This is my first month joining ICLW and I’m loving getting to meet all of these amazing bloggers. However, whenever I read a blog like A Little Pregnant or Stirrups Queen, or Built In Birth Control, I feel like an imposter. I feel guilty when people find my blog from comments left on those blogs – and are confronted with pictures of my smiling baby. What am I doing, reading and commenting on these infertility blogs, when I am not (as far as I know) infertile?
I read infertility blogs because I feel a kinship for these women, even though I have been spared their struggles.
I grew up knowing myself to be a child of infertility. My parents were married for eight years before I was born, and I was told that they “sought professional help” in order to have me. My mother would occasionally apologize for not giving me siblings (one of seven children, my mother has always felt that you need siblings to be normal).
As a child I assumed that the problem lay with my father, because they would never go into details. I thought that my mother may not have felt comfortable discussing sperm counts and testicles with her 10 year old. As I grew older, I began to get the sense that the problems laid on my mother’s side. But I didn’t know, because my mother got vague and changed the subject whenever I asked about it. Could this be something I might inherit?
In other words, unlike many women, I never took it for granted that I would be able to have children with ease. I grew up being aware that some people struggle to have their children.
I can only think of two children’s movies that portray infertile mothers, and those are Dumbo, and Pixar’s Up. If you haven’t watched Dumbo since childhood, it’s time you did. It’s heartbreaking to watch Mrs Jumbo reach hopefully for each bundle of joy, only to see it drop into some one else’s arms. Voiceless, wistful, hoping, waiting, she longs for her own baby and wonders why he is so long in coming.
When he does finally arrive, he isn’t perfect. Though he is beautiful in her eyes, her friends see him as a freak: worse than no baby at all.
How many mothers have adopted a child over seas only to find that their friends don’t throw them a shower, or that their parents don’t treat the child like a “real” grand child? How many mothers have held their precious Down Syndrome baby, only to recieve commiserations instead of congratulations?
Then, when she rises up to protect her son from the cruelty of the world, he is taken away from her entirely. She is declared insane, locked away, and her little baby that she longed for weeps alone with no one left who loves him.
Tell me, what mother in the world wouldn’t weep over Mrs. Jumbo’s experiences? Do you need to have been infertile to imagine the yearning? The love? The loss? I didn’t. Even as a child, I felt the pain of Mrs. Jumbo’s story.
I believe infertility and child loss are topics that belong to all women. It could strike any of us, any time, but we keep it shrouded in secrecy and shame. While Michael J. Fox speaks out for Parkinson’s Disease, and Michael Douglas goes on talk shows to discuss his throat cancer, 45 year old movie stars pop out sets of twins and insist that conception was totally natural. They surround infertility with shame when they could be spreading awareness.
The desire to become a mother, the physical need to have a baby, is something that cannot be described to someone who has not yet felt the urge. Anyone who has felt the urge can comprehend the pain of an infertile couple who are still waiting for their baby.
I have felt the urge since I was 17 years old and fell in love with my Baby Think It Over. He was supposed to teach me about the horrors of motherhood, so I would use birth control (hardly a worry since I had never even been kissed at that point, and wouldn’t be for two more years). Instead I named him Jan Sebastian, cuddled him as much as possible, dressed him in a very cute sweater, carried him instead of lugging him in his plastic car seat, and asked the teacher if I could keep him.
She rolled her eyes. “There’s one in every class…” she laughed. Everyone else hated the damn thing.
In university a friend gave me a Baby Chou Chou doll, and I would cuddle her in her terry cloth footie pyjamas when I felt especially sad. The curve of a baby’s body on my shoulder satisfied some inner yearning that I could not explain.
Then, after university, I went through a serious breakup with my boyfriend of many years, and started over again with Perfect Husband. Even after we got married, that bout with depression held off my reproductive aspirations for another year. I wanted my children. I physically missed them – people I had never met, but whose projections followed me everywhere, asking me why water boiled and marvelling at statues in the Louvre.
On my 27th birthday, a coworker who was only two years older than me gave birth to her second child. Instead of a birthday lunch, we went to see my coworker and her new baby in the hospital. That night I wrote the following in my journal:
There’s just something about holding a newborn that feels… right. Like having PH at my side or a dog at my feet, it makes me feel somehow more whole. I marvel at the tinyness, at how someone born just yesterday, with barely one Earth rotation under his belt, can have such perfectly formed finger nails. Holding a newborn baby should have been a special birthday treat for me, but it really felt more like a cruel tease. I nearly wept with jealousy.
… it makes me ache that even though PH and I want desperately to start our family today… all “logic” says that we should wait, enjoy our freedom, pay off student loans and improve our careers until we can afford more happiness to sacrifice.
In my heart, I feared that infertility would prolong my wait for babies. I was afraid that I would become a Mrs. Jumbo, always reaching out to hold someone else’s baby, and always wishing I could be holding my own. I was so sure that I would have fertility problems that it took me a while to really believe that I was pregnant when it finally happened.
I am grateful for my son every moment of every day. Even when he’s screaming. Even when he has a poosplosion. I hold him close and kiss his tiny mouth and feel so grateful that I finally got my baby… and every day my heart aches for the women who are still waiting for theirs.
When I sing to him, I sing him “Baby Mine”.
and I read infertility blogs so that I can tell them that I understand… as much as is possible for someone who is not, herself, infertile.