Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Questions.

I was dripping wet just out of the pool for Bubbaboos swim class, getting him dried and dressed first.
There was one of the other Mums in the class beside me doing the same, she has a little boy John. It was the first time we had met.

John's Mum: How old is Bubbaboo?
Me: He is 13 months.
JM: John is 9 months. Is he your only one?
Me: yes, he is my only one.
JM: Yeah John is our only one too, but we are trying for another. Not sure how long it will take.
Will you be having any more?
Me: Umm, no he will be my only one. My husband passed away a few months ago.
JM: Oh I am so sorry. Was it sudden?
Me: No, he had cancer.
JM: How are you coping?
Me: Oh... OK I suppose, I have good days and bad days. Bubbaboo keeps my occupied.
JM: Yeah I bet he does. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.
Me: Thanks so much.
JM: See you next week.
Me: See you.
And she left.

After Max passed away, I wanted to join a playgroup but I was scared of the questions asked by other parents about "his father" You know the ones that come up as part of a casual conversation eg. "Oh what does your hubby do for work?" I wasn't ready for the questions because as soon as Max was mentioned I would fall apart and cry hysterically and I didn't want to put any strangers in an awkward situation. So I didn't join and still haven't.
But as time passes I can feel I am healing, I am coping better with these sort of situations. I still cry but usually in in private.
I wondered after my conversation with Johns Mum whether I should have told her that Max had passed away at all. Did I put her in an awkward situation? I could have just left it at "Umm, no he will be my only one." But then she may assume that I only wanted one child, which isn't true. But then it wasn't only Max's passing that ruled out having only one and I wasn't about to tell her about my whole IF history. Since we will be in the same swim class, I am sure the "hubby" question would come eventually, so best to get it over with from the start, I suppose. I thought she coped with it quite well.

There was another situation yesterday at the shopping centre. I was browsing in a small shop and Bubbaboo kept smiling at this old man who waddled along with a walking stick. We bumped into him a few times, not literally.
Old Man to Bubbaboo: Oh you are such a happy boy you are still smiling. ( In a Northern European accent)
Me: Smiling- Yes he is a happy boy.
OM: He must have happy parents? Are you happy?
Me: I try to be. He makes me happy.
I was cornered in a very narrow isle in the shop there was no way out or I would have just moved on now.
OM: And his father, is he happy?
Me: Umm his father passed away a few moths ago. (truth was that Max wasn't the happiest he had freakin' cancer. Would you be happy?)
He was looking down at Bubbaboo in the pram and I was pretending to look at something on the shelf. I could tell he was thinking. He looked up at me.
OM: It must be lonely?
Me: Yes it can be.
By this stage I really needed to get out of the isle so I squeezed passed him, trying to not knock the old man over with the pram. As I walked passed him he patted me on the back.
OM: You are still young.

I suppose it's a bit like infertility, to tell or not to tell. "Are you going to have children?" Do you answer "I am infertile?" That would put them in an awkward situation and I would never have said it to someone I hardly knew. Yet telling people that my husband has died also puts them in an awkward situation. I wonder if people cope better with a conversation about death than they do with infertility. Death is a part of life but IF is still taboo. I tell because I want people to know how it is. Life isn't always rosey, people are in all sorts of different situations. I don't want their sympathy. I want them to go away and cherish their day and their families because life can be short. But having said that I don't want to make them feel uncomfortable.

I know I could have written  this post better but I have a huge premenstrual headache and I needed to get this out whilst it was rattling in my head. So apologies in advance if it is misunderstood.

Do you think it's same, same but different?
How would you cope/react in these situations?


S said...

Hmmm...that's a tough one. I think you must decide what makes you feel best at the moment. There may be some point in the future where you just don't want to have the conversation with someone (whether it be a person in a store or the swim class mom). There may be some days where you want to share and share and share. I think both ways are perfect.

Now, as B gets older, you will probably share the story if he's with you. He may want to share the story for you.

Hugs. I read you often but never comment. I think the photos you post of your son are beautiful. Your husband sounds like a wonderful person, I can only imagine that you miss him terribly.

foxy said...

Oh gosh Vee. It sounds like you handled both situations with grace and a deep strength.

