As a rule of thumb, I’ve become immune to the overall distress that comes with infertility, at least when pertaining to other pregnant women.
I don’t think this makes me special in any way, but it does create some distance when I’m talking with other infertile women. A common sentiment in infertility communities is this sort of bitterness or frustration with seeing other people in your life get pregnant while you try and try and don’t succeed. And… yeah, I get that. I was there when we were trying so hard to get pregnant with Sam, only it was rarely with people I knew. Instead, it was with random strangers I’d pass in the mall or wherever, waddling along with their round bellies in front of them, daring to look happy. I wasn’t mad at them, not really. I only thought, “Why not me?”
This second time around has been pretty different for me, emotionally speaking. I think part of it is because I’ve been through pregnancy, so I’m not looking at them and thinking, “Why not me?” but rather, “Oh man, I hope you get a chance to put your feet up later today.” Pregnancy isn’t easy, and I think a pet peeve arises for me when people act as if you shouldn’t complain about being pregnant, either because some people can’t get pregnant or because you should be happy that you’re having a baby. Look: if I ever get pregnant again, I will be over the moon with joy about that fact. That said, I will also complain about morning sickness, the aches, the pains, the fact that my body will suddenly be the same temperature as the sun, all the swelling, the exhaustion, the Braxton Hicks contractions, the need to pee every 30 seconds, the inexplicable magnetism of a pregnant belly as it acts upon complete strangers, and so on.
In other words: I don’t think your happiness and gratitude about being pregnant in any way precludes you being able to complain about being pregnant.
When I was pregnant with Sam, my body basically decided it was done being pregnant the second we hit the 40 week mark. The trouble was, it didn’t make this decision by going into labor. Instead, I swelled up like a balloon, gaining 30 pounds of water weight in a week. I couldn’t exist comfortably. Every position possible was miserable for me. My hips and lower back felt permanently misaligned. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I itched (this, I would later learn, was likely intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy… either that or a symptom of my gallbladder quitting). I was miserable, but that in no way meant that I wasn’t grateful for Sam’s impending arrival or happy that he was on his way.
I think the difference ends up being that for me, pregnancy is just a means of getting to the place I want to be, that place being motherhood. I didn’t get pregnant to be pregnant; I got pregnant to have a child. I wasn’t happy about being pregnant; I was happy to be having a child.
And now he’s here, and I’m still happy about it.
With that in mind, it doesn’t faze me in the least when people complain about being pregnant. Being pregnant is hard! It’s one of the most stressful positive things you can put your body through (and I don’t say that to make any martyr statements; training for a marathon is pretty stressful and positive, too. So is climbing Mount Everest and like. Six bajillion other things that I’m like “hey, I’d never do that, but you do you” about). And I don’t really relate to the idea that people shouldn’t complain about the physical stress of being pregnant because “hey! At least you’re pregnant!” Yeah, you’re pregnant. And that means you’re physically uncomfortable. A lot physically uncomfortable. I feel you.
And on the flip side, it doesn’t faze me when people are really happy about being pregnant, either. Dude, it’s awesome! There’s the physical discomfort, sure, but there are also so many cool things you experience, like those first little shivery flutters that turn into movement. And man, everyone spoils you rotten when you’re pregnant. They stop the second the baby is born, but as long as you’ve got that belly, people will open doors for you and help you carry things and ask if you need anything and be overall far more generous than usual. And absolutely best of all, you’re getting a human at the end of it. An actual, real live human that you get to raise. That’s pretty sweet!
I remember the first times I felt Sam move, when I didn’t even realize that’s what I was feeling. It was that sensation of butterflies in your stomach, that light and fluttery shivery feeling. The bigger he got, the more I felt him. The first time I really felt him was, hilariously enough, when we were watching the first Hobbit movie with my family and someone started speaking the Black Speech. Thump, thump, thump went Sam as the infamous script on the One Ring was read: “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.” It was hilarious!
