One of the hardest things about being infertile is coming to terms or reconciling how I relate to other people’s children. Luna’s latest thought-provoking post got me thinking more about this hairy topic.
During the worst of my early infertility days I would find myself irritated and annoyed by the little tykes. It made being around them somehow easier. My logic at the time seemed to be if I don’t connect with them then the pain of not having my own will be alleviated a bit. I was an anti-kid woman who wanted nothing more than to have kids. A bit of a paradox, wouldn’t you say?
Slowly I graduated to being annoyed by parents who thought nothing of filling any and all small talk time with reports of their children’s latest achievements. If you could have seen the thought bubble over my head you’d have read: “And what makes you think I care in the least about Junior’s first tooth (or fill in the blank)?”
Then I’d sneak a glimpse at Junior at a social gathering, his jack o’ lantern smile innocently gazing up at me and, well, I’d melt inside. Oh Junior, I’d think, you’re not the one I need to hold accountable for my inability to conceive. You’re just a sweet-faced little guy who has to make his own way in this world, and like any innocent child, you’ll need all the help and hard-won knowledge of us bigger people.
In time and with some effort on my part a transformation occurred. When I’d catch a child gazing up at me in grocery stores or airports, I’d meet their look and return it with a smile rather than look away in pain as had been my natural instinct. They’d smile back and we’d share a happy moment. The new thought bubble over my head: I may be barren but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a beautiful, innocent child.
Their parents, though, remain a challenge. As Luna points out, her (and my ability) to be comfortable with them is tied to this set of questions: “What is their general attitude towards life and family and infertility (e.g. do they take for granted what they have? do they dismiss people without children? are they oblivious to the the plight of infertiles? are they smug?).
As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, I’m in something of a transition period with acquaintances and colleagues. With those who know of my failed efforts to conceive I’m able to feel a deeper connection to them and their children. With those who err on the side of obliviousness or smugness, I continue to struggle. I hope their beautiful children grow up with greater sensitivity than their parents sometimes demonstrate.