Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

One Understanding Person June 18, 2012

How many times, when someone’s asked how you’re doing, have you said, “Oh, fine,” when inside, you know you’re really not? Plenty, I’m guessing.

We’re culturally pre-programmed to respond this way, because the truth is, when people say, “Hey, how are you doing?” what they mean is something like, “Hey, I see you, I’m acknowledging your existence and letting you know that I want you to think that I’m a friendly person, but don’t get too close, and definitely don’t answer my question honestly, because I really don’t want to know, unless everything’s rosy in your world.”

Cynical? Perhaps? But imagine answering that question honestly and picture the look you’d expect to see on most people’s faces.

Which is why we protect ourselves by telling everyone we’re fine.

Recently, Wendy added a comment to a post I wrote, and shared something she had once posted on her Facebook page. She wrote:

“Sometimes when I say, “I’m okay,” I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me tight and say, ‘I know you’re not.’”

Wendy said she got a lot of hugs after that post.

It’s incredible what a difference one understanding person can make. I’ve met several surprise ones over the years—a friend of my mother’s who caught me off guard with an understanding word; a stranger at a cocktail reception, who told me she and her husband didn’t have children either, and who became my BFF for the evening.

So, today I’m sending out a thank you to all the understanding people out there to let them know how much their simple word or hug made a difference to me.

Who’s been your surprise understanding person?


6 Responses to “One Understanding Person”

  1. Wolfers Says:

    I had tears reading this- yeah- was looking for a hug today, understanding/validation….

    Terry, an online friend that I had known for eleven years. I’m saying that with tongue in cheek, because we are friends in tastes and attitude, yet enemies in politics and religion- One moment, we’d talk about romance authors, funny things we had seen, and philosophy. Next thing before we knew, we’d have hissing spats over each other’s political/religious posts on facebook! Afterwards, we’re planning to go together to the Comic Con in San Diego next year. Now that’s odd bedfellows!

    Anyway, she had surprised me immensely, when she started to check in with me when I disclosed that I cannot have children. She went out of her way, letting me know she’s there for me, hugging me and sending me packages. She disclosed that she had gone through the same thing, (infertility), and she *knows* how it is. That helps a lot.

  2. kris Says:

    Hands down, my father-in-law. While he has lots of frustrating qualities (rampant attention difficulties and a compulsive need for cleanliness), he has offered unconditional support and deep understanding to hubby and I. He’s been curious, he’s been positive, he’s been honest, and he’s always supported the fact that our marriage & personal happiness are top priority.

    In fact, I just sent him a text declaring today to be Father-in-Law’s Day. Thanks RD!

  3. Great article. This is a very important issue, because human to human connection is so important and critical to a life well lived. Thanks for for posting this. I see that we have some similarities in our writing. You are always welcome to come visit me in my little corner of the blogosphere ( to share your thoughts and insights. Or just to say hello!

  4. Nic Says:

    I always wonder why I tell people I’m fine when I’m obviously not. You summed it up well. Basically people do not really care, they just want to seem like they do.
    I wish I could say who has been understanding and I can not think of anyone outright. A lot of friends have been good but no one has been amazing.

  5. Jenny Says:

    Aside from my husband: I’m still waiting for that surprise understanding person. My family doesn’t really get it. I’ve had fellow infertiles who have said they understood; but most of them have had babies or are in the process of having babies. I think most people think that because we’ve decided to stop trying we’re ok and we’re fulfilled with life as it is. I’m working on finding fulfillment; but I don’t think we’ll ever be “ok” and I don’t think very many people understand that.

  6. loribeth Says:

    The first story that springs to mind is actually not mine but dh’s. There was a lady named P., who worked for the travel agency next to my dad’s office. When we found out my daughter was stillborn and would be delivered within the next 48 hours, she worked the phones and moved heaven and earth to get my mom on a plane in time to be there with me.

    We were home visiting my family, about a year after we lost our Katie, & dh had been out golfing with my dad & they stopped by the office. Dh told me P. (who had sent us a lovely card) said to him, “So how are you?” “Fine,” he said. “No, really. HOW ARE YOU?” she said and he realized she really did want to know and wasn’t just being polite. We never forgot that. Sadly, she died just a few years later.

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