The other night I was watching a movie with my roommates (whom I live with when not living with my husband in Mexico) and we were talking about Jennifer Garner, when my friend commented:
Oh, I just hated her character in Juno. She was awful.
To which her husband promptly agreed. And it took a minute to register, Oh that’s right, she was the mom in Juno. Well, the infertile*, OCD, anxious woman who eventually became a mom.
And that’s when it hit me, most infertile characters portrayed in movies and TV are not characters you sympathize with and are not portrayed in the best light. And I voiced this. To which they disagreed.
There’s Charlotte, from Sex and the City.
To which I disagreed. I never liked Charlotte.
I understand this point is debatable, that Hollywood isn’t the greatest example of exactly what our culture values lie, and that I don’t really watch that much TV so I don’t have a large data set to pull from, but I remember watching a crime scene show years ago with a crazy infertile women who was holding her husband’s mistress hostage after she snapped when she thought he was cheating on her and other shows/movies where the wife who’s bent on trying to conceive “forces” her husband to have sex with her at timed intervals.
The idea of a crazy, infertile woman who can just never get over herself is a common theme that enough people recognize, otherwise she wouldn’t exist. She makes you cringe, she makes you want to look away and she definitely does not make you sympathize with her.
Of course I’d love to plead No, she’s not crazy! Just misunderstood! but even I doubt myself. Why can’t infertile women just get over themselves? It’s worth asking. There is something all consuming about infertility that just makes your better judgment fly out the window. Your thoughts turn inward and your future seems bleak, in spite of everything else going on in your life. And you’d suddenly trade it all if you could just have a baby. At least, that’s what you say.
Sunshine wrote last week, asking the question, is the cross of infertility really harder than other crosses? One of the points on her list jumped out to me the most:
~It is a cross that takes one to the depths of what it means to be a CREATURE and not the CREATOR.
This is profound. There’s an obvious link between control and happiness, so it should come as no surprise when once one realizes they aren’t the ones creating, or in control, sadness follows. But what other crosses take us to the depths of understanding what it means to be a creature rather than a creator?
Sickness, disease, and untimely – or even anticipated – death. When all of these things happen, there is absolutely nothing you can do but accept what happens. Infertility falls right in line with all of those.
Have you seen My Sister’s Keeper? There’s a scene at the end where you all but realize she’s going to die. She’s been struggling with cancer for so long and there’s no way she can survive the surgery necessary to save her, yet when all her extended family come in the room to visit one last time they just keep talking about how not to worry, if she can just hold on, just have more faith, just pray a little harder, that miracles do happen and that she’ll be cured. The immediate family shares a knowing look because they know, they know that this is the end and they are finally at peace, although that didn’t come easy even for them. Those other people just can’t accept not being in control. They can’t imagine there not being something else you can do.
There are few crosses that can really reach us and teach us that at the deepest level, we are merely creatures. Infertility is one.
It literally takes that family up until the moment they realize she’s going to die to have peace. If it takes that long with death, which is so final, to accept, how can it possibly work any sooner with infertility?
Infertility is a disease that takes away your ability to conceive and bear children. But it rarely takes it away all at once (although it can). It usually acts more stealthily, taking it away slowly, month after month. As a result, its a continual mourning process of children that never were. Children that no one will ever see or would ever even be expected to know about.
A mother whose child dies usually has a funeral, an expected time to mourn and even a lifetime acknowledgment that that child existed and was worth morning. All children are. The infertile has less than two weeks to get over the fact that there is no child before moving on to having hope for the next child, who may never come. All with zero outside acknowledgment. This is not to solicit pity, but to state facts. I seriously believe that this lack of proper time to grieve is what drives infertile women crazy. It is a death that is never recognized and never dealt with like what it is. The death of children that never existed with a mix of your husband’s and your genes. And how can you accept that death? After all, this just might be the month! It is just a continual process that has. no. end. until time X has been reached. Time X being dependent upon a couple’s emotional, mental, and financial reserves to take the waiting/treatment roller coaster. [And honestly, I have doubts it ever ends. I bet somewhere in the mind back there an sub-fertile always wonders if she’s pregnant, and every story I’ve ever heard that ends with a sub-fertile adopting and then getting pregnant, she always says Well, I was a day late and I should have gotten my period by then…so I took a pregnancy test.” Right. A pregnancy test because you’re a day late?]
Everything I read about adoption confirms that infertility is a grieving process. Agencies are weary of accepting couples who are pursuing fertility treatments and many don’t allow it at all. Adoption is never to replace your biological children. This wouldn’t be fair to the adopted child to have to live in the shadow of another child. Friends who have started or have gone through the adoption process have literally first had to mourn the biological children that never were.
We’re not crazy infertile women like you see in the movies. I wish it was more apparent to people that its not that we’re not thankful, its not that we’re not appreciative of what we do have, its just that our dreams, our husband’s and our children, are dying. On a repeating loop. Right in front of us. We are mothers to invisible, never-living children, and we are mourning. Death cannot be moved past until it is properly grieved.
I just wish it wasn’t so hard to face that fact ourselves.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for your understanding.
*You may be aware of my preference for the term sub-fertility. Since I’m refering to these characters on TV and in movies that don’t concieve and we don’t know their medical diagnosis, I’m