Monday, November 22, 2010

Of course it hurts. Yes, even still.

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.


Illanare said...

A wonderful post.
And, for what it's worth - I think you are both strong and lovely.

the misfit said...

Making the wild assumption that I am the blogger in question (or, this will qualify as agreeing with you, even if I'm not), I don't think that all infertile women would prefer never to be around children (though more than one person has now thought I meant that, so I obviously was not clear). I think that infertiles GENERALLY have emotional difficulties dealing with other people's kids - not all infertiles, not all kids, and not the same every day, but I think it's a general phenomenon. But my real pet peeve is the people who tell me (and yes, they exist) that I SHOULD NOT feel like spending a restricted amount of time around other people's children, that it's not NATURAL to feel that way, that it is, in fact, freakish or shameful. That's where I think the lying comes in - I don't believe for one second any infertile who claims that he or she can't even FATHOM why someone would want to avoid other people's children. I refuse to believe that any infertile man or woman has never looked at someone else's beautiful child and felt pain. I believe that anyone who says that is lying to himself. But if the conclusion is that sometimes it hurts, but on the whole it's more good than bad - that I have no problem with. It's generally not how I feel, but it could be for someone else.

areyoukiddingme said...

I can see where being around children would be painful. I can see where you would push yourself to overcome that pain to enjoy the children in your life. Wonderful post...

loribeth said...

12+ years later, & yes, it can still hurt. Sometimes more than others. Even the times that are lots of fun, there's always a little twinge in the background.

And yes, I wish I would have given myself more of a break, especially in those really painful early years. We need to take care of ourselves more & not worry about other people so much, I think.

Mali said...

You're not broken. And you're definitely not less of a woman.

justine said...

This is beautiful. And honestly, I think that it will hurt for those of us who have lost children even if we *are* able to carry and bring other children home alive. I know that I will never be the same. This pregnancy has not been innocent. I know too much about loss.

But I think we are stronger women for knowing this loss ... not that we would wish it on anyone. I, for one, think that broken as you are, you are amazing.

the misfit said...

On further reflection, I have concluded that I thread-jacked, and now I am contrite :(.

lady pumpkin said...

You are so right. Because there's no archetype for us. We don't fit into the "crotchety snarkmaster who doesn't like kids" category, nor that of "never thought about having kids" or "maybe someday, but not now." We're in this awkward, covetous place that doesn't have an instruction manual. Sigh. I honor you for putting this all out there. It's important and so hard not to be ashamed of these uncomfortable, in-between, and inconsistent feelings.

Take care,
lady pumpkin

Valerie said...

Thanks so much. I feel exactly as you do. It's so good to see my feelings expressed so beautifully! Hope you both have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Pipsylou said...

I like the fact that you are brave enough to admit this.

I guess I just like YOU.

Sandy said...

Oh my goodness, this is such a wonderful post and echoes the sentiment perfectly. I thought I was the only one that thought that way.

I'm so glad I found your website - it's beautiful and I can only imagine what you must be going through. I had tears in my eyes just reading your profile.

Ya Chun said...

this so articulately explains it. And so honest.

I am stuck in the middle, now having a subsequent live baby, but having so many blogging friends still struggling - and maybe never being able to have another.

But, even though I have my dd now, I still feel pain being around other children, especially those of an age to my dead daughter or those who are half asian.

And it is hard to protect oneself, at the beginning, yes, but even now.

ApronStringsEm said...

Again ... late to comment. Had to put this on my FB page just to share. I hope others read this and understand. I couldn't have said it any better.