I was having a conversation with someone who I met recently, and within the context of the conversation this person asked if my husband and I had any children. I stated that we did not, and the person proceeded to say things like, “Oh, when you have kids it will be wonderful. You’ll love every minute of it.” I responded with, “Oh, I’m 44 years old, I don’t need to have kids at this age, ha haha!” The reply, “Oh, lots of people have kids at that age, and you look so young, it wouldn’t be bad if you did!” I interrupted the happy banter with, “We aren’t having children. I can’t have kids.”
Without missing a beat, this person responded with, “Well, you can adopt! There are so many wonderful things about having a child. And when you get older, it’s really great to have them around, and they can take care of you . . .” It just went on and on ” . . . And think of your parents, they would love to have grandchildren to play with and it would just be wonderful . . . ” I felt like I had been kicked in the gut repeatedly, and finally just smiled and said, “Yes, that is something to definitely think about,” and excused myself from the conversation.
As I walked away, anger welled up inside of me. Why did this person make it their business to educate me about the “joys” of having children? At 44 years of age, did they think I woke up one day and said, “Oops! I’m 44 and I forgot to think about having kids!” And when I explained that I couldn’t have children, I was rewarded with an education about adopting, as well as throwing in the guilt trip about the never-to-be grandparents.
If you have gone through this, you know too well the moment it really hits you that kids are not going to happen for you. You also know too well the re-opening of the familiar wound every time someone has a conversation like this with you. You know that fake smile on your face, the scrambling in your brain for something to say that might lighten the conversation or to change the topic all together. You know the deep pain you feel while trying to make light of the fact that you will never have offspring. You also know the painful decision if you decide not to adopt, and the thought that adopting a child would only make you think of how you could never have your own.
You see, at some point, those of us who are childless have to face the fact that there won’t be anyone around to take care of us in our old age. We take pictures of things and save little mementos of our past that we know no one will look at in the future. We buy life insurance policies and other assets that we know we will never pass along to anyone else. We have pictures of our parents and our siblings on the refrigerator instead of finger painted landscapes and the latest math assignment marked with an “A+.” We watch our parents playing with other people’s children, and know there is pain in their hearts too. We don’t need to be educated about the joys of having children. We know the pain of the choice nature has made for us.
Don’t get me wrong, we love spending time with your children. It doesn’t make us feel bad that you have your own. We just don’t want to be educated about the different options we have for having our own, nor do we want you to evaluate our health conditions and tell us how it is possible for us to still have kids. And please understand that although we love you, we don’t love attending baby showers and might instead just send you a gift.
If you have not gone through this and you have friends or encounter others who have, I beg of you, don’t push the topic or offer advice to solve the problem. The moment you hear someone say, “I can’t have children,” say, “I’m sorry to hear that” and move on to a different topic. If the person wants to have the conversation with you, they will continue to talk about it. If they don’t, then leave it alone. We don’t need reminding that having children would be the joy of our life. Instead, we have the joys of going out whenever we want without having to find a babysitter, taking a vacation whenever we want, not having to childproof our house, taking a nap whenever we want, sleeping in on Sunday mornings, and we never have to hide the sweets or share our ice cream. Don’t look at us as having a deficit life, but rather being able to enjoy life in a different way. Thank you. That is all.