Monday, August 24, 2009

On preferring sticks and stones

Three weeks later, her words are still with me, roiling through my gut like pesky, intestinal gnats; not exactly painful but just galling and irritating enough to still sting in the quiet moments when I stop and take their measure: yes...they are still there.

Yes, they still hurt.

The words were part - just a very small part actually - of a conversation I had with an acquaintance, a dear friend of a very dear friend, I had met briefly a few times before. She is tall, blonde and pretty and works in independent film. She's thoughtful,

We ran into each other at a girls gathering and were chatting about her upcoming wedding (to a member of Canadian music royalty no less) and comparing notes on parenting. She has a one-year-old and is stepmother to a 10-year-old and a 20-year-old.

She admitted with a grin that she was already thinking about a second child with her soon-to-be husband and I remarked that at least she had a few built-in babysitters. I didn't mention that I had been thinking about a second child for almost three years now, but I noticed and envied the ease and assurance with which she discussed her plans to add to her family.

I always notice that in other women: I always envy that.

And the conversation turned, as it so often does these days, to plastics and phthalates and chemicals and all this crap that has apparently crept into our children's food and toys and how it might be affecting them, particularly their future fertility.

Another woman remarked on a documentary she had seen about the decline of fertility, particularly male fertility, and how the phenomenon was something we had all seen around us. I talked about a book I was reading that deals with this very thing.

"Well, maybe it's not such a bad thing really," said the first woman, she of the one-year-old and the two step-children and the blithe plans for more. "I mean, the earth can only handle so many children, it's probably just the earth's way of self-correcting and saying 'no more'."

I didn't say anything: I didn't think I could say anything without bursting into tears, so I didn't say anything.

"I mean, at some point, something has to force people to really stop and look at why this is happening, about whether it's because we're overpopulating the earth, right?"


I think I may have just mumbled something or changed the subject, or at least someone did, and the conversation went on. I spent the rest of the evening not thinking about what she said while continuing to chat with her and thoroughly enjoying our conversation. The night ended when I sincerely wished her good weather for the upcoming wedding and headed for my car.

It wasn't until the way home that I let myself replay the conversation; until I let the hurt and the indignation wash over me.

I cried much of the way home actually, but more out of plain old frustration than any real anger, because I know her words were not meant to be hurtful. I'm quite certain, in fact, that she would have been mortified had I taken her aside and told her how I was feeling.

She probably would have been mortified if I sought to confirm that any plans she had to stop and really look at the issue of overpopulation were meant to be executed after her partner had fathered his fourth child.

She probably would have felt badly if I had gently pointed out that positively glowing with happiness and good fortune whilst that speculating that someone else's ailment might be the result of a necessary and perhaps even deserved Darwinian correction is, at the very least, staggeringly insensitive.

I probably should have told her how I felt, but I didn't.

Perhaps I would have if I had known that more than three weeks later her words would still be there, roiling around my gut, gnawing at me and making my eyes sting with tears when I watch my only child try and make a playmate out of our 12-year-old cat.


Do you live in the Toronto area? Do you know where one can purchase a Curious George balloon? If so please, please spill your secrets in the comment box - I have a dear friend who may have to renege on a serious promise to a toddler who's about to turn three. We can't have that, can we? Help!

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Magpie said...

I'm so sorry for your hurt. Talking about babies and reproducing is so often fraught in a one-sided way.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I can see how hurtful that would have been. As you said, she would have been mortified if she understood how painful that statement was to you.

It's a lesson to all of us that we need to be aware of the words that are coming out of our mouths.

Unknown said...

Wow. God using man-made chemicals to limit our population growth? That doesn't sit well with me either.

I see the continued production of something that is harmful as a bad judgment by our manufacturers and their continued used as bad judgment by consumers. Or not enough education of consumers. BPA is a big no-no in our house and I feel pretty strongly about that.

As for your Curious George balloon. Have you tried Party Packagers?

Vered said...

I'm so sorry. People can be cruel and insensitive without ever meaning to. I'm sure I am sometimes. For what it's worth, I think you did the right thing when you didn't tell her how you felt. I hope writing this post will help you feel better.

Chantal said...

As I was reading that I was thinking "how can she say that when she will soon have 4 kids!!!"

Anonymous said...

I agree that what she said was insensitive. I think you're probably right that she would have been mortified if she's known how you were feeling. I think she was making conversation and not really thinking about what she was saying.

It's easy to just talk and not think about how what you're saying is effecting those around you. I worry that I don't pay enough attention to this kind of thing. I'd hate make someone feel the way you've been feeling. I'm sorry you were hurt.

