Wanting what you can’t have

Or: We all have our things.

We’ve all been there. Some of us more than others. And it strikes me yet again today that we have more in common with each other than we think.

Yesterday I did my usual logon to Amazon to send a new baby gift package to friends. This is something I’ve done so many times that I can do it in my sleep. I pretty much have a list of new baby presents that I send to people in varying quantities depending on how friendly we are.

(For info, my top gifts are: a funky babygro, Tomy’s Starlight Dreamshow – it projects lights onto the ceiling and plays a lullaby, and a Doudou et Compagnie “doudou” which is a little animal holding a comforter. Fun fact: I have one of the top rated lists on Amazon for what to buy your friends who have babies. I started this back in the early 2000s… Another fun fact: Amazon tells you the last time you bought something – I last bought the doudou at the end of August. FML.)

And I try and be positive, I really do. And most of the time I succeed in doing this stuff on autopilot and not really letting it hurt me. I just log on, click “buy” and send it whilst barely breaking a sweat. If you looked at my card statement you’d be forgiven for thinking I have a very pampered baby. (I always get fun rather than functional gifts because they can buy the nappy bin / bottle warmer / breast pump themselves! Plus I get credit as cool auntie/friend rather than chapped nipple facilitator.)

But sometimes I get to daydreaming about what I’d buy if it were my own baby I was expecting…

I know exactly what buggy I’d get. (Although this has recently been challenged by a new one I saw whilst walking around town.) I already know what my future baby’s favourite toy would be. (Although they do always make their own mind up and knowing T and me, would probably imprint on a stinky shoe or something.) I know what kind of clothes he or she’d wear. (Stripes and marine theme and animals if he’s a boy; smocked dresses and bloomers and animals if she’s a girl… None of this gender fluid stuff for our kid! Apart from animals!) I would carry him in a sling and I would buy her so many toys she wouldn’t know what to do with them. (I don’t care if they’re spoiled! Our baby would be the spoiltest child in the world!)

But… But… I may never have him or her. We are early on our infertility journey (one IVF that initially worked but ended in miscarriage at 9 weeks) and yet we are so far (I’m coming up for late 30s and I’d never prior to IVF ever gotten pregnant, despite ostensibly having many opportunities).

I scour the blogs and try and figure out if there’s anyone like me. There are so many of us out there who are going through one thing or another. We are a sisterhood of non-motherhood. I have sparks of recognition when I see someone in her late 30s who’s still doing this, and I have hope when I find someone whose IVF has worked second time after a first failure. And I feel a tiny bit of entirely selfish and unjustified despair when someone I “know” has their struggle ended by a successful cycle (or even “worse”, an unexpected spontaneous pregnancy).

And this is selfish of me. I want people’s struggle with infertility to end. I want to know that there is hope for all of us. I really do.

But a part of me says: When can it be my turn?

In years, it has been almost 20 since I first began being “active” (at a relatively late age… Later than all my friends!). I used protection in the beginning like everyone else did – but I was also quite laid back about the possibility of having a baby, or perhaps I secretly wanted one. A few years later when I was in long term relationships I pretty much dispensed with it. In my very long term relationship I had various fertility related problems so was told I’d likely have trouble conceiving, so even the times I could in theory have conceived – nothing ever happened. I never had a pregnancy scare. I never saw blue lines on a test. When I met T, I was mid 30s and we didn’t use anything – we tried straight away. So in total I had around 12 years of “not not trying” and 3 of actively trying. By any stats I should have had at least one pregnancy that “worked”. But before IVF, I never did.

And here’s the thing: I can go through life and I can do my sleepwalking-Amazon-buying and I can even get super excited for other people and throw them baby showers and talk about baby names and things. I can do all that because I’ve always been the person who didn’t have a baby. Who – according to many of my friends’ assumptions – didn’t want a baby.

And today… A Facebook acquaintance of mine (friend-of-a-friend) posted that she really hated her job. She cried in the toilets because it was so horrible. This is someone who gets to do super-glamorous stuff, meeting celebrities and living the high life – and she’s telling us, boring nerds who sit in offices, that she hates her glamorous life and wishes she didn’t have to go to this outwardly awesome job. It made me stop and think, because I often look at her life and think it must be really fantastic. It obviously isn’t, if she’s in the toilets crying. (I’ve had my times of crying about my job, but I tend to go home and do it!)

