It’s funny how when children say things sometimes the effect of what they may say can have a complete different reaction to what would happen if an adult or peer said it, I have had this numerous times. Largely because even though for the most part an adult/peer is probably in most cases really not meaning to upset you when a conversation may go in a certain direction, there is an element of ‘you should know better’ than to ask such questions. There are just some topics it’s not considered polite to discuss unless the conversation goes that way or someone volunteers the information themselves. Typically from my experience such sensitive topics may include politics, religion and having a family.
At the weekend I went to a house party to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday the weather had thankfully cleared to leave a pleasant evening. Their garden, which already included two stone lambs, one of which is missing one leg and an ear (I am told because of an unfortunate lawn mowing incident) and a flamingo called Florence, was turned into an outside party venue with candles, balloons giant blow up beachballs….AND PICK AND MIX!
Within 20minutes of arrival I had managed to take out Florence the Flamingo with a giant beachball trying to show my footballing prowess – it appears I lack any. This is a very very quick way to anger the two children and for a lot of the rest of the daylight hours (which given its June meant that was quite a while) I was spontaneously attacked by the 11 year old son wielding a giant beachball.
The inevitable ‘how do you know daddy’ questions were asked and we all explained we knew ‘daddy’ from either directly working with him or as a contact through work. Then the 9 year old daughter, seemingly forgiving of flamingo-gate said to me ‘I like your ring, is it a wedding ring?’, ‘No’, ‘are you married to him’ (pointing at the man next to me) him in this case being my gay friend… ‘No’, ‘why aren’t you married?’, ‘because I’m not’..this continued for a little while. Soon after this conversation the 9 year old told us that ‘daddy’ was really old (we agreed) and would be a granddad soon (erm….ok). This was most definitely a surprise to him as you might imagine, her delight in telling her father that she wanted 3 children ‘soon’ and when challenged that it might be a while off she said, its ok I can just adopt. I couldn’t help but smile I really couldn’t. Just goes to highlight those wonderful imaginations that we have and that I know I also had at a similar age. If a similar discussion was being had between adults the feelings would be different. May sound silly but even if the questioning or discussion isn’t directed at me specifically it certainly makes me feel odd and uncomfortable and quite frankly hits home much more in comparison to the sweet and innocent musings of an otherwise precocious and cheeky 9 year old girl.
The rest of the night was spent mainly talking to the kids which to be honest was really lovely. It says a lot when I probably had more in common with the children than I did with the other party goers (host and hostess excluded). I found my music taste was not that dissimilar to a 9 year old girl (I might need to branch out past Bieber) and I like Disney, her brother did quite correctly ask ‘why do you know so much about Disney’ to which I said ‘BECAUSE ITS AWESOME’, its actually true, it is.
Hanging out with kids in this way doesn’t bother me, it has in the past but I largely enjoy acting like a kid and that situation does gives me a great excuse to do so. There is a definite pang of ‘I want that’ but that’s probably a mixture of me being 32 and feeling that clock ticking and having MRKH but it’s not solely because of MRKH. I am certain at this age without MRKH I would still feel the same if I was in the same position. There is a lot that we might want to ‘blame’ on MRKH in terms of the physical side as well as mental attitudes but sometimes taking a step back and trying to imagine how we might feel normally does actually help to put it in perspective and highlight that those are the same feelings we may have had in anyway.
Obviously it’s not appropriate to tell children exactly ‘why’ sometimes even if their incessant questioning is grating at best but when adults or your peers ask questions that touch on a sensitive subject how do you deal with it?
Quite honestly for me that really can vary depending on what it is, what they say and how I am feeling at the time. Sometimes I have gone home and cried, sometimes I have just muddled through and sometimes it just hasn’t really bothered me. There are those super awkward situations that are hard to avoid like when I was at school (I went to an all-girls school) and someone asks if you have a tampon/sanitary towel or starts talking about periods. For a large part of my teenage years at school I didn’t even know there was a problem, just that I hadn’t started yet. I largely sat there awkwardly and really hoped no one would ask me. I go really red when I get embarrassed and thought everyone would know and laugh.
