A mini post about something that, of course, caught me off guard and has been bugging me a bit.

Do the mothers think of us non-mothers in a group conversation?

A few weeks ago I attended the biggest convention of my life; 7000 people big.Which means I met a lot of incredible people and I had to give my elevator speech of who I am many times over.

There is always that part…the part where you share about your family and my response is one not many people identify with, “No, we don’t have kids, we tried but can’t have them.”

Sometimes the conversation ends there, sometimes they try to fix my pain and offer the usual quick fix of adoption and other times they lovingly want to know more.

But then as the weekend goes on and I as get to know these incredible women and am having so much fun the conversation inevitably turns to their kids and being mothers.

And I am left without the experience to contribute and completely in my head.

Sometimes I wonder, do they ever stop and think of us?

Do they ever have that moment of

Poor Justine, we’re just talking about our kids and she’s over there and she can’t have them.

Or do they never have that thought and I am just personalizing all of it way too much?

But, I know I am not the only one out there who has felt this way. So my question, for our recovery, is what do we do with this?

I think our job is to make sure to stay engaged. If we disengage from the conversation completely we lose connection. And, we already feel lonely enough as women without children in our society. So we must engage and look for that moment to contribute to the conversation or maybe even change the subject.

We must choose to engage to not

Or maybe one day, we can brave enough to just call it out and just state the awkwardness that we are feeling, and maybe they are too.

What I know for sure is that I will continue this work in rising ever upward to always be engaged in my life, even when I am feeling that sense of not fitting in. Especially because, most likely, it is in my head and only my perception that is causing that feeling.

And that, is completely changeable and in my control.

I’d love to hear what your experiences have been. How do you handle this part of the infertility and childfull journey? What about all you mothers out there, what are your experiences?

 

16 thoughts on “Are They Thinking It Too?

  1. Nicole G. says:

    I received this email 5 minutes after I experienced the same situation in my office kitchen. I was enjoying a cup of coffee with co-workers, and without fail, the topic of how cute their babies are came up. I fled. Mainly because the person that brought up the topic knows everything about my infertility struggles, loss of pregnancies, and heartbreak. I fled because I couldn’t believe she couldn’t wait 5 minutes until I was gone. But is that fair to her? Can I expect others to not speak about their babies around me? It’s not their fault the conversation brings me to tears when I walk away. I often think I’m too sensitive, but then I remind myself of the years of struggle and loss I’ve endured. Unless you’ve been through it, you can’t understand. It doesn’t get better, it only makes you feel more and more alienated and honestly, angry. Angry that others get to experience something that you would give anything for. Angry that they don’t know how much it hurts me to hear about their happiness with their children. So my choice in this situation is to flee, feel bad for myself for a bit, and then try to move on.

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    1. Nicole, ugh I’m so sorry and so wish she had had that consciousness to not being it up knowing your struggles. I will say, for me, it has gotten some easier with time. But I also know it will never go away. Thank you for reading and leaving your truth here, I appreciate it. Justine

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    2. Chiming in with my unsolicited 2 cents here Nicole – I feel you. Generally, I think people can be more considerate. I see it like this: A great friend of mine was tragically and unexpectedly widowed about 4 years ago. In conversation and in social situations, I try to show her consideration. Am I perfect and do I always get it right? NO. Do I talk incessantly and mindlessly about my non dead husband when in her presence? NO.

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      1. Great point!!!! J

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  2. Nicole G. says:

    Thanks Justine. I think it hurts so much more when the person that brings up that topic knows what you have gone through. I feel very alone when that happens. This is something I spoke to my husband about a lot this weekend. We are a married couple (39 and 40 years of age) that feel like we are stuck in limbo with friends – friends with kids vs. friends that do not want kids. The friends that do not want children are 35-45 year old kids themselves, barhopping self-centered people that are trying to relive their 20’s as they go through divorce. We don’t fit in with them as that isn’t where we are in our life. Then we have friends and family with children , who we would much rather socialize with at our age, but they mainly socialize with other couples with kids and do not invite us over because we do not have children. When we bring it up, they say “oh, you wouldn’t want to be there, its all children.” We always say to them that we like children, we don’t mind it at all, but they still leave us out, which hurts even more. It’s hard enough to go through this struggle, and when you don’t have a social life to take your mind off of it, it can be very tough.

    I must say, I am very thankful for your book. I often tear up when reading it because I can really relate to your experiences on so many levels, and it helps me to not feel so alone in my struggle. Thank you for bringing me comfort during these tough times of hurt, anger and grief. You are correct, it will get easier with time. I just have to get over the small bit of hope I have in heart that keeps me from moving on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicole, I am so glad that book is helping you. I have started writing the second one and hope to continue the journey and help for people like us. The friend thing is super tough for us too, I feel your pain on that one for sure. We honestly only have one other couple friend who is childfree (but by choice). We always make sure to ask for time with our friends who have kids both with the kids and without occasionally and that does seem to help some. Sending you love today! J

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  3. adelle says:

    I feel like what it means to give a primal scream. …In my empty deep dark hole

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  4. Ohhh….good one! This is a tough question! My knee jerk reaction is to say that it’s unlikely that they think about us, and I’m not even sure that the vast majority are capable of recognizing why these conversations are hard for us when told about it after the fact. This is not to say that leaving us out is intentional because in most cases I don’t think it is, but making excuses for them also diminishes the significance of our hurt. But it does feel a bit selfish to ask or expect them to change their conversations on account of me, No easy answers, that’s for sure.

