I don’t know if my wife and I will ever have children. We want to. We’ve tried. We’ve been married for seven years and have yet to be blessed with a little bundle of joy screaming out during the night because it’s hungry, it’s poopy, it’s any number of those things that drive new parents crazy. Sometimes it seems like all of our friends have kids. They get married and kids just start cropping up everywhere. Strollers, Baby Bjorns, bottles, dolls, diapers, and all the paraphernalia that are the proud badges of parenthood litter the floor of their homes when we visit for dinner parties. We participate with them in the rituals of bed time. Pajamas, songs, stories, prayers, and finally off to bed. Then the negotiation begins. Bathroom, another bottle, water, a new doll. Finally the child sleeps and we can have adult time.
At the end of the night we return home to a tidy, quiet, clean home. It’s nice to be home. As my beautiful wife prepares for bed in the next room I silently reflect on the fact that we have never been able to put our own child to bed. I don’t mention what I’m thinking to my wife because she’s sensitive about it. I don’t blame her. The raw emotion of our parentlessness sits just below the surface for me at just about every moment.
Most men don’t talk about childlessness. It’s not about infertility. Infertility comes in specific varieties that have causes and are treatable. I can fix infertility. Childlessness is a hollowness in the heart that says that I don’t measure up. I’m not as good as the other men who were able to give their wives a child. I can’t fix childlessness. Childlessness is a weight that perches on happiness and pushes it down so that it cannot soar to previous heights. I am reminded of those experiments I did in elementary school where the food coloring that was dropped in to the bowl of water slowly permeated all of the water so that all of it was colored. Every time I see a family on the street, every time I see friends with their little kids, there’s a little bit of that experience that is colored by childlessness.
Yet, like Charlie Brown, I believe there is reason for hope. Don’t ask me why I hope. I just do. Perhap it’s because every time I mention childlessness to anyone they have nice things to say like, “Are you sure you’re doing it right?” That’s not the only helpful advice people have. They suggest adoption, foster care, volunteerism, and they even remind me that hey, the world’s overpopulated as it is, right?
You see, the problem is that childlessness has no fix. It’s not a broken car. Even if one’s dad was a master mechanic, he couldn’t fix this.
There is reason for hope beyond my friends’ half-baked suggestions however. The reason for hope stems from the same wellspring that my reason for hope in humanity comes. There is a basic goodness to life that overshadows this sadness. There is a power and growth in humanity that says that things continually get better. We humans believe that things will get better, and they do. Sure, there are set backs, but over time, wounds are healed and life gets better.
So, because I believe that there is reason for hope, every time I am reminded of my childlessness, I remember that there is reason for hope and I am comforted.
Image credit: Emmanuel Garcia