Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Biggest Lesson I've Learned

Thus far in pregnancy (18 weeks and a few days), especially now that I'm showing, obviously, through sweaters and winter coats (who knew?), one thing has continued to be impressed upon me.  And that is just how clueless people are to the suffering of infertility.

Most, if not all people who know or "discover" I am pregnant have either already known about our years of infertility and inability to adopt, OR are promptly told by Mr TCIE all about it :)  (He's so proud, it's so cute.)  But it is particularly the ones who stood alongside me, watching from a very distant sideline as I kicked and splashed and gasped for air, trying daily not to drown in my childlessness, who surprise me the most in how they respond and communicate with me in my pregnancy, now.

Most of the comments are from "knowing" women who have been pregnant, before.  Now, suddenly, they have something to share with me in an effort to commiserate.  "Oh, I've been there, so let me tell you about x, y, or z!"  "You think *this* is hard, just wait, you have NO IDEA!" and general commentary or implications of how I *must* be feeling, are the most interesting, to me.  Mostly because, the fact that they think they are commiserating, at all, is so far off base.  Misery?  Pregnancy?  To me, those are opposite sides of the spectrum.  Sure, there are unpleasantries, even physical sufferings, but ohmygosh, just how FAR they are from the sufferings and misery and sorrow and sadness of infertility and childlessness!!  Where before I was sputtering and fighting not to drown in the middle of icy ocean tides, now I am floating serenely in a still, peaceful, heated pool, sipping lemonade.  And I'm being asked how annoying it is that my toe keeps getting wet because my flotation device is *just* a little too short, and how irritating it is that I have no cup holder for my lemonade.

I get that most people haven't been in the middle of that icy ocean tide.  I also get that most women my age and over *have* been afloat in that pool.  I get that they want to share something with me, and for 8 years, they felt they couldn't share it, and now's their chance.  I really do get that.  And I welcome it, and I even enjoy it.  But it did drill home the lesson that unless someone has been in that ocean near-drowning, they are absolutely clueless.

It also highlighted for me how infertility can be a very compassionate place.  While in the middle of that freezing ocean, you may see others struggling right alongside you - and they will very often offer words of encouragement, messages of hope, helpful advice and support, or simply a look of "I understand."  It's commiseration, yes, but not based in the misery.  The misery is acknowledged, and immediately followed with something helpful, when you're in the ocean.  In the pool?  Not the same.  Not the same, at all.

I find myself drawn to that deep, dark ocean, not because I feel I belong there.  I know my place is now in the pool, and I cherish it.  But, moreso because I don't want to become an everyday pool lounger, oblivious to the world's oceans and deserts and sufferings never discussed poolside.  I want to stand on the shore, and walk alongside my sisters carrying their crosses, still in the ocean.

So, yes, I do have to pee all the time.  Isn't it glorious?
No, I'm not sleeping well at all, I wake up constantly and can't get comfortable.  Isn't it divine?
Yes, I dislike getting up early for appointments at the office (but it is EXPONENTIALLY better than waking up daily at 5:30am to drive to my first of 3 jobs... CHILDLESS).  Isn't it great?
No, I'm not having two, I'm just showing a LOT pretty early, and Yes, I'm sure I'm due in April.  Isn't it the best thing EVER??!!

I will take my wet toe and glass of lemonade sweating all over my hand any day.


Anonymous said...

I had a baby at 41 after a life of infertility. Just after the positive I thought life is going to be easy now, I have no more crosses. I enjoyed every moment of pregnancy and very naively I believed I was a stronger and bettter mom because of my infertility suffering. Boy how I was wrong!! My pride clashed with a crappy delivery, baby blues, painful breastfeeding, sleepless nights and a suddenly distant spouse. I am proud to be a mom but is not always rainbonws and unicorns. The pool and the Ocean are closer than you can imagine and during life an infertile woman and a mom can find themselves swimming temporarly in rough or smooth waters.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes!

Sew said...

Nothing was harder then infertility. Not the insanely hard pregnancies, the long days, the die to self moment after moment. In comparison, infertility can not compare to joys and hardships motherhood. My life with children has never been as dead as infertility was.....

The two crosses are so different. I'm very thankful for my infertility. It changed me in so many ways. It's been years since I have been childless, and my memory is foggy of the actualities that accompany the cross I once carried.

Infertility makes me realize how blessed I am on the days I'd like to run out of the house. hahaha It has completely made me in awe of how I should not even have these children. It has reminded me many times to put on my big girl pants and suck it up. Thank you infertility! I would have been such a wuss of a mother without it.