    The worst, in my opinion, are when people who know about our infertility still manage to put us in uncomfortable/painful situations that we can’t escape from. People who don’t know about it get a pass, but I honestly hold a bit of a grudge against those who do.

    The engagement thing is hard for me. It’s hard to engage in uncomfortable conversations when I’m expending all of my energy and focus on not crying. Answering the infertility/no kids questions are slowly becoming easier and less painful, but when in conversations with parents (that I can’t escape from) my sole goal is survival. And it’s sad because I know I have a lot to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least for me, the holding back the crushing tears has gotten easier with time. I assume that many do not think of us either. As for my loved ones and the ones that know my journey, I can always ask them to be more conscious of it in conversations and see what I get. Practice what I teach, ask for what we want and need. ;). Justine

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  5. Sunny says:

    I wish mothers could find a way to connect with people that didn’t involve talking about their children. I went to a writing course recently and the entire group was made up of women. For the first half an hour before the class started the mothers in the group connected by way of discussing if they had kids and how many kids they had, whether they were boys or girls. It was incredibly alienating for the two of us in the group of twelve that didn’t have children. More than anything though it was really boring. Whilst I might have ended up involuntarily childless I have a very interesting career, I travel to amazing places and I write. My life is extremely full without children. Finally half an hour later someone actually asked whether anyone had done any WRITING. A conversation I could finally contribute to. I find men who are fathers rarely establish common ground by discussing their children so why do women feel the need to do this?

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    1. Chad and I have had this conversation before. He admitted that they have it easier, guys just don’t talk about their kids as much either in the all guys group or in the couple group. I wish, especially as a therapist working with many women, we could be more than mothers too, but especially a woman who doesn’t get to be a mother. Thank you for reading and commenting! Justine

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      1. loribeth says:

        I can relate! I have often told this story: about 10 years ago, I went to an all-day scrapbooking event where about 50 women got together to work on their albums. (Admittedly, this is a very mommy-centric hobby.) None of my friends scrapbooked at that point, so I wound up sitting at a table with three other women, friends, whom I’d never met before. We introduced ourselves & they politely asked me if I had kids. I said no. They started talking among themselves, and you know, I don’t think they spoke again to me for the rest of the day?? I couldn’t believe it. I’m a nice person (really). I don’t bite. They could have talked to me about my job, my nephews (I was working on scrapbooks for them), my last vacation, the latest book I’d read or movie that I’d seen. Is it really so hard to relate to me or talk to me, just because I don’t have kids??

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ugh, it is so hard sometimes!!! Thank you for reading and leaving your words! J

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  6. So much I could write here, great topic! I’m very much in the thick of trying to make my way through this. It can be quite confusing, and hard to maintain perspective. Some thoughts:

    #1) Though I’m less “triggerable” than I used to be, miracle upon miracles, emotional self protection is still my top priority. I move away from any conversation if I feel I need to.

    #2) I’ve come to the conclusion recently that having a group of child free not by choice people to hang out and do things with would be extremely helpful to my healing in many ways, one of them being that it may lessen the angst I feel when trying to communicate with people with young children, knowing I have my own tribe to fall back on. I’m going to try and start a group in my area (Long Island) soon. In the meantime, my husband and I have found some comfort and connection with people in their 60’s and 70’s (they seem less judgmental, more respectful and empathetic), so I’ll enjoy whatever relationships I can, especially the surprises!!

    #3) I’m in a teacher training pre-requisite yoga class that meets once a month for 5 hours with a one hour break for lunch. Many of the students have kids, and luckily there are a few twenty somethings (no kids) who I tend to get along quite well with. In thinking about how I approach everyone…..they know of my infertility survivor status, one woman has been incredibly considerate of me and makes a lot of effort to connect on other topics. She actually has 3 kids five and under, so I really admire her efforts. Others have seemed fairly clueless that I’m forever changed and grieving, so I’ve had to distance myself a bit as I’m not going to connect to the topic of their kids the way I can see they expect me to. I insert infertility into the conversation when I can, but I have to prioritize what I’m there to learn and not get distracted also. Generally, I feel like it’s all possible – some people will not be able to roll with my limits, some I’ll be able to connect with to a point, and I also may make a deep connection or two where I least expect it. However it ends up going, relating to people now is much more painstaking and any connection with me will take some time. I may find I’m ready to dissolve some of my walls while others may still be serving me. Just trying to be open to all possibilities, as well as the potential limits in relating to people with kids. I think maybe there is no answer – the path varies depending on who I’m dealing with.

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    1. As usual, never a black and white answer with this journey; the complicated gray! You are right on so many points! I definitely feel the need to have couples who are childfree not by choice in our lives…hard to find sometimes. Thank you for reading and commenting! Justine

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