I’m not gonna lie. This week started out a little rough. Sunday was Father’s Day here in the US, and that can be a tough time to be an infertile not-father. It’s easy to fall into depression, or resentment, or at least an understandable, healthy sadness. And lord knows it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. And that’s where I kind of started out the day, and sitting down to right this post.
Some of it is the things you don’t get. No little feet running down the hall to jump on the bed and shout “Happy Father’s Day!” No smiling little faces that remind you that, to someone at least, you’re the greatest Dad in the whole world. No cheesy card, no corny poems, none of the silly, stylized and overly commercial trappings of a made-up holiday that, as someone who’s missing out on it, actually make sense to me now.
Some of it is the things you do get, the helpful, thoughtful people, (strangers mostly; clerks in shops, hotel staff, etc.) who go out of their way to wish you Happy Father’s Day. It’s entirely understandable.
I’m “at that age”. I live in a family-oriented area. I look like your average suburban Dad I guess. (So much so that I once had a group of young kids who didn’t know me cheering me on in an athletic event one day, and since I was a stranger, they all just shouted, “Dad! Dad! Dad!”. Hysterical, if a little bittersweet.)
It’s well meaning, and I actually applaud them for it. Parenting is a tough job, and a day of recognition each for Fathers and Mothers is a great idea. But those well-meaning strangers and acquaintances can also provide a repeating reminder of what’s missing, and they wish you well never realizing what a sting it can have.
So when I sat down to write this week’s post, I really wasn’t sure where I was headed, or where the process would take me. What surprised me, as it so often does in the journey of sharing (and therefore, of necessity, examining) one’s own thoughts and feelings, was where I actually ended up. Where’s that?
Not grateful to be infertile obviously, nor to be childless. That’s obviously not something I had wished for. But I think gratitude is largely based on recognition of the things we do have, and appreciating all of our blessings. How did I go from feeling sorry for myself and not knowing what to say, to realizing I had something (I hope?) worthwhile to say?
It’s all Google’s fault.
As millions do each day, when I’m not sure where to start on something, I go online and start typing random thoughts into Google. In this case, I started with “childless on Father’s Day”. And here’s what perusing dozens of results reminded me to keep in mind, something I guess I conceptually knew, but had never set down clearly before.
There are five types of childless people out there:
There are people who are happily and unabashedly childless by choice. A totally valid option, and right for some people. There are books and Web sites and social groups for these people, but this site isn’t for them.
There are people still trying to have a child and struggling, as we did, to do so. This can make Father’s Day pretty tough (I know, I was there) but you have the hope that “next year, I’ll be a Dad!” And for those of you in this place now, I deeply hope that’s true and I’m rootin’ for ya.
There are also people who tried, and couldn’t. That’s us now. That’s where I started out the day, feeling kind of down. I’d just left a week-long vacation with two amazing nephews I adore, and was on my way to see my goddaughter, and while all this time with kids I love made me happy, it also made what was missing in my own family more poignant.
But then I kept going, kept reading. There are two more types of childless couples.
There are those who got pregnant, but lost their baby to miscarriage. And there are those who had a child or children, and lost them to fate, disease or tragedy.
As I said, gratitude is a matter of perspective. And man, did the Internets slap me with a dose of that. Yes, it’s been hard going through infertility and, in our case, eventually ending up childless. Yes, Cathy and I will always have a longing for the kids we couldn’t have, the little lives we couldn’t create.
But my search also reminded me that being childless on Father’s Day can also be a story more tragic than our own. My heart broke, and breaks, for all the millions of people out there who did create a life, a miracle, a whole new, unique and special person, the only one like them in all of forever, and lost them. Your stories, your grief, your strength and honesty moved me, engaged me and renewed my perspective.
Cathy and I often say that we tell our story here in hopes that it may help even one person out there in Internet land. Well today, some of you out there helped me, and I thought you should know that your story left me changed for the better. Yes, I’m childless on Father’s Day. But I’m also more awake, more aware, and I hope more compassionate for a whole group of childless people I hadn’t given enough thought or care or love to before.
I know this hasn’t been exactly or entirely about infertility, but I think that the larger picture of childlessness is inextricably tied to that reality, so I hope you all will grant me this brief foray into a broader perspective of Fatherhood. I’m childless on Father’s Day, yes, and sad, but it’s how I’ve ended up grateful too.
This post is also available in: Arabic