“Hey, Amy,” Bubs began in his growly voice, “What do you call a camel with three humps?”
I knew the answer, sighed to myself, took a deep breath, and replied, “What do you call a camel with three humps, babe?”
His growly voice laughed, the pure, clear giggle that children have. I made the pressed smile I have been perfecting over the last sixteen years appear on my face. It almost looks like the real thing.
If you have children in elementary school, chances are, you’ve seen the movie, “Zootopia,” which came out nearly three years ago, probably more than once. There are two children who fit that description living in my house at least part of the time, and although I haven’t seen “Zootopia,” they have. But, I have a television, and there are commercials.
Recently, they must have watched “Zootopia,” again, because the same joke emerged. Again. This time, instead of grinning and bearing it, I set a boundary.
When Bubs said, in his slightly deeper but still growly voice, “Hey, Amy, what do you call a camel with three humps?” I said calmly, but firmly, “Please don’t tell that joke. I don’t like it.” And then changed the subject. Redirection is the name of the Game with children. With anyone, really.
The children who live in my house did not know about my infertility. It’s not the kind of thing you usually talk about over dinner. But that night, we did, in fact, talk about it over dinner.
“Hey, dad,” the growly voice said, “what do you call a camel with three humps?”
“Don’t tell that joke,” LaLa interjected. “Amy doesn’t like that joke. Only I don’t know why she doesn’t like that joke. But don’t tell it!” This girl, often my most difficult foe, was now my protector.
My policy with the kids when it comes to explaining life–with these kids, who did not come from my body, and who were not conceived in my mind, but who had come into my life, nonetheless–is honesty. Not gross honesty, and not graphic honesty, but, the Truth, as much as possible.
All eyes on me, Stacy’s, included, I took a deep breath, and, looking alternately at LaLa and Bubs, told them the Truth.
“I was pregnant once, many years ago, before you were born. The baby did not grow, and it died. Even though I really wanted kids of my own, I have never been able to have a baby.”
LaLa was quiet for a moment, then she looked at me and said, “That’s so sad. I’m really sorry you had to go through that.”
. . . . .
Talking about your experiences with infertility and pregnancy loss is never easy. Even if you’re lucky enough to have other children in your life, through whatever means, those experiences leave wounds that often will not completely heal.
For me, the hardest part about talking about my experiences is the Awkward that comes from people who have the accidental luxury of not even needing to consider what infertility and pregnancy loss is like.
Here’s the thing: those of us who are walking this path don’t expect, need, or want you to fix anything for us. We hopefully have fantastic doctors. We likely have therapists. We have faith leaders. If you’re our friend, we simply want you to be our friend.
A lot of the Awkward comes from you not knowing what to say–from wanting to say *something, but not knowing *what. You might have even read one of those, “What NOT to Say to People Living with Infertility” articles. Instead of trying to remember all of those things, let me make it simple for you: “That’s so sad. I’m really sorry you had to go through that.”
Is there anything you’ve wondered about living with infertility, but didn’t want to ask? I welcome your thoughtful questions and comments.