For a time I even had a sanitary towel in my school bag in case anyone asked if I had one because I didn’t want to feel awkward about it so I found myself lying to save face. Even once I knew, and whilst I admit despite the obvious implications in my case I am grateful for not having to deal with that every month, I felt I had to lie about it because I was trying to get my head around what MRKH meant for me. As I got older that got harder to be honest. I have found myself in massively unknown territory when such a discussion has come up, usually around my friends who have had issues trying to conceive themselves. They would go to ask me a question and forget that I know about as much as a 14 year old boy about periods (ok I probably know slightly more, but you get the point). That being said I found myself then asking them questions about it because I just have no personal understanding of it and I was strangely interested.
Those types of questions are hard to avoid again, like with younger children there is an innocence among your peers in those situations, particularly at that age and in an all girls school, its just something that would inevitably come up but is still very difficult to prepare for. The worst is those conversations that poke and prod into your private life and your future plans and expectations particularly if you have been with someone a long time and/or if you are a woman over 30. I saw this post on facebook last year which highlights it quite well I think. It appears that you get to a certain point in life and it gives people carte blanche to ask anyone who doesn’t have children ‘so when are you having children’ to which I used to respond ‘I don’t know’ or sometimes even ‘I’m not bothered about children’ just to shut them up. That backfired once when one of the guys I worked with couldn’t get his head around why anyone wouldn’t want to have children, I nearly cried. Or the worst comment I have heard more than once is ‘you will understand when you have children’ to which at least in my head I am saying ‘oh sod off you patronising twerp [insert more offensive words as necessary]’ whilst probably actually saying ‘sure, you are probably right’ because I am an idiot. I now just tell them, that soon shuts them up. Again they aren’t meaning it to upset you but they are completely convinced that because someone doesn’t have children they couldn’t possibly understand some situations. Sorry that’s bullshit.
Apart from the small % of people who are genuine arseholes most really don’t know they are saying anything that could be considered insensitive and are probably only making conversation yet we feel a lot more personally attacked on this subject, at least I do, by an adult saying something which can be deemed insensitive, than a child. You have to remember that sadly people are inherently stupid at times; we are all guilty of it. We can choose to brush it off, get upset or be open, it’s a personal choice.
I have talked a lot about how part of the issue with fertility and things like MRKH still going under the radar is that we aren’t talking about it enough. This is very true. However I am also fully aware that this is not something that everyone feels they can or wants to do and its not always appropriate in the situation you are in. But, if you are willing to be more open then you might find a sense of relief in doing so and may be surprised by the response. I know I really have, more than I can explain to be honest.
Children focus on the important things in their life this might mean attacking you with a light sabre they want to wedge between your toes or locking you in a wendy house so they can throw tennis balls (actual tennis balls) at you. Or perhaps desperately wanting to take home that piece of pottery that they so carefully painted but the mean person (me) who took them to do so says it has to stay there and go in an oven before it can come home leading to a complete breakdown in the car park. Or what about the importance of auntie charlotte watching a swimming lesson to the point where said child refused to get into the pool until I was there. I love their priorities, we can learn a lot from those little people and how their brains work sometimes. We all take life much too seriously.
This might not be the path we imagined but who knows what it would have been if we didn’t have MRKH? Hindsight is a bitch and as hard or harsh as it sounds dwelling on it is not going to make things better, coming to terms with it as best as you can will. That’s not to say that is easy because its really really really hard and its not to say I will ever be desensitized from some situations because I know I wont. But that’s ok, you are allowed to feel like that its finding a way to manage your feelings that works for you that is important.
Life is just too short not to enjoy it as much to the full as possible, learn from the little people and their beautifully innocent and imaginative minds.