Shared Spaces


I recently went to a certain nonspecific health centre for some. . . uh. . . woman-related tests. My female readers will probably know what I mean. (My male readers may possibly know as well.)

I showed up for my appointment, checked in at reception, and went and sat down in the pastel-coloured waiting area. I paused to relish the sweet air conditioning and the sounds of smooth jazz. How relaxing.

Then I commenced my usual habit of let’s-scope-out-the-waiting-room-to-see-who-else-is-here.

Guess who else was in the waiting room.

Yep. Mothers. Cradling newborns and pushing prams.

Of course, they have as much a right to be there as I do. But it twinged my childless self to see one of them as I walked in, waiting in the same space as women who might be struggling with infertility or finding out their hoped-for pregnancy has failed – again.

Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this issue. Or perhaps our world is not sensitive enough.

Perhaps our world is not sensitive enough.

I am not the only one to face this awkward situation. Other childless people have told me similar stories to mine: they get treated for infertility or another childless-related medical issue in the same setting as new mothers.

Being surrounded by baby gurgles or screams while wrestling with one’s own childlessness is tough, to say the least. A little like rubbing salt into the proverbial wound.

It is like rubbing salt into the proverbial wound.

It makes me wonder what a world without these shared spaces might be like. How helpful it might be if childless people did not have to watch mothers croon over their babies while getting *ahem* sensitive tests done.

But this is the real world. And for now, at least, we women are required to share the same medical space.

So how do we survive difficult days like these? Here are my top tips:

1. Take a support person. I had a support person with me that day. And the question of whether I needed them or not is irrelevant. They were there. They were a buffer zone between me and new mothers. And it helped.

2. Focus on you. Think about why you are there. Think about your own journey and how it is unique. If it helps, think about the upcoming tests. In detail. Hey, it may be anxiety-provoking, but it sure will distract you from the new mother over in the corner.

3. Be nice. No-one else in the room (apart from your support person) knows why you are there. They do not know what is going on for you. The new mother over there does not know the mere presence of her baby is potentially triggering for other females. So keep on smiling, even if you are raging inside. You can always debrief with your support person afterwards over a cup of something comforting.

Debrief afterwards over a cup of something comforting.

I wonder what might have happened if I had struck up a conversation with that new mother. Her journey may not have been a smooth one. And now I will never know.

Every person is undertaking their own journey. I hope I can remember that. I may even find I share common ground with others in those shared spaces.

How do you survive the sharing of space with parents? What are your top tips for getting along with people of different parental status? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.

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