Saturday, April 19, 2014

Knowing What Love Is

A few weeks ago my sister sent me this screen shot of a blog she reads (an acquaintance of hers writes it) and all I could do was chuckle. The post is a letter to those of us without kids- I don't know the background to her story but she goes on to say something like "life's not worth much, until you're lucky enough to fall in love with your child." Of course, my sister hated this post because she has no desire for children and feels ridiculed at times for that choice. Posts like these make her feel like the love she has doesn't amount to much and as if people judge her life as less important or significant because she chooses not to have kids. However, I do want kids and I even thought this view on love was a bit naive.

What's your initial reaction?

Screenshot of blog post

Here are my thoughts:

I am pretty sure we all know that nothing in life is all sunshine and roses all of the time; I am confident most moms I know would agree. However, there was a time when words like those above and images like the one below, would cause a flood of emotions and tears; leaving me feeling physically ill, because at that time, I believed them.

At first, it was the tears – lots and LOTS of tears. Seeing those tiny footprints, even though they’re digital, pushed such a fierce flood of tears from my eyes and nausea took over. I felt empty, broken and guilty. So guilty; after all, I was to blame for our inability to conceive.

Second – there was anger and frustration. Lots of anger and frustration. What did I do wrong in my life? Why am I being punished by not being able to conceive? Why can't I give my husband one of the things he has dreamed of; a family. Why are children allowed to be given to those who abuse them and not to us? Why am I the only woman in my family who has struggled this way? 

Then – there was confusion and still a tad bit of anger still mixed in there). How can anyone say that a person; with or without infertility, haven’t known love just because I've been unable to have a child? How dare someone be so presumptuous? Is it true that the love of a child is inherently different than any other kind of love? I can only assume so. Still, I refuse to believe that someone who doesn't have a child is somehow unable to experience love. So, I decided to think, and I mean really “think”, about the love I have known in my life. 

Lastly- there was peace. After too many failed treatments to count, we decided to take a break from trying to conceive and take life as it came. It's been a year since we were in the doctor's office for fertility related exams and though I am still not; nor have I ever been pregnant, I am finally in a peaceful, loving place. In my reflections about the love in my life I realized that while I may not have felt the love of; or for my own child, I have felt a deep, powerful, pain-staking love before. 

I have the love of my family and friends. Despite our differences and our distances, we have always been there for each other whenever one of us was in need. Each of us has our share of faults, but we stick together and know that there is nothing that we wouldn't do for each other. We support one another through the good and the bad. We encourage and motivate each other to be our best possible selves. Not out of obligation, but because of the love we have for one another.

I have the love of my fur-babies. Our dogs have been the closest thing to children for us; we love them like children. When we leave town and drop them off and "Grandpa and Grandma's" house our hearts feel heavy; leaving them behind is not something we like to do, we are family, and family sticks together. It doesn't matter if we are gone for a day, or a week, we always call to check in on them like parents do. If one of them is hurting, in pain, or just not themselves; we know and they known when we are feeling something. Isn't that what love is? 

I have the love of my husband. My husband has taken what I consider to be a broken woman and made her whole. He is my rock, my best friend, my one true constant, and the love of my life. He’s dried my tears, calmed my fears and shown me more love than I ever thought possible. More than I thought I deserved. He’s rubbed my back through my break downs, worked his tail off to pay out-of-pocket for every doctor, test and medication we've ever needed, driven me to the doctor 3 hours away at the drop of a dime, done things in a doctor's bathroom he never thought he'd do, helped me through every negative pregnancy test, put up with my infertility drug-induced craziness and has told (and shown) me, time after time, that being able or unable to have a child does not define me and does not define our marriage. He refuses to let me be anything less than what he knows I can be. At any given moment, I would give my life for him if asked – and I have no doubt that he would do the same. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

I have the love of all of the children whose toes I've counted, hands I've held, and who's little booties I've had the privilege to wipe over the years. I am the second to youngest in a family of ten, and am lucky enough to be “Auntie Teresa” to seventeen precious nieces and nephews. So I have done everything that image describes. I have been blessed to hold countless babies in my arms throughout my life, and even more blessed to have been able to spend more than a significant amount of time with each of them. Most of my nieces and nephew are grown now, but to them I will always be “Auntie Teresa”. They may not be my own children, but I will forever love, cherish and protect them as if they were. It is my job to let them know that there will always be someone, besides their parents, who is there for them, who loves them, and who would move mountains for them if need be. And that sounds a whole lot like love to me.

