I was all fired up to write a pseudo-scholarly critique of recent op-ed columns on the so-called “controversial” themes in Breaking Dawn when I got hit with some news that derailed my social commentary train of thought. You know it’s gotta be important if it trumps Twilight.
The news I’m referring to is a quick succession of pregnancy announcements communicated via a variety of methods, the most recent being the cover of Us Weekly proclaiming that Kourtney Kardashian is expecting baby #2, likely conceived in an attempt to steal the limelight from sister Kim’s botched marriage. This baby boom all but validates my theory about how these things work: Like the celebrity death rule of threes, women tend to get pregnant around the same time – often two, three, or more at once – and in my experience, often at a time when I’m facing a big decision, dealing with disappointment, or just generally having a sh***y day. Maybe this has something to do with how women go to the bathroom together, or how their periods somehow sync up when living in the same place. I call this the Parallel Pregnancy or Parapreggers Phenomenon, also known as There Must Be Something in the Water Effect.
As I digested this news, it occurred to me that I could do the exact opposite of what my internal processor husband would do and blurt out my reaction to the world (wide web). This is not simply motivated by a need to vent my frustrations, although that’s part of it; I want to help others who haven’t been through or known anyone close to them who has experienced infertility understand what someone feels when they hear these announcements. A few recent conversations with some women at an earlier stage in the infertility process than us prompted my desire to continue blogging with the goals of enabling empathy and promoting honest reflection on an emotional issue.
NEON FLASHING DISCLAIMERS
#1: I cannot express how much I love Calvin; how grateful I am for my son and the amazing way God brought him into our family. As I said in my last post, as hard as it has been to go through infertility, I am beyond thankful for the way the Lord orchestrated events so that we could adopt him. Although I haven’t experienced the miracle of pregnancy, I have experienced another miracle through adoption, and my heart is full of joy having the opportunity to love on Calvin as his mommy. That said, there is a definite difference between my reaction to pregnancy announcements and conversations before and after Calvin came into my life, so I will delineate between the two perspectives.
#2: To my friends who are/were pregnant: Please know I don’t hate your guts. Well, maybe just a little, only for a brief period of time. Actually, my beef is usually more with God and (my perception of) His decisions to allow so many others to conceive while putting a deadbolt on my uterus. It’s certainly not that I don’t want you to be happy, or for your family to grow, or for a new life to be created; I just want to experience all of that, too. Which leads me to …
#3: The Bible clearly doesn’t condone envy, and neither do I. Just because what I want is a good thing doesn’t mean I get a pass for coveting others’ happiness and harboring discontentment with what God hasn’t given me. Considering that envy is a “pet” sin worthy of a whole other post, and that I’m already six paragraphs into this one and haven’t yet gotten to the main point, I’ll set that topic aside for now and focus on the raw emotions of what it’s like for a woman who can’t get pregnant when she hears that someone else is.
Earlier on in our journey down infertility lane, a friend of mine who had also experienced struggles but then was able to get pregnant told me she was sad to give me the news because she knew how it felt like a knife in the heart. At the time, I thought this was somewhat of an exaggerated statement intended to express sympathy. I mean, it was hard to hear since it reminded me of what I didn’t yet have, but it didn’t upset me a great deal because I was hopeful that I could personally share the experience with my friend.
As the months dragged on, and tests upon tests were ordered, and fertility treatments were attempted, I began to understand what she meant. Friend after friend after friend got pregnant, and I had to endure countless happy announcements while never getting to make my own. Some of them had difficulties, while others seemingly snapped their fingers and conceived. Whatever the circumstances were, their prayers were answered with a child, and mine weren’t.
To reiterate Disclaimer #2 again, I was usually happy for each friend who got to have a baby, and rejoiced in the new life God created. But sometimes it’s a heckuva lot harder to rejoice with those who rejoice than it is to weep with those who weep.
Hearing announcement after announcement wore me down emotionally. It deepened my grief over the loss of being able to conceive and what often seemed like the loss of friendship, as I began to feel alienated from my friends since I couldn’t relate to their experiences of pregnancy. Sometimes, when I was caught off guard, it felt like a two-by-four to the gut. Other times, when all it took was someone looking at her husband to get knocked up, it irritated me more than my dog’s nose-licking fetish. Each time, I felt a stab of sorrow over not having the gift of life from the Creator of life. In particular, seeing ultrasound pictures on Facebook completely rocked me, and still does hurt a bit, because that’s exactly what I may never have – the opportunity to see a tiny person growing inside me.
Trying to muster the expected enthusiastic response to every announcement required extreme effort, and I’m not proud to say that my congrats were often begrudging. It’s not easy fabricating happiness when you feel like crap. But then you feel guilty knowing that you’re basically lying as you say “I’m so happy for you” when in reality you want to cry your eyes out, or punch something/someone, or cry your eyes out while punching something/one.
Over time, pregnancy announcements became a surefire tear trigger for me. I simply could not hold in the sadness or temper the frustration. My heart’s desire was to be a mommy, and it hurt to watch others be given that joy while I was left out.
Now that I’m a mommy, these announcements aren’t nearly as heart shattering as they were before. In fact, I’ve been relieved to be able to talk about baby stuff with friends without having it send me into fits of sobbing. Plus, I’ve been having so much fun with Calvin, watching him learn and grow as I learn the ups and downs of being a parent, I haven’t been obsessing over my cycles as much or paying a ton of attention to others’ reproductive exploits.
But truthfully, it still stings a little. Like a fingerpick blood test, the news that someone else is pregnant can inflict a sharp moment of pain, as I’m reminded of my infertility and loss of something special. Through the years, I’ve realized that I need to give myself a short time to process my reactions and then move on with life. Any attempts to get over it right away or act like it’s NBD are pretty worthless. That’s why I appreciate it when close friends show sensitivity and call or e-mail as opposed to making a big public proclamation without any advanced notice. I don’t expect everyone to do this – it’s not like I’m pissed at Kourtney K. for dishing her news to the tabloids instead of texting me personally – but I’m definitely grateful to those who make that extra effort.
Faithful as ever, the Lord recently introduced a new viewpoint on the issue of handling the news about friends getting pregnant in light of my ongoing desire to someday get pregnant as well. If it ever happens, I’m sure I’ll be excited, but I was also excited to adopt Calvin. God performed a miracle and brought me my son not through my womb, but through another’s, a woman who chose to experience an emotional loss so that her child could have a wonderful life. How amazing is that! (Note: I do not use exclamation marks lightly.)
I am so humbled and overjoyed to be blessed with a child through adoption. Thus, when I think about all the fun experiences I’ve missed out on and may never undergo, I can remember the thrill of getting that phone call when we were chosen to be Calvin’s parents, and the ensuing jubilant craziness of bringing him home without any prior preparation, and be thankful for my own happy announcement I got to share with others.