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