It reminded me of my post a while back where I realised that the grass isn’t always greener – that we all have our things, and even if other people’s lives look fantastic, we all have our struggles. Even people with these amazing looking lives have their own private sadnesses. That friend-of-a-friend said (when I said “But your life looks so amazing!”) that it looks good on social media but she cries in the toilets. There is a distinction between what we envy in others and the reality of their lives. For all those women who finally have their long-awaited baby: there’s sleep deprivation and the impact on their relationships, and the fear that there’s a tiny human for whom they now have a lifelong responsibility!

And I realised that we can’t be Pollyanna every day – it’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of malaise about life now and again, and we the infertile have to deal with being the “have nots” every day that we struggle with infertility and loss. It would be weird if we didn’t feel that loss now and again. So I’m not going to beat myself up when I feel those pangs of loss or if I can’t bring myself to visit the baby who’s just been born, at a time when I’d be almost 5 months pregnant if I hadn’t lost our baby. And maybe it will be even harder to see my new niece when she’s born in a few months. I don’t know. I’ve always had to deal with being the aunt and not the mum. Maybe I’ll just take it in my stride.

Sometimes I want to scream at the universe.

I’m not always sweetness and light. (I’m not even, if you met me IRL off here!) I am only human and sometimes I want to rail at the injustice of it all. I want to scream that it’s unfair that I could have been an unwanted baby and yet I struggle to get pregnant in the same way that my first mother struggled against it. I want to shout at people who always had it easy, who don’t know the meaning of white privilege or what it feels like to be Other, who have never struggled for acceptance or tried to make their way in a world where they’re always seen as not quite belonging. I see how some adoptees are angry about their circumstances and I think in many cases it’s justified, because there is something unjust about a world where there is such suffering and where people voluntarily end their babies’ lives before birth, or pass them to other lives where they have very different lives to the ones they might have had.

But that’s not the way I am. I think all of these things inside my head, for milliseconds at a time, and I push them back down and try as hard as I can never to let them take over, and not to let them rise to the surface and make me into a bitter person. I’ve had some crappy things happen to me in my life – some really brutal things – and for a while I was that bitter person who hated life. But with age comes acceptance and understanding (possibly! got a bit of a way to go!) and I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to live my life that way. In a life where many defining things are out of my control (my adoption as a baby, my infertility, my race being different to the norm where I live, my gender being one with less equality) I choose to focus on the things that I can control.

I can control the way I look at things – which controls my moods, up to a point. I can be kind to myself. I can understand that, yeah, you’ve been through some bad times in the past, but things are pretty good now. I can focus on the good things that I’m grateful for: health, love, Dog, a job that may not be full of fun but pays me enough to live – and enough to go and find the fun in the world.

I can see those feelings coming towards me like missiles:

She’s pregnant really easily and you can’t even get pregnant without IVF.

He progressed quickly up the ranks even though he’s not as good as you.

They have three children and they’re still not grateful.

…and I can bat them right back.

As my (ever wise) dad often says:

Life is unfair.

There’s no point worrying about things you can’t change.

Things can change in an instant.

To which I add my own personal favourite:

Everything will be okay in the end.

If it’s not okay… it’s not the end.

#LifeLessons

I kind of think that we have to accept that life ebbs and flows. Terrible things happen and we have to roll with the punches, and it can feel like the universe is against us – when really all it is, is terrible luck. I don’t believe that there’s some malevolent god punishing us for anything. And I don’t believe in karma, not in the mystical sense. I do believe that in a scientific sense, you get back largely what you put out. If you go around being a horrible person, someone’s going to be horrible right back to you the first chance they get. And if you try generally to be nice, people can recognise that, and people mostly appreciate that, and they’re more likely to help you if they can.

