The Great Big But

First, a note: Thanks to everyone who has read and commented so far. It has been encouraging and energizing to get so much positive feedback right off the bat. In spite of this community being one that none of us really wants to be a part of, y’all are pretty fantastic, positive and supportive people. Thanks for reading!


It’s weird how things will just up and blindside you. Last night, I was watching TV and happened to see an ad for this new movie Life as We Know It.

First off, it looks like an awful movie. I’m not anti-chick-flick by any means – heck, I was watching Gossip Girl when I saw the ad, so I’d say my willing-and-able-to-enjoy-female-oriented-pop-culture creds are safe – but this just looks like a collection of horrible clichés and stereotypes and Idiot Plotting and, gee, I wonder if Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel* will hate each other at the end of the second act and then get together at the end of the third? Do you suppose perhaps they’ll be brought together by the important lesson that only having children can possibly validate you as a person?

* Interesting star pairing here. She doesn’t have enough vowels in her name and he’s got too many.

I mean, all you really need is a look at the movie’s poster to learn all you really need to know:

Men are dumb and slobs and kind of like big kids, yanno? Which one’s the baby and which one’s the grown-up, amirite? Oh, it’s funny because it’s true. Or something.

Also, Josh Duhamel’s tighty-whities and black high tops combo there is kind of disturbing.

But none of that is really the point.

A medical diagnosis of infertility has had a curious effect. During the last few months of the trying-without-succeeding year, I said on a couple of occasions, “I don’t think my life will be incomplete if we don’t have a child.” I said that with the luxury of being able to still think, “We’ve just had bad luck, and things will work out eventually.” It was a statement without any real weight behind it.

Now I’m forced to ponder the reality of that. What happens if the Magic Beans don’t work?** What if we decide that we just can’t afford IVF, or if Ms. Swimmin just can’t/won’t put her body through that stress? What if we go for IVF and it still doesn’t work? What if, what if, what if…?

** Yes, I’ve started taking Magic Beans, operating on the “Well, it can’t hurt anything” theory, those being the verbatim words of both the Reproductive Endocrinologist and the Urologist.

So I remind myself of all the things about a child-free existence that are good. We can travel. When the right opportunity to go to Egypt or Norway or Japan or anywhere else that sounds intriguing comes along, we can just up and go without thinking about school schedules or whether we can leave the kids with Grandma for a week or anything else like that. We can have a little more fun with our money – buy a new TV instead of making sure there’s enough for the kids to play soccer or go to camp or things like that. We can go to the movies or a concert or out to dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t purchase crayons by the gross or serve chicken nuggets without ever thinking about getting a babysitter or feeling the need to call home to check in (because the cats sure as hell aren’t going to answer the phone). We can, in short, live our lives knowing that our only responsibility is to ourselves.

And, in spite of the message of every movie or TV show about having kids ever to come out of Hollywood – a cultural monolith that is, collectively, deeply conservative and traditional and terrified of offending Middle America down to its very bones in spite of the bleating of right-wing blowhards – I truly believe that having and caring for children is not the only meaningful way to validate yourself as a person. People are perfectly capable of living rich, interesting, meaningful and completely fulfilling lives without children. And if that turns out to be the case in our lives, I’m sure we will do just that.


Oh, there’s that great big but. There’s always a great big but.

But…I see this ad for this awful-looking movie, I see the moment when Josh Duhamel (clad, thankfully, in more than tighty-whities and black high-tops) accidentally gets the baby crying, and I can think only of one thing. I want that. Not the crying, necessarily, though obviously it’s kind of a package deal. But the idea that there’s this small person for whom the world is frightening, confusing and upsetting and that I, of all people in the world, might be the one person who makes things less frightening, happier, calmer…that’s an idea that pleases me immensely.

I want it in spite of the detriment to my own personal freedom.  I think that, at first, back at the very beginning, well before the pulling of the goalie, I wanted kids mostly because Ms. Swimmin wanted kids, and I didn’t not want kids. In the beginning, that was enough for me. Now, things have changed. I still want kids in part because she does – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think she’s going to be an absolutely fantastic mother. But beyond that, I want kids because I, myself, really and legitimately want them. I want them because I really do think I’d be a pretty good father. I may not succeed at any of the other things I do or want in life…but I really do believe I’d be a success at just that one thing.

And just how much I wanted this on a purely personal level, independent of Ms. Swimmin’s own wants, needs or desires, is something I had never really realized before. No matter what happens from here on out, I don’t think I’ll ever again be able to say honestly that I won’t feel like my life is incomplete without children. It was an astonishing revelation, equal parts incredibly exciting and terribly sad.

