Sunday, September 19, 2010

Breaking Bows

On Saturday I drove home from a bridal shower crying. My hiatus from wedding showers left me completely unprepared for feeling my infertile self that afternoon. After all, I can and did get married.

I forgot how much emphasis is placed on what is supposed to be the next step after marriage: children. There were more comments about having babies than about the extremely important act of entering into marriage for a lifetime. I understand that as a society love, marriage, and baby is the straight and narrow, the way in which things are expected to evolve. And no one meant any harm. But it pisses me off. What an expectation to place on women (and men). Give the happy couple a chance to understand the commitment of marriage. Lay it on the line, give advice. It's hard work. Then hopefully, if they want, children will come.

I hesitated before writing this post because I do not want to offend anyone. But after all I have been through to have a family I wish people could understand that getting pregnant is such a gift. It should not be assumed or expected that it will definitely happen for every couple. I understand that people are not going to attend a wedding shower and start citing statistics from their OB/GYN about fertility and the chance of conception or bust out with the story of their cousin who had 6 miscarriages over five years. No one wants to hear that anyway.
But why not focus more on the union of two people and how their lives will be changed and challenged?

As I sat in the front of the room helping the bride open her gifts I heard the first comment about how breaking a bow means you're having a baby. How many bows will she break?

I think by the end she was up to 8 children.

I felt my face get hot and the placid fake smile appear upon my lips. I felt glance in my direction surveying my reaction to all the baby talk.

It's scary when I realized I almost made a comment out loud, "Damn, if only I had broken a bow at my wedding shower! Is that what my problem is?"

Or how about," Why don't we just hope she can get pregnant and experience the miracle of conceiving one healthy and happy child?"

I have turned into the person who tells jokes to make other people feel comfortable around me and my inability to conceive. I try to make light of talking about maternity clothes and burp clothes and ultrasounds. In order to keep up I interject some witty remark or a tidbit of information I learned from someone who has actually been pregnant. What I really want to say is nothing, act stoic. make it obvious that I will never have to decide at what month I will have to splurge on the maternity pants or whether we want the technician to reveal the gender of our growing fetus.

After all, I should be over all that infertility stuff. I have a beautiful little boy. I am a mom. I am lucky. That's the bitch of it all, though. Clearly the agony of infertility is one heartbeat away, always.

Still. I slipped away at first chance and headed to the ladies room where I could remove the fake smile and stare at my sad eyes in the mirror. A deep breath and cold water on my cheeks led me back to the gathering where I waited until it was the polite time to exit.

I am a mother and I can relate to stories of child development and proudly chime in with my own funny anecdotes about what horribly inappropriate utterances a 3 year old can chant in the check-out line. But I'm different. I always will be. I wasn't allowed the simplicity of awaiting motherhood after making a decision it was time to become parents. I wasn't allowed the opportunity to carefully plan out how I was to tell my husband we were expecting and subsequently decide when to tell our parents. All that washed away with the flood of loss over a now 6 year chronic condition-pain.

I still cannot hold babies. I've realized that it is a boycott of sorts- my way of avoiding the pain of looking into that tiny, beautiful face. The kibosh on my visions of soothing my own newborn or growing infant, memorizing their features and equivocating whether they have my eyebrows and hands or the mouth of my mother-in-law.

Recently I found a new way to torture myself as I ponder asking a friend what it was like to hear his wife tell him he was to be a father. Is my vision true? Did he get teary eyed and hug her and feel his love for her swell knowing she was carrying his child? Do I need to know this memory of his? Of course not. Do I want to understand something else I have missed out on? I guess so. Maybe the reality is that he was scared shitless and got in his car to grab a six pack of beer. Probably not but you never know. I'm sure I romanticize the scenario a little bit, but I betcha I'm pretty spot on.

A couple of months ago my very best friend had a beautiful shower under a tent in the August heat. She looked so at ease and comfortable and pretty with her belly protruding. I am so happy for her and the Mr. I would not have missed it for the world. At the very end she thanked everyone for attending and their generosity. And much to my surprise she mentioned how grateful she and her husband are to me and my husband for all we taught them about the miracle of parenthood. We showed them that if one is dedicated to raising a child and loving a child, it can happen no matter what. The comment was a lovely thing to say. But it was unexpected and I had to leave the room. Her recognition set me apart and I cannot say it upset me to feel different this time because if I hadn't been given the choice of adoption, I would not be a mother to my little boy. Maybe it was difficult hearing her say that about me while casting my eyes on the baby growing inside her belly. However, her compassion and understanding and desire to relay that to her guests made me feel good.