I may not ever get to count the little fingers and toes or wipe away the tears of my own child. That is my reality. And that’s the reality for many of us, whether we like it or not. So, while it may be true that the love you have for your children is a “different” kind of love than any other love you’ve known, it isn't true to say that we “haven’t known love” simply because we are childless (some by choice - some by fate).

 We have known love.
 We do know love.
An no matter what the outcomes of our struggles are...
 We will know love.

52 comments:

  1. I want to agree with you. I am a mother and i can honestly say that there is a love you feel that is different to all other loves when you have a child. That isn't to say that you are less if you do not have a child or that you are more if you do. A person who has never had a pet cannot possibly know what that love feels like, who has not had a lover cannot know what that love feels like either. You and others as i did struggle with the most horrible, painful condition. But please do not "play down" the love a mother feels because it hurts you. You do know love, you know many types of love and i pray you know this love too.

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    1. What an insensitive reply. I am a new mother who struggled for many years to become pregnant and I totally relate to this post. She did not "play down" the love a mother feels, she merely stated that she does know love.

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  2. Love is like pain- we all feel it and process it as well as measure it differently. The love a mother feels does not hurt me one bit. I am pretty darn sure I've felt the same love and feelings a mother feels- about my pets and my husband, father and mother. And believe me- I HAVE that love for my unborn child; on a daily basis. I know it's real.

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  3. One day you will understand :)

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    1. We all hope so.... but if I don't? I am not saying a mother's love isn't something out of this world.. but I do think there IS a way to feel that sort of pain staking love with out being a mother.

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  4. No. There isn't. And I don't think this journey would be hurting you, be hurting any of us so gut wrenchingly pain stakingly strong- if there was a love out there that is comparable.

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    1. We will agree to disagree. I will continue to believe that those who are not mothers CAN and WILL experience that type of gut wrenching love for some one or something else other than a child of our own. Life is about so much more..... than just kids. Ans yes, that is coming from an infertile.

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  5. I don't think your post plays down the love a mother feels for her child, as the Anonymous commentor states, but rather celebrates how your own life is blessed with love.It is funny how two different people can take away such different messages from the same passage.

    Your husband sounds wonderful. At the end of the day, we have to be as happy as possible with the cards we are dealt. I just became a mom after a fairly protracted journey, and it is beyond wonderful, but I am a single mom. I've dated many men, liked them a great deal in the short term, but I've never been in love with any of them. Am I missing out? Maybe, but I'm pretty happy with my life, and that's that.

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    1. Thank you!! I was surprised to read that comment as well.... I didn't down play a mother's love. I BELIEVE we CAN all feel that love; with or with out kids. Love can not me measured.. and who is to say I've never felt that love before... because I have!

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  6. I truly believe that the people who post these things are actually struggling with parenting. They have to make these proclamations because they are also trying to convince themselves. Someone once told me "confidence is silent; insecurity is loud." To go around telling people they haven't known love because they haven't become a parent is the same as telling someone they haven't lived because they haven't seen the world/ known pain because they haven't survived a terrible event. What it screams to me is that person is so filled with doubt an unhappiness that they need to cut others down just to feel better about themselves, all while shaming themselves into staying. I honestly feel for the families involved with these people.

    You do not need to defend yourself against this. It is evident how much you know love. You live surrounded by it and freely giving it. So the next time you hear this nonsense, smile knowingly and pat that person on the back, telling them you're there if they need to talk. Then go live. Confidence is silent.

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  7. Thank you, Cristy! You are so right, too; I completely agree!

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  8. I agree that love for your babies is different. But the writer did not need to say "I am so, so sorry for your soul." That's pretty offensive. I know plenty of people without children and their souls are just fine.