And gosh, but I love my little human. He and I are baking a cake later today, and he’s been excited about it all week. He keeps running to our supplies and asking if it’s time yet. Every time I go into the kitchen, even just to get a drink, he runs in with me and pulls his baking chair over to the counter so that we can bake together. And I kind of dissolve into a little puddle of momma goo, like, Kiddo, you could literally ask me for anything right now and I’d be like, “Absolutely.”
So joy over pregnancy? That doesn’t faze me. I get it. And I’m happy for you.
The things that do faze me, the things that make me angry and say, “Why not me?” are usually when I see objectively bad parents continuing to have children. I don’t mean parents who don’t give their kids organic food or who are crunchier than I could ever dream of being or parents who are struggling to get it right and mess up sometimes.
I mean abusive parents. Parents who beat their children or sexually molest them. Parents who say such terrible things to their children–that they wish their kids had never been born, that their kids are worthless, that their kids don’t deserve nice things. Parents who see their children as objects to be used and discarded at their whim, abused if they don’t behave “correctly” or otherwise don’t live up to impossible expectations. Parents who let other people harm their children, who don’t listen when their kids come to them for protection, who make things worse. Parents who refuse to get their children medical help because it goes against their personal beliefs, and so they let their children die of easily treatable things.
(that’s a depressing thought, so here’s a kitten hugging a puppy)
I see stories, so many stories, about parents who’ve done these things and have so many kids. And that’s when I think, “Why them and not me?”
I know I’m not a perfect mom. It’s impossible to be a perfect mom. I’ve probably already given Sam’s future tell-all book at least three chapters of material. But my god, I love that kid, so very much. I couldn’t ever intentionally hurt him, not more than the pain that comes with not letting him get his way 24/7 or holding him in place so that he can get a vaccination. The idea of someone hurting him simultaneously breaks my heart and fills me with such preemptive rage that I feel myself hulking out.
(DON’T. HURT. MY. KID.)
I remember when he had to get his first vaccines, at two months old. I am SUPER pro-vaccination; I think vaccinations may be the greatest invention of the last three hundred years. The diseases prevented by the two month vaccines are so terrifying to me, and understandably so: whooping cough, diptheria, polio, tetanus, pneumococcal disease. The idea of watching my baby with any of those was horrifying to me, and I was intellectually super ready to get him vaccinated.
But emotionally, I was not ready. For every moment of his existence to that point, he was able to wholly trust me to keep him from feeling any pain. Whenever he cried from hunger or discomfort, I was there to feed him or rearrange him or do whatever he needed. I kept him warm and fed, safe, and free from pain. And even though I was intellectually all about getting him vaccinated (because duh, Abby, the pain from tetanus is MUCH worse than the pinprick of a needle), knowing that I was allowing him to experience pain kind of broke my heart into a million tiny pieces.
The nurse noticed me tearing up as she got ready to give him the shots. “It’s alright. You’re normal,” she said with a wry smile. “Trust me, this is much more upsetting to you than it is to him. He won’t even remember this.”
And she was right. Sam still trusts me wholly. Kyle is usually the one he calls out for when he’s afraid (because Kyle is 6’4” tall and built like a bear), but I’m his go-to when he’s an emotional wreck.
But either way. It was hard enough for me to let someone cause him pain when I knew it would have a long term benefit. Letting someone hurt him just because? Hurting him myself just because? Seeing him as anything less than the fantastic human being he is?
That’s when infertility feels keenly unfair to me. It’s when I see someone who hurts their children going on to have more and more and more children. It’s when I see someone who’s willing to let their children be harmed, physically or sexually or emotionally, walking around with a baby bump. It’s when I see someone who’s an objectively horrible parent having so many kids and I, who try so hard to put everything into bringing up my child to be the best possible person, can’t manage to stay pregnant for more than a couple of weeks at a time.
That is when it hurts.