Hard to believe. All that from an ad for a bad-looking movie that aired during a trashy soap opera aimed at teenage girls. Life is full of these little surprises. That’s kinda what’s so great about it.


11 responses to “The Great Big But

  1. It’s intriguiging to say the least, how hyper aware we become of simple things such as movie trailers… Who knew a randomly mailed Potterybarn Kids catalog could ruin my day? And how is it that something so arbitrary can all of a sudden make you realize not only have you turned a corner, but there is no going back?…
    Life’s little suprises, indeed.
    Fantastic Post.

  2. Mr S, what an awesome change of pace to read things from the male perspective and incredibly refreshing to know that underneath the hairy legs and football jerseys my partner in crime likely felt many of the same little twinges of sadness and envy that I was. Or at least, I’m going to take your post as proof that he COULD have. 🙂

  3. I hope you someday get to the point where my husband and I are: After all the crap and sadness and struggle that we both went through, now, when the child acts up, my husband says “Well, it’s your problem. You’re the one who wanted her.” 🙂

  4. I think the line, “It was an astonishing revelation, equal parts incredibly exciting and terribly sad” is something that I can totally relate with when we were trying to conceive.

    I will share that it doesn’t go away with time.. and that’s what makes it even sadder.

    Love your thoughts on the movie.. something I often do and think when I see these commercials for a ‘new’ movie which ends up being the same ol’ stereotypical stories of how things are “in real life”. 😛

    Hope you and Mrs. Swimmin get through this ugly hard stage of trying for kiddies as quick as you suddenly realized you were part of this community. It’s not an easy road, and if I could wish it be true, I’d wish no one had to be part of it..

    I’m here from Mel’s Roundup, and am going back through your posts to read more.. 🙂

  5. I’m so glad you wrote this. There was one day my husband went and helped a buddy put a window in, and his twin boys were running around trying to help their dad and driving him crazy. My husband got real quiet sitting in the car, and I noticed he was tearing up a little, and all he said was “I want that.” Until then, I hadn’t really known how much infertility was affecting my husband. It turns out that my husband should have been careful for what he wished for, because now not only do we have the twin boys but a little girl too.

    I hope you get all the crying, pooping, puking down your shirt, running away from you in the store, and drop down drag out temper tantrums you desire 🙂

  6. Quite right about the poster telling me all I need to know. Didn’t notice the sneakers/underwear combo until you pointed it out though 🙂

    This was a great post. I know that if we don’t have children we will have the rich fulfilling life and wonderful marriage, complete with non-phone answering cat, but there will still be that hole in our hearts, the sadness that we tried as hard as we could and it didn’t work out.

    One of the hardest things for me has been realising that my husband wants this as much as I do, and that it isn’t happening. I say this because most of the early years we still had a lot of hope, and when things went bad, he was my rock. But now we have Big Deep Talks and I know he does want it, really really wants it, and I want to be able to give it to him. Worse, when you see him flinch at an insensitive MIL comment, or get upset at a TV commercial. It really hurts to see those things, but in another light, we are stronger for being on the same page and going through it together.

    Phew! Sorry for hogging the comments. Once more am gonna say I really enjoyed your post and it’s great to hear a male perspective.

  7. Thank you for posting this. I’m visiting from the Friday Roundup and it helps tremendously to hear from a man’s perspective and yours is so raw and honest. Thank you for expressing yourself so beautifully. I hope your day is coming really soon to be the parent you want and deserve to be. (((hugs)))

  8. Thanks for your post. It was interesting to read a man’s perspective since my husband will rarely talk about the subject of infertility. However, we have had many of the same conversations about living child-free rather and have come up with many of the same conclusions. This one line sums it up “I don’t think I’ll ever again be able to say honestly that I won’t feel like my life is incomplete without children.”

  9. We too have had the ‘might like not be better childfree’ conversation and there is ALWAYS a BUT! Thank you for a brilliant blog post, it really is great to find another man (my hubby has a great blog – if I’m allowed to boast!) out there who is willing to really express himself.

  10. Fantastic post. Poignant. I agree with so many of the things you’ve said – that having children wouldn’t be the only way to complete the picture, but… but. I do hope something – Magic Beans or whatever – does the trick.


  11. Great post, and good to see some input from the male perspective. I had much of the same thought processes from the outset. I wasn’t opposed to having kids and I knew the man I was going to marry (now husband) wanted them. We’re now 1.5 years into trying. And, I understand how it all changes, how you come to realize that there’s this incredible experience to be had, and you want the opportunity to have it. Thanks for sharing.

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