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    1. The love I have for my animals is no different than the love I have for my sisters. Call me crazy, but it is true. I still cry when I think of they dog I lost SEVEN years ago.

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  9. Wow, I have never personally come across a post like this before - and Thank God because it shocks me how someone could even say that!

    My dream was to work in International Development and when I got the chance I absolutely loved it. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more - definitely one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. But I don't think that other people's lives are lacking because they didn't have the same experiences I had. We all have different paths and different passions and different lives. I really don't think they are comparable at all. There are mothers who feel fulfilled by having children and there are mothers who feel fulfilled through other things.

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  10. As an woman with one blocked tube and one removed tube, who went through IVF to have a baby, this is insulting. When we were deciding two summers ago whether or not to go through with IVF, I thought about my life and the prospect on not having children. We have two cats, many nephews, and each other. I have friends who have decided not to have kids and others who. Regardless of the outcome, I was determined to be complete and at peace with or without children.

    I realized the ones without kids know love and have wonderful lives. They are kind and caring, always sending cards, acknowledging birthdays, and celebrating everyone they have in their lives. When we were going through the process of trying to have a baby and miscarriages the friends who are childless were the most supportive and some of the ones with children were horrible. I do believe their lives are better or worse just different right now. I was childless until 5 months ago and I do not consider myself more loved or complete after having a baby.

    Having a child for me does not complete my life and all I have in it. I love my daughter dearly and am grateful for her everyday. I am also profoundly grateful for my cats who cuddled with me, when I was recovering from my miscarriages and now take naps with us every afternoon. I am grateful for my partner, who has stuck with me through thick and thin. I am grateful for all the love I have felt from friends, family, and the work I have done helping others. If I did not have my daughter would my life be different - yes. If I didn't have her, would I have love - yes. Would I trade her for the world now I have her - no. But that doesn't make me special - no. It makes me lucky that for some fluke, science, a large loan, we we happened to be blessed. Do I feel better than anyone else? No. Because there are so many kind, caring, and amazing people who do not have children. Some are the best people I know.

    I hope this makes sense.

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  11. As an woman with one blocked tube and one removed tube, who went through IVF to have a baby, this is insulting. When we were deciding two summers ago whether or not to go through with IVF, I thought about my life and the prospect on not having children. We have two cats, many nephews, and each other. I have friends who have decided not to have kids and others who. Regardless of the outcome, I was determined to be complete and at peace with or without children.

    I realized the ones without kids know love and have wonderful lives. They are kind and caring, always sending cards, acknowledging birthdays, and celebrating everyone they have in their lives. When we were going through the process of trying to have a baby and miscarriages the friends who are childless were the most supportive and some of the ones with children were horrible. I do believe their lives are better or worse just different right now. I was childless until 5 months ago and I do not consider myself more loved or complete after having a baby.

    Having a child for me does not complete my life and all I have in it. I love my daughter dearly and am grateful for her everyday. I am also profoundly grateful for my cats who cuddled with me, when I was recovering from my miscarriages and now take naps with us every afternoon. I am grateful for my partner, who has stuck with me through thick and thin. I am grateful for all the love I have felt from friends, family, and the work I have done helping others. If I did not have my daughter would my life be different - yes. If I didn't have her, would I have love - yes. Would I trade her for the world now I have her - no. But that doesn't make me special - no. It makes me lucky that for some fluke, science, a large loan, we we happened to be blessed. Do I feel better than anyone else? No. Because there are so many kind, caring, and amazing people who do not have children. Some are the best people I know.

    I hope this makes sense.

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    1. Thank you, Rachael! It make total, perfect, sense!

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  12. Wow to the very first comment and even more so to the quoted blog. Yes you CAN know the love a mother feels without having any living kids. When you struggle with infertility and loss, you fight battles, shed tears, keep dreaming every day for a child that doesn't even exist anywhere but in your heart or in heaven. Regardless of whether anyone agree with that or not, the OP never once downplayed a mother's love. She simply stated that a mother's love is AN ASPECT of love in general, and that she's blessed with a lot of love in her life and in her heart. If that's what the first poster considers downplaying it, then she really needs to start learning reading comprehension. Honestly it sounds to me like she's ashamed of something and is yelling this as loud as she can to try and feel better about herself - remarkably like bullying.

