Thursday, December 28, 2017

A broken vow

For the past 9 years, restaurant choices have been something I've fretted about. It all started while in the thick of fertility treatments, trying to navigate places to enjoy dinner without being triggered. I learned early on this wasn't a trivial task: the raw oyster bar was where one woman loudly announced her pregnancy for all to hear and then requesting that no one order any seafood; the fine-dining establishment where a young couple placed their newborn in a carseat in the corner; even the 11 pm beer at the bar wasn't safe due to the woman breastfeeding in the corner.

It was hard not to feel angry over these situations. I get where many are coming from with just wanting to enjoy a night out. But given the misery each of these separate situations caused not only for me but everyone else in those establishments, these situations ended with me vowing to never inflict such things on others. 

To date it has been fairly easy keep this vow. Since the Beats have arrived, eating out with them has been next to impossible. The few times we tried when they were younger usually resulted in us focusing solely on feeding the Beats or keeping them entertained, usually with the other party we are dining with witnessing the joys of twin parenting up close and personal. The default has been to invite people over, with us cooking dinner or order food in an effort to contain the chaos. Recently though dining out has become possible given they are both old enough to sit for longer periods, but Grey and I have made a point of being extremely selective on where we dine. Any establishment that doesn't have a play area, crayons and walls with high-gloss paint have never been on our radar. Hence I assumed I was doing well with my vow.

Today was the first fail.

Yesterday our landlord texted to let us know the electricians would be arriving at 7:45 am to take care of the wiring for the new furnace. This not only would mean having two strangers in our house, but also no heat. Grey and I decided it was better to get it over with, planning to take the Beats out for breakfast at a local diner we knew was kid-friendly. The one snag in the plan is that He-Beat woke up with the cold the rest of us have been fighting. Given the recent research revealing that males struggle more with viral illness, one can imagine what a wonderful mood he was in this morning.

At 7:45 am, we braved the 4 degree F weather and made our way to the diner. Walking in, I looked for a booth that wasn't located next to the door, ushering both Beats over so we could get them settled. It was then that I noticed a couple finishing their breakfast. Both of them clearly tensed and fixing their eyes on one another as the Beats climbed into the booth, causing a ruckus. 

"Fuck" was all I could think as I tried to quiet both kids.

Then He-Beat proceeded to meltdown.

As I scooped up this sobbing child, I caught the look of pain in the woman's face. Her partner signaling for the check as I muttered an apology before retreating with him to the bathroom to quiet him down. All the while hating myself and the pain I knew I had caused.

I know many will counter my feelings about the situation by pointing out that this couple should have known better. This diner is well-known in the town for being a family establishment, sporting awards for such visible on their walls. There's a prominent Kid's menu with crayons, board books and toys easily within reach. Even the bathrooms designed for small children. 

Yet I can't help but feel guilty. I don't know what this couple's story is or the circumstances that brought them into that diner this morning. But their body language and the looks of pain brought all those memories back, leaving me not only wanting to apologize but somehow trying to rectify the pain that had been caused. I was left wanting to show we weren't like others who were insensitive to their plight; that the Beats were actually came after years of pain and loss. None of which we could do without somehow making the situation a whole lot more uncomfortable.

I guess that's what I struggling with most today. 5 years ago, we were in the thick of our final cycle with an uncertain future and the memory of all the pain, fear and grief is surprisingly still very real. I know logically that preventing everyone's pain is not possible and that a lot of the "I'll never"s I constructed while in the trenches are impossible to honor. But this one was one I thought I could honor, even if the deck was stacked against me from the moment I walked in the door.


