Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…Baby Chitchat January 10, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

We made the rounds of holiday parties in December, and I enjoyed myself 97% of the time. Loved catching up with friends and their significant others, meeting new people, and indulging in yummy things like mulled-spice wine and those little cocktail hotdogs wrapped in pastry and dipped in hot mustard.

Ah, but that remaining 3%. At one lively get-together, I noticed a woman holding a sleeping newborn. I asked how old the baby was and then congratulated her on the new addition to her family. She responded by launching into the gory details of her C-section. I don’t even know this person’s name, but I can tell you a few things about her anatomy and how it was ripped apart during the birth of her child. The man next to me chimed in with his experience of witnessing his wife’s C-section. Feeling at a complete loss, I mentioned my sister had to have a C-section when her 10-pound baby was two weeks late. And then I realized what a complete ass I was for trying to participate in this sorry excuse for chitchat.

I turned away and joined a group of men who were discussing sports…or something. I really don’t know what they were talking about, and it didn’t matter, because all I wanted to do was shake the C-section images out of my brain.

Being childfree can be especially challenging during the holidays, especially if you’re still struggling to accept your status. We have all endured painful questions, awful suggestions, and shockingly inappropriate conversations. I invite you to share a few, and maybe we can start to find the absurd humor in all of this.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is trying to embrace being childfree.

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8 Responses to “It Got Me Thinking…Baby Chitchat”

  1. Laura Nye Says:

    This was my first holiday season knowing I’m truly infertile (premature menopause at 38) so it was tough. On Christmas Eve my husband and I were having lunch at his mom’s and everyone was oo-ing and ah-ing over the baby. The baby’s mom (who is a distant relative of my husband) turned to us and said,”So are you guys wanting one of these sometime?” I was truly caught off guard because I thought she knew our situation. I was so stunned, I’m not even sure what I said. I think my husband and I just kind of mumbled out some “I don’t think so’s” or something. We mainly smiled nervously and shifted around in our seats.

    I thought my mother-in-law would have updated them, but she respected our privacy. After the couple and their baby left, my MIL and I discussed it. We agreed she should share the news with her family members who don’t know. My husband and I could hopefully avoid another awkward exchange.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      I once had a group of friends over for dinner, right after we’d got our final diagnosis (like a week after) and one of the husbands said to me (can’t remember what prompted it) “Oh, you’re not pregnant are you?” I gave my best sarcastic look, and said, “Yes, I’m pregnant.” One of my other friends was beside herself with excitement and I had to finally calm her down and explain in front of the whole table (including my mother) that I wasn’t pregnant nor was I going to be. Then I found something very important to do in the kitchen. I just assumed everybody knew and that my friends had told their spouses and each other. Lesson learned.

  2. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    Ouch! I’m so sorry. This is the kind of seemingly innocuous question that just guts us. My heart goes out to you as you come to terms with infertility and with the process of telling people.

    You bring up a great point for discussion: The difference between telling people (to hopefully avoid painful situations like yours) or wanting to keep private matters private. Thoughts or advice, anyone?

  3. I’m in a similar situation as you, Laura, and I assumed my husband’s immediate family was all aware of what the issue is, but this year at Christmas, as my husband and I sat in the kitchen with his sister (who has 3 kids) and her boyfriend, his sister suddenly asked, “So which one of you is the reason you can’t have kids?”

    After a minute of stunned silence, I guess we said me, and then it went into a litany of questions/suggestions (“You should get a surrogate.” “We don’t need a surrogate – the ‘oven’ is fine.” “Then you should just adopt.” Ugh…)

    It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, but it seems like it’s always brought up in a way that says, “There’s something wrong with you, and now I’m going to offer you all these ideas to fix it – I’m sure adoption never occurred to you!” I’d rather people try to understand how I feel about the whole thing if they’re interested, not try to offer me solutions.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      This is awful. I am so sorry. I know that people can say things without thinking and offer “helpful” advice, but their question was just plain insensitive. And people wonder why we come across as bitter sometimes.

  4. Laura Nye Says:

    I know what you mean, Marla. It’s hard to talk about this stuff with folks who haven’t walked in our shoes or try to imagine what the shoes feel like. I know people mean well, but their comments can sometimes come across as “You’re not okay unless you have a baby by any means necessary.” And that doesn’t help since I’m still struggling to believe I’m okay even if I’m not a mom. 😉

  5. […] this week I wrote about inappropriate chitchat, and my heart breaks over the comments (several came offline). Readers shared some of the horrible, […]

  6. […] this week I wrote about inappropriate chitchat, and my heart breaks over the comments (several came offline). Readers shared some of the horrible, […]


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