    OP - well written. I too believe that it's entirely possible to know a mother's love without every holding your own living breathing child. As others have stated, sometimes life hands you lemons and if you can make lemonade out of it, you've won the battle no matter what anyone else tries to tell you. <3

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    1. Thank you, sweet friend! I love that last sentence!!

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  13. Beautiful post! For those that say that you don't know love until you've had kids, I would reply, you don't know strength until you've wanted kids and have been denied that blessing. As you said there are lots of different kinds of love, and no reason to make infertiles feel even more inferior to those who are lucky enough to be called mothers. Luck is really all it is, some of us got the short end of the stick and cope by loving our significant others and Furbabies more deeply.

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    1. Jessica, that is a great response! I agree with you!

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  14. Hello,
    I am a psychologist and a blogger (http://docgrumbles.wordpress.com). I am currently conducting a survey of bloggers who post about pregnancy, fertility, adoption, pregnancy loss, and parenting. I would like to extend an invitation for you to complete the brief survey found here:
    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MLVBHDG
    (I am very sorry to leave this in a comment like a spammer!)
    Thank you so much!
    Dr. Grumbles

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  15. Whomever wrote that is absolutely someone who hasn't suffered through infertility. Heck that person probably has never even HEARD of infertility! In my opinion, those of us who have battled through infertility know love MORE than those who haven't- when we finally are blessed with our miracle babies, we will know the meaning of love more than those who haven't had to deal with the heartaches of infertility. XOXO

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    1. I totally agree, Aubrey! We all have been through so much trying for our take home baby... it is safe to say all of our babies were loved far before they were made. (or not made) ;-)

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  16. Love is just an amazing thing all around. And honestly while the love for a child is amazing (and to be clear, I've only been experiencing it for a week for our newly adopted daughter!), I think the love for a spouse is also beyond compare. If you think about it, there is no blood tie, no protectionist aspect the same as a child, and - in a good relationship - this person is your everything. Your husband sounds amazing, and not to downplay your other loves - but you are so blessed to have that amazing love. You absolutely know love.

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    1. Thank you, Sweet C! He is pretty darn great. I am also completely blessed to be number 9 out of 10 kids! My life is surrounded by love! Not with just one person

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  17. I think that post was very insulting, I'm lucky that after infertility I have 2 beautiful children, but that doesn't diminish the love I feel for my husband, parents, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends. I knew love before my children, my soul and heart were full..I felt maybe incomplete or ashamed at times due to my infertility, but I was living my life with passion, hapiness and love!

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    1. Thank you! Love is a feeling- it isn't black and white, it doesn't have a level or limit. It is where we FEEL it and we all feel things different.

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  18. Whomever this individual is, I think it is incredibly selfish to make this kind of statement and put a label on something that is so subjective and personal to each one of us. It does not take having a child to love in these ways. There are no limits to whom we love and how much we can love. I do not have children and no one has the right to “feel sorry” for my soul because of this. My soul is joyful and overflowing with all of the things I am fortunate to have in this life. Shame on this person.

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    1. I love this comment! I know so many people, including you, who have known or know that type of love. I am sure mother's have bonds with their kids and love them in ways we may never know... but I have KNOW love that is deep in the morrow of my bones. It doesn't exists only with mother and child.

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  19. I love your post and wish I could like it 10000x. I see stuff like this all the time on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I find these to be judgmental. If I were child free by choice, does that mean I do not truly love my husband? Or my pets? Or my mother and father? No. So ridiculous. Love is love, no matter who is the object of your love.

    And my husband and I also call to check on our dog daily when we are on vacation and drop her off at his parents house :)

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  20. Posts like the one you're writing about and the graphic to the side ("Until you've....") have always annoyed me, even before I started trying to get pregnant. It just seemed so damn presumptuous to feel sorry for someone for having a different life (whether by choice or not) or to tell them that they're feelings aren't valid.

    Then, (while I have not had to fight the infertility battle) I lost my boy and they hurt me and made me angry. How dare someone tell me I didn't know what love is when I had my heart broken?

    And then all of sudden, not long after William's due date, before I got pregnant again, I realized that my life was full of love and those other people were clueless.

    I'm not even going to touch the first asshat comment.

    I am glad that you have all the love in your life that you do. I hope you do get to know a mother's love; not because I think you're life is incomplete without it, but because I know it's something you want to experience.

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    1. I find it comical that some mother's are trying to tell us we don't know what that love is like... until we've had kids. I agree- the bond is something I won't have until I have my own baby.... but the love.... well, that I know. And I know the pain staking kind of love mother's talk about. I think it is selfish to say otherwise. People can't tell me what or how I feel.

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    2. I didn't mean to imply you didn't. I meant more like you said: the bond. I'm sorry if that didn't come across.

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    3. Oh, no! I know that you didn't mean wrong! I appreciate your words!

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  21. I think that a mother's love for her child is very different than any others. It is not comparable to your love of your dog or her husband or nieces/nephews. That doesn't mean that you don't have love, or can't know love, you most certainly do, but it is not the same. There is a different level to it and its something you can't know until you've been there.
    ~Sara

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    1. Thanks, Sara for sharing your view; I appreciate it.
      I still refuse to believe that I may go on living without feeling "that" love. Because I believe that I have. I do. And I will. Yes, the bond is something I may have not experienced- but I know love; and quite possibly the same love you have for your kid(s).

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  22. That's fine to think so, but I dare say that you will be eating crow one day. I doubt any mother would say they love their dog the same way they love their kid. I love my dogs - but I wouldn't die for them. And when they die I will be sad but my soul would not be crushed as it would if the unthinkable happened to my child. I hope to outlive my dog, I pray that my children outlive me.

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  23. My point is this-- I may not have felt a mother's love... but I HAVE FELT LOVE. The graphic doesn't say... "You haven't felt a mother's love" it says "You haven't felt LOVE". I call... BS!

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  24. Best blog post ever!!! You put into words the emotions my husband and I have felt for years. Those types of memes and comments are just as hurtful to him as they are to me…..thank you <3

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  25. Brilliant post! It hurts a lot when people post how a woman is missing out on the love for a child. Why do we even have to differentiate what kind of love we have felt - whether it's for our pets, spouses, parents, friends etc? Love is love. It is universal. It's a bond you share with the one you care about and nobody has the right to tell you your love is only so much in comparison to their love for their children. Who's to judge?! So thank you, Teresa for posting this. ♥

    Much love & appreciation from Singapore,
    Zara

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  26. I have been a mother now for over two years, having given birth to twin boys after years of infertility two months shy of my 41st birthday. Do I love my sons? Absolutely.

    Would I say I never knew love before I had them? Absolutely not.

    IMO, anyone who thinks she "never knew love" before she was a mother has either led a very sad life or is quite a shallow person. Before loving my son, I had known what it was to love. I loved my parents, my sister, my husband (and yes, before him, other men), and close friends. I have loved other children, included a beloved nephew. I have even loved dogs.

    My love for my sons is different than the love I felt for the others I described above. . . but isn't each love we experience for another different?

    So yes, dear blogger and dear readers who are not-yet-mothers and may-never-be-mothers: even if you do not have children, I hope that you have known love, and I believe that if you have not, you will. :-)

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  27. I have been a mother now for over two years, having given birth to twin boys after years of infertility two months shy of my 41st birthday. Do I love my sons? Absolutely.

    Would I say I never knew love before I had them? Absolutely not.

    IMO, anyone who thinks she "never knew love" before she was a mother has either led a very sad life or is quite a shallow person. Before loving my son, I had known what it was to love. I loved my parents, my sister, my husband (and yes, before him, other men), and close friends. I have loved other children, included a beloved nephew. I have even loved dogs.

    My love for my sons is different than the love I felt for the others I described above. . . but isn't each love we experience for another different?

    So yes, dear blogger and dear readers who are not-yet-mothers and may-never-be-mothers: even if you do not have children, I hope that you have known love, and I believe that if you have not, you will. :-)

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  28. What strikes me about the blog post in your screenshot is how -- while it talks a lot about love -- it doesn't actually CONVEY a loving attitude to me.

