trapped

13 May

 

Eric posted this to my Facebook wall today.  It’s a really good reflection on Mother’s Day, particularly in church, for women who for various reasons don’t have children and are therefore not “mothers.”  It made me think and question and it really resonated strongly with me.

 

Last Thursday, I started to get really nervous about Mother’s Day, particularly about church.  We were going for Emily’s First Communion (truth be told, had it not been for that, we may very well have skipped Mother’s Day this year).  I’ve sat through enough Mother’s Day masses at Saint Gabriels to know what was coming.  Because there’s always the moment when the priest asks all the mothers and moms-to-be to stand up and be recognized.  To Father Dan’s credit, he did add in “grandmothers and god mothers,” but it didn’t matter.  My heart still broke.  Being a big sister, a teacher, a mentor, a god mother…those things are all amazing and wonderful and I’m so grateful to have experienced them all and to have been able to play an important, nurturing role for so many amazing children.  But they are no substitute for being a mother.  They don’t magically erase all of the years of suffering, heartbreak and despair that we’ve already gone through.  And they offer me little comfort in the journey we are now on.  Asking me to stand up and let that be “good enough” is cruel.  It’s painful.  It’s heart wrenching.  In a way, I’d rather just be completely ignored as a non-mom than be given this “consolation prize.”

 

I had already teared up a few other times leading up to the “Big Moment”–when he’d welcomed everyone, especially the moms; when he’d called all the children up to the altar for the homily.  But when he got to the “all the mommas stand up part,’ I lost it.  I sat there, crammed into a little pew, women all around me standing up and smiling…and I cried.  I wanted to run.  I was trying to figure out an inconspicuous way to get from our front-and-center-pew to the back of the church and the bathrooms, but it was hopeless–people on all sides of me and nowhere to go but straight down the middle aisle past pews and pews of happy mothers there to celebrate their functioning reproductive organs.  I was trapped.

 

So I did what any normal person would do–I sat there and cried, feeling awful and exposed and raw, wanting to stop, feeling bad that any happy mothers around me were probably worried about me instead of enjoying their moment, willing my eyes to stop watering, but unable to stop the hot tears stinging my cheeks.  I wonder how many people saw me crying.  I wonder what they thought.  One of the girls I used to play soccer with in high school had her own battle with infertility and now has a beautiful son.  I wanted to say hello.  To ask her about her story.  To see if she’s over it–this feeling of complete inadequacy and failure–or if it still haunts her some nights, even though she’s got a baby of her own.   She was 2 rows behind me.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Emotionally I couldn’t handle it.  So I cried and Eric held my hand and was there with me, as usual.  And we got through it together, as usual.  We went to my mom and dad’s, we celebrated Em’s communion, I tried not to cry any time someone wished me a happy mother’s day, and we left relatively early.

 

A lot of the comments on the above blog say that it’s not fair to mothers to eliminate the standing.  “What other accomplishments should we NOT honor to not hurt the feelings of those who haven’t achieved them?” “We should be honoring the women who put their lives on hold for their children.” [If you want a glimpse into the kindness/compassion of church-goers, check out the comments on this blog.  I actually cried reading some of them.]

 

It’s like these women think we infertiles sit here, idly waiting.  Some probably think it’s our fault–we don’t eat right, we exercise too much/not enough, we made mistakes when we were younger that have caused our health woes, we just aren’t ready, God has another plan for us.  It’s easier to think those things than to accept that they are lucky for getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term; that it could just as easily have been them grieving their way through another Mother’s Day.  They think that I have not put my life on hold.  I have not had to take a ridiculous amount of time off for doctor’s visits.  I have not had to plan my entire life around medications and cycles and “prime time.”  I have not given up my body, sacrificed my mind.  I have not undergone painful, invasive, humiliating procedures.  I have not spent ridiculous amounts of money (“wait til you have kids–your budget will have to change–kids are so expensive”).  All because I have not yet been pregnant. These comments clearly come from women who never had to go through infertility and don’t know how HARD infertiles are working.  Every. Damn. Day.  “Just have fun trying.”  Yeah tell that to the doctor shoving a catheter into my cervix to inject my husband’s sperm into me.  Real fun.

