Now I’m in my 30s, the topic of having children always comes up in conversation. It usually goes like this:
Aquaintance: “How about you? Have you got any children?”
Me: “No, I haven’t no”
Aquaintance: “Not yet eh?”
Me: “Well no, I can’t have them, I had a hysterectomy a few years
Aquaintance: “You can always adopt! Would you like to?”
Me: “I Would like to, but it’s not very easy and it’s a very emotional
Aquaintance: “My friend’s adopted/ had IVF blah blah blah …happy ending.”
This conversation happens time and time again. What people don’t realise, is that adopting is not as easy as it sounds, and it is far from the magical answer. No matter how many children worldwide need decent parents, it’s never going to be as easy as “just adopt!”
For more information on “just apopt” this author, La Belette Rough, explains why just and adopt should not be sat next to each other in the same sentence.
Some people also forget that I am the one living it, and I have already put a large amount of thought into adoption, fostering and surrogacy. If it was that simple, I would have done it already!
I know they mean well, but what gets me, is the way people seem compelled to find a solution to my childlessness because having a child is what life’s all about, right?
I am part of an online community called Gateway Women. This community is for ladies like me, who are childless by circumstance. It’s a place where we can talk about our situation, share our own personal stories, offer support and make friends. The other day, I asked this community what response they would like to hear after telling someone they are childless. Below, are some of their comments.
1. Just move on to a new conversation without questioning further or offering advice.
2. Saying, “I’m sorry that must be difficult.” Then moving on to a new conversation or offering emotional support.
3. Saying “Having kids isn’t the only way to lead a fulfilling life.”
4. Pointing out, “It’s hard work, and you’re not missing as much as people make out you are!”
5. Acknowledging “That effing sucks! But I am envious of the great life you must lead, not being tied down to children for 18 years.”
What not to do/say
1.Jokingly, offer them your own children to look after.
2.Offer advice about fertility treatments or adoption, unless you have been through it yourself and have experience in these matters.
3.Tell stories of miracle babies born through IVF.
4.Tell the infertile couple to “just relax and it’ll happen eventually” or recommend that the woman puts her legs up in the air after sex!
5. Make assumptions about why they are childless, e.g left it too late, focussed on career, can’t keep a man, lesbian, eat the wrong diet.
The Gateway Women were quite passionate about the things NOT to say.
It’s a difficult and awkward moment when a woman is forced through conversation to talk about her childlessness, and although some are meant well, these comments can be ignorant, hurtful and frustrating. There are so many reasons why a woman maybe childless, so to hear advice from a happily married, highly fertile, assumptious mother of three, is the last thing they want!