"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Monday, 2 April 2018

Infertility Chat: Maybe I Don't Want To Babysit Your Kids

I've been on a blogging hiatus these past few months, but I'm back to talk about something that has bothered me lately. I've had a few instances where discussion of my infertility has led to responses such as the following:
"I bet you're a great babysitter!"
"You can babysit my kids!"
"If you lived closer, you could come and 'mom' my kids some time!"

I want to give benefit of the doubt that no one intended for these comments to be hurtful or inappropriate, but you know what, they are, and I'm going to unpack the reasons why.

Firstly, sometimes these people are joking. This falls into the same category of  the nudge-nudge "You can have my kids!" statements that I get occasionally. These are the worst kind of comments. Do not do this. My infertility is not a joke. The fact that you can have kids and I can't is not funny. I understand that this topic may make someone so uncomfortable, but that doesn't make it okay to laugh about it to somehow lighten the mood. There may be times when I lean on dark humour, but that is my own prerogative as the hurting, grieving person. If I am being serious and sharing a deeply personal grief, there is no call for you to make a joke, particularly one that is not really funny anyway. If you're that uncomfortable, it's far better to just say, "I don't know what to say. I'm sorry you're going through this."

Even if they are meant seriously, these comments turn the focus back on the person responding. I've shared something about my own personal grief, and instead of mourning with me or asking how they can be supportive, it's turned into an opportunity for ME to do THEM a favour (babysit their kids), while somehow be phrased like it's a gift to me. This is not okay. I am happy to help my actual friends, the people who have sat with me and listened to me and wept with me. If a genuine friend needs a helping hand with her kids, then I am happy to oblige, but presenting it like you are doing something super nice to me by "offering" the chance to do what your 16-year-old neighbour does for an hourly rate is not loving or kind.

I understand your train of thought. You think that spending time with children will fill that spot in my heart, will make me feel like an almost-mom, but the truth is that it might not. I help in the nursery at Bible study occasionally, and while it is sometimes fun, I almost always end up crying in my car afterwards because holding those babies just reminds me that I'll never hold my own babies. If being around other people's kids filled that void, I would just work at a daycare. In other areas of life, we understand that this mindset is silly. If a friend were out of work, you wouldn't offer to let them come to work with you for the day to experience what it's like to be employed. If a friend is single and depressed about it, you would never think to say, "Why don't you spend the day with my husband?" We understand that our friend doesn't want to just spend the day with a man, but is in fact wanting a long-term, committed relationship to someone they love. Likewise, my desire to be a mother is not because I just want to spend lots of time with children. It's about the family life that I had pictured for us, the relationships that would develop, getting to know a little person who is a bit like me and a bit like Gil and also something extra and unique, and watching that person grow and learn over a lifetime. An evening spent watching your kids while you go to the movies will not fill that hole.

I've said it before and I will say it again, but someone else's infertility is not your problem to solve. The absolute best thing you can do is listen and grieve, and ask if there is some way for you to offer practical support. Please allow me the agency to decide what will and will not be helpful to me in my own grief without deciding on my behalf that your suggestion is just what I need.

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