In which my husband’s feet give me a mental breakdown in the HyVee parking lot.

There was something in the air – the planets were aligned, or maybe there’s just something about a 70-year-old’s birthday party that makes people think, “Hey! I’m gonna ask that 40-something lady why she doesn’t have kids!” But it happened.

I was at a birthday party. I knew three people there. Two of those people were men who asked me – separately, but within about 20 minutes of each other – why I didn’t have kids, or what I was waiting for, or when My Guy and I were going to get on that already.

When an acquaintance asked me, I surprised myself. Deep within the darkest recesses of my black, black heart, a gracious lady arose. Like a glamorous phoenix! She knew just what to say. I opened my mouth and “Well, we wanted kids, but it didn’t work out. But we decided to be happy anyway” came flowing out. Even as I was speaking the words, I thought, “Oh, wow. This is some klassy shit.”

When a friend asked me the same question mere minutes later, I had used a good portion of my grace and dignity for the day. Plus, we were pals who gave each other a hard time. And I was getting tired. My response to him? “Shit down there is broken.”

And … that was an effective way to change the subject pretty quickly.

I felt good. I felt like I had successfully maneuvered two conversations that a few years ago would have left me reeling. Instead, I thought about how people usually have only the best intentions. I was mature and strong and had it going on.

On the way home, I ran by the grocery store. I cruised up and down the aisles, thinking about my grand infertile lady triumph, about how not having children in the Midwest in 2017 still makes you kind of a weirdo, but it was OK. I was so calm and mature and Oprah-like.

And then I left the store. As I was walking out, I saw a dad put his cart away and move to lift his 3-year-old son from the seat. The little boy had a rather unfortunate haircut but clearly thought this grocery outing was a grand man expedition with his dad.

Before picking up his boy, the man planted his feet – one foot slightly in front of the other, about hip-distance apart.

Now, I’m not sure how this happened, but I married a jock. My Guy loves any activity that involves a ball, bat, club, disc, or racquet. He has coached. He once held an informal clinic to teach my entire family how to throw a football because, God love us, we are quite indoorsy. He’s that guy.

A lifetime of athletic endeavors means that there are some things My Guy does without thinking. Any arm movement – even if he’s just tossing a dog toy – comes with a nice follow through. And I don’t think he’s capable of picking up even a can of dog food without first planting his feet – one foot slightly in front of the other, about hip-distance apart.

So when I saw that man getting ready to pick up his son outside the HyVee, my gut reaction was, “Oh! That’s how My Guy would pick up his son.”

Except he doesn’t have a son. Except, except, except.

Not having kids is fine except when it isn’t. And it’s not a rational kind of crazy – it’s a weird grief that pops its head up whenever it feels like it, even if it’s been away for a while.

I didn’t tackle the man and start crying. After all, he had his feet properly planted and would have therefore been able to swat me away like a fly. No, instead, I walked past with a somewhat contorted face. I got into my car and had a rational inner conversation about the merits of losing my shit in the parking lot of the grocery I frequent several times a week.

Pro: It might feel good.

Cons: Someone might see me and I come here all the time. I am so close to home, surely I could just have my mental breakdown at home like a lady. Crying makes my face puffy and who needs that?

I drove home. I didn’t cry at all, even after I was safely ensconced in my fortress of solitude. I was just … sad.

And the next day was Sunday, and it was a Sunday when My Guy and I didn’t have to go sit at a soccer field for six hours because we don’t have kids. Life was good. But sometimes? Sometimes, being childless means lots of little flesh wounds.

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  • Reply BentNotBroken July 21, 2017 at 1:16 am

    This post makes me want to show up at your house with a bottle of bourbon (or other liquor of your choice that isn't tequila), give you a big hug, and then proceed to get shitfaced with you while we talk about all the ways the people of the world can be assholes to those of us who wanted children but didn't get them. It's never the things that you expect or can prepare for that get you, but rather the completely unexpected, seemingly innocent things. Like how your husband would have lifted his son out of a cart. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I get the sadness. I understand the flesh wounds. It sucks.

    Also, I may have to steal "shit down there is broken" to add to my list of comebacks because it's both accurate and shuts the conversation down immediately with the added bonus of a bit of awkwardness.

  • Reply Becky Brown July 21, 2017 at 2:22 am

    My sweet Bent, you can totally use "shit down there is broken." I was shocked at the efficacy with which it completely ended the conversation. As for the bourbon? Yes. Just a million times yes – c'mon over!

  • Reply Ernie July 21, 2017 at 4:16 am

    I'm truly sorry that this is your situation. People are so rude/dumb/insensitive. I love that you had two totally different responses, but I HATE that you were asked two different times. Unbelievable.

  • Reply Karen (formerly kcinnova) July 21, 2017 at 7:23 am

    I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes over your beautiful vulnerability and your incredible responses. This post should probably be published in a widely disseminated magazine, plus HuffPo or something like that. Seriously.

  • Reply Becky July 21, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    It's always the little things. Life is full of flesh wounds and sometimes you just have to stop and handle them with care.

  • Reply Green Girl in Wisconsin July 24, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    This made me feel a lot. I think you could really write a lovely memoir about these experience because they resonate–even for me and I have 3 offspring.
    The details, the emotions, the honesty–you have some writing CHOPS.
    And I like both of your reactions, they really do shut the stupid questions down.

  • Reply Cyndi B. October 13, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Miss your writing…have you moved?

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