They tell us there’s a lot about which we’re clueless by virtue of being childless. With a certainty that we and our brilliant doctors seem to lack, they inform us that when we’re parents we’ll achieve greater clarity and insight. We’ll finally “understand.” Maybe they’re right. I’ve never been somebody’s mother – except this one time. Almost.*
There is, however, quite a lot I know by virtue of being one half a Possibly Hopelessly Infertile couple that, if you’ve never experienced infertility firsthand, renders you the lesser authority. You should, by all means, defer to me on the following. Plus, you probably missed this stuff in kindergarten.
Maybe that “big problem” you’ve got isn’t such a big problem after all. Maybe it is. But probably it isn’t. The thing with big problems – like, real ones – is that they put the littler ones in perspective. If you’ve got an actual big problem, you sort of stop complaining about the small shit: perpetually-late-to-dinner people, traffic, broken dishwashers, that cough you can’t shake, a disappointing deal at work. If you’ve got an actual big problem, you acknowledge other people have bigger ones. Maybe you do it to make yourself feel better. Or maybe you’re wiser for the wear.
You’re smart. Just not that smart. Look, you don’t know that we’re going to have a baby someday. You don’t. But don’t feel bad. Our docs don’t know either and they went to medical school. The same principle applies to other subjects about which you don’t actually know anything. Think positive thoughts. Aspire, I say. Just don’t be foolish.
If somebody’s got to “come out” with something, it’s probably, first and foremost, a profoundly personal something. Respect that. And unless it’s your something, none-ya. As in none-ya business and none-ya place to judge. This applies in spite of the fact that you’re somebody’s mom. Or big brother. Or little sister. Or best friend. It applies even if you’re the preeminent scholar on the subject of that thing somebody’s handling differently than you’d see them handle it. And it unquestionably applies if you’ve never experienced that thing yourself. For example, if you’ve never been Hopelessly Infertile, don’t tell us we’re wrong if we decide not to involve our parents in the process. Or that we’d necessarily find it comforting to seek support from a shrink. Or you. For Pete’s sake, maybe we just don’t want to. Because maybe it’s tough enough to manage our own thoughts/feelings/emotions/judgments/values. Maybe we don’t need to manage yours, too! Or maybe we’re just waiting until the time’s right.
G-d deserves a piece of your mind. Every day. Several times a day. If you ask me, (S)He should be grateful for that inquiry about whether there was ever a Big Idea or (S)He’s just some sort of cosmic sociopath. This is a powerful acknowledgment. There’s a Something Greater than You. G-d. Buddha. Jesus. Pasta. Whatever. Talking back means you’ve got someone (or something) to talk to. Voice and heart and spirit still moves through you.
That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Eventually. Sort of. Case in point: My reflection in the mirror looks vaguely tired. I am tired. (I have, after all, spent the past two years fighting – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – to overcome this formidable foe.) I’ve unearthed my first gray hairs, and I’ve discovered new wrinkles. Have no pretenses. I’m the very dead leaf echo of the youthful bride in my wedding photos. Thing is, she was cool and all, but wrinkly me’s a real take-no-shit spitfire. The moral of this story: When you’ve had enough, you’ll know it. And so will everyone around you.
Infertile people love the kid(s) they’ve never met just as much as you love the one(s) you have. The sacrifices we make for our Maybe-Kid(s) are of the I’d-lay-it-all-down-for-you variety. Literally. And there’s no “you” yet. We hereby consent to be fed full of hormones, to have our natural menstrual cycles interrupted, to track marks and broken blood vessels, to anesthesia, to cervical catheters, to waiting, to multiples, to the off chance of organ damage and death. All on the off chance we get to meet “you.” We take our process very seriously. The bottom line, if you – Oh, Fertile One! – value your life (or your relationships) is this: You should no more cross a Childless Mother any more than you might, say, a mother lion.
Friends are important. Very. They are emotionally-connected and yet not overly so. They truth-tell but don’t kill joy. Often extremely fun, sometimes funny, they bring you forth from your latest misery to laugh at stuff only you find humorous. They might maybe like the same things as you. Or they might be really pretty different, come to think of it. Regardless, you chose them and they chose you and their company is authentic good fun: like the day after high school graduation. Your dad’s car. A coastal road trip. Or pushing 30 and playing penny slots at Foxwoods. Pick your poison. In any event, if you’re sans one or two besties, you’ll absolutely know it, too. There will be a cavernous void in your heart where bff’s should be. If that’s the case, I feel sorry for you.
Plans are made to be broken. Even if you disagree (and I used to), the universe has this marvelous way of illustrating the point. Think: a hurricane tears the roof off the house you just built and it rains all over your new sofa. The trick, I think, is not to forego planning but to plan to be flexible. This way, you’re less disappointed when things aren’t precisely as you’d have them. Infertility hijacked your mommy blog? Keep writing.
* Dear Maggie Moo: I’m really going to miss you. You were a good blastocyst. I’ll always cherish the time we had together musing about the future and plotting big adventures. I won’t ever forget you or the way you made me a prospective parent. Flushing your memory down that commode was the sharpest, deepest, truest pain I have ever known. I still love you.