that kind of week

To the pretty young blonde behind me at the health food store toting two small adorable pre-schoolers and about to birth a ginormous basketball, I really don’t want to hear about it. 

She was buying two heads of garlic, no doubt to bring on labor, while the older of the two little cherubs tugged on anyone who would listen, “It could be Monday! The doctor said it could be Monday!” Of course others were quick to engage the little girl. “Monday? How exciting! You’ll be a big sister soon!” Again. 

“Well, honey, the baby could come sooner than that,” the woman said to the little ones. “It could come this weekend! Would you like the baby to come this weekend?”  The little blondes got very excited. “Yes, oh yes!” they cried together. 

“The baby could come tonight,” she said. “How would you like for the baby to come tonight?” A little chorus of “yes!” in response. “Oh, but maybe that’s not such a good idea. Mommy doesn’t want to have garlic breath when she kisses the baby for the first time, does she?”

Enough, lady. I get it. Shut the fuck up. Seriously.

I know, it’s awful, I’m horrible. Have I turned into the bitter old infertile? Or is that too much? You may not be the best judges here, I realize.

Why is it that the rest of the world is obsessed with pregnant women and babies? The same mentality that causes people to reach out and assume that a protruding belly is public domain, or that reproduction information and decisions are suitable topics for intrusion, is the same mentality that makes childless infertiles feel as if they are guilty of some pitiable offense. Or is that not them, but me? I think both, actually. 

I realize it’s natural to get excited about the birth of some brand new little being entering the world, and that people go ga-ga for all things baby. That act of creation and life-force is so powerful. It’s a beautiful awe-inspiring thing. But the truth is, I lost my tolerance for strangers’ babies long ago. 

After I paid for our groceries and got the hell out of there, I kept thinking this thought: if I had been carrying a new baby, how would I have reacted to this woman and her brood? I was confident that I’d be filled with so much happiness to finally be a mom that I’d feel different. I still would have ignored her, but I would not have had the same visceral response (i.e., eyes averted, tightening stomach, thinking get me the fuck out of here now). 

To be clear, I certainly don’t expect a baby to “cure” me — I would never put such a heavy weight on any child. But I do believe that motherhood will bring a certain love and depth to my life that will prove a healing force. In my fantasy, it really did not matter to me that the child I’d be holding would have been adopted. It was that I anticipated feeling joyful, when I suppose I am not really feeling that now (aside from certain moments with M). 

I do feel differently since we started the adoption process. It has allowed me to feel hope instead of only despair. It has given me something to work towards, something to look forward to. That focus and purpose has brought new clarity and perspective. It keeps me busy. It has changed us in a way that is not yet fully realized, because we are not yet there. We are hopeful for the future, but we still struggle in the present. 

Right now, encounters like this one (and the surprise announcement while I was held captive earlier this week) serve to remind me not of what we may have some day — a child, by whatever means — but of what we will never have. These encounters highlight and magnify every loss we are still suffering, including the ones I have accepted (i.e., that we will never have a biological child). 

I suppose this is still part of my process. While I mourn what we have lost, I cannot yet find lasting joy in what we may have some day. None of it seems real yet. I had hoped that the excitement we were feeling would last a while longer, at least until the official wait kicks in. It still feels so far away, that day when we may bring home our child. I already find myself alternating between moments of hope and doubt. And I have the sense that this is just going to get harder…  

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~ by luna on September 11, 2008.

18 Responses to “that kind of week”

  1. Our social worker asked us about our “triggers”, and I agree. It’s about those things that we’ll never have. Never have the big belly that makes most of the world smile. Never have someone giving up their seat for me on the metro. Yep. Cringeworthy.

  2. The “nevers” get to me, too. I am much more tolerant of children, even babies, than of pregnant women — especially obnoxiously happy ones like the pretty blond mother of three behind you. I don’t really begrudge her that happiness, she would annoy me more if she weren’t so happy about her motherhood, but I often can’t handle it shoved in my face — that which I will never have, a pregnancy of my own.

