The slightly more noble side makes an appearance, and a plea to fertile people for understanding.
“Congratulations,” I replied when I found out. I knew how long she’d been waiting. How much she’d been through to get this pregnancy. That she had known a loss I couldn’t even comprehend. And even though I was jealous as can be, I could do it on this day. For a moment, her hope was my hope. That yes, indeed, sometimes miracles do happen.
I’m not going to pretend that the next day I didn’t go back to feeling shitty and bitter. I’m not going to pretend seeing her grow won’t be hard. That would probably be too much to ask, and right now, I’m decidedly in the ‘anger’ stage of grief. So I take a certain victory in even having a moment of ‘conventional’ feeling.
It’s true it somehow seems fairer that someone who has struggle for years gets a much-wanted pregnancy. I can’t deny that there’s an element of judgment there, sometimes an unjust or unwarranted judgment. It’s the “pain olympics” rearing its ugly head, that somehow suffering makes someone more worthy.
That’s only one element, though. The other, and usually (for me, at least) bigger one is sensitivity.
Pregnancy announcements are tricky ground. On one hand, I completely support the idea that people should feel free to announce their news in whatever manner they choose. On the other, ponder this statistic from resolve.org about the occurrence of infertility: 1 in 8. That’s a lot of people. If you’re fertile, it means that unless you have either a statistic anomaly or a very small group of people you associate with, you know someone who’s struggled or struggling with infertility.
I don’t want to put the onus on fertile people here for my emotions. I accept and own that my reaction to people’s news is exactly that: mine. It is, as the old canard goes, not you, it’s me. On most days, I’ll admit that I’m glad most people don’t know the constant heartache that is infertility. Infertility is a completely soul-wrenching, gut-twisting, infuriating experience. And when it comes down to it, the better part of me knows that I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone.
Acknowledgement and sensitivity go such a long way towards mitigating all those negative emotions I’ve been describing both yesterday and today. I think this is why when fellow infertile people announce their pregnancies it is often so much easier for me to feel a reaction that has at least an element of joy sprouting amidst all the rubble of anger and sadness. Most infertile people have become exquisitely sensitive to the emotions that center around childbearing, and their pregnancy announcements take that into consideration.
But I’m going to put out a plea geared towards fertile friends and family announcing pregnancies: grant me some grace. Spare a moment for reminding yourself that you know infertile people even if you don’t know their name and use whatever version of the Golden Rule suits you. If it’s an unplanned pregnancy you’re panicking over, your infertile friend or sibling is probably not the person to vent to or bounce options off of. If it’s a planned or wanted pregnancy, I beg you to forgive me for not reacting with effusive happiness. Let my suspect or weak excuses for being unable to attend your baby shower go unquestioned. Cut me some slack when I change the subject to work or that great new film.
Understand that you have what I want, and that constant reminder is sometimes too much for me to bear. I get, in an awful way, how excited you are to arrange your nursery or pick out maternity clothes. I’ve done it, remember, in that first happy time before all the problems caught up and when we were sure that we were going to get pregnant soon. Focus on all your friends and family that are overjoyed or at least pleased with your news. Let them be there for you right now and know that I am sorry I cannot.
In return, I will try too. I will try with all my heart to listen to some of the highlights and let you share your joy. I will try really hard not to give sarcastic responses or get angry. I will try to be honest on the days I can’t listen to anything related to babies instead of silently seething and holding it against you. I will pick out a baby shower gift I think you will love even if I can’t bring myself to attend. I will try to find common ground with you. I’ll try to hold your newborn, even if my heart is breaking into millions of pieces.
I don’t want our relationship to be one more thing infertility steals from my life.