The straw that broke the camel’s back (proverb): Describes the seemingly minor action that causes an unpredictably large and sudden reaction, because of the cumulative effect of small actions
You’ve heard the above proverb, right? Well this is going to sound so odd, but I just can’t stop thinking about that camel. What happened to her? What happened after that final straw was placed on her tired back? It’s obvious really; a camel with a broken back? She died. Her load got too heavy and she died. That poor camel.
Call me crazy, call me genius (call me a crazy genius!), but I’m telling you, that’s what baby loss is like. If you’re not there already, you’re just waiting for the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
After two miscarriages I noted in a letter that I generally have good “bouncebackability”, but that was then, this is now. Three losses and I just can’t bounce back anymore. I’m the camel on my knees, refusing to get up. The load is far too heavy. I’m tired. I’m tired of not being acknowledged, I’m tired of going along with other people’s expectations.
James and I have spent many years as a childless couple, accommodating others as we’ve watched their families grow: camels are strong, camels are silent, camels appear to require little to sustain themselves. You can tell if a camel is about to spit though: its cheeks fill up and bulge. That’s how I feel, I’m at the tipping point, on the verge of spitting in rage.
I’m acutely aware that the world is opening up from Covid again, but I don’t want it to. This particular camel is more than happy to stay at home. Do you know why? Because – rightly or wrongly – it feels as though my whole existence is to accommodate others, particularly families. Lots of little, insignificant things have upset me over the years, and now I’m awaiting the final straw which will tip the balance and have me crying out in pain.
What the heck am I talking about? It’s probably best explained in examples. Sorry parents, this is going to be another lesson in self-awareness. It may be a tough read, but if you want to support childless couples (or even just single friends), here are some tips:
1) Consider meeting us half way. We get that it’s difficult travelling with children, but does that really mean that the onus is always on us to go out of our way? I know that it’s probably easier for us to come to you, but can you then take some time to think about how to make that worthwhile? Sometimes we travel for hours, just to babysit other people’s children! Even if we do travel to you all the time, please can you acknowledge and appreciate that fact?
2) Don’t schedule dinner for 5pm. Adults do not want to eat dinner at 5pm. That is a child’s dinner time. Please do not suggest a dinner reservation or serving dinner at this time. It might make things easier for you, but it’s unpleasant for us.
3) Excuse us from bedtime or bath time. Please can you not assume we want to do this? When you ask if we want to do it, it makes it hard to say no.
4) Offer to pay your way. Everyone has had the ‘split the bill’ conversation or been annoyed by a freeloading adult at some stage, but you may be surprised how many people expect us to pay for their children’s meals. I promise you, I’m not stingy, it’s just the principle! Please acknowledge that we shouldn’t have to pay for your child, in perpetuity. I can assure you, we will be happy to split the bill, I just don’t like the assumption that I will. I once brought this up (at a family lunch, James and I had a cumulative bill of £40 and were asked to pay £90), the response was “What? Do you not WANT to pay for your nieces?” Speechless, I paid the £90.
5) Schedule some adult-only time. Your kids consume you, must they consume me? Please can you pencil in some adult time and let us know when that will be? It is so hellish when we don’t know when your children are going to bed. Please, please, please do not extend their bedtime on our account!
6) Consider the shared accommodation. When we go away with you (and also end up splitting the accommodation bill half-way, even though we don’t have kids and you’re the ones using the extra rooms) please don’t relegate us to the spare twin room. Please consider giving us a nice room. Even if it’s just a pretence (we know you need to sleep next to your children, we’re not stupid), it’s just nice to know that we’re not being taken for granted.
So much of what’s annoyed me, is not any of these individual events itself, it’s the cumulative nature of it all. In isolation these things are bearable, but when everyone is treating you this way, it makes you want to scream. Think about it this way: Everything that is easier for you, is a compromise for me. And my life has become one big compromise. It is why I am now saying no to things. It is why I feel like the compassionate side of me has died. It is why I am putting myself first, because I have given (the collective) you chance after chance after chance.
People will think “Anjulie lost a baby and now can’t bear to be around children”. Nope, that’s not it. The truth is “Anjulie lost a baby and can’t bear that no one ever thought to put her first”.
This blog is not entirely about my anger (envy?) towards parents. The straw that’s broken this camel’s back is only indirectly linked. It’s actually due to a delay in our medical investigations, which I’ve recently been told will be SIX MONTHS. Six months of being frozen in time. No worse, six months of returning to my old accommodating existence. I am so fed up of no one putting us first, of no one wanting to look after us. I am so consumed with anger, that I wonder if the good part of me has died now. How long can you stay angry before nothing else remains?
Loss mums, do you ever feel like this? Have you had your ‘final straw’ moment? Does the camel’s back break, just to heal and break again? I expect so. As I thought, that poor camel.