I hope you find that Curious George balloon!

Wendy said...

Oh Kelly....people are so insensitive aren't they? I'm so sorry and I hope she got home and really thought about what she had said.

As for the Curious George balloon....I'm pretty sure I've seen them at McMaster Children's in the gift shop. You might want to try hospital gift shops, especially Sick Kids (since it's closer I'm sure) and see what they have. Or there's a great party shop on the Danforth in Greek Town with oodles of balloons, they might have it too.
I can check out Mac for you if that would help?


naomicatgirl said...

It doesn't sound like she meant any malice, but that doesn't make it any easier to hear. People live in their own bubble, and don't realize how they hurt others (trust me, I've been victim too often!!)

As for the curious george balloon - someone suggested party packagers. There's also a pretty well stocked party store at Lawrence & Bathurst in the plaza (don't remember what it is called), you could look it up and call. Good luck!

Aunt Becky said...

Her comments hurt me too. I'm sorry, DMD. I wish I had anything better or more poignant to say, but no.

Shania said...

When I was going through miscarriage after miscarriage, people would say the most hurtful things under the guise of being helpful. I think, secretly, they felt superior, but couldn't be called on it because they were being "compassionate".

Lucia's Mom said...

I'm sorry you were hurt by what she said, although it doesn't sound like she meant any harm by it. But much more importantly, I'm sorry you have to deal with infertility. That completely sucks. That's the real point of your story, and probably what's actually bothering you, not some silly comment from a party.

Cheryl said...

I'm so sorry you were so upset! I got upset FOR you!! And I agree, Sick Kids has Curious George balloons, I've seen them with my own two eyes!

Sandra said...

You know, you never really get over the infertility pain. My fave comment is "you should just adopt", like it is so easy - hey, just like going to the baby store!

Or telling someone to "relax" and then they'll fall pregnant. Perhaps those who suffer from other medical conditions can "just" relax too and be cured.

On a lighter note, my husband is an only child and had a fab time growing up. Yes it's different - but it doesn't have to be lesser.

moosh in indy. said...


Four years of infertility for me.

Wife of an attorney, married eight years, good family, safe home with morals and standards and more love than anyone could handle.

Crack whore down the street pregnant with her second out of wedlock with different partners living on welfare.

If this is Darwinism, Darwin is really really stupid.

Classy Fab Sarah said...

Wow, just wow. I am so sorry for the pain those words hurt you - I am hurting and I am years from even starting a family.

I'm sure she had no idea how hurtful she was being... but ouch, just ouch.

kittenpie said...

she hsows at the very least a shocking lack of self-awareness!

And as to the Curious George balloon, you might try the big toy store on Mt Pleasant? mastermind? Or various grocery stores, of course.

S said...

I have had conversations so like this in the last year and a half.

The year and a half since my hysterectomy.

The comment that stung most came from my younger son's teacher, who said, "We love your kids! Are you going to have another so we can teach him or her?"

God, do I want to have another. But no, no more for me.

So yeah, I understand.


scarbie doll said...

I've probably been guilty for some of these off the cuff remarks myself. I should really shut up more.

I remember making comments about my friends who had in vitro (before I ever had kids). Even when she gave birth to preemie twins all I could think was how she did it with no drugs. I had no clue.

Sorry you're hurting. Infertility sucks.

Anti-Supermom said...

Kelly, I'm feeling so much pain for you. I can't even imagine what you have gone through in these past three years.

People carelessly toss out many things they don't mean to say, I hope you can 'toss out' this part of the conversation very soon.

Best wishes.

Unknown said...

I know you know she didn't mean to effect you in that way but of course that doesn't matter. What matters is that it did. Wish I could just 'rewind' the tape for you and make it go away...

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry that she said that. At minimum it was phenomenally insensitive. Not everyone can just blink and end up pregnant. It's a good thing to keep in mind when you're out navigating the world.

If nothing else, it's a little bit bizarre to argue for population control when you're reproducing at a rather alarming clip yourself. :/

Laura said...

People can get all tied up in their own situations - but that sure is no excuse.


CaraBee said...

I am constantly saying things that as soon as the words are out of my mouth, I'm like what the eff was I thinking? And of course then I agonize about their potential impact. I am positive she didn't mean her words to be hurtful. And if she did? Then you need to avoid that bitch like the plague. Hugs!

Shauna said...

I remember something like this happening to me. I held it together until I got to my car. A half hour later, I was almost howling with grief as I walked in my front door.

I'm sorry for her inadvertent insensitivity.