    I am very lucky to have several older childfree women in my (real) life whom I’m able to reach out to for support and guidance. No matter by what path they became childfree, the one common thread I’m hearing from ALL of them is this: not having a biological child still affects them now, long after their childbearing years, long after the *big* healing is done. So I’m starting to understand that this isn’t going to just go away for me. It must become part of me. Something that I have to accept and cope with everyday. Because we’re not planning to adopt I am instead working on other ways I can fulfill my need to nurture (huge reason I went into nursing). I guess this is my long-winded way of saying I think we’ll be ok and I understand what you wrote about here. You’re definitely not alone, Luna 🙂

  3. “That kind of week” — you too, huh?? (((hugs))) I find the odd one-off I can usually handle. It’s when things pile up one after the other, happy pregnant woman after happy pregnant woman, that I find myself floundering.

  4. This is really no consolation, but when pregnant with Bella (and Maddy for that matter) I *still* cringed at pregnant women, and those stupid off-hand comments. I remember getting stuck behind tow women at Macy’s when I was trying to find a cheap robe to take to the hospital with me, the one explaining to the other how she got pregnant, on the pill, and didn’t find out until 10w. It took every fiber of my being not to snort, say something rude, or bitch slap someone.

    I’m the same way, now. The inane conversations, with me all the while thinking “you have no idea. You have no fucking clue. You have no idea how lucky you are to be that pregnant, and lucky not to know or think or prepare for what might still happen.” And frankly I don’t think that mindset leaves, ever. No matter your condition Luna, I’m sorry to say I don’t think you’d ever identify with a woman who was outwardly projecting (pun intended) her situation, hoping for some praise from someone other than her children. You’d still probably run and hide on the cereal aisle.

    I’m not sure why society thinks this is public domain, and “normal” behavior. I really don’t. I think so many people see this as life’s big happy outcome, and never ponder the journey of so many women who can’t achieve it for whatever reason.

    We can always hole up in a cranky house together.

  5. I don’t think you’re a bitter infertile. I think people simply don’t get that their happiness/excitement/good news doesn’t translate out into someone else’s happiness/excitement/good news. Just because one person’s world is bright and sunny doesn’t mean the person next to them isn’t standing in the rain. And it sounds from the woman’s chattering that she didn’t really notice the fact that anyone else around her might have an umbrella.

  6. I have the image of Tantalus: you encountering others having what you want most, and it remaining out of your reach.

    For now. Not forever.

    Still sucks now, though.

    (I love conjuring up your face as I read your posts. Know that?)

  7. The leader of my IF support group is a Mommy to two, both of whom were adopted. She says that even after all these years, having her two gorgeous children, that when she is faced with situations such as this, it still hurts deeply. I would suspect that is true even for those who have gone through IF and were lucky enough to have a child. This will never leave us and you’re right. For the rest of our lives, we will live with it and must find a way to cope. I don’t believe you’re bitter, just hurting.

  8. If I had been carrying a new baby, how would I have reacted to this woman and her brood?
    Even though I am now pregnant, I still find myself having exactly the same reaction when in situations similar to the one you describe here. It’s not as if all those feelings simply vanish into thin air once you get that positive test result. Echoing what tash has already said, what gets me about women like this is that they take it all so much for granted. They seem almost wilfully blind to the fact that not all women are able to have – or indeed want to have – a child, that not everyone they encounter is in a position to share unconditionally in their joy and excitement, and that for some women, other people’s pregnancies serve as an all too painful reminder of what they themselves can never have. I don’t think you’re a bitter old infertile, luna. It’s just that women such as this one are so completely oblivious to the fact that not everyone can – or indeed wants – to follow them down this path.

