In memory of Murph, my life-affirming friend.
Dear Carolyn: Two of my employees are expecting and three more collaborators are pregnant. I am truly, truly happy for them … but, I am unable to have children (and still struggling with this after 11 years), and I have gone home in tears more than once.
I have been very careful to stay positive at work and to be supportive, though I stay out of the baby-clothes-and- accessories conversations. I don’t plan to tell anyone about my situation, but I am having a hard time handling this. Any suggestions? – Wistful at work
I’m sorry. Sometimes the situations where no one is doing anything wrong are the hardest to bear; there’s nothing to correct and no one to blame.
That’s not to say you’re stuck without options. You’re already exercising two of them, in fact, by choosing to stay positive and silent.
There are others, though, especially since your problem is really two problems: (1) your inability to have children, and (2) your proximity to these round-bellied reminders of your pain.
Since the second problem will resolve itself – these women will neither remain pregnant nor chatter about onesies forever, mercifully for all involved – your choices to put on a brave face and tough it out are sensible ones.
But that still leaves the second problem, which presents other options. Eleven years ago, you apparently made the choice to build a life without kids. Also a sensible choice. However, now that you’re moved to tears by your colleagues’ joy, maybe it’s time to revisit your decision.
There are, as you know, many different ways to have children in your life besides being a parent, involving everything from minor commitments, like volunteering occasionally, to major ones, like becoming a Big Sister or an emergency foster parent.
No doubt you weighed these possibilities 11 years ago – but the decision you made when you learned you couldn’t have children might not fit you as well now as it did then. Since the subject has been forced to the front of your mind, use the opportunity to ask yourself: Among all the choices still available to you, have you chosen the best one for you?
Even if you end up just affirming your past decisions, doing so is a source of comfort in itself. When you’re going through a hard time, that’s no trivial thing.
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