Saturday, 15 August 2009

Babies all around

Today we're going to a barbecue at a friend's house, to meet her new(ish) baby - born in May. Last week I met another friend's baby, born in June. And last weekend we had my three nieces, aged 14 months, 2 and 5, to stay for the weekend.

In terms of the infertility blogs I've been reading, we haven't been trying all that long - we only got married in May last year, and have been trying since then. However, I have known all my life that I wanted to be a mother.

The only reason I didn't try earlier was because I hadn't met the right man - and not for lack of looking, either! There was absolutely no way I "put my career first", "put it off until it got too late" or in any other way made any choice about this. But here I am, three weeks off my 40th birthday and with a diagnosis of diminished ovarian function and male factor infertility to boot.

One of the things that my husband and I have said to each other often is that we're very lucky, because even if we never have children ourselves, we will always be surrounded by children. We have 15 nephews and nieces between us. I have six godchildren (two of whom are my nephews), all of whom have siblings. And we see several other friends with children regularly. We have so many children in our lives that we have a well-used cot in our house, two highchairs, a changing mat, and a storage cabinet full of toys in our sitting-room.

I can't imagine shutting myself off from children just because we can't have any of our own. That really would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face. Occasionally I have to put up with thoughtless comments - people talking about how easily they got pregnant and how maybe I just need to relax and then it'll happen (no, you can't cure a medical problem just by relaxing); people saying how upset they'd be if they accidentally got pregnant again; people making comments about our hedonistic lifestyle (it isn't at all) and how we can't understand what it's like to be tied down and unable to do what we want when we want to. I'd LOVE to be tied down in that way, and I'd love to get accidentally pregnant.

But still - do I need to shut myself off from the children I love because their parents can sometimes be insensitive? Absolutely not - the unconditional love that I get from those children, the school plays and sports days I get invited to, the First Communions I go to, the birthday parties, all the big and little events in their lives that I'm able to be part of make the burden of my own childlessness less.

Why would I deprive myself of the pleasure of cuddling a new-born baby, seeing an older baby laugh as I play with it on my knee, being given a squashed daisy that a toddler has just picked for me, reading a story with a five-year-old, building lego with a six-year-old, just because I'm not their mother?

I know it's made easier for me because I don't keep it secret that we're trying and now that we're having problems. I don't talk incessantly about it, but it does mean that when I'm sitting with someone else's baby on my lap, nobody will thoughtlessly say, "So, when are you going to have one?" or "You really should try to have one - it's so worth it" or any of the other comments that can hurt an infertile person without meaning to.

Some people think they can't take the 'pity'. I haven't come across any pity yet. I've come across sympathy. I've come across some people who try to understand but aren't able to because they fell pregnant straight away and have no idea what we're going through. I've come across indifference and people who with the best intentions have unwittingly made hurtful comments (but hey, some people just seem to choose the wrong thing to say no matter what!). I've had people empathise and share their own stories with me. I've been surrounded by love and friendship. But pity? I don't think so.

I have chosen carefully who I've told - or rather, who I haven't told. I have one friend who loves to gossip, and I made a very conscious decision not to feed her gossip machine. There's an elderly friend of the family who would be very upset if she knew, so I haven't told her. But unless there's a reason to keep it from someone, I haven't.

Will it be hard being around my friend's baby today? Well, no - I've been the childless one at gatherings with children for years now. The eldest children of my friends and family are now in their mid-teens. So I'll do as I always do - I'll have a nice cuddle with the babies, a bit of a romp with the toddlers, and play or chat with the older children.

And I'll thank God that even though I'm childless, my life is far from child-free.

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