You are not naive to what is ahead......Sure you have never had a baby that cried for hours.....But isn't that a wonderful thing to have a baby that cries for hours! The once barren home so silent its scary filled with cries and life of a baby! I can not wait!

I remember with H I used to call E from the closet sobbing.....hahahahaha I think H was in her bed crying! hahahaha I think she actually found the pediatrician I have seen since her birth! so funny!

Anonymous said...

Sew, I am anon of the first post. I know that maternity is an amazing blessing but I think is dangerous to make maternity an idol, to imply that life is dead without a child. 'For if we live we live to the Lord; and if we die we die to the Lord'. Mom or infertile, married or single, healthy or sick we are all women called to carry our crosses and recognize the good that is hidden in evey day of the life, we are all called to build the kingdom of God with our own peculiar personality and life history.

Sew said...

I think you have mistaken me for making pregnancy/maternity as an idol. That is definitely not the case. If that was the case I'm post newborn by two years. I would have spent my days trying to conceive again if I made it an idol.

I felt a death under the suffering that the cross of infertility was to me. That is not a bad thing. I had to die to be made new. Infertility was a painful death I had to undergo to get to where I am today. And that is not with children, that was a bonus. It uncovered for me medical issues that I am so better off having death with while dealing with infertility.

And infertility was living a daily grief/death for me. It felt in a sense a spiritual death that only God could bring me out of. So I think there was just some misunderstanding in how i phrased my words.

I think TCIE sums it up great here. Being with child is a lot easier in a sense then being infertile or without child. Sure there are hardships that come with motherhood. But years of infertility can not compare to the crosses motherhood brings. We trade one cross for another but this cross is so much easier to carry compared to the questions infertility leaves a couple.

I have hard days now but they are pale in comparison. The physical suffering, the dealing with crazy little babies, the work load etc....It is much easier to deal with then an empty womb.

I do not think that TCIE is saying that her life is going to be rainbows and butterflies after a child. As she has endured much more then being barren in her life. And praise God for her excitement to endure motherhood and accepting whatever comes her way! Let her be excited and experience motherhood her way rather then giving her the "oh just wait til you get that baby and see what happens!"

E said...

Amy you hit the nail on the head. I totally agree with you. And I do really hope that you find motherhood much more hopeful and beautiful than IF.

My worst days being a mother do not compare to the hopelessness and depression I felt when we were infertile. I would cry every morning not sure how I could get through my day so hopeless. It was awful. I do not do that now, I'm not gonna lie, some days are HARD and the sleeplessness is challenging but it does not compare.

Amy, please keep looking at the beauty and blessing that you have and it will help you ride the waves of motherhood much more easily.

And sew...lol about those sobbing calls from you!! I forgot!!

Anonymous said...

This is so true!!!

Them: So have you had any morning sickness?
Me: Yes! I throw up every morning! Then I eat some almonds! Then I throw up again! Then I lay on the couch until 4pm! Then I try to eat more but I usually just throw up again! :D :D :D
Them: Oh, I am SO SORRY.
Me: ???

Them: Does she sleep well?
Me: Nope! She screamed almost nonstop from midnight to 5am last night! Couldn't do anything about it! :D
Them: Oh that is so hard.
Me: ???

Anonymous said...

I think when you have a kid after infertility it is taboo to talk about hardship. I think it is the fear to be judged as ungrateful or to be told 'you wanted it'. Even if we thank God every day for the great gift of a child it can become very isolating and stressful to hide that sometimes, like every other mom on earth, we are having some hard time and becomes super hard to ask for help (or just to vent!) when needed.

Unknown said...

As someone who is still infertile, this post stirred up a lot of emotions for me. But honestly, it gave me a lot of hope! If I ever do get pregnant, I pray I have this attitude of being excited about absolutely everything, even the harder parts of pregnancy. And I feel very validating hearing you say that pregnancy is not nearly as hard as the emotional pain/minefield/scary dark ocean that infertility is! Continued prayers and blessings for you & your little one. :)

Mike Brummond said...

What a good reflection. You have a beautiful and unique perspective because of what you have been through. I think God will always use that past experience to give you compassion and empathy towards others. Glad that you are enjoying this time, even the parts that are more uncomfortable.

Praying for Hope said...

I do believe that infertility allows you to appreciate all aspects of pregnancy and parenthood more. You don't take for granted that you'll have the opportunity to experience it again because you are well aware that you may not. That makes everything, from heartburn to tantrums ... special. You will always feel how lucky you are to have the opportunity to experience them.

