It's Not Me, It's You

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It’s time for some real talk.

You and your baby have NOTHING to do with me and my lack of baby. So don’t, just don’t, make your pregnancy, birth, baby all about you having a baby and I don’t.

I can’t even begin to describe how often this happens and it is always by well meaning, if somewhat misguided, friends. At least that’s what I tell myself and that’s what my psychologist tells me to tell myself.

I know that being a parent isn’t an easy job. I know that babies are hard work. I am your friend and I am here to support you. Not go Single White Female on your a** and steal your baby because you aren’t happy. Nor do I go home and cry after I see you pregnant or cuddling your newborn or chasing your toddler around. Because our fertility issues really have nothing to do with you.

For example, people who are afraid to tell us they are expecting. I appreciate that they are trying to be sensitive to our feelings but it makes us feel bad. Are we that unpredictable or consumed in our own world (grief) that you don’t think we can be genuinely happy for you? Ouch. Trust me, every time it happens we take a long look in the mirror because we don’t want our friends (and family) to feel as though we can’t be happy for them.

Here’s the truth though. We will be sad. After all, it is a reminder of what we won’t have and things we will never experience. But we can be happy for you and sad for us. And that’s our problem, not yours.

But you treating me differently because you are pregnant/have a new baby isn’t sparing my feelings - it is rubbing it in. You need to trust that we will tell you if we can’t do it. You need to know that saying things like “oh I shouldn’t be telling you this because I know how desperately you want a baby of your own” hurts. Salt in the wound when I just want to be your friend and suddenly it has become an awkward “you vs me” thing.

If you don’t know what to say, ask. And if your infertile friend isn’t honest with you either, call them out on that BS. If they want you to treat them as a friend, they need to be transparent with you.

~

Guess I did it again… another controversial post. You didn’t expect rainbows and unicorns did you? This isn’t the blog for that. I am here to push out awkward and uncomfortable things and I expect you to push back. I am working on getting the site email set up and when I do, I will let you know so you can send me your thoughts. Heck, it might even lead to a guest post or a follow up on my part. In the meantime, you can direct message me on Instagram (@notamommy)

Rabbit Holes

I took a break. A long one.

December sucked for many reasons but the largest one was the passing of my grandmother. Her passing and the affect on the family was very sad and no matter how much it may be time, no one is ever prepared for it when it comes.

Gram had six children and the majority of them spoke at the funeral. Siting there, listening to the stories, it hit me. BOOM. A psychological punch to the face. When my time is up and let’s face it - we have a 100% chance of death - no one will stand up and talk about their mom. If I am lucky someone might talk about me as a wife, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a colleague or a friend. But never as a mom. When I go, all that is me goes with me.

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Holy F**k, that’s dark isn’t it?! And that, internet friends, is why I had to take a break. That was one hell of a long, dark rabbit hole.

So why now? Why can I come back now and talk about it? Two reasons. 1) Time, the great equalizer of all things shitty and 2) a good friend who can look me right in the eye over a cup of coffee and a piece of quiche and remind me with a single look (and possibly an arched eyebrow), that I am being ridiculously dramatic. Thank all that is good in the world for friends like that.

I am sure I am not alone in these thoughts. As humans we have psychological desire to contribute to the next generation and most of us accomplish that through having children. Read more about generativity here

So when you don’t have children, how do you fulfill that deep desire to make your life count? (and no, this isn’t me saying you need to have children to make your life count - read the article) I think that’s the biggest challenge that we face as people who are child free but not by choice. Even for those who have decided to be child free, the same psychological needs are there. This sense of meaning, of purpose, is still one I am struggling with more than six months after our decision to stop. Perhaps we can figure it out together.

And yes, in the calm light of day I understand that having children so they can speak at your funeral and look after you when you are old is not what having children is all about but brains can be very irrational at times : )

Stopping

This is the time of year when people start to talk about hope and inspiration and miracles. It’s a lot of “Don’t give up/lose hope/stop trying/lose faith” or “Your rainbow baby will come” or “I didn’t give up because I knew we would be parents”.

Bah humbug.

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The reality is it is ok to stop.  It doesn’t mean you lost hope or faith or that you aren’t meant to be a parent and it doesn’t mean that you “gave up” and all the negative connotations that come with those words.

It means that you made a decision that was right for you. A very wise friend once told me “you will know when it is time to stop” and while those words seem simple, she is right.  You, and only you, will know when it is time.

There is so much guilt surrounding the decision to stop trying.  The self-doubt (should I have done more? Treatments/weight loss/clean eating/meditation/whatever), the shame (I failed. We failed) and the isolation (where do we fit in the world now?!)

But when you push all of those feelings aside, you will know.  My husband got there faster than I did, but when I really looked inside my heart and shut out all the noise that comes with abandoning a lifelong dream of being a mother, I knew. It was time.

Making the decision to stop does not make the guilt or the grief any easier but it does give you back something you haven’t had for a while – control.  You regain control over your life, your path (and your sex life!)

We hear so many miracle stories and we don’t hear our story.  The story of trying and stopping and learning to move on. Because nobody wants a bad news story. Especially not during the holidays.