Not that a comparison can be made, but it took me a long time after our Azoos diagnosis before I finally figured out that social settings were so much easier to deal with then I had a few pre-planned responses to the "are you going to have kids?" question. In a lot of cases I just say that "we're having a hard time and I'd rather not talk about it". It sounds like you need a few 'pre-planned' responses that you can fall back on and feel safe and comfortable saying in different situations.

I wrote this, then deleted it, then wrote it again. I hope that it is okay that I comment on something you said that really touched me ...You mentioned that Max's passing doesn't preclude you having another, but I think that it is important to clarify that thought. Your Bugaboo was conceived out of the love that you and Max shared. I am only a reader of your blog, but I can feel how deeply you love and miss him, and can only imagine the loss of not being able to conceive more children out of your shared love. I can only imagine that, because of your experience with MFI, that those feelings are evolved in ways that many people can't begin to fathom.

I think that it is okay to tell the truth. You are carrying the weight of a devastating, yet invisible, loss. The only way to make it visible is to share it with others, and yes it might make them uncomfortable, because it is so sad and painful. But generally speaking, I think that in situation like that people will take your lead and if you present the information in an honest yet rational way, they will respond in a thoughtful and appropriate way too.

Thinking about you. -Foxy

maytey said...

You are so thoughtful Vee, always thinking about the other person even when they're doing something that is making you so uncomfortable! I think the pre-planned response idea is a good one, for the days when you don't want to have to think about it. xx

Bea said...

There are similarities and differences. I would like to think that people do respond better when the subject is death, but maybe I'm being optimistic. The truth is, it can be hard to know what to say either way. Then again, maybe on the whole we have more practice dealing with death (it comes to everyone, after all, not just 12.5% of the population - and you can hide infertility a lot more easily if you choose to, as well).

If you're wanting to know how you "should" react, then I think you did well. I can understand wanting to avoid those questions at first, but I'm glad you can answer them now, because it will make it easier for you to get out and do things for yourself and Bubbaboo, which is so important. It's hard to avoid the questions without shutting yourself in forever, and the answers won't always be appropriate, which sucks. I also think it's ok if you sometimes want to avoid giving a straight or complete answer, depending on the situation and your relationship to the person. But I don't see any problem with just being simple and honest, either, or going with a stock response, as Foxy suggested above. I wouldn't worry about creating awkwardness - "it is what it is" as they say, through no fault of anyone's.


Anonymous said...

Vee, you wrote that post perfectly. You are so strong and I love your honestly. I think when those inevitable questions in social situations present themsevles you will know in your heart whether or not you want to share your story and if you are having one of those days then a pre-planned response is definately the way to go. Sometimes you just dont want think about it at all let alone talk about it.
I think Johns mum would have appreciated and honoured your honestly about Max, it sounds like she handled it well. Hopefully you will meet some more nice mums and perhaps join a playgroup when you are ready as I know it can get really lonely at times. It would have been lovely to live close I would have loved to have you appart of my playgroup xx


lparsons15 said...

it sounds like you handled them well. I would like to think that I would be as strong as you are.

DaisyGal said...

as always you handled it well and with class.
I think that IF and death are the two things that people just can't seem to come up with the right words for at any given moment, no matter how hard they try.

Being honest about it will help you and it will help Buggaboo as he gets older and starts asking the questions too..if you can get to a place where the answer you give is the one you are most comfortable with and it doesn't leave you second guessing it, then you'll be in a peaceful place with the questions...even if your blood boils while you give the answer to the ignoramus that asked it. Just sayin,

It hasn't been long enough for you to come to peace with all of it yet, playgroups and all the rest will come and you'll know when it's time.

thinking of you.

Lut C. said...

I think you coped well in both situations.

Perhaps the difference between both situations is that you more or less have the choice to hide IF as long as you want to. You can evade, lie, ... I'm mostly in the closet, I have some practice.

The fact that Bubbaboo's father is gone is not something you can cover up indefinitely in social situations. The degree of choice is lower. Evading and lying will only get you so far.

The man in the shop, sounds rather unsettling.

Anonymous said...

There is suffering everywhere. We all have our cross to bare. When you share your 'suffering' with others it helps them understand that they are not alone in their own suffering. It's a gift that you give them when you share such an intimate bit of information. I know that sounds strange but it's what compassion is all about. Understanding and accepting your own and others suffering. I would expect nothing less of you my dear friend.