Lifehopes said...

Infertility was, to me, kind of like my own personal nightmare I could not awake from. It is still so vivid in my mind that I can hardly even discuss the topic with someone currently experiencing it without sobbing right along with them. My heart literally breaks for them. Not out of pity, no. That would be an affront to the dignity of their cross. No, it is out of genuine anguish for them.

Those who have never experienced it just do not understand. It is probably similar to the loss of a child. No one can understand that grief. That loss. Because that is what infertility is. It is a loss.

Having had children and having experienced infertility, I can assure you that the latter was much more …. suffocating. There were days I found it difficult to get out of bed, to pray, to breathe. I felt like I was being suffocated in my grief. And it wasn't just the infertility, it was the childlessness.

Praise be to God for this new life, and let us continue to pray for those who are carrying that heavy cross.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are grateful, but don't minimize the suffering that motherhood involves. To love is to suffer. I don't think you should be comparing crosses or judging women who have never experienced infertility, as though you are superior for having that perspective.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about you a lot lately with your recent news. Your story was always so hard for me to read on some level: your forbearance was so heart rending and thus your happy ending seems so much more delightful. Not many have walked the path you have walked and been tested in such a way at such a (relatively) young age. You also, of course, give me hope that my own childlessness will someday come to an end.

I do have a question for you and I hope you won't find it too impertinent or upsetting. It's a very sincere question that I've pondered over ever since your post about how you are no longer the old TCIE and can never be again. How could you so securely set aside your fear and "infertile heart" so early in your pregnancy? If I were to be so lucky as you, to finally get a BFP, I think I would spend the first few months in a state of worry and fear. I'd be afraid to set aside my infertile security blanket and identity and start feathering the nest, so to speak. I don't think I would feel secure until my 5th or 6th month, at least. I would have to reach a point in gestation when I knew that my child would be very likely to live before I could relax and feel like a "Mom". (Though of course, we infertiles know that nothing is certain and we Catholic infertiles know that life is life). You talk of having infertility amnesia after the BFP and it makes sense to me on some level. Perhaps, as you said, you have to live it to understand it. Again, I hope I haven't offended you. I would be honored if you could shed some more light on this question.

Right Said Red said...

Just remember that some highly fertile people with very hard pregnancies, some have maybe even had their infants die, are drowning in that nice warm pool. Suffering exists at all swimming locations. And it is really hard to understand all the feelings associated with such suffering if you have never lived it.

My first child died. It is a suffering unlike anything I have ever experienced. She died at birth, I never heard her cry. When I finally held my first healthy daughter in my arms, I would be up at night, so sleep deprived and exhausted, thinking the other moms I knew had no idea how thankful I was to be so overtired with a healthy infant.

Your perspective is a gift. But do know that someday, while you will never forget what you have been through, the normal day to day challenges of motherhood will be hard for you too. Someday, you will be able to commiserate with other mothers over an infant not sleeping or not knowing why your baby keeps crying, or a host of other things that cause all kinds of worry and suffering in mothers. And while it may never rise to the level of infertility or the grief of a child dying -- those small sufferings are just as beautiful an offering to God, and they truly form a bond between mothers.

Many prayers for you and your little one.

Anonymous said...

While I completely agree that a lot of women these days complain way too much about pregnancy and lack a sense of gratefulness, I have to agree also with these other readers who bring up that even the joys of motherhood can be a cross sometimes. You are in your first pregnancy, reveling in the joy of this gift after years of being barren, and for the rest of us who have had children, it's refreshing to hear your perspective and a good reminder of how good we have had it.

But there are crosses in motherhood that you have not yet known or experienced. Not every mother handles things with such joy; many mother suffer from a lack of support, from depression, or even just from being sleep-deprived. I was one of those mothers. My third child did not sleep more than 15 minutes at a time for the first five months no matter what I did. I was the only one taking care of him as he was breast-fed. This meant that for five months I had absolutely no sleep, except for the short naps I would catch during the day--and that was only when my other two children would nap. It was extremely hard. I fell into a depression. It was hard on my marriage and hard on our children. Yes, we got through it but common gripes such as "baby won't sleep at night" shouldn't be taken lightly or as a person who simply doesn't understand suffering. Believe me, while I love my five little bundles of joy they have also caused some suffering too. I just don't think it's fair to compare crosses here.

I do look forward to meeting your own little bundle of joy and share in your happiness. Take care.