ha

 

All that being said, I understand those mothers’ view that they want to be celebrated and recognized for their mommy martyrdom.  I do.  I think a lot about what it will feel like if we are ever blessed with children, whether Mother’s Day will always be a reminder of infertility.  Do you ever “get over it”?   Many moms sacrifice a lot for their kids and they do deserve a chance to be recognized (although I’d argue that should happen all the time, not just once a year, and Hallmark has really capitalized on our guilt for not being there and consumerism to blow this holiday up just like Valentine’s Day).  In a time in my life where I am a swirling ball of various negative emotions, wanting to “skip out” on Mother’s Day just adds one more log to the fire of self hatred.  I mean really how completely selfish can you be, Shme?  Get over yourself, slap a fake smile on again, and save the tears for when you’re home alone.

 

So I’ve been thinking all day since reading that blog.  What did I want to hear on Mother’s Day?  My initial thought was to skip it.  Sit it out.  I’m not a natural “sitter outer.” I’m more of a doer and a mover (unless I’m in the middle of a really fabulous book, in which case I can sit for hours like a champ). When I want something, I just work hard til I get it. I want a job:  I work hard at my education and wow all the people in my field until they realize I’m da bomb. I want the boy:  I persist in talking to him until he realizes he’s madly in love with my craziness. I want to run a marathon: I train for what feels like a bajillion weeks to get myself ready. My life is a whirlwind of “want-it, worked-for-it, got-it.”

 

But a baby is not something that can just be “got,” as my body constantly shows us, month after month after month. And that’s something that most of the population misses out on experiencing (lucky) and can therefore never truly understand.  Even among my infertile friends, I don’t know many who have had to go to the lengths that we’re going to in order to get pregnant.  It’s tough not to feel isolated and hopeless when you know that MOST people got pregnant on their own with just one or two cycles of clomid and good ole-fashioned sex, and the women I know going through the more difficult processes of ART (artificial reproductive therapy–IUI, IVF, FET) are not getting pregnant.  They have moved onto the painful, time-consuming, expensive procedures that we are now facing, and they are having no luck.  Hard to be optimistic when you’re faced with that grim reality.

 

So my initial thought was that I’d want to just skip Mother’s Day–go somewhere warm and sunny and beautiful with Eric and just be together and relaxing.  So I started fantasizing what our childless life would look like and picking out vacation destinations for us to hide out for Mother’s Day.  Except when I really think about that, I realize that I would still be depressed and sad.  I’d still know the reason we were on a vacation together, the reason we weren’t with our families like everyone else was because my body doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked, and it may never work.  And that is SO incredibly frustrating.  So when I really stop to think about skipping it, I wonder if that might just make it all feel worse.

 

A lot of the blogs I’ve read (and comments on that blog Eric sent me) say that Mother’s Day is just a painful reminder of what they don’t have, what they are pouring all of their energy, finances and hope into.  Maybe I’m just different.

Because Mother’s Day is just ANOTHER painful reminder for me.

