Ed. Note: Not since February? Really? Good grief. Unfortunately, our financial situation has slowed down our parental situation an awful lot. We’re stuck in a holding pattern and hating it, which makes what follows even more difficult. A side effect of this is that there’s not much to write about right now, so posts are kind of thin on the ground, as it were. Anyway…
Ed. Note 2: Fair warning: what follows is completely self-indulgent, intolerably whiny and will probably make you want to crawl through the series of tubes to my end so you can reach out through my monitor and smack me a good one for being such a self-indulgent, whiny bastard. But…well, it is a blog, after all, so that’s kind of par for the course, innit?
For our entire adult/partnered/married lives, I have been able to operate quite safely on at least one very basic assumption: that my brother and his wife would not be having kids. On this blog’s “About” page, I wrote, “I have one older brother, who does not have and will not have kids.” Everything I’d ever heard from both my brother and his wife led me to believe that this was true.
Strange how quickly such assumptions can be shattered.
They came to visit last week, and we went out camping for a night. As we sat around the campfire, drinking beer and talking about life, the universe and everything, the hour grew late and the subject turned to our fertility woes. I brought the subject up on purpose. My brother and his wife were among the very few when we were first telling family members and close friends what was going on to be simply, plainly and unambiguously supportive. Theirs were the first – and essentially only – contact we received from members of either of our families to just say, “This really sucks that you’re going through this, we’re looking forward to meeting our new niece or nephew whenever it happens, if there’s anything we can do to help you let us know.” So I brought the subject up on purpose, because I wanted to tell them how much their simple and heartfelt gesture had meant to both of us. And so I did.
And then my sister-in-law dropped the bombshell. They’d been talking about it a lot, wondering if they would regret never having kids, realizing that if they didn’t do it now they were going to lose their chance…and they’ve decided that they’re “pretty sure” they’re going to start trying to get pregnant sometime in the next year.
Internet, I’d really love to tell you that I took this news in stride. I’d really love to tell you that I told them how great I thought it was, that I said something to the effect of being certain that they would be great parents. Instead, I clammed up. I was shocked. Dumbfounded. Speechless. I really didn’t know what to say.
Eventually, I told my brother that, so far as we knew, our fertility issue was entirely on me, and I really had no idea as to the source of it, so if maybe it was some sort of genetic thing he should probably go get tested before they started trying, so they wouldn’t waste an unproductive and frustrating year of trying with no result like Ms. Swimmin and I did.
But I remained – and still remain – very conflicted. It makes me feel like a bad person. There’s a bit of me that is a truly awful person, indeed, that is completely selfish and petty and small. Because as much as I say I wouldn’t wish an inability to have children when they want to on anyone…well, there’s a little tiny bit of me – a bit that I hate, a bit that I wish I could make go away – that hopes that my brother does have the same issue I have.
I had hoped that typing it out and seeing it there in black-and-white on the screen would be cathartic, or would make me realize that I don’t really feel that way at all, but it is neither of those things. Instead it is just stark and honest and terrible and horrible and awful, but there it is.
I am a terrible person, because in some small wish-I-didn’t way, I am wishing this awful experience not just on someone else, but on two people I love and care about and want to be happy.
Make no mistake, I want them to be happy and there is another, much larger piece of me who hopes their efforts are easy and happy and successful and knows that they will be wonderful parents. But Mr. Petty Jerkbag Asshole No Swimmin’ is there in the back, being a petty jerkbag asshole and stewing and fuming over the whole situation.
I have, like a lot of people who get pregnant or who would like to be pregnant but aren’t, a recurring little daydream. It’s this little daydream about calling my parents and telling them that they have a grandchild. It’s a nice fantasy, a hopeful thought that I can play like a record for a guaranteed smile even when I’m feeling lowest.
And now in that recurring fantasy, instead of hearing delight and joy, I call them up say, ‘Hey, Mom, Dad, you’ve got a grandchild,” the response is, “Oh, another one? That’s nice. Hey, did you see the latest photos of little Thor that your brother posted on Facebook? He’s just so cute!”
This is all tied up, of course, with my own long-standing younger brother issues of feeling second-best, but even my brother will tell you that he’s observed that I am not entirely off-base in feeling this way.
It’s a terrible way to feel not least because it’s so inarguably selfish. In the end, having a kid or not can’t be about me and my parents and my brother. What my own journey to and through parenthood brings won’t really be affected much at all by what my brother does or does not do in a reproductive sense. It goes without saying that what is most important is my relationship with my wife and our relationship with the child we will have.
But that’s the other aspect of this that’s so hateful and awful: that I can’t not feel this way. I can know all of these things, I can intellectualize them and internalize them and feel them with almost all of my heart and soul. But I just can’t get rid of the inner 9-year-old who’s insanely jealous about all the cool stuff that Older Brother gets to do first and look, here’s just one more thing. It’s just a rotten way to feel not in spite of knowing how meaningless it really is, but because I know that and I still can’t just let it go.
That’s all I’ve got. Again, I was hoping that writing this would bring me around to a satisfying conclusion where I achieve some sort of perspective on the matter, or recognize a silver lining or SOMETHING. That’s how it’s supposed to work because it so often has. But it’s just not happening. I still feel angry and selfish and petty and small. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry.