Over the past seven years people with children have had a number of different reactions to my childless state.  One very common reaction is to tell me that I can have their children if I want them.  When said publically this is the source of lots of laughter and bonding between those who are parents.  But sometimes this is said privately, sorrowfully.  Sometimes it’s not those exact words that are said.  Sometimes parents whisper confidences to me.  They wonder aloud to me if their lives would have been better without children.

Yesterday I was at a writer’s meeting and, as I was signing in, I had a chat to the security guard.  He knows our little group quite well now.  Somehow we got on to the topic of age.  He queiried how old I was.  He looked very suprised when I replied that I was “nearly 40”.  Then…(you can hear it coming can’t you?)…he asked if I had kids.  ( At least he asked, not assumed).  When I gave him the standard reply: “Sadly, no”.  He asked if it was because something was wrong with me or my husband.  I am always glad that I get to say “both of us”; that the blame is evenly weighted.  I am also always both outraged and amused that people ask this intensely intimate question without any hesitation. 

He paused, tossed his hands in the air and said dramatically, “You can take mine!”  I smiled and somberely looked into his eyes saying,  “That seems to be the way of it.”  In turn his face dropped and in a lowered voice so that only I, the infertile one, would hear,  confided in me that he often thought about what would have happened if he hadn’t had kids.  He wondered why he had them. He questioned what it was all for, when all they do is grow up and die, same as all of us.  He wondered if his life would have been more fulfilling without them and what kind of things he would have done if he didn’t have them.  I nodded and spoke one word  “Life”.  He nodded and for one moment we both acknowledged our same experience with regard to having children: disapointment.    It didn’t make me angry.  I am finally begining to see that their are many parents who play out some fantasy of being a fabulously fulfilled Mum and Dad for the benefit of other parents.  But as an infertile person I occassionally get a glimpse of their own disappointment that, despite having kids, they still have a void in their lives.  We all have them.   I see that children don’t fill that void.


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4 Responses to “Confidences”

  1. stella Says:

    please see >

  2. jodie38 Says:

    I’ve heard the same thing from fertiles. I know that what looks good on the outside is almost never what’s going on with the inside of any situation, but when they actually admit these things it’s disturbing. I’ve had one guy tell me that once he had kids, he realized he shouldn’t have. Sobering comments. And I’m remembering all of them the closer I get to the start of this IVF cycle…….

    Ultimately, everything is a leap of faith, isn’t it?

  3. Kate Says:

    The “You can take mine” bugs me to no end.

    But you’re right, voids can happen with children and without. Michael Jackson as disturbed as we knew he was, he had money, fame, talent and what he wanted badly once, children. Yet he still died a sad and lonely man.

    My best friend is raising her daughter and tells me privately, “Sometimes I just want to return her to someone else. I’m tired of having to constantly worry about her and care about her. It’s exhausting.” So you’re right, voids exist for both sides of the equation perhaps. I’d like to think we’re not going to be that way since we want it SO badly and it just didnt “happen.”

    Great post!

  4. cat Says: I’ve left the first response in…it may seem a little weird to have done so. It links to a pretty poorly written blog site/post from someone who is quite obviously anti IVF. So why leave it in? Well, it raises issues that I have thought about…such as the importance of identity. I felt attacked on first reading the site because there is an assumption that I have not considered such questions. Beware anyone who thinks that IVF participants have not thought long and hard about their decisions. We may somtimes come to different conclusions about which path to follow but I challenge anyone to say that these decisions are taken lightly!

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