So, I guess maybe I should have followed a bit of my own advise. Or maybe not. Maybe it is sometimes better not to say anything.
There have been several occasions when I have read or heard about a friend being in a situation where they just felt uncomfortable and held themselves back because they were trying to be polite. Or it could have been that by saying something in that moment was just too much because it involves disclosing a large part of your personal history that you would rather not get into or share with a stranger or new acquaintance. I am usually encouraging people to speak their minds, especially if it really bothers them or to help someone understand their (hopefully unintended) hurtful words. It is about maybe expanding other people's perspectives and asking for compassion. It upsets me to see or hear about a friend suffering in silence because they do not want to upset the social balance.
But this weekend I sat uncomfortably silent, hoping for the moment to pass.
I was at a friend's for a birthday party for her son who was turning one. It was just a smaller gathering of family and a few last minute invites of friends that morning. I was very happy and honored that my friend thought of me and invited me to share in the special day with her family. This was an important birthday for my friend because this was for her youngest of six children and they are not planning on any more. She said it is always sad for her to see her babies turn one because they are no longer babies. This was a particularly emotional day because he is their last baby. She is so proud of her children and of all of their accomplishments, but they grow up so fast. My heart went out to my friend who was taking in all of the happy and sad feelings of the day.
That was not the moment.
The moment came when we were eating dinner with a conversation that seemed to turn into a runaway train, building in speed and intensity. Her family asked if I had any children. I said no. Then they asked if I was married and I said no. Then they asked if I wanted any children and I said someday. Then (with the train busting loose...) came the flurry of comments that I had better hurry up if I was ever going to catch up with my friend. Six babies is a lot and time is running out. And then they asked how old I was and that I am not getting any younger. And I had better find myself a husband because that is going to take time. And once I do, I had better get cracking. Nope, better not wait because, once again, I am not getting any younger. But then again (with the train jumping the track), there are so many people who have children who are not married these days...so maybe I don't really have to wait.
And on that final uncomfortable note, my friend was fortunately able to divert the conversation in another direction, after quickly interjecting with conviction and compassion that I have time and it will happen someday. I don't entirely remember what we started to talk about next, but it may have been about sweet corn or wondering when would be a good time to start desert.
My friend knows about my struggles with infertility and divorce. She has been an amazing source of support, strength, and love. The conversation all happened so fast and spun completely out of control. As it really got rolling, all I could do was look to my friend for help with my mouth gaping open while politely trying to smile. I felt so lost and as if drowning in a sea of comments coming at me rapid fire. (My train must have landed in a river or lake or something...)
And it didn't stop there, a few of the relatives in separate conversations came right back to how I should really think about having children before it is too late. Seriously? I just tried to evade the topic and politely maneuver around it. I know it was well intended, but I really, really did not feel like getting into my personal history with them because that would have been really awkward. I didn't feel like pointing out what they were saying was actually hurtful. I didn't want to take away from the focus of the party, the birthday boy. And I just didn't want to deal with whatever the reaction would have been and dealing with those comments.
So, I kept my mouth shut. Was it the right thing to do? I don't know. But what I do know is that I have a dear friend who did her best to protect my heart while maintaining that she still has sincere hope for me. She understands that I have to live my life right now and whatever happens is meant to be.