Here’s the continuation of Christina’s story. You can read the first part here.
After the miscarriage and leaving my job, I spent the next few months travelling with my husband. Even though I felt better upon returning home, there was still this sense of loss and failure that would plague me regularly. I recognised that I needed help and started seeing a counsellor weekly – an elderly lady with a compassionate, nurturing heart who always had an encouraging word for me after every emotionally gruelling session.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world wasn’t as kind. And here are some of the things said to me that really cut deep. You may also regard this as a nifty three-pointer list of things to NEVER say to a woman who is experiencing fertility issues:
1. “Is your husband treating you right?” (More diplomatic version: “How are you two these days?”)
I know people mean well and are concerned. But why so quick to assume that a childless marriage is one that is on perilous rocks, and that it would somehow give a husband more liberty to be abusive to his wife? This question still disturbs me at so many levels.
2. “Oh I’m so sorry, there’s not much meaning to life now, is there?”
This was uttered by an acquaintance that kept grilling me as to why I did not have kids. He kept going on about how children are really the only legacy one leaves behind after death. I told him point blank, “The gynae told me I can’t have children” (more about that in the next post). And then he blurted these words out and looked like he immediately regretted it.
3. “When you can’t conceive, it means there are spiritual issues”
Unfortunately, this came from a religious leader, who actually offered to exorcise me. I think with #2 and this point, the issue lies in this adherence to certain worldviews. Some people do believe that one MUST have children to have meaning in life, and that something MUST be fundamentally wrong with you if you can’t have kids.
And before all this happened, I was in the camp of these “some people”. But more than ever, I was now questioning these assumptions. Why do I feel I “deserve” to have children? Can I be happy without kids? Will my husband resent me for not bearing him offspring? Am I OK without leaving any “legacy” behind?
And so, when people said these things to me, my insides would tremble because there was already so much internal struggling going on. When I huffed and puffed about these “insensitive” people, the counsellor would say to me, “Christina, you can’t control what people think or say. But you can decide your own response. You’re used to pleasing people and being in control of everything. But now that you’re not, what are you going to do about it?”
And this was a question that I had to answer on my own.
To be continued…