  9. I loved reading the comments and can’t agree more.

    Honestly, like you I would have tried to drown the chatter out in my head in the store. Most fertile myrtles don’t get it and some have personally said things to me in passing like “Women who have trouble conceiving have put it off too late in their lives.” without knowing my struggle.

    I never have and still don’t fuss over pregnant women. It always took great effort for me to say “How are you feeling?” to pregnant friends. I would brace myself for the long conversations which ensued with me going “Uh..aha.”

    Now pregnant, I am a bit less resentful to babies now around me.

  10. I’m sorry, Luna. Freakin’ fertiles.

  11. Yuck – I would have wanted to escape as well.

    Three babies born to colleagues this week! Luckily I was out sick the day another woman brought her one-month old in to see everyone. Definitely dodged a bullet on that one!

    Honestly, I don’t think it occurs to ANYONE besides us that talking about someone else’s baby/pregnancy can be painful for some people. And they seem oblivious to the pain they are causing – blissfully unaware of the effect they have.

    The other day a guy I work with came over to me to see if I heard about the twins, and gosh, both over 7 lbs too! I was not very subtle about shutting him down. This is a guy who doesn’t have children, who knows I don’t have children, and how old I am. And he doesn’t get it either. Seriously.

  12. Haiku for you:

    If I rammed you with
    my cart, you wouldn’t need that
    garlic to induce

  13. I can completely relate here. And I don’t consider myself a bitter infertile, so you must not be, either! A friend of mine who was pregnant during the year that we started IF treatment and then decided to adopt once grabbed my hand suddenly and placed it on her belly to feel her baby moving. This is a close friend of mine and the memory of that moment still makes me cringe. What I think bothers me most about what IF has taken from me – much more than pregnancy or having a child that resembles me – is my ability to feel legitimate (or my need to constantly legitimize) about my choice of building my family in the face of a culture that bows down to pregnancy and more “traditional” families. Ugh. I’m so sorry you’ve had that kind of week.

  14. I was about to be all serious, but Kymberli’s haiku has totally cracked me up and ruined the moment!

    I, too, feel like I’m holding my breath, waiting to be “cured” (at least a little bit) by a child. But what I suspect is the the “cure” will come later in life, when your kid is not a new baby, and when this IF phase of your life is just something you lived through in the past. (As you probably know by now, thinking about IF from the point of view of me 10 years from now is one of my favorite crutches.)

  15. I don’t know what to say except that I’m with ya. Letting go of this want for a kid with his sense of humor and my good looks (kidding), it’s hard. People think you can just adopt and cure your woes, but it just doesn’t work that way. It’s hard when you really really thought you two woulda “made” great kids.

  16. I find that kind of stuff torture. And I am told by my therapist, an adoptive mom, that it only gets better when you have an *actual* baby, but it never entirely goes away.

    That being said, I’m definitely a bitter infertile.

  17. What, pray tell, is wrong with being a little bitter? With the sweet things in life, comes the bitter,right? It’s all a process. Rage was a big part of my life for a while. Don’t even get me started. I just finished a post where I talk about those feelings of wistfulness, the what ifs. Now that we are waiting to adopt a child, I know that it will not “cure” infertility. But the hope that I will be able to mother a child one day keeps me going.

  18. Lately, I feel I’ve gotten more perspective on my feelings about things like this — and what comforts me is realizing how little of it is about an actual child, being an actual parent. For me, much of it has been more about anger at people having something so easily (which I can’t get) and often seemingly taking it for granted.

    And, of course, the feelings of inadequacy for not being able to do this “womanly”, “human” thing that is apparently so “easy”. It does not help that every place you turn, the baby bump worship/is-she-pregnant-or-not talk is so out of control, media-wise. Now it’s not enough for women to stay thin in general — but to birth babies and then be “bikini-ready” two weeks later.

    Sigh… there’s a lot of crazy stuff wrapped in there. It’s making me so happy to hear more as your adoption plans come together, though. Gives ME hope as well.

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