I don’t know what I’m saying today really. It’s just a stream of consciousness – and that stream is this: We are okay. We are good. It’s okay to be sad or angry some of the time, but I’m going to focus on happy because it’s much more enjoyable. 🙂

 

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18 comments

  1. heatherhopeful

    The feelings you have are 100% justified. You’re so sweet to buy wonderful gifts for your friends and their infants, but it makes perfect sense that you want your own. I even relate to the sentiment that sometimes it’s hard to see people conquer infertility and still sit here thinking, “I hope I get to graduate (from this hell) someday too.” I think the hardest part about infertility is the unknown. It’s hard to be blissfully happy for others when we don’t know if we’ll ever see the light ourselves. And it’s OK to be jealous and it’s OK to be selfish. These things are perfectly normal. I really hope you get your day, Nara. You are so deserving, and any little boy or girl would be lucky to have you as a mother. Hugs! xx

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    • Nara

      Thank you for being so understanding. Sometimes I think I’m super selfish, but I do think these things for very short bursts of time. I try not to think bad stuff all the time otherwise I’d be a bitter wizened old hag! 🙂 And I really do sometimes hope we will eventually “graduate”, but I’m also generally used to not having been there. I guess it’s probably something that will continue to happen until we are past the usual childbearing age… Hopefully everyone on here will have graduated by then. Thanks for the hugs! Xx

      Like

  2. theskyandback

    I love this post. And I think you have a great attitude — be sad when you need to be, rant against the universe when you need to, but in general try to be grateful for what you do have. I often have to stop myself from envying people that I think have more than me. I know their life isn’t perfect — no one’s is. But it’s so easy for me to fall into that comparison trap. If I’m being honest, I sometimes feel like infertility makes me more selfish because I’m always focusing on my own woes, and almost forget sometimes that just because people aren’t struggling with infertility, doesn’t mean they’re not struggling with other things. This post is a good reminder of that! Xoxo.

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    • Nara

      Aww thanks. I’m glad they’re not completely weird feelings. I sometimes feel like I’m just sitting around thinking “wah, why isn’t it me?” And that’s not especially productive. That said I do try and be really grateful for what I have, because I am! I think it’s easy to feel we are very selfish focusing on our own needs, but also I think it’s kind of unfair we have to do that (treatments, investigations etc) when other people do it without thinking. You’re right though, we can get caught up in it and forget that there are other struggles. I’m very thankful that I have my Dog to remind me that few things in life are more satisfying than chasing one’s tail! 🙂 xx

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  3. Arwen

    I was reminded starkly of the whole ‘everyone has their own stuff’ thing recently when my best friend who has a seemingly perfect life with two beautiful easily conceived children (who I have always envied hugely because of that fact) told me that she envied my marriage and she told me it’s because hers has some quite sad moments recently behind the scenes. She told me all about them and sobbed on me and I immediately felt a shock that I had had no idea about the rocky ground they were on because I had been so focussed on how perfect her life appeared.
    Your attitude is amazing and you know I love you!
    I am still so so hopeful that you will get to have your baby and everyone else (me included) can spoil that little baby rotten with gifts. Hugest of British hugs xxx

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    • Nara

      Exactly! If I had to pick between infertility and relationship it would be my relationship every time. That might sound weird but to me that is the most important thing for happiness. No point being fertile as a… fertile thing… if you have nobody to share it with! I do have a few “perfect” friends (Facebook! School! Never seen them in real life since!) and I wonder if their lives are really that perfect. I don’t wish ill of them (often!) but equally I doubt anyone can be so happy and perfect all the time. And I really think that life is much harder if you don’t have a great relationship, so I’m so grateful of mine (not in a smug way, I promise! But in the way of not having had one previously so not taking it for granted). I love you too! Can’t wait for Stevie’s arrival (and I mean it! I can’t be jealous of people I know who’ve struggled so much)… I know that just knowing babies like Stevie and Sweet Pea and mini MPB and mini Stealing Nectar are in the world will cheer me up no end! 🙂
      Awkward British hugs back atcha! Xx

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      • RJ

        I would pick my marriage 100% of the time as well. To have someone to love and support you through so much pain and sadness is so important, especially because (not) having babies is by no means the only horrible thing that can happen. That sounds awful but it’s so very true. Life is full of sadness (and also full of happiness, I’m totally not a pessimist, probably more of a realist).

        I also wanted to say that I am reminded on a daily basis that we all have our things. Whether it’s my friend going through postpartum depression or one of my patients (a child…mind you) being diagnosed with something most people only imagine, we have to remember that everyone has sad things happen to them. It’s one of the things that’s makes us human, and probably the only thing that bonds everyone in the world (although some people wouldn’t want to admit it).

