The other day I read a blog post by someone who is much more willing to admit her brokenness than I am. She is not ashamed of it the way I am. She is not afraid of it, nor of what people think of it.
I'm not sure she even thinks of it as brokenness, as a matter of fact. Come to think of it she's probably right, dammit.
The gist of her post was that infertile women who claim to be okay with being around babies are lying to us - even to those of us in the same boat - and to themselves. I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically what she was saying - that those of us who are childless not by choice are never completely comfortable being surrounded by the things we wanted most in the world and can never have.
It makes sense, really. Say you want a drink of water really badly, and then say you can never have one ever again. Ignore the fact that this would, of course, eventually kill you, and just imagine how agonizing it would be to be surrounded by clean, crisp, cold water that you can never, ever have. Ever.
It would be difficult - painful even - to go to a cottage, or a beach, or do something as simple as wash your dishes or have a long, hot bath. Touching the water but never being able to drink it and quench your thirst would be absolute torture. Probably forever.
So it really does make sense that those of us who wanted children but haven't been able to either conceive them, carry them, or bring them home alive would find exposure to children painful on some level every time. Probably forever.
It makes perfect sense.
And if I'm honest (which I don't always like to be when it comes to this sort of thing because I want people to think I'm strong and lovely), it really does always hurt to be around children. It's not a life-threatening gunshot to the head kind of pain anymore. But it is still there. And it's uncomfortable.
I would disagree with the blogger's insistence that the infertile never want to be around children (and are lying if they say so) because there are times when I genuinely do want to be around the children I love, even though I know it will hurt at the same time. Because I love children, and I especially love the ones in my life.
So the pain is just a side effect of exposure. And I can live with that. I have no choice, of course, but I really can live with it - especially since I've learned coping mechanisms that help me deal with the lingering after effects.
Those coping mechanisms often involve chocolate, wine, and shopping - but still, they work.
But I do wish I'd had the wherewithal to say no back when the pain really was like a shot to the head. When newborns were thrust into my arms by well-meaning friends who obviously thought that it would be a salve on my broken heart, and when new mothers (inexplicably, under the circumstances) launched into birth stories and tales of breastfeeding that seemed positively endless. I wish I'd had the courage then to say, "I'm sorry, but as happy as I am for you, hearing this much detail is a little painful for me right now - and no, I can't hold your baby either."
I wish I'd cared more for my own feelings than the feelings of others back then. I wish I'd known that it would have been more than okay for me to retreat to the safety of my home (or my car, or a bathroom - or anywhere where there weren't mothers and babies) when all the babyness around me threatened to suffocate me. I wish I'd known it was okay to protect myself and my barely beating heart.
I'm sure the unsolicited immersion therapy can be at least partially credited for shoving me along to the place I'm at now. I can look forward to spending time with a child - and in some cases I'm the one who initiates it - knowing full well that it's also going to hurt, but enjoying it despite the ever-present ache.
But the point is, I do still hurt. And I need to stop being ashamed of admitting it. And I need to stop thinking I'm broken because of it. And I need to stop thinking I'm less of a woman for feeling it.