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.
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. 🙂