She gets it. And that's all I can ask.


Grace said...

thank you so much for posting this...i am so thankful for your honesty. even though we are *so* close to having our little boy come home (come on, travel call!!!) the stings and pain from infertility are still there and very much alive, and it's the worst when they pop up when you least expect it. i'm so sorry you had to experience such sadness at what should have been a fun afternoon :(
but, thank you again for sharing so honestly. i really appreciate it and agree with every single word.

Pixie said...

I really love this post. You are right---infertility can keep us feeling "othered". We struggle with this pain and tell ourselves we should be over it, but it's always with us. A scar we carry inside as a reminder of what we cannot have. I hope the scar fades and isn't always so raw. Sending you wishes of strength and comfort...

Another Dreamer said...

What a post... I am glad you shared it. I can relate to those feelings so well- the only wedding I've went to since the diagnosis was so hard, especially being family... and of course, everything having went just the way it was supposed to from there. The way ours didn't.

Von said...

Yes indeed it is.So few understand this loss of miscarriage unless they have experienced it themselves.

Leah said...

This was such a beautiful post, and what I have realized is that one doesn't really get over infertility. It's always a heartbreak. I'll never forget talking to a woman in her late 50's about this. She was unable to conceive and adopted two beautiful children. She told me that not getting pregnant is still her biggest disappointment in life.

I also am annoyed when people just assume it will happen for them. . .and quickly. I just attended a wedding where the bride informed me she planned to get pregnant in the next 2 months. Although I wish her the most amount of luck with that, I wanted to scream. . . that was my plan too! Things don't always happen that way however.

ASP said...

What a beautiful post and I think it speaks for so many of us that have felt the exact same way at multiple times throughout the ugly journey of infertility. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

I had to tell yet another family member this past weekend that, much to their dismay, adoption does not cure infertility. I like to think that when these statements exit my mouth that they actually sound as 'nice' as I can make them. But I refuse to be silent anymore. I have been silent for nearly 20 years--with all the advice, cures, old wives tales, etc. IMO, that's what's wrong with this world--a world who just doesn't know what to do with a verbal infertile. I don't mean to make you, fertile world, uncomfortable...however, I would like to welcome you to my world just for a second. Idk, maybe enlighten you to your frequent insensitivity for infertility?
I do love my (adopted) son with every fiber of my being. Yet, I do still grieve the fact that I am not the one who got to feel him move in my belly-someone else got that privilege. So forgive me if seeing 35 pregnant women at 1 trip to wal mart sends me into a mini-pity party for sometimes I can't help myself:-)

Heather said...

Thank you so much for writing this post. I can so relate. I really do wonder if the pain of infertility will be with me until the day I die. Right now it sure feels like it will.

It is a pain that I wish more people could relate to. You lose a spouse or loved one and everyone gets it. With infertility very few people actually get how painful, long-lasting and divisive it can be.

Thanks again for writing a post that so many of us can relate to.

Kristin said...

It sticks with you forever but it helps so much when someone, anyone gets it.

Saige said...

You are not alone with those thoughts at weddings. My cousin recently got married and I looked into her eyes as I wished in my head that when she is ready, she will be able to conceive quickly. I had a prayer in my heart that she would not know the pain of infertility.

I didn't say one thing to her about building her family. I chose rather to focus on their new life as a married couple and wished them all the happiness they deserved as husband and wife.

It is sad, but because we have been through infertility, we think about these things when couples get married.

MrsH said...

Wow, what an honest post, and how well you describe the feelings we all have, in various shapes or forms, about being different than the mainstream fertiles. As you know, I have experienced pregnancy, but not parenthood. Our lives take us on different paths. I don't know how to put a child in a car seat. I don't know any nursery rhymes. Life is painful, no doubt about that. Lovely post.

Tracy Antonioli said...

thank you! i cannot stand the assumption that children will simply follow marriage--when we got married, i wasn't ready for kids, and it made me mad. and the assumption that it is just so easy--that's equally infuriating now that i know how NOT easy it is. i just had a conversation with my sister in law the day before yesterday--she got married six weeks ago, and she is saying things like 'well, even if we're not pregnant by december'--IT'S OCTOBER, and i don't even have an appointment with the fertility specialist yet--and i know what he's going to say! arrrgggh! yes, many women feel the same way--know that, at the very, very least, you are not alone.


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