A while ago I wrote this post about how I would dearly love to have more children but am unable to, mostly due to issues with my mental and physical health. I thought that I was gradually adjusting to the knowledge that DS is my last baby, that the large family DH and I yearn for will never exist. But this afternoon I was sorting through my maternity clothes and some baby clothes that DS has outgrown and I found myself sobbing quietly into a sleepsuit.
My last pregnancy wasn’t great, I suffered from AND (antenatal depression) and my mobility became so poor that I was housebound for the last month or so. But I would do it again in a heartbeat and the pain of knowing that I will never again know the thrill of having a small life growing inside me hurts me almost more than I can bear.
However I’ve been told on many occasions (mostly via social media but occasionally in person) that I shouldn’t feel like this, let alone admit it publicly. Apparently it is selfish and inconsiderate to those who are unable to have any children. I should count my blessings and stop feeling sorry for myself. Now, I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who wants children and cannot have them; I remember how desperate I was before DD was conceived and I can’t imagine the misery of knowing that you will never have a child. But I have come to realise that that doesn’t make my pain at not being able to have more children any less real, any less valid, any less painful.
As friends have pointed out to me, my having children doesn’t mean there are fewer children left for others – there isn’t a finite number to be shared out. Equally my pain should have no bearing on whether friends and acquaintances have more children; their reproductive decisions should be based on what is best for their family, not whether or not it will twist the knife a little deeper for me.
Conception isn’t the only topic where I have encountered this attitude; I have also been criticised when discussing poverty and finances. I have made no secret of the fact that DH and I are both out of work, that we have very little money, that every penny is stretched as far as it can go. But again I have been accused of selfishness if I admit that constantly counting the pennies and going without is stressful and makes me deeply unhappy. Yes, there are people who are worse off than I am, people whose children have no shelter, no doctors, no food. And of course I know this and I am grateful to live in my circumstances and not theirs. But knowing that there are many people worse off doesn’t make my money go any further. Knowing that there are families who are homeless doesn’t make me any happier about having to ask my mum to buy the children new shoes because we can’t afford to.
It can be helpful to remember that there are those less fortunate than ourselves. But there’s a difference between “Hey, it could be worse” and “You have no right to feel that way because of X”. Lecturing and berating someone for how they feel will not make them any less unhappy. It will change how they view you and whether they’re honest with you in the future. It may also change whether they’re honest with anyone else about how they feel or whether they merely bottle up the misery with an added dose of shame and guilt for feeling as they do.