician asked me yesterday while waxing my legs.
It could have been left there, but of course, it wasn't. It never is.
"Oh?" Like I'm some sort of freak who isn't doing what they're supposed to do.
"Why not?" Joking now, with a sort of wink: "Too young?" She can clearly see I'm not too young. In fact, she can see I'm a little too old, if anything.
Now, what can I respond to that? Yes, I'm too young. Loving the freedom. No, but I don't want children.
I could tell the truth. But I can guarantee she won't know where to put herself if I do. So I shrug it off, put on a fake little laugh, and change the subject.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg in reality. Not a day goes by when someone doesn't comment: "Oooh, pregnant?!" to a woman - any woman - who's just announced she feels a bit sick.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who's tried everything to have the family she's always longed for. She might have cried every month for five years when the dreaded "time of the month" yet again slaps her in the face. She'll have had endless hospital appointments, undergone invasive, embarrassing, even humiliating, tests, perhaps had rounds of treatment, maybe even surgery. And yet, every month, it's the same.

One day, she's told there's no hope. And there really is no hope. Not "Oh-go-on-hoilday-and-relax-it-might-happen-hope" not "I've-known-people-who've-been-through-IVF-and-then-they-fell-pregnant-naturally-hope". There is no hope. No medical chance. Zilch. Nada. It's not possible. Will never be possible.

Make no mistake - she's suffering grief. She may not have physically lost a child, but in reality that's exactly what's happened. She's lost the child she imagined, maybe even named.
She might have collected toys or clothes she wanted to give to them one day.
There's the sudden feeling of irrelevance. It's all those mementos she's collected over the years to pass onto her own family. The one that's now - and will forever be - non-existent. The wisdom she wanted to share - how she wanted to teach them the hobbies she's enjoyed - the diaries she saved to one day show them - and the family photos there's no one to share with.
It's trying to find meaning in life without a family. No children = no grandchildren.
It's looking to a future in a care home, with no one to visit her.

Meanwhile, she'll have a disappointed mother, who feels desperate to be a gran, and she'll feel pressure to hold herself together in the face of carrying on with "everyday life", work, making the tea etc. And she doesn't want to upset her equally devastated husband any more than he already is, so she puts on a brave face.

She continues - because what other option is there?

I know what some are thinking at this point - because it's often the standard response. Why not "just adopt". There are plenty of children out there needing families, right? Yes, that may help some. It may not help others. A suggestion that paints her - again, inadvertently - as selfish for wanting her own isn't going to help her feel better. I promise you, she will have considered all the options.

As someone without her own children - perhaps no experience of raising children - she may not feel in a position to do a good job of bringing up an older child, or one with additional care needs - and that's just one potential scenario. There's also the fact that this wrung-out shell of a woman who's been poked, prodded, and suffered untold levels of heartbreak has just been through three, five, maybe ten years of hell. Beginning another drawn-out - maybe another five year - process which puts her under scrutiny and asks her to justify why she should be "approved" to have a family - when most others can just have one, literally no questions asked - is probably something she can't face.

Now remember you're in her shoes. And tell me how you feel when a joking friend - meaning no harm - suggests you might be pregnant - and how you respond to the question of why you have no children at your age?


  1. Thank you for writing this. People assume so much about us as women, that we need to fit into a specific mould or else there's something not quite right with us. I have no kids, have never wanted them or had the opportunity either so I'm in a slightly different place. But being put in a position of having to constantly explain myself or feel that I am for some reason in the wrong is very wearing after a while. It would be great if people can just accept each of us as we are, instead of trying to fit our lives into neat categories. because that makes them feel more comfortable.

    1. And thank you for your comment. It's good to hear from that side too.

      It does seem that as a woman, you're everyone's property. Certainly what you're doing or not doing with your womb seems to be. Men don't seem to be under the same sort of scrutiny, generally.

      It's very difficult in a family-centric society to find where you fit in in these circumstances. Events are always "family" fun days, "family" visitor attractions. There seems to be no place for a "family" of two adults, which only makes you feel worse.

  2. Nice post thanks for posting like this keep posting