But it does get easier. Day by day. I promise.

All the Triggers

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I wonder when, if ever, it will stop.  The triggers.  The ones that catch you off guard – it might be a word, an image, a conversation overheard – and then your eyes are filling with tears and someone has driven a white hot dagger through your heart. 

Triggers are visceral things made of raw emotion and in my experience, very hard to control your reaction to.  They can also build on each other. One after the other.

There were a couple of them this past week or so.  Starting with watching a friend’s little one at their first hockey game, wobbling around on the ice. Yet all I could see were the “coaches” (Dads) on the ice, knowing that my husband won’t get to do that with his kid.  A few days later it was overhearing “congratulations, you will be a wonderful Dad” to a person that I am so happy they are expecting – their journey has been full of challenges – but in that moment all I could think is that no one will ever say that to my husband.  Something else that has been taken from him, and with that thought it was all too much and I was trying to hide the tears until I could ugly cry in the car alone. And ugly cry I did.

But I survived.  I survived that moment, and I promise you will too. We will survive them and the ones that come after because to get to this place, this childless not by choice place, you are so much stronger than you realize.

It was Thanksgiving in the US this week and holidays are full of moments that highlight your losses and/or your situation so much more.  I hope my sisters down south were able to make it through, but I know it isn’t easy.

I try to find ways to fend off the triggers when I am in public since it can be very embarrassing – my triggers always result in angry tears – and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.

My usual go to is to think about work. Ha. Isn’t that boring? But like most of us, there is an inevitable never ending “To Do” list that can distract me for a little while.

If not work, I go for escapism. I love romantic stories – especially ones where the guy pines for the lady a la Mr. Darcy style – and I try to transport to myself to another world. Temporarily escape my own mind and my own sadness.

My final act of desperate distraction is whipping out Pinterest and going for funny animal memes.  I know, I know.  But it works.  Follow my Pinterest link below to see for yourself!

We are not the same.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”  - Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

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Full disclosure, I know that Audre Lorde’s poems are speaking about racial tensions, sexuality and surviving cancer but when I saw this quote for the first time it resonated with me for the infertility community as well.

I had 4 miscarriages. A friend had a stillborn. Another got pregnant with her first round of IVF and another went multiple miscarriages before conceiving with medication.  Some stopped without pursuing fertility treatments and others are going on ten unsuccessful rounds of IVF.  All these experiences put us in the same community but they do not make us the same.

I want to see us recognize differences and be empathetic to the person and their experiences rather than just apply the general sympathy that comes with fertility challenges.  We need to celebrate what makes us the same while honoring that our journeys are different.  The infertility community is made up of many stories and is there to provide hope for those still in the trenches whatever their circumstances may be.

But if there is one thing that really gets under my skin it is when someone with children calls themselves infertile.

If you have kids, you aren’t infertile.  You had fertility issues or maybe you have a child and are still having fertility issues (secondary infertility is a very real thing) but you are not infertile. 

I am infertile and when people with children say that they are infertile – not only is that nonsense - they make my journey into one of failure.  In trying to feel a sense of belonging we can inadvertently brush over the experiences of others.

I miss my babies every damn day, but I didn’t hold them forever sleeping in my arms and I don’t ever want to take that away from someone else.  Just like I don’t want the person who hasn’t been pregnant to take away my feelings of loss nor I would I want to belittle their pain in never having the joy (however fleeting) that comes with a positive pregnancy test.

Yes, we are all in this together, but we will make our community so much stronger by acknowledging not only what makes us the same but also what makes us different.  Much love.

Hello from The Other Side

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I remember the moment it occurred to me that we might never have a (biological) baby (or babies) of our own.  That the fertility treatments might not actually work.  That no matter what we did, this was something we couldn’t control. It was terrifying. One of those suffocating moments where you are suddenly reminded that life is a finite existence and “holy shit this is it and what if it doesn’t work?!”

Then it became reality.

After seven years of fertility treatments, miscarriages, second opinions and heartbreak, we stopped.  We stopped fertility treatment without success. We don’t have children and we aren’t going to have children.

I know a hundred things went through your mind at the last sentence. Things like “you don’t know that, maybe you will get pregnant on your own, maybe you will decide to adopt, maybe you will try IVF again” and so on and so on.  That’s a natural human reaction, to deflect from things that are too difficult or too uncomfortable to consider.

Nobody wants to talk about the people who didn’t get their happy ending, and this is how we became part of The Other Side.  The Other Side is those of us who wanted children but for whatever reason, we do not have them.  There are lots of paths to the Other Side but however you got there, here you are.

It’s lonely and it’s scary over here.  Realizing that your life isn’t going to turn out how you thought it would be a very difficult thing to accept.  It hurts, it makes you angry (oh so angry), it is lonely, and it changes you.  Yes, you are forever changed. You might not know it yet, but you are not the same person you were when you began the journey and there is no turning back. I am sorry, my friend but it is true.

But you don’t have to go through it alone. This site, this blog, is here to create a community. You don’t have to be alone anymore.

Welcome to the Other Side.