Infertility and the Baron of Beef (humour)


Focus on Adoption magazine

By Julie Smith (not her real name)

Recently, I found myself reluctantly attending a baby shower. Until then, I have always managed to avoid them for one reason or another. However, in this situation, I felt obligated to attend because the shower was for my sister-in-law. As someone dealing with infertility for the last three years, I really should have known better. Because we have never made it common knowledge that we are unable to have a child by birth, it makes it very difficult to dream up an excuse for why you won't be attending. Our silence about our infertility is for many reasons. We have never found the right time to discuss our fertility difficulties - announcing over Sunday dinner that we are missing an egg or two or the 100 million sperm needed to create a child - isn't exactly Baron of Beef conversation.

We have kept silent partly because we don't need unsolicited advice, and partly because we don't really know whether we will adopt, remain child free, or pursue fertility treatment. Controversial fertility treatment may even fuel heated and negative responses from the more religious members of the family, which is an extra burden to bear. Besides, our fertility problems really aren't anyone's business, are they?

Nevertheless, I went to the shower. I was able to avoid the baby stores, as it was a group gift, and someone else purchased it. After encountering the mother-in-law of the sister-in-law, I realized that attending this shower was a terrible mistake. Knowing that the woman was bound to say something obnoxious, I made a beeline for the dining room where the high-fat food was located. Reluctantly, I participated in the silly games, and sat and waited for IT to come. IT -  the inevitable question. What would I say, I thought, if she asks me. Maybe I should embarrass the woman, I thought - give it to them straight, that'll fix them. I could feel the knot in my stomach tightening - what will I say? I didn't want to ruin the day for my sister-in-law, by dropping a bombshell in a room full of fertile people. But what about me, what about my feelings? I felt weary with having to deal with the same intrusive questions that fertile people think are perfectly appropriate to ask.

As the afternoon wore on and I waited for IT, my spirits sunk lower and lower. I thought it will never be me wearing the diaper on my head with the bows. It will never be me surprised by a group of giggling women, very pleased with themselves for outwitting me. Will it ever be me opening gifts for my baby? No, I know that I will probably never be the guest of honour at a shower. The only hope for us to parent is by adoption. But will anyone think to give me a shower? Maybe, maybe not.

Finally, after 5,000 calories and more silly games, IT came. She lived up to my expectations - yes sir, that insensitive twit, asked as she pointed to each sister-in-law, "she's got two, she's got two and she's got two, when are you going to have one?" I was ready, I was primed, but I couldn't quite blurt it out. Instead, I announced that we were not planning on any children. The room went silent. I could tell everyone, except for the odd person who knew, was mortified. What - you would be married and not have children? What kind of bizarre, selfish people were we to not want children?

Inside I was seething with anger. I was mad at myself, mad at the mother-in-law, mad at the people in the room who were so quick to judge me. I should have had the courage to tell her bluntly, "we're sterile, you insensitive idiot."

The moral of the story is if you are dealing with infertility, don't go to baby showers, and don't be embarrassed to say why. The people who ask intrusive or insensitive questions, or give dumb advice, should expect rude or blunt responses. They are the ones who should be embarrassed by their lack of finesse and poor manners. The next time we are asked IT at Sunday dinner, I'm going to give them the Baron of Beef special.