01 March, 2013

Those comments

When we're going through infertility, we fear those* comments.  The comments that are going to hurt, the comments that are judgemental, the comments that accuse us, imply that we are selfish, or not mature enough to be parents, that we are lacking somehow.  Those comments bite into us, and leave scars.  And often, in an attempt to armour ourselves against these comments, we start anticipating them.  We imagine the worst that someone might say to us, so that we will be prepared.  But as we imagine these things, we are doing even more damage to our already damaged psyche.  When what we need to do is heal those wounds.  But sometimes it feels as if the wounds will never be healed, as if the scars themselves will always be painful.

But they won't.  Nine years on since I learned I would never have children, I can tell you they won't.  I've grown so much as a result of this - putting much less emphasis on what other people think, and more emphasis on what I believe.  I have put work into figuring out what it is I believe, and to be comfortable with that.  And the answer is that it won't always hurt.  The pain fades.  You become stronger and more able to cope, even when the comments come.

In particular, I've learned three things that make it easier:

1.  Once you're in your 40s (and eventually, gah - 50s) people don't ask you about when you're having children anymore.  I'm very rarely asked if I have children, and when I am asked, and I just reply "no" the subject is changed.  No big deal.  In your 40s and 50s, people's children are usually growing up, leaving home, and the parents are starting to enjoy (or at least, to anticipate a future when they can enjoy) a child free life themselves.  I figure I have at least a decade or more to enjoy this, before the grandchildren issue kicks in in full force.

2.  You realise that the comments are all about the people who make them - their bias, their ignorance, their insensitivity, and sometimes, their own insecurities.   Let them make judgements, I think now, because they're so ignorant they know not what they do.  If I can, I forgive them for what they've said.  I can laugh at some of the worst comments or judgements.  Because I know they're not true.  It becomes much easier to let them slide off when you don't let them attach in the first place.

3.  I feel confident enough in myself now to counter their statements, to point out if they're just plain wrong, or if they're insensitive or rude or biased against people without children.  I do it calmly, in a nice way, and sometimes jokingly.  I will laugh, but make my point.  I don't put pressure on myself to do that.  But it does feel empowering to be able to stand up for myself, strongly, proudly.

*This post started off as a comment on Life Without Baby


  1. Fabulous post that is so important for people to read. And internalize. And remember on their hard days.

  2. dear Mali,
    loved your point: to put more emphasis on what you believe.

  3. I grow more convinced every day that comments say far more about the person than about the actual words they're sharing ...

  4. So true!! I've noticed point one in particular myself.

  5. To be honest, ever since we decided to live childless-not-by-choice, I can't wait to be over 40. People here can't really guess my real age, though in Indonesia people would be able to guess my age right, but at least in Finland they're not nosy enough to ask personal questions. Even if they do ask, they won't really try to dig deeper - unlike what would happen in Indo. That's why in Indo it's better to just let them say whatever they want or the safest bet would be "Just pray for us." ---> yep, that'd shut them up.

    I tried telling an Indo neighbour once that we'd given up on children and she said, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I'll pray for you!" Okaaaaaaaayyyy...another neighbour (a grandpa) even asked me if my period was regular and then told me to just "be diligent in love-making". *chuckle* Nowadays when I think of going back to Indo, I don't really have to prepare myself mentally anymore 'coz I know where we stand and my IF wounds have mostly healed, but back then when we still sort of hoping to get "magically pregnant", it was tough to go back to Indo 'coz I had to get prepared mentally 'coz some people are bound to ask these things.

    FYI, one friend of mine went back to Indo for her sister's wedding party and in the party a relative asked her if she had kids yet. She said she wanted to wait before they start TTC. This relative then scolded her and gave her a long speech on why she thought it was wrong for her to do that.

    Another friend of mine, a yoga teacher in Indo, has decided long ago with hubby that they'd only have one child. A yoga student of hers (an older mother) kept on telling her that it would be better for her to have another child. People in Indo think that "getting involved (being nosy)" = you care about them. Doh!!!

  6. I get so tired of people telling me to not give up. They are not in my mind or body. I don't know what I am going to do, but they definitely don't know either.

  7. My stock answer has always been "We're thinking about it." and that seems to have worked so far, but I'm looking forward to the day that people stop asking when we're having kids.

    Even after numerous reminders to my own mother that the whole kid topic is off limits, she still works it into most conversations. It's a constant battle that I have to steel myself to deal with.

    It is amazing that people just automatically assume kids are always part of the equation for being an adult. And the idea that their opinion/commentary on what we should be doing or not doing is welcomed or even helpful.