Archive for February, 2013
Once again I stared into her big, blue, and teary eyes as she directed this question to me for what feels like 1,000th time. What do I say? Yes, my learning curve as a loving husband hasn’t been as fast as the speed of light. But given this question has popped up a bit over the last six years, on this occasion I at least knew the difference between responding in love and ramming my size twelve foot in my mouth.
It had been a tough couple of weeks. Recurring reminders of our infertility have taken us both a little by surprise. And as a consequence, depression has been knocking on the door of wife’s heart. Again. I can empathize with her. Our last “baby worship service” or our recent run-ins with coffee shop “friends” would be enough to drive even the most optimistic of infertiles to toy around with a little Russian roulette.
So anyway, there we were, cuddling on the coach, with her dropping this all too familiar interrogative in my lap. Here are just two of my infamous past mutterings that you could categorize foot-in-the-mouth responses to this question. The third is what I actually said this time.
Well, to be honest, I’m pretty fed-up with this whole process. Why don’t we just give up hope and move on? Why don’t you just get a hobby, a new project, or even a dog? I’ve been ready to move on for a while now.
This is really a proud and insensitive slap in the face: proud because it pretends like the whole issue doesn’t really bother me that much (a lie); insensitive because I’ve just missed an opportunity to validate her feelings; and slap in the face because it’s laced in emotional abuse. By emotional abuse I mean that it puts the blame on my wife for what was actually our decision: to move forward with the last few treatments. In addition, I am also disrespecting my wife’s dream for children. She doesn’t disrespect my dreams for success in my work. Why should I disrespect her dreams for children?
Here’s another foot-in-mouth option I’ve been guilty of.
You always tell me that you want me to be honest. And actually, I have seen you sad now for a (insert obnoxious tone here) loooong time.
This one sounds a little less egotistical but in reality it’s still pretty demeaning. It certainly doesn’t take into consideration the core content of my wife is really asking. She really cares less about whether I’m tired of her sadness and more about if I’m tired of her. She wants to know if I’m still committed to her. When I realize that’s what really behind her words, I’ll know that that is what required is responding to this concern.
What I’ve learned my wife really needs to hear is something like this:
I’m sick of seeing you hurt like this because I love you so much. I wish desperately that I could take your pain away, but I can’t. So don’t worry, even if I can’t completely understand your sadness, I want you to know that I am with you all the way.
In this statement, I join her in her pain and frustration, and do so while immediately addressing her real concern: that I still love her. I validate her emotions as much as I can, but more importantly reaffirm what she wants to hear most.
I couldn’t help but sigh in frustration as I watched the back of my wife’s head bobbing up and down in the front of the church, her shoulders sagging, and her left hand dig around in her purse for more kleenex. I knew those jerky movements far too well, and even though she had a cold, I knew this wasn’t related to her congestion. The fountains had burst and were pouring forth. For my wife, this usually means it’s Niagara Falls for a good 10-100 minutes. The service had torn open her carefully wrapped up infertility wound, and she couldn’t just slap on another band aide and her fake happy face. She was done.
I’ve got to admit that as I watched from the back row, I had two or three good reasons for lining up to slug a hole in the church wall. For one thing, I should have known better than to have signed up to be a greeter on the morning of a baby dedication. I know. I know. We probably shouldn’t have even gone in the first place. But since we were there, I should have been next to my wife, consoling her with my hand on the small of her back. Maybe I would have even been able to distract her by whispering a joke or asking her for a mint (This usually requires that she dig around her purse for a good 3 minutes. We like to call her purse “the pit of despair.”).
For another thing, I felt like cursing at the leadership of our church for their promotion of the “baby idolatry hour.” Yes, we have many full quivers in our church, with many folks who are quite jazzed about babies, babies, and more babies, but this doesn’t mean we have to dedicate a whole Sunday morning service to the little bundles of joy. That’s right, the WHOLE service was given to the cult of the marvelously fertile couple standing before us.
Finally, given that our church is so incredibly small, my wife’s sniffing and sobbing really did make a scene. For everyone else in the room, the church elders laying their hands on mom and dad and praying over “little José” is the pinnacle of joy. Big freaking smiles all around…and then there is my wife. I couldn’t help but pray. “God please help her stop. Make her stop. Please God. Please.”
But she didn’t. And dozens of minutes later when the service ended and my wife’s tears still hadn’t, we jolted out of the service to get away, to go out to eat, to try and pretend that this didn’t really happen, and that this really isn’t our life.