Friday, June 20, 2014

Is that how you see me?

I've worked really hard to not let infertility affect every aspect of my life. Sometimes it does, but I always try to come back after and separate my infertility feelings from my actual feelings of the situation. I also don't tell many people that we're infertile. My group of confidantes is my immediate family, my mother-in-law, three friends and two aunts. It's hard to talk about it for me, especially since my family is...well, super-ridiculously-fertile. My mother has 7 siblings, all have 3+ children and all of their children have 3+ children. Most were born even before my cousins finished high school (for another post). Anyway, we're fertile. Ridiculously fertile. As a matter of fact it's a family joke that we're all so incredibly fertile that even birth control can't take us down. Because almost everyone of those people have gotten pregnant on birth control....almost everyone. They joke about it like it's pesky, like it's a pain in the butt and these damn kids keeping coming in and adding to the chaos. It's more of an inconvenience for them than a miracle or a dream.

So, I don't like to share my infertility. It's just too personal and I'm not sure I'm ready yet.

I always wondered how people perceive me - I am married, young, and dedicated to my fur babies with no mention or interest in discussing any children on the horizon. So I'm sure they all assume I just don't want kids.

I was talking to my dog trainer - Callie - yesterday, who also works at my vet clinic. She is married, has five dogs, and no kids. She's in her early 40s. We were chatting about a puppy group I was bringing The Fuzz to, but she's getting pretty big. Callie was saying how I'm welcome to keep bringing her for the next couple weeks, but then we'll probably have to either upgrade to a bigger class or stop coming. I expected that, The Fuzz poops bigger than some of the puppies that come. Anyway, Callie was going over the list of dogs coming to next week's class and she was talking about how she didn't know if one of the retriever puppies would be coming because her mom was due to give birth that day. She laughed and said "I'll just never understand these people having human babies...gross." She said, and then launched into a rant against babies and children who she called "more work than puppies and not nearly as cute". She was talking like she wanted me to commiserate with her, but I just kept trying to change the subject. When I left, all I could think about was is that what she thinks of me?

Sure, I don't talk about having my own kids but I fawn all over any one else's kids, and pregnancies and families. I love children, and I don't hide that from anyone. Kids are great. How did she deduce that just because I don't have kids, means I don't actually like kids?

And sure, there's a possibility that she's struggled herself and responding in dislike/guarded is what gets her through. Or there's a possibility she really doesn't like kids. Either way, her opinion is valid and she is certainly entitled to it - I'm just in awe of how she seems to perceive me. It dawned on me that she has never seen me with kids. The puppy class is all puppies and adults. She hasn't seen me loving on my nephews or oohing and aahing over a baby in the grocery store. Or taking a minute to smile and wave at a little kid who is in that "Hi" stage where they wave to everyone. She's only ever seen me with my dogs, who I love like children.

Having said all this, prior to being infertile if I had met someone who was married, had a life built, didn't have children but had pets she treated like kids...I would absolutely assume she didn't want kids. And, as a society, we seem to confuse a desire not have kids with a dislike for kids.

I remember having a teacher in high school and when a friend and I asked her if she had kids or was going to have kids, she responded with "such personal questions girls!". I remember being surprised by her response ("It's not personal, everyone has kids!") and deciding she hated children. That opinion of her I carried until I started my own infertility journey and realize how much bigger the world is than just people who have kids, or who hate kids.

Next time something like this comes up, I'm not going to be quiet and shocked but I'm going to respectfully make it clear that I love kids and would love to have kids, and pregnancy/birth is beautiful. That's the only way I know how to show people I do want kids and I do love kids even if I don't have them...not having them simply means that I don't currently have them. I should make a t-shirt or bumper sticker that reads "Childless doesn't mean baby hater. It means that I currently don't have kids, and holds no bearing on my emotional reaction to children. That is all."

Side cute is this shirt? I happen to know three little boys who could wear it!


  1. Yes - just because you don't have a child yet doesn't mean you should be defined by that - TOTALLY agree!!!!

  2. This is interesting and something to consider. I know two opposite examples of people without kids to reflect on. One couple dislikes kids, would never have them and only has a dog. The other couple chose not to have babies, but like kids and are great with them. You never know what is in someone's heart. Some just want to wait to accomplish some things first while others are having issues conceiving. One should never assume.

  3. First time poster here.
    I think people are always looking for others who they can relate to. It was rude of her to assume that you feel like she does because you don't have kids yet.
    You're idea of being honest is exactly the right way to handle in.

