Anyone out there remember playing the board game LIFE? It’s been years since I spun the wheel of fate, but during a visit with friends who have a seven-year-old daughter and nine- and 11-year-old sons I was invited to put a pink peg in a car and see what life had in store for me. On the living room floor in between turns I watched college football and snacked on cheese, nuts and assorted spreads while the other adults relaxed on the sofa and chairs.
The game didn’t take much concentration since the kids were content to move my car according to my spin result and keep the pay day cash coming my way. I was well into my first glass of wine, and nearly to the end of the game, when I looked down and realized I was the only car without child pegs. I turned to my girl pal and asked her where I could get my kids. She matter of factly explained, “you’ve passed the point where you can have kids,” before reaching over to refill her snack bowl.
What? You mean there are no fertility clinics on the board where I can dole out loads of cash?
So much for escaping reality. Even in the game of life, I was the “infertile” car.
Hey, I think it’s time for a refill of that Pinot Noir …
But there was a silver lining. On the space demanding daycare payment for each child in the care, guess who was exempt?
Later in the weekend my guy and I watched the thought-provoking documentary Food, Inc. Among the many memorable scenes in the film was one involving Barbara Kowalcyk who lost her toddler son after he ate an e.coli-laced hamburger. She turned her pain into action and is now a food advocate who helped bring about Kevin’s Law, the Meat and Poultry Pathogen Reduction and Enforcement Act . In one interview about how people respond to her, she said one of the toughest aspects of her work was dealing with the pity that often comes her way. “It’s not pity I want,” she said. She preferred that people take action.
This brings me to a reader email I received about pity.
“I’m curious to know how you would respond to those who offer over-the-top pity. I know a woman who dramatically talks about our ’empty arms’ and repeatedly says how her heart aches so deeply for us.She did a blog entry about us: ‘I weep knowing how hard they have tried to have a baby and still have empty arms.’ I can’t pinpoint why, but her words turn my stomach inside out. Short of avoiding her, I’d like to know a good way to respond to such extreme comments while remaining poised. Often these comments are presented in person and as you may know, it’s sure hard to think on your feet when you have to respond in the moment.”
I can so totally relate to that uncomfortable feeling. My response would likely be an extension of Barbara’s answer … “We’re trying to move beyond sadness to acceptance. While I appreciate your deep sense of the loss involved it isn’t helpful to be reminded of the pain.”
I’ve found the most helpful responses when someone learns of our experience is simply to acknowledge the difficulties we faced with a quiet and sincere, “I’m sorry,” or “I admire your strength.”
Welcome other responses…
And for those of you who have been waiting for the ebook version of Silent Sorority, your wait is over! It is now available thanks to Smashwords, and can be found at Barnes & Noble. Stay tuned for updates on Amazon.com’s Kindle and the ebook store from Sony.