Off topic: I'm totally dying to know who this girl is marrying. :)

Kelli @ writing the waves said...

wow....that is crazy. I'm sure I would have been dumbfounded thinking "did she really just say that?"

People really are so insensitive sometimes...probably without even realizing it. I'm sorry you had to endure that.

Good luck finding the CG balloon!

karengreeners said...

Totally insensitive, and stupid really. I would have suggested she do her part by putting the kibosh on those second baby plans. Moron.

As for the balloon, try It's My Party (haven't read the comments above, so you may have heard that already).

Anonymous said...

Such a heart-wrenching post. I too, believe she didn't really MEAN anything by it... maybe she was just being flippant. And understandably, because of your situation, you are ultra-sensitive to comments like these.

After a miscarriage, I remember seeing a young pregnant person on the street, smoking. And I was so angry, for I had lost mine, and she didn't even care about hers. I remember passing by pregnant people in the mall, who looked way older than me, thinking why could they get (and stay) pregnant and I couldn't?

Anyway... enough about me. I'm surprised you don't write about this more. You're a fabulous writer and I think you could help a lot of women out there.

Mandy said...

It took us 4 years to have our son and plenty of time through the wringer trying various procedures and drugs. I am still amazed to this day at how flippant and so self assured some people sound about when and how many children they will have. It must be nice is all I can think..

I'm sorry her insensitivity hurt you.

Angela said...

I think you're right, I believe she would have been mortified if she had known how hurt you were by her blithe comments. I am so very sorry it was so painful for you.
Life is so very unfair, where is my magic wand when I need it?!

Heather said...

People just don't think before they speak do they? Infertility stinks. I know how painful that is.

moplans said...

I am a pretty bitter person and somehow I've been able to look at the reproductively lucky and think just that 'how lucky for them that they don't know any better'
it is not fair K. I am so sorry. said...

They all said what I'm thinking. I'm sure she didn't realize how it would feel to be part of her Darwinian theory, but it still was a bit harsh.

You know that you have all of my hopes for your family to grow. Even though it's a gorgeous family, just as it is.

Love you.

Here's a link for an online balloon order. There are tons of them for Curious George....

Anonymous said...

i think that was an absurd thing to say, esp given her plans for more kids

Amy said...

She sounds like a ridiculous person. I'm so sorry.

ewe are here said...

perhaps you should have suggested she do 'her part' in saving the world by not letting her husband help bring a fourth child into it.


People really can be thoughtful and insensitive.

mep said...

Echoing much of what's been said above. I'm so sorry her words are hurtful and think the theory of population self-correction via BPA and the like is ridiculous. Ridiculous.

Maybe she'll read this post . . .

Stephanie said...

Delurking to sympathize. Three years of trying to conceive my daughter meant having to suffer through numerous insensitive comments from people, including one woman who told me that if I was having so much trouble getting pregnant then maybe I wasn't meant to be a mother. During the deepest darkest moments of postpartum depression her words haunted me more than anything else. Many people don't realize how hurtful or impactful their words are. It's a shame really because they probably don't even realize it.

p.s. I grew up in Don Mills. I'm a Lawrence and Leslie girl :)

AutoSysGene said...

Uhm ouch! Majorly insensitive, huh? I hope that you can get these words out of your mind soon.

I hope that writing them down helped a bit...and I also hope you know that just because this is her opinion doesn't mean that it has to be yours.

Hang in there.

Pregnantly Plump said...

I've been reading lots of environmental things recently and I usually get irritated by the flip way people say some of us are overpopulating the earth by having one or more kids. I have to admit, this is the first mention I've read about this being a way the earth is course-correcting. I find it odd that someone who plans to add to a family with three kids would make such comments. Very odd. I'm sorry that it hurt you. Sometimes we just don't think before we speak...

Rachel said...

It's amazing how thoughtless little blurbs from people's mouths can damage us and latch their spiked talons into our very being.

I'm so sorry, K.


No clue about a CG balloon. sorry

Karen MEG said...

Kelly, Kelly, you KNOW you've got a kindred spirit here.

Staggering insensitivy lurks even within the confines of a family sometimes. Unfortunately. I recently actually DID say something about someone's insensitivity on this topic that made someone feel like a total dipshit. I felt better about it though, because they should feel it. I'm so nice that way.

Hugs to you sweetie...

caramama said...

The things people say... people who haven't been touched by fertility issues... So many people don't really intend to hurt others with their curious questions or offhanded comments. But words do hurt. If only everyone realized that.

I'm sorry you had to hear them and are still dealing with them.