        Anyway I have no idea where I’m going with this but once again your writing resonated with me. And I also think you have every right to feel whatever feelings you’re having. I have lots of the same feelings, like watching my co-worker be 7 months pregnant and I should be two weeks behind her, and it makes me so bummed out. Or hearing another co-worker is pregnant and I would have been two weeks ahead of her. Now I have two more people that will have babies that should be the age of the ones I miscarried. Ok I have to stop now. Apparently I need to write a blog post exploring these feelings. Sorry for the long response!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nara

        Ah, it’s so hard, isn’t it? I think I’ve had quite a morose week and maybe because it’s been a bit boring at work so I haven’t been busy thinking of things to take my mind off it. Also lots of pregnant people and babies right now. I think sometimes I react well and other times I react badly and it’s good to vent on the blog rather than bite someone’s head off! 🙂 I’m sorry you are reminded so much by your coworker – that must be really hard. One of mine put her foot in it by asking if I was pregnant – she has zero tact – so I just avoid her. I’m probably quite rude about it but I can’t stand her. I’ll have to write a blog about that one! I will catch up on yours and everyone else’s blogs now it’s the weekend! X

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  4. mamajo23

    You have such a good perspective. A fertile young friend of mine is so miserable all the time with her new baby because she has no gratitude and hasn’t had to struggle so everything about motherhood is just hard for her. It is one of the few things that makes me feel like IF hell can actually bring us a gift at some point. You sound like a great friend. I am very hopeful for your next IVF cycle. Xo

    Like

    • Nara

      Wow, that must be so hard to listen to! I was just thinking this morning whilst walking to the tube seeing a mum smoking in her child’s face… I really don’t think some people know how lucky they are. It is hard for those of us who have struggled to accept that we can’t just do something that everyone else does without any effort. I’m sorry that your friend doesn’t realise how lucky she is… I’m sure that with you as a friend she will learn and grow even if it is a slow process! Maybe osmosis! 🙂 Thanks for the wishes! Xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. tidleone

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I have had two really miserable days and it lifted me tonight reading this. I wrote a stream of consciousness last night between tears and amidst the clouds of frustration and anger – it’s not something that I’d never post. I love the way that you look at life and your mantra. I agree it’s not the end. We live to fight another day, to love, to laugh, to hope.

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    • Nara

      Ah, thank you. I hope it felt a little bit like a hug! I’m sorry you’ve had a couple of miserable days. (If you’re in the UK, the weather hasn’t helped! Torrential rain!) I feel like blogging has really helped me deal with some of my feelings and feel less alone – I hope it helps you too. Sending you hugs x

      Like

    • Nara

      Thank you, that’s so nice of you to say! I think I just use it as a way of getting it all out there – I find it very cathartic. I really appreciate your good wishes and I hope the same for you! Xx

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  6. thegreatpuddingclubhunt

    I screamed out of my car window on my way back from work today “It’s just not fair”. I was in one of those weird moods of being on the verge of crying, but not actually crying. I’d recommend shouting it out very loud. I think it helps. Obviously it doesn’t help in the long run….

    I wonder sometimes if it would be easier to believe that there was actually some kind of ‘malevolent god punishing us’ as you so say. Then maybe it would be comforting to just ask for forgiveness and hope that way. I think I feel similarly to you about you get what you put in…. I just can’t quite fathom why the real crappy bad luck happens to the nicest people.

    Anyway, you ended your post on a happy note, so I’ll stop bringing a downer on to your party!!! Love your baby fashion ideas 🙂 Chin up chook!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nara

      Gosh, yeah I can totally relate to it. When I was a morose adolescent I used to go to the sea and scream at it. Depressing northern weather didn’t help I think! 🙂 I think you’re right – it somehow seems unfair that it’s so random and not that there’s a rhyme or reason for it (infertility etc). At least we could just repent and it would be granted! Sometimes when I read the more religious blogs I think it’s hard to square the circle on that. I don’t think I like the idea that there is some divine being punishing us. That can’t be true (and if so, seems like a bad use of an omnipotent being’s time). I figure that the crappy stuff happens to nice people in as much quantity (statistically) as the bad and good being matched. We just notice it more when it doesn’t match (like when a criminal wins the lottery or something). I think it’s random like that and doesn’t seem to make sense. I wish there was a way to understand it…
      Thanks for the chin up! 🙂 I’m feeling much better now it’s the weekend here! A bit of relaxation! Hope it’s good over the pond! 🙂

      Like

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