  1. That’s sweet of you to be so considerate. It sounds like you made a good choice with the resfaurant. I personally think you can’t avoid restaurants altogether if you plan to go to them at all because kids have to learn how to behave in them, so they need practice. We have our regular places where we are comfortable and the staff know us. That makes a difference. There are places I wouldn’t take AJ because I’d rather keep them for date night. I personally don’t think it is possible for me (or anyone else) to be protracted 100% from hurt or offense in public places because they are public. Public means you can be exposed to all sorts. Part of being a civilized human being is learning to deal with that appropriately, whether one is a child or adult. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sure there are times you want it need to avoid being publicly visible but I don’t think it’s healthy to do that constantly.

    1. I agree with you about getting out. It is healthy and the reason for its been limited in the past is due to the logicists of navigating these settings with two small children who are the exact same age (an age gap would give us more of a fighting chance). Recently it’s become possible, so I’ve been pushing for it when we can.

      Upon reflection my guilt comes from understanding the pain but also wanting to somehow have a universal signal indicating this family they are witnessing didn’t come by ordinary means. People use to talk about bracelets or some sort of “club” signal. Short of having both kids wear T-shirts saying “Brought to you by IVF” there’s just not a way to do it.

  2. But I do think that, nowadays, twins — especially in an upper middle class, highly educated populous, are pretty much assumed to be IVF babies. Maybe that was the whole point here. “Theirs worked”, the woman might have been thinking. “Ours didn’t.”
    Or worse yet “She went through all that, but she got to bring her babies home. We didn’t.”
    Whatever the case, you are very sweet to consider this lady’s situation, but it’s not your fault. If this lady was hurting, you didn’t cause it. She’d be hurting whether or not you and the Beats had showed up. She may have been trying to escape the hurt for a few moments, but in reality there is no escaping it. We might, at times, get mad at this inability to escape, and seek to place blame on someone. But the truth is, there’s no one to really blame. It just is.

  3. I think I get how you feel. You are in the enviable place of understanding her/their point of view, while they are too consumed with emotions to see that you do. You just want to create a moment of connection and compassion for them, to help ease the pain you remember all too well.

    (Obviously I mean me.)

    I wonder, then, how many times I was in my grief and someone was silently trying to tell me, "yes, I'm here with a crying kid, but that doesn't mean I don't understand your pain."

  4. It's a no-win situation. It's horrible for the couple, because you can guess how they feel. It's horrible for you, because you feel as if you're inflicting the pain, when it is the last thing you want to do. In fact, you've made every effort not to do so, which is far more than some of our so-called sisters-in-infertility do. (Don't get me started).

    There are places we go where we wouldn't expect to see children (ie the bar, or a fine dining restaurant). But there are other places we go where we might see them, and so - if we're feeling vulnerable - need to brace ourselves!

    I think the fact that they were in a diner early in the morning meant that they thought they were safe. But you had also chosen it because it was known to be family friendly. So you were both right, and you shouldn't feel guilty. It just sucks all round.

    And by the way, you haven't seen the gratitude of all those other couples in all those other places that you've chosen not to take the children, because you didn't think it was appropriate - for the children, or the establishment. I thank you for that, and hope that helps ease the unnecessary guilt you're feeling.

    By the way - announcing your pregnancy in an oyster bar then requesting everyone else not to eat fish? Who was that lunatic!

  5. You are such a sweet, empathetic soul. I completely understand how you feel that you caused someone else pain, but it wasn't at all intentional. It's impossible to live a pain-free existence, and it's impossible to not trigger someone else -- the important thing is that it wasn't at all intentional. If you'd said something stupid (that you'd never) like, "Oh, you know how it is with young children" or something that would intentionally exclude, that's so different than what happened with you and He-Beat. You weren't at a bar or a non-family-friendly place. I love how sensitive you are to everyone else, and I want to give you a big fat hug and let you know that it's okay to be the one with the meltdowning toddler. I feel like we are always in places where things happen that can be triggery, and there's nothing the other people could do to prevent it (sometimes it is something like a cute fox blanket on a new baby's carseat in a restaurant, sometimes it's a father holding his daughter's hand...none of these are those people's doing). Sending you love as you empathize with those who hurt who are where you've been.


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