Thursday, June 21, 2007

not as simple as all that

today in clinic we had a 4yo little boy who had been through a disaster. from what history i'd gotten, he had meningitis with focal spots and required a below knee amputation on the left, and the surgical excision of focal spots on the right leg. he was at clinic because sometimes the amputated bone can grow from the wrong spot and cause pain and problems with the prosthesis. they had already cut back the bones once, but they were going to have to do it again. understandably, the parents were very upset, and the father was worried about him losing more leg below the knee. he started crying, and then the mother started crying and the 4yo kid was getting upset too.

anyway, all that is a long way of saying that after crying the father apologized for it by saying that it just hurt him to see how much his kid hurt, and asked me if i was a parent. i said i wasn't and he said i'd see; when i was a parent i'd understand what it meant to love someone like that. i demured, which was the only appropriate thing to do at the time, but the question sort of rattled around my head the rest of the day. 'are you a parent?' well, i'm not a parent. but i don't think its such a simple yes/no you-are-or-you-aren't question as all that. i am not a parent, but i would have been had i not miscarried. what about the parents that lose their child to disease or accident or stillbirth? if asked 'are you a parent' in the present tense, the correct answer is probably no. but on the other hand, they WERE a parent. the question itself sets up a false dichotomy; it seems much more like a continuum to me.

its an odd segueway, but i lost my cutie patootie cat esther last year. i had 3 cats, but after she died i only had 2 cats. when people would ask me how many cats i had, i didn't know how to answer. to say 3 was factually incorrect. but to say 2 sort of erased the fact that she had been there until only very recently. a cat is not the same thing as a kid, but it does show that sometimes simple questions are not simple at all.


In and Out of Luck said...

You're right, it's not that simple. I always felt sort of slighted by that kind of question - even though in that dad's case it seems to be coming from a desperate need to connect with someone who can understand him. Ironically, we of IF land do understand desperation, better than many.

ultimatejourney said...

Nobody who has experienced IF stops to think about the continuum, but there definitely is one.

Ironically, the same way that only a parent can understand that type of love, only a fellow stirrup queen can understand the pain of IF.

KarenO said...

I have so much sympathy with that little boy and his parents, but I'm sick to death of people disqualifing childless people in so many ways. Does not having children make us less sympathetic or less understanding? I have a post on my blog about this, and I thought I wrote all I wanted to about the subject, but the frustration is boiling up again. Guess more writing about it is needed huh? I so understand how you feel!

Karen said...

I always struggled with the "are you a parent" question. "no, but not for lack of trying" really lacks something, doesn't it?

Now, of course, we have a foster son, so the answer is clear cut (and with three on the way, well, the answer is obvious, but that's another story). But before J, the question created such a conundrum for me that I would be tongue tied indefinitely.