surprise! you’re still not a mom.

Last weekend I spent the morning with the brand new baby of my closest cousin. He and I are like brother and sister, so I feel like this little six-week old girl is another new niece (though she’s really my first cousin once-removed). My cousin and I are less than a year apart, and we always thought we’d raise our kids together…

He longed to become a father. He comes from a close loving family and has watched his brother and friends become dads. For years he searched for the right partner. He found many of the wrong ones. By his mid-30s he wondered when it would ever happen for him. We knew when it did, it could be fast. But we didn’t know how right we were. About a year and a half ago, he met a woman who lived 3000 miles away, and fell in love. Aside from location, she seemed to be everything he wanted in a partner. They started cross-country weekend dating, pondered a future together, and eventually got engaged. It was that fast.

They were in no big rush to get married, at first. It would have to be scheduled around work and a cross-country move. Then, after breakfast one morning this past spring, they told us she was pregnant. Surprise! I know he was worried about telling me. They weren’t even trying, of course. It was one random weekend and a moment of passion in which they thought, oh it will never happen but if it does it’s meant to be… A month earlier, he even asked me how it was going because they had an oops! moment. I was in the 2ww too and we joked that maybe we’d have our kids together after all. Of course it was “meant to be” for them, but not us…

On the way home I remember feeling dizzy and weak. Here was someone I loved dearly and I truly wanted him to be happy. Everything was happening for him at once. He was overjoyed. Yet I could not stop thinking about our years of efforts and our desperation. How long we had been together with all the planning and trying. How much energy we had put into having a child. How much disappointment. I wondered if our baby dying was the closest we would ever get to being parents. I thought about everyone who says “just relax” and wanted to vomit. I felt sick to my stomach.

They kept the secret until their wedding. The dress hid her nearly four month pooch. Then during her speech she asked everyone to welcome the newest member of the family, and they uncovered a framed ultrasound image. I tried to focus on the surprised faces of all the guests instead of the pit in my gut. And in nature’s cruel way, I got my period that day, at their wedding. Strange how these things happen, huh?

As happy as I was for him in their excitement, it was really hard for me to watch her belly grow. To see them rub her baby’s rump and feel her kicks. To hear of all the baby talk, yet again. (After all, this was hardly the first baby in my family, only the next newest one.) It pained me to know that we should be raising our second cousins together. And especially to realize, yet again, that life will go on even though we are left behind…

When the baby was born in December, we went to meet her at the hospital. We saw her again at my other cousin-niece’s first birthday, but both were quick distracted visits. Last weekend we finally visited them at home. A few things really struck me. First, this little girl is the spitting image of my cousin. She looks just like him. Her eyes are wise, like an old soul’s. She looked deep into mine, and I felt like she knew me. To see him with this little creation was an amazing thing. He is such the proud new papa. Elated. It’s hard not to be joyful for him. Though it stings to know the Amazing M should be feeling the same way. And of course I wish our kids could grow up together and become as close as we are. The next generation. Duality in action.

Also, I realized I mostly got upset when they were talking about parenting. Seeing the baby was sweet. No, I can’t hold her. I can’t put her close to my heart and feel the longing ache for that mother-baby connection myself. So yes, it’s also hard to watch her feed. But I had even less tolerance for the talk of mothering and parenting. It was as if my heart was opening to let her in, but my mind still can not accept that we are not parents ourselves, and may never be. Seeing was hard enough, but hearing was another unwelcome reminder.

I can embrace the children in my life into my heart. I enjoy the company of my nieces, nephews, cousins and friends’ children. But I realize that how I deal with their parents (or not) depends on a combination of factors. Whether or not that’s fair I don’t know, don’t care. It’s partly how they deal with me and our situation (e.g., do they make an effort to reach out or understand? is it out of compassion or pity? or ignorance? do they impose their own views?); or their own situations (e.g., surprise/oops? first time trying? or was it success after recurrent loss or infertility?); and finally their general attitude towards life and family or infertility (e.g., do they take for granted what they have? do they dismiss people without children? are they oblivious to the plight of infertiles? are they smug?).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see a room full of babies and necessarily think, oh how sweet. But kids who are special to me have a place in my heart. Now I just have to figure out how to deal with their parents. Or not.

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~ by luna on January 30, 2008.

17 Responses to “surprise! you’re still not a mom.”

  1. Luna, what a wonderful and poignant post. It sums up exactly what I go through with close friends who are new parents, or my own siblings who have young children and babies. It’s so hard to be near the children (who I love desperately) because I have these competing and overwhelming feelings: joy at seeing them and heartache because I do not yet have a child.

    The fertile parents of the children in my lives are another story. They are completely oblivious to our pain and suffering, or they just do not understand. Regardless, they should, in my opinion, learn about infertility and the emotional aspects inevitably tied to it. They are well aware of our struggle but are not there for us. I am very angry with my friends and family right now because I feel abandoned by them. I choose isolation because it is the only way I can protect myself. I have come to the point where I even stop wondering why they don’t seem to care.

    Thank you for your post. I hope you find a way to deal with the parents (or not). And if you do, please let me know : )

    – Angela

  2. How well I know that feeling! I can’t feel resentment toward the kids themselves (they didn’t ask to be here), but their parents, hmmm, that can be another story…! Dh is/was very close to all of his cousins, & one by one, we’ve watched them join the ranks of parenthood until we’re now the last ones standing on the outside looking in. There are at least three of them that we are pretty sure conceived via IVF, but it’s like this big hush-hush family secret that nobody talks about, so I can’t even bond with them that way. One cousin was pg with triplets but lost one along the way, and made it clear (via her mother) that she did not want any calls, cards or acknowledgement of her loss. I had to respect her wishes, & in a way, I understood that she had to focus on getting through the rest of the pregnancy with her two remaining babies (who will be 6 years old in two weeks) — but it was incredibly frustrating that the one person who might understand a little of what I’d been through myself didn’t want to talk about it at all.

