Monday, December 15, 2008

Careful Words..

A while back I read this post at Clothesline Alley which I thought was very thoughtful and timely. She writes from the point-of-view of someone wanting to have a child/more children, and how that situation feels when others are offering questions or comments on the planning of their family.

I know that some time ago I realized that a lot of what I said to people in this regard might not be received as nicely as it was presented.. That is, while I might be lightly teasing or even happily encouraging (and if I ever DID encourage anyone toward parenthood, be assured it was because I thought well enough of them to do so!), I could not know for sure what the situation was for the other person. Saying, "you should get one of these!" about my baby might not mean the same thing to the recipient of the comment.

For instance, I usually meant, "babies are wonderful, they're blessings, and I hope you will be so blessed." If the couple was actively preventing that blessing, would they take that as encouragement... or judgment? I never imagined it could be considered judgmental, but what if it was? Worse, what if they'd stopped 'preventing' (and I didn't know that) and were dealing with a recent disappointment? Responding with, "yeah, we'd like to..." then establishes an expectation, that the couple is "trying" -- and that's not anyone's business. What if they'd been trying and trying, and each month brought heartache? Wow, my cute little "encouraging" comment just became an arrow in their hearts...

It's best not to assume, and not to comment. Unless someone shares their fertility situation, it's just best 'not to go there.' We cannot know if the couple is making choices, or dealing with unwanted circumstances, and as Amy's post demonstrates, it's best to err on the side of caution.

Another good read on the subject is from Laine's Letters; here, another thought here, and a follow up, here.


Suki Lucier said...

As someone who has struggled with infertility for over 2 years, I really appreciated this post of yours. I love, love, love, children and especially babies- that's why I want to have them after all! So when we are around other people's children, I am the one holding the baby, playing peek-a-boo with the toddler or running foot races with the elementary school set. Inevitably, someone makes some sort of comment about how they don't understand why we don't have our own kids yet, or (this is my absolute least favorite) an aside to my husband that he better watch out because I have "baby fever". Guess what? He wants a baby just as much as I do people.

I have come to dread the "so when are you guys going to start a family?" question. How do I answer? If you aren't a close friend, I'm not going to share our fertility struggles, and yet I don't want to give the impression that we don't want children either. I now just say, "Soon we hope" or "Just waiting on God's timing".

What helps me is to assume that people have good intentions, like you do. Many of the comments are really just people trying to pay a compliment on being good with children. A lot of comments are because people are just so in love with their babies and parenthood that they want everyone to experience it- and isn't that an awesome, beautiful thing? I also try to remember that when you can procreate like a "normal" person, it can be easy to forget that having a baby is not a simple matter of choice for everyone. It can be hard to maintain that perspective though, especially if that month's "failure" is relatively fresh in one's mind.

I guess what I have learned from the whole experience is that this is my cross to bear, but that everyone else is bearing their own cross as well, so we should all be a little gentler on each other and more forgiving.

Sorry for the long comment.

EllaJac said...

Suki, please don't apologize for the 'long' comment. I love hearing what the random reader thinks about my ramblings. :)

Thank you so much for your thoughts on this. I am humbled that you 'put your heart out there' to share about this subject.

In regards to 'how do you answer' the 'start a family' question, perhaps it would be appropriate to point out that you and your husband are a family. If it's the kind of person who would pry further (and you don't want to share), asking them, "why do you want to know?" is a response that tends to turn the spotlight on their motives, instead of yours. Of course, this might be semi-awkward, and you wouldn't want to hurt anyone unduly, but it might be a good way to help them think things through a little further.

lastly, I will be praying for you, that God gives you grace in dealing with this situation, inspiration on dealing with the "questions" side, and that He would ultimately give you this heart's desire.