Warm thank you to Anniina who added her thoughts to the last post and opened her heart as well!
Seems like I have this need to write out some things I have heard and experienced these past few years. Maybe it is a part of the process where I struggle myself out of the self-image of a childless woman - or maybe it is just a way I need to vent my feelings after so many years of keeping everything locked inside. Again, the aim is not to offend anyone, rather, to offer a glimpse of that reality some of us live in. Other people have other kinds of problems, but one can learn about those in other blogs. :) Mine is only a narrow view of life - but it is one true kind of view, among other views. My view is that of a someone who is married and childless, and whose husband agrees in wanting children... things I write about do not necessarily apply to someone who has not even married or someone who might have married a man who does not want children even if the wife does. Or someone who just thinks differently. And that's totally ok. However, here are some of my thoughts.
So, part one.Awful things a total stranger can say.
This happened a few years ago. I was spending an afternoon at a friend's house. Her mother-in-law dropped in to bring something, I cannot remember what it was. At first, she was ok, chatting this and that, everything seemed just normal. Then my friend's pre-teens walked inside and the lady asked me if my husband and I had any children. "No, not yet, at least", I answered. Now, having met me less than ten minutes ago, this woman began lecturing me on how I am too old to wait anymore, I should not be so career-oriented (?? As far as I know, she did not even know what my job is!!), nor should we think only about finances, etc. etc. I was stunned - for a little while. This time I succeeded in opening my mouth. I looked straight into her eyes, smiled and said, "You know, we have not been able to have children, as much as we have wanted to. And this is a very personal and very painful matter to me." She shut up. Did not apologize, but at least she shut up. My friend said later, that she was glad I had answered that way. This woman is known of her unthoughtful comments. Later on I have found her to be quite nice, and this incident has not hindered our communication, whenever we have shortly met. But it did hurt. It must have hurt more than I though, as I still remember it so vividly.
And what makes it worse, all those things she said are among the most common things people say when they gossip about childless couples in general. I happen to know quite a few couples that have been labeled selfish and greedy, because they did not "want" to make children - all at the same time as they have been spending a vast amount of money trying to get all possible help there is available to become pregnant.
Part two. The most awful thing a friend can say.
This incident is something that has hurt more than words can ever tell. Sure, I later received an apology and a plea to forgive and forget. Forget... I have not been able to. Forgive, well somewhat. :) And she knows it, I have admitted that getting over it will take both time and effort. This was said by a friend who at the time meant a lot to me. Nowadays she has dismissed me from her life for other reasons... but that would be another story altogether.
So, what is the worst thing one can say to a childless friend?
This person is a VOLUNTARILY childless woman herself. And she knew that we have been wanting children all the time we've been married. However, she always feels "left out" when her friends have children and they are not available to her to the extent they were before. So, she told me, blunt out, "I am praying that you will never have any children, so you will not leave me as well."
WHAT? So that I could be her friend, my husband and I need to have the greatest sorrow in our life I can imagine? She was not joking, she was serious! And what makes this all the worse, the word "pray" is not a casual word for her, used in exchange for hoping something, but she is a woman who is considered being a strong believer and a full-heartedly serving the Lord. So, she has been PRAYING against all our own prayers and hopes - to contradict everything we want and hope, so her will be done.
Sure, I know, such a prayer is not able to hinder God from doing His work. There have been many others who have prayed WITH us. But a friend saying such a thing... I have no words to express how deep of a wound that made in my heart. A few years passed and she told she had changed her prayer and she truly hoped we'd have children. I know she said what she did out of her own perspective. She felt left out, even life without children is her own choise. She feels her friendships do not "stay the same" when her friends have children, and she is unable to handle the situation - I guess it was her way to say how much she, back then, wanted us to stay friends. But there was no comfort for me in those words at that time; her (or anybody else's) friendship could never make up the loss I felt, if we could not have children.
I have been fairly lucky, maybe because I have also been relatively open about our situation, that not that many people have allowed this kind of frogs out of their mouth - at least not very often. Sadly, it is very common for childless couples to hear and face similar thoughts and words quite often.
So many of us know people who casually say, "now you have only the easiest part to do to have a real family; make two children." There are people who tell us animal-loving childless people, "you should make children, so you did not have to have so many pets." (And equal amounts of people think we will now give up all the animals when children arrive...) There are those who ask you to be God-parents to their children with a remark, "as you have no children of your own, we thought you'd be able to spend more time with our child." At work you are told, "as you have no children, surely you volunteer to work during the holidays?" Your friends and relatives cancel already set dates (even with a very short notice) because someone with a child has told they'd come to visit just at that time - and "you would not want to disappoint the child, would you? Surely you understand, even you do not have children of your own?" These are just a few among many comments people so lightly make. If you see nothing wrong with such remarks, think again.