Last week I accidentally became the arsehole that I hate. By inadvertently making a fellow infertile lady feel bad about her infertility. I didn’t know she was. I don’t even know her. It all started like this. It’s Christmas Eve and like an idiot I needed to get groceries. Unfortunately, Christmas Eve has fallen on my shopping day. So I had to get up super early, so I can get to the shops super early, in order to get a car park and avoid all those men who’ve left their Christmas shopping to the last minute (according to all those Facebook memes that is). Having been up until past midnight the night before I wasn’t looking the best, but managed to pull on some semblance of appropriate looking clothing, raked a comb through my hair and went out to do battle. The shopping itself was uneventful, apart from not being able to find any turkey. My husband had suggested we have turkey for Christmas dinner, but after scouring the store for what seemed like an hour for something other than a full size frozen turkey that cost $17, I gave up and settled on a ready-to-roast chicken dinner instead. And even though I found this only slightly annoying (passively chanting under my breath the mantra “I live in a privileged society, everything is fine. I live in a privileged society, everything is fine”), I didn’t feel particularly defeated by it all. As I triumphantly approached the counter I was greeted by the already incredibly fed up looking cashier with “You look as tired as I feel”. Really? That’s how you start off conversations. Implying someone looks like shit. Well, thanks. I really didn’t need that self-esteem after all. I wanted to shoot back “Clearly they didn’t teach you how to talk politely to customers at Check-Out-Chick School”, but considering it was almost Christmas I bit my tongue, and merely did what anyone else does in this situation; Laughed pathetically and I hoped I gave off a vibe that said “Please don’t ask me any more questions”. No such luck I’m afraid. The next question she asked was inevitable, “Well I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. I’m sure we both need it”. I’m not sure what set me off. Maybe it was the annoying timbre of her voice, the continual implication that I looked terrible, or the fact that she was doing a shit job packing my grocery bags, but I said it. Before I could stop myself, before I could even think on what I was about to say, or the consequences of those words, I said it. “Haha, well obviously you don’t have a two year at home then!” She paused and looked away, then replied “Well unfortunately I can’t actually have kids. But you know whatever”. I. Am. An. Arsehole. I try to laugh it off and quickly apologise. “That’s life” she states bluntly and shrugs her shoulders. She finishes, I pay, and haul ass out of there. That’s when the inner monologue fight begins.
Voice 1 “How the hell could I have said that?! Aren’t I always advocating to not say things like that, because you never know if someone is struggling”
Voice 2 “Well she shouldn’t have said you looked like shit”
V1 “She didn’t say that”
V2 “She implied it”
V1 “Now she probably thinks I don’t appreciate Stormaggedon. Maybe I should go back and tell her I went through IVF”
V2 “Are you an idiot, don’t do that!”
V1 “Now her day is going to be ruined, because she’ll be thinking about not being able to have kids, and it’s Christmas!”
V2 “Stop ruining your day caring about what someone else thinks. Especially someone who started out being a bitch to you!”
V1 “That shouldn’t be the point! We should be making the world a better place by not coming down to their level!”
V2 “Oh shut up”
V1 “You shut up!”
“I NEED CAKE!” – That was both of them.
Ok, so while those guys are fighting let’s talk about a few rules here:
1. Always remember who you are talking to. If you don’t know them, keep the conversation to boring subjects, such as the weather.
2. Only joke about your children if you know someone and are aware of their circumstances. Everyone has a story, it can be traumatic to add to it by casually joking how annoying your child is.
3. If you do accidentally hurt someone’s feelings who are struggling, apologise, but don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s said, it’s done. Learn from it and move on.
4. If you’re a check out person STOP IMPLYING PEOPLE LOOK LIKE CRAP.
If I could go back and talk to that woman again I would apologise again. I would say that it’s horrible that she isn’t able to have children. But I would also say to her that even if you’ve struggled for years to have children, when you finally have them you’re allowed to not enjoy every minute with them. You’re allowed to mourn your loss of sleep, your loss of independence, and your alone time. You don’t have to love it when they refuse to eat, or refuse to use the toilet, or wake you up at 4am. It’s ok to hate their tantrums, the screeching noises they make for no reason, and them constantly disobeying you. It’s ok to be tired, to be fed up, and to sometimes secretly wish for another life.
It doesn’t make your love for them any less. It doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate them, or adore their hilarious and beautiful quirks. Your heart would still be wrenched apart if you were to lose them. Your world would never be the same again without them. Let’s face it, your world is currently not the same WITH them. It certainly is better. But it’s also certainly harder.
I’m sure all mothers can relate to this, and I hope that those who aren’t, or who are yet to become mothers can see that too. Moving forward into the new year, I know I’ll try my best to remember where I am, what my circumstances are, and to be a bit more mindful when talking to others. But not here. Remember, here we only ever speak the truth!