During today’s therapy session, we focused on vulnerability, specifically how I tend to never show it, even when I want or need to. Learning to be vulnerable with the people I love will be one of the most difficult things I will ever have to do. But I am willing and eager to try. With that in mind, I offer the following message to my loved ones:
You wouldn’t know it from my sturdy shell, but I’m a big mess inside. This whole infertility thing is a bitch. It is seriously screwing me up and I’m not handling it well. I feel like a failure most of the time. I don’t expect you to understand, but I hope you’ll try. Knowing that most of you have achieved healthy pregnancies easily and without medical intervention makes me jealous, angry, and bitter. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault, either. It’s just how I feel.
I know we’re not a family that often talks about things like this, but if any of you have had trouble getting pregnant or suffered miscarriages, now would be the time to open up about it. I feel so alone and broken. I am scared that I will never have children, that I will spend the rest of my life unfulfilled as a mother. Please don’t say “You can always adopt.” I’m not sure we can. Adoption is expensive and isn’t without emotional pain. Please don’t point out that I’ll always have my nieces and nephews to spoil and take care of. As much as I love them, it’s not the same as having my own. And, please, for the love of whatever you consider holy, please don’t point out that not having children means we’ll have more time and money to spend on our hobbies and vacations. Those things are small consolation for never knowing the unconditional love of a child, for never having the opportunity to live forever by leaving small pieces of yourself behind. Besides, we would never truly enjoy those things without children to share them with. I realize that I may one day be forced to accept that I will never have children. That scares the shit out of me. I’m not sure I could do it. At this point, I’m pretty sure I would live out the remainder of my days a bitter, angry, joyless person. I’m working toward acceptance, but I’m not there yet.
As much as I love every last one of you, it’s really hard to be around you these days, especially around the holidays. Every time we gather together, I fear a pregnancy announcement. No, I haven’t forgotten that at one time it was me announcing my pregnancy at a family gathering. I still feel guilty for doing that, not because I miscarried the very next week and had to tell everyone, but because I now know much it must have hurt a certain family member to learn of my pregnancy. I’m not saying that you can’t share your happy news just because I’m a bitter infertile. I just want you to know that I may react with tears rather than joy. I also tense up every time someone starts talking about being pregnant, giving birth, or raising kids. Those conversations almost always include well-meaning, though insensitive comments like “Be glad you don’t know what it’s like to push a watermelon out of your vagina!” or “You’re so lucky you don’t have to clean up projectile vomit in the middle of the night!” Yes, I know, parenthood is exhausting, terrifying, and gross. But, it’s also wonderful, awe-inspiring, and deeply fulfilling. None of you would trade it for anything. I wouldn’t trade those 3 months of pregnancy, for they are the only thing that gives me any hope that I will one day hold my child in my arms.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that I was a mother (I am a mother? Do you ever really stop being a mother, even after all your children are gone?). I conceived and carried a baby for 3 months, and when he or she left my body, it was a birth of sorts. I had all sorts of plans and dreams for my child, just like any parent. I was researching birth plans, reviewing breastfeeding information, and considering day care options. M and I seriously discussed names, and even talked about guardianship should anything happen to us. But we didn’t get to follow through on any of that. Does that mean we’re not parents, that we were never parents, or that we’re just not parents anymore? I struggle with these questions all the time, so I don’t expect my family to know how to treat me when it comes to this part of my identity. What I do know is that I don’t want anyone to forget that I did, for a time, carry a life inside me, and that I losing that life was the worst thing to ever happen to me. I don’t want to be looked upon with pity or treated with kid gloves. But I do want you to understand how hard this is for me, and to know that my strong exterior is just a facade.
My family won’t ever see this message, because they don’t know about my blog. This was more for my benefit, anyway. Call it a practice run, if you want. Will I have the courage to say a few of these things to my family in the coming weeks?