I WISH it were only one day a year where I had to get up and face the painful truth of our situation.  Mother’s Day is not A painful reminder.  It is just another day in a long string of painful reminders.  Another day to think about what might (or might not, as the case may be) happen.  Every day I think about it.  Every day there are a thousand tiny reminders of what we don’t have and what we want so badly. They’re things that probably go unnoticed by most of the population (again: lucky). But for those of us walking around, minds and hearts heavy with the knowledge of our barren wombs, they are subtle reminders. The truck carts at the front of the grocery store. The pictures of another teacher’s kids on her desk at work. All of those beautiful babies at work, especially the ones whose parents are clearly ill-equipped to actually BE parents. The extra bedrooms in the house that we bought thinking we’d fill it with kids. The constant posts on Facebook–who’s pregnant, who’s got a new baby bump picture up, whose kid said something really adorably funny today??? Turn on the TV, it’s a diaper commercial. Turn on the radio, it’s a song about being a parent (for a week now, I’ve heard the song “Laughed Until We Cried” and cried every morning in my car going to work. “My mind went back to a few years ago, when we tried so long we almost gave up hope. Then I remember you coming in and telling me the news. Oh man we were living. Going crazy in the kitchen. We sang and danced and held each other tight. And we laughed until we cried.” ) So the reminders are truly never-ending, and it’s exhausting trying to constantly maintain composure when all you want to do is curl up somewhere and forget about the world for a while.

 

So for Mother’s Day (or any day really), I just want one day not to think about it.  And what sucks most about that wish is that it will NEVER happen until we have a baby (or make peace with not having kids…although I think I’d still think about it all the time in that case).  There will never be a day when I DON’T have one single thought about my infertility in the very near future.  “Just get over it,” you may be thinking, just like those commenters on Eric’s blog link today.  So I give you a glimpse into a month of my life:

Days 1-5 of cycle: period (nope, not pregnant; think about it, especially as you go to the store to buy the box of tampons that you refused to buy when you were at the store over the weekend because you just KNEW you were finally going to be pregnant)

Days 5-9 of cycle: take crazy hormones every night…let the side effects begin!

Days 10-13ish:  feel the side effects of the hormones (hot flashes, can’t sleep, headache, moodiness, weight gain/bloating–oh i’m so sexy now); go for ultrasound appointment to see if things are working the way they should (and be told all but once that they weren’t)

Days 14-28ish:  when you’re told it didn’t work, just wait to get a period…which never comes…so you go on some different hormones to force your body to bleed like it should’ve on its own; if it does work, have shot in the ass, the following day get turkey bastered, then proceed to take temperature, analyze every physical symptom and wonder if you are pregnant until you fail multiple home pregnancy tests and blood tests.

Repeat indefinitely.

 

So for those of you who say “get over it,”  I say “how?” Because until we have a baby, I am trapped in this cycle.  To those of you who still think it’s selfish to be hurt by asking mothers to stand up, I am just really thankful that you have obviously never had to go through this.  I hope you never do.  I hope your image of making a baby remains the traditional one, unmarred by the medical, sterile one that infertiles have to endure.  I don’t know what the answer to the Mother’s Day conundrum is.  No matter what, being unable to conceive a baby is painful–always has been, always will be.  All I know is that yesterday was a horrible day for a lot of women, me included.  I think what most of us want is just acknowledgement that things suck but we’re tough and we’ll get through it, just like we always do.  Acknowledgement that we’re here, it’s really hard, but we’re here for you, to celebrate you, even though we really don’t want to be.  Not because of you, not because you don’t deserve it–because of us, because we deserve it, too, and don’t have it yet…maybe not ever.  None of this is about you–it’s about us.  Which I guess sounds selfish to some people, and yet from this side, it’s something beyond selfish.  I don’t know what to call it.  We used to talk in Spanish class about how there are words in other languages that just don’t translate–they’re more than words.  That’s what this is–it’s more than words.   So please, mothers who are offended by the request to stop the standing up for Mother’s Day:  Save the judgements.  Save the accusations.  Save the medical advice (you’re not my doctor).  And just send hugs/prayers/good vibes.  Be the mother that you purport to be–nurturing, loving, kind.  Maybe that’s selfishness.  Or maybe that’s something else.  These days I feel like I don’t know much of anything except that I wouldn’t wish this journey on anyone…

 

To those of you who sent me messages yesterday, thank you hardly seems adequate.  You brightened my day with your understanding, and I love each of you so much.  It’s really easy to feel very alone and scared, and it’s comforting to know we have friends who are thinking about us and hoping for us, even when they don’t know exactly what we’re going through.

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