    Also, in my way of relating to you, I want to say I understand how you feel about keeping your infertility private. I was like that, too. Now for some reason, I just came out with it. Not a decision I made, it just started to come out slowly.

    Good luck to you with everything.

  4. Your family sounds like our family: "we are all superhumanly fertile." My cousin thinks she got pregnant the day after her cycle started. So it was quite a shock for everyone when we told them that we were infertile. Sometimes I feel like it makes them more sensitive towards us, actually, which is a blessing.

  5. Wow. I don't think most people would make that kind of assumption. I would hope that the few people who actually feel this way would know that they are not the majority and know better than to assume that a childless person is so by choice. I would never ever assume that.

  6. Hi, just stumbled upon your blog via the ICLW and wanted to say 'hi'.

    I agree with you, it's tough being the only infertile in a super-fertile family. A lot of my cousins have 3+ children (a lot of them much younger than me) so I often feel like the odd one out and wonder what those family members who don't know the full ins and the outs of our situation think of us.

    I remember always thinking that people who didn't have kids didn't want kids. Little did I know and my eyes have indeed been opened as a result of this infertility journey..

  7. I completely agree! As an infertile with a dog I consider my "baby" (she's an 8 lb Chihuahua so it's not that far fetched!) I'm sure people have thought the same thing about me. I have only recently started being more vocal about it, but still only to those I feel very comfortable with.

  8. I didn't think much of the "Do you want/when will you have kids" question until I was about to get married. suddenly, everyone wanted to know. I thought it was annoying until my miscarriage, and then I realized just how personal the question is.

    I'm slowly starting to come out and be more vocal about my miscarriage and postpartum depression/anxiety issues. It isn't always easy, but sometimes it makes people realize that some of their questions/comments can hit a nerve if the other person is struggling.

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    I didn't think too much of the "when will you/do you want" kids question until I was about to get married. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know. It was annoying, but I didn't understand how personal of a question it could be until I had my miscarriage.

    I am slowly starting to be more open and honest about my miscarriage and postpartum mood issues. I'm finding that when I start talking, there are people who are like "ME TOO!" These and infertility are lesser talked about issues regarding family building that I really think need to be discussed more (when/if a person is ready to do so if it's coming from a personal point).

  10. Here from the roundup.
    I remember that exactly : "Or taking a minute to smile and wave at a little kid who is in that "Hi" stage where they wave to everyone."
    And I get teary eyed a little.
    Now my little miracle girl is in that "Hi" stage. She would look at you with her big, dark blue eyes. You'd wave, two times, three, and suddenly she would wave back. Your smile would grow a bit, as would hers. You wouldn't notice the tear in the corner of my eye, and I wouldn't notice yours... (She also loves peek-a-boo. And I would love to introduce her to a kind dog)

  11. It took me a long time to come out as an infertile... and even after I did, I still received comments from family members that were hurtful, even if they were unintentional.

    I am an adoptive mama now, after 10 years of battling infertility. There is virtually no hiding the fact that I am infertile as a result of it, and I'm honestly ok with it now. I've learned to be vocal about infertility and it has helped me become more secure with it ... and has helped to bridge gaps with people who don't understand or who are going through the same thing I was and not knowing how to voice it.

    It takes time though. For the most part, I think people are generally well-intentioned ... although sometimes it does take a bit of gentle guidance to get them to stop saying stupid shit!

    Best of luck!

  12. And I was totally going to highlight this blog in Mel's roundup and then saw that she already included you! Yay! Great post!

  13. I used to use the "oh no, why would I want kids?" joking/deflecting defence. I married young, and didn't want children young, so set up this defence as the norm. I found it quite helpful because by the time I was trying to conceive and going through my pregnancy losses, people didn't ask me any more. They would have made an assumption I didn't want children, which wasn't true. But that never bothered me, because if I didn't know them, I didn't care what they thought about me. It was my business and only my business.

    The woman who said this too might have been through her own stuff. We can never know what is behind someone's comments. Maybe she says that because it comforts her if she can't have children? Maybe not. I don't know. I'm just sorry that her comments hurt you.

  14. I agree with the above commenter who stated that dog trainer probably was looking for someone vent to, someone she thought she had common ground with. But she made a mistake to assume that you shared her feelings about children. I used to think nothing of asking people if they had kids or even teasing a bit, but since we've been living with infertility I *never* joke about it anymore, and I don't even make casual inquiries, because I know how much that can hurt. I just can't assume I know why a couple or individual doesn't have children (unless they choose to share). But if you start with the assumption that everybody can have kids just by having sex, and that it's all a matter of wanting kids or not, then it's easy to make judgments about why they do or don't have kids.


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