Counting Children and Assholes

Ok, non-breeders, it is time for a confession.

I find that A and I have bonded frequently lately over counting other people’s children and scowling at them. That sounds super petty when I read it back to myself, but it is true.

I mean really, do you need 5, 6, 7 kids? Do not even get me started on that show 17 and counting or whatever number she is up to at this point. Is this jealousy? Possibly, but I’ve also always been a bit dramatic over injustices.

There was this couple, most likely a very nice couple, sitting with their brood of children at the dining area of the local grocery store here in town. I couldn’t see them, but I read it all over A’s face. He was disgusted, which is really interesting because usually it is me who makes this sort of observation.  He shared that the couple had 7 kids and looked in their direction with contempt. I glanced over my shoulder and caught a few in the corner of my eye. Later they got up and congregated by the door, one of the younger ones grabbed a child’s grocery cart and started down the produce section with his mother tailing after him. As I watched them, I understood what A had been thinking to himself because I was thinking it too. For Pete’s sake what I would do just for one child. Just one.

There is another place that we call the playground. It is a pizza joint that has a bocce ball court that is essentially the town sandbox. The patio calls our name and typically we try to sit away from the bocce ball court. Since it was that hour of day when it crawls with adorable children under the age of 5, we wanted to sit on the other side of the patio but it was full and not in the sun, so we parked it by the sandbox. Surrounded by little people and their parents who seemed so smug in their abilities to procreate (projecting, totally projecting).

I love children, which I know sounds like a stupid thing to state on a blog dedicated to my attempts at creating a child. I love children and I love to be around them. I don’t mean to brag, but I am sort of a kid charmer. I can get the most reluctant to come out of their shell and talk to me. I get on their level and see the world from their point of view. I am one kick-ass aunt to my niece and nephew for that reason. These are not accolades I am throwing on myself, honestly. Others have noticed my child-whispering ways.

This is all to say that when I see a huge family with children under the age of 7, I get a bit pissed. I get moody and distant. I want to cuss loud and drink heavily in the presence of those kids. I judge the parents for their parenting skills. I know this is a really bad reaction and I try to temper it in myself. The new thing is that it is starting to come out in A too.

The other night we were carrying our divorce rescue dog over to the emergency vet because she was attacked by the stray A picked up during our snow storm before last (because there is nothing more annoying than a person complaining about huge families when that person has FOUR dogs-for the record, the stray is NOT staying). On the way there, A says “Maybe I should just start being an asshole.” I think that over for a minute, figure out where that is coming from, and say “No, no you should not just start being an asshole.” But then I think, maybe we should. I know plenty of assholes who have kids. I know plenty of assholes who don’t owe large sums of money to CareCredit (for our dogs) or Attain (for our attempts at having babies). I know plenty of assholes who use drugs and have 5 kids from 5 different fathers. Ok, so that is just one asshole I know. But you get the point. I know plenty of assholes who don’t raise their kids right; I see the effects of it on the faces of my students.  So I get the point he was making that night. Why does it seem the guy who was just trying to do the right thing by keeping the dog from being ran over get rewarded with a $700.00 emergency vet bill? Why does it seem that the guy who just wants one kid sees an asshole with 5, 6, or 7 kids in tow? Why can’t someone just cut the nice guy some slack?

Coming Out and Over Sharing

We’ve been trying to conceive now for 6 years. Most of our close friends know about our struggles and have been supportive. Those are the people that we really want to be there for us and who check in when things hit rock bottom. They are the people with fingers crossed and who send up prayers on our behalf.

Living with infertility can sometimes feel like a double life. Because so much of our lives is spent on social media sites and seeing what is happening for others through Facebook, Twitter, and the like, it can feel like many of those “friends” don’t really know what is happening for us because we don’t put our struggles with infertility out there.  I waffle on this a lot. The issue of over sharing. One way I feel people over share isn’t on social sites at all; it is through their bumper stickers.

I have a hang up about bumper stickers. I hate them. I feel that if you need to put your beliefs out on a material object as a message to the world, there is something possibly problematic about the foundations of those beliefs.   I guess I question why we feel like we always need to define ourselves to the world and why that also comes out through stickers on a car. The worst are the family bumper stickers. It isn’t because I’m a non-breeder. Okay, maybe that does skew things a bit.  I know that is a harsh judgement. If you have a lot of bumper stickers, I’m sure you are a very nice person, but just know I’m passing judgement. Then I got to thinking about it, and I realize this makes me a real hypocrite, we do the same thing through social media.  Guilty party over here.

We all have those friends who share way too much in their posts.  Some of them are hidden from our news feeds for that very reason. So, then why did I feel the urge to come out on FB about our infertility? Here’s why: The Disgrace of Infertility.

Did you read it? Read it before going further in my post. I’ll wait. I promise.

So now that you’ve read it, can you see why I crossed the line and shared way too much about myself to my 503 or so “friends” on Facebook? I felt that needed sharing. Nate sums up all of what A and I face every. stinking. month. There was also some weight lifted. I was able to be honest, albeit through someone else’s words, with my social network.  I have friends that I’ve lost track with but who are still friends on Facebook. People who I would really want to know what is going on with me because they are an important part of who I am today. Those were the people who responded to that post. It also came during a time when I was feeling pretty vulnerable in my fertility journey. Why then would I put it out on one of the most public places? I think because I needed more reassurance from others. I felt reassured by Nate’s words and I wanted to connect with people that I hadn’t been connected to in a while, but knew that they’d get my post.

About the blog post Nate wrote-

His experience and the way in which he wrote about facing fertility challenges really hit home for me. I don’t totally agree with the title though. I don’t feel disgraced by infertility. I don’t want people to consider me a disgrace. I don’t want others to think I think I’m a disgrace to myself. That’s some serious self-pity that a gallon of chocolate ice cream just can’t fix. That word disgrace bugged me.

For me, his post called into question our societal worship of breeders and if you can’t breed when you want to breed, then you are less than those who can. It calls into question the devaluing of what it means to be a woman when that woman cannot procreate. It calls into question the feelings of invisibility couples feel when they cannot make a child like everyone else around them. It calls into question the feelings of ineptitude men feel when they cannot create a child and have to watch their wives go through the difficult and emotionally draining medical procedures. I don’t think this is a disgrace of infertility’s creation, but one of our society.  We define ourselves and others in such a limited way that when we can’t put that bumper sticker of the stick figure family on the back of our car, we feel disgraced.

While I didn’t think about it in the moment that I posted Nate’s blog post to my status, I really wanted to have someone talk about that word disgrace with me. No one did on Facebook, and that’s okay. They did comment on how we weren’t alone and how we shouldn’t suffer in silence. All very comforting in response to the quote I pulled from the blog that stated, “The silence of not wanting to talk about it. The silence of wanting to talk about, but being scared. The silence of trying to avoid the one thing you are wondering about, but not wanting to focus on it, and yet having your mind dominated by it. The silence because you just don’t want to deal with the questions.” I pulled that quote because it was about breaking the silence, which I felt I was doing on Facebook, my social network bumper. Hypocrite? Check.

But now, I want to talk about the word disgrace. How do you read his blog post? How do you read that word disgrace? What is disgraceful-the fact that we have to go through what we do in order to create a family or the fact that we feel disgraced by what we go through to create a family? Is it that our definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman are too narrowly defined by our ability to procreate? Is it that we allow for society to define us that way? How does the idea of disgrace and infertility fuel pity we get from others? Are we okay with that? Where exactly does the disgrace lie?