This very wise and compassionate little girl said
"It must be very hard for Befana to go into the toy stores to buy children presents when she can’t have a child of her own. We may have even seen her in disguise when we’ve been in a toy store, pretending that she is just a regular woman and looking very sad."That simple paragraph really affected me. I wanted to hug her. I marvelled that a child could show so much more empathy than so many adults, who never think about what it might cost us (and I'm not talking in monetary terms here) to buy or make gifts for the children in our lives, the children of other people. I've written elsewhere how it bugs me that I make the effort to buy things for nieces and nephews, but - because they live so far away - never get to see them with the gifts, and rarely see photographs or often even any acknowledgement that the gifts were received at all. I don't want effusive praise. I just want to know the gifts arrive! (I will note though that my sister (who reads this blog) - mother of Charlie who features on A Separate Life from time to time - is very appreciative!) In those initial years after I ended my efforts to have a child, it was extremely difficult and often painful to buy those gifts, so the lack of acknowledgement was particularly painful and lacking sensitivity or compassion. It was never easy to enter into a toy store, or walk into Pumpkin Patch or Just Kids. This young girl understands that, yet adults who knew what I'd been through didn't. (Or perhaps they did, and never acknowledged it? And that's a different post.) Once I made it across the threshold of the toy or clothing store, the questions at the till - "Are you on our mailing list?" and "Would you like to be?" - always made me feel as if I needed to explain why I was there. Now though, I usually just say "No" and "No" and feel much less bothered. Yet I feel the questions, in a way that I don't feel those same questions at any other store.
But yes, in those early days I did feel like a fraud. Like Mel's daughter, I didn't feel as if I - a childless woman - was a regular woman in any way. Time passes though, and now I do feel like a "regular woman." I go to the toy stores quite happily, sometimes even gloatingly, as I can go during school hours, when they are peaceful and empty! As an aunt, I have great fun looking at toys and not worrying where to store them or how much noise or mess they will make. I'm also the aunt who has bought (and buys) cool clothes for so many of my nieces. I enjoy doing that. I used to feel a fraud, as if I had gone into these stores in disguise, and used to feel sad, but no longer. And that is because, in my own head I have redefined my view of who is a regular woman. I know now that so many of us go through infertility and loss that it is an integral part of being a woman. A regular woman. Like me. Like you. Like all of us.