    Anyway — just wanted to say I understand where you’re coming from!

  3. After my last pregnancy ended in August, with our closest friends due to have their baby in January, I again was struck with that horrible “falling behind” feeling. There have now been at least two babies that I had planned to raise my child with. Those babies are real people now, but my child never came through. This last one was the worst–we’ve been wanting to raise kids with these friends for a long, long time.

    One of the things I had to come to terms with was that, if I was going to cope with my infertility, I had to make it just about me and J, not about anyone else and where they are in their family-making lives. By mentally closing the circle around us, just focusing on our little family (family of 2 plus cat right now), I’ve managed to take some of the pressure off to win the “race.”

    But I hear you–it’s really hard to keep getting sent back to the beginning, over and over again.

    I, too, had a new-baby experience this weekend (and I updated my blog on it a few minutes ago). Like you, I found the contact with the child comforting, not upsetting.

  4. Hi again. Wow, two comments in one day. I just read this latest post and feel like I should be continuing on with my previous comment.

    That SIL I was talking about in my last comment? She has known about our IF issues for years. Yet when she went to announce her pregnancy (with my nephew Liam that passed away), she did it so inappropriately that it still continues to sting me when I think about it. For her, that announcement was all about her. And all about how excited they were to be expecting only 5 months after getting married.

    But I have to say, this time around she was much much MUCH more empathetic and caring about announcing her pregnancy. I truly do think that the experience of losing her son brought her down to earth. That, and I’m sure she’s terrified out of her mind this time around. (Again, duality in action.)

    While Liam (my nephew) was alive, I too, couldn’t help but being so incredibly in love with him. I felt such a special bond with him and yet … I couldn’t bring myself to “forgive” my SIL just then. That is until Liam passed away. And then all bets were off.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that, with the first “go-around” with my SIL, I could not and would not deal with all her drama but I would be there for Liam, who really needed that love. While I’m afraid that drama will reign again during this pregnancy, I’m not as upset and won’t be son angry because my SIL now has a better understanding of loss.

    Hope I’m making sense.

  5. Sending you hugs, Luna. This is such a terrible struggle. And why is it that AF always shows up at the very worst possible times? It just adds salt to the wound. Big hugs to you.

  6. Another compelling and memorable post. Thank you, Luna. You raise some very important ideas here. Rather than take up too much of your comment space I’m going to ponder your ideas a bit, develop my thoughts further and compose a companion post…

  7. What a moving post. I feel the same way: the parenting talk is more upsetting. I feel so left out. I read about pregnancy and child development, but without “experience,” I have no voice in that crowd — I’m silenced by the “when you have kids, you’ll understand” put-down.

  8. Interesting. I never thought about it this way before, but now that you mention it, I share your sentiment. I have a much harder time dealing with the new parents than the newborn. Hmmmm.

  9. Thank you for this post. I’ve been struggling a lot lately with feelings about a very close friend whose new baby (her second child) is extremely difficult — constantly screaming, crying, fussy, totally wearing my friend out night and day. She sounds like she’s in such agony most of the time (we live in separate states but talk a lot). She also had two difficult births and was devastated by her inability to breastfeed.

    Now I try to be there for her, and I know this is super-hard stuff. But sometimes I am ashamed at myself — how angry I am listening to it all and feeling so empty and NOT a mom. She’s very sensitive about my IF stuff and is very considerate, but I just hate that I can’t feel sorry for her… and feel so much jealousy. Even over a screaming, gripey baby and the prospect of never sleeping again. God, I would do anything to know how “terrible” it feels first-hand…

  10. Fair or not, it’s true that those of us that are infertile tend to treat new parents based on a lot of things. And that’s probably how they decide to treat us, too, although they might not put as much thought into it.

    It is such a hard thing and I have struggled so deeply with it, each and every time it has happened (a lot). It’s such an intensely personal journey, and I wish you peace as you muddle your way through it.

  11. […] Couple. Without. Children. Really.Yesterday we attended a blessing ceremony for my two month old cousin-niece. She is the first child of my closest cousin, and the event was a welcome to her new community. We […]

  12. […] reminders are constant — they are everywhere. Pregnancy announcements by friends and family. Baby showers, blessings, children’s birthdays. Expecting colleagues planning maternity leave. […]

  13. […] so many little ones born into our small tribe. A constant stream of all things baby — baby announcements and expecting mothers, baby showers and birthdays, baby blessings, babies after infertility, and […]

  14. […] We snuck in some baby love yesterday with my adorable little cousin-niece (read all about her here and here).  I can’t believe she is already nine months old. We hadn’t seen her in a […]

  15. […] I’d been anticipating for a while, though that never makes it any easier. When they announced they were expecting their first child, an “oops” baby, it was like a punch in the gut. […]

  16. ” But I realize that how I deal with their parents (or not) depends on a combination of factors. Whether or not that’s fair I don’t know, don’t care. It’s partly how they deal with me and our situation (e.g., do they make an effort to reach out or understand? is it out of compassion or pity? or ignorance? do they impose their own views?); or their own situations (e.g., surprise/oops? first time trying? or was it success after recurrent loss or infertility?); and finally their general attitude towards life and family or infertility (e.g., do they take for granted what they have? do they dismiss people without children? are they oblivious to the plight of infertiles? are they smug?). ”

    THIS!!!

  17. […] years younger, a ‘let’s just see what happens’ on the first month baby. A couple so fertile I’ve blogged about them and how it felt to stand in their full house as the only childless woman in the room. This is a […]

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