    "I am so so sorry for your soul"? That's pity. "You are ... deficient"? That comes across to me (and probably more so to your sister, who doesn't even want or miss having children) as scorn masquerading as concern. Why else address a letter to random women who are minding their own business, not asking to be clucked and worried over?

    Even the words about how love of a child "cures all" and "is a lifeblood" disturb me a bit. I mean, I can absolutely imagine being willing to die for my child -- and yes, I have loved other people that much -- but those other statements sound like depending on my child to make my own life worth living. That's quite a burden to place on a chlid.

    Of course, I could be totally off base. I have no idea what that woman actually felt and thought when she wrote those words; I just know how the words affected me.

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  29. And one last thought, because I've just been reading a bunch of books about foster care:

    Not every parent is able to love a child in the way those images describe. I do believe that parenthood brings out the deepest, fiercest love in many people -- but it's not something the child automatically brings WITH him/her into the parent's life (or there would be no abused or neglected kids). It's something a child can bring OUT OF a healthy parent, which means that of course that adult has to be capable of love in the first place, before the child arrives.

    So please don't tell childless/childfree people "You haven't known love."

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  30. I guess it is the right of the blogger to put their thoughts out there. It certainly doesn't mean they are right. Love comes in so many forms that it is surely something we can all experience.

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  31. Interesting how all of the comments disagreeing with you are posted anonymously...

    I have to say I love this post. I dislike that others are trying to tell you that you are wrong....I would be interested to find out how they can be so confident that they know how YOU experience love. Because we all experience it differently, and this post is about how YOU experience love for the people in YOUR life.

    I find that, because I've experienced loss (like so many of us), I love the things in my life a little more deeply than before I'd had a miscarriage. It deepened my love for everyone, including (and sometimes, especially) my pets. The love I feel for each of the people/animals in my life is absolutely different, but the depth of my love for them is universal. I love them all with every cell in my body...it doesn't get much deeper than that. I have experienced some of my most wonderful moments with my beautiful nephews, who I would do anything for. Anything, even die, for. I can't imagine loving my own child any more deeply than I love them, or my husband. Sure, perhaps I can't predict how it will feel, but perhaps I can too. Only I know how I love, and only you know how you love.

    I love that the heart of your post is that, despite the preconception that infertiles are lonely and sad, we DO know love. We know some of the deepest and most wonderful love. A love that stays strong even through battle, and loss, and failure...when you feel like all you have is each other. That's a sweet, sweet, love. Or the love you have for the child who hugs and kisses and loves on you, even when your heart is breaking. Who fulfills that ache in your heart for a child of your own. The one who you treasure a little more because you aren't sure you'll ever get to experience first steps, and first words with your own child.

    So, while I can't determine how deep the love you have for the people in your life is, or the depth of the love those commenters have for their families, I can definitely say that the depth I have for the people and pets in my life is incredibly deep, and even if I never get to love a child of my own, my heart is very, very, very full of the deepest, sweetest love I could ever imagine. And I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me, or tell me what they think I'm missing, because I am loved and I do love. All the time. Every single day.

    Thank you for sharing this post!

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  32. I googled the original quote and found the actual post. I guess I think by highlighting just that one passage takes it a little out of context. The post is more about not feeling like a mother should have to apologize for the "overzealousness" others may feel she shows when talking about her love for her children. However, I still found the whole post obnoxious and arrogant. Love your post though. :)

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  33. Thanks! Yeah, as I stated.. I was unsure of her whole story -or - the story behind the post. I only got that screen shot- as my sister and I were discussing that exact topic (knowing what love is) a few week earlier and how some people think we will never know love because we don't have kids. I was only using that passage to bring out my thoughts. I didn't and don't plan on Googling her blog.

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  34. I am offended by that post both as an IFer and a loss mom. "Rather die than live without it." Yes. My child died and I am still living. Still mourning him. But I hate when people say that if they lost a child that they would die. It minimizes my pain and my grief. I do not love my child any less than they love theirs because I am surviving his death.

    And I think the anonymous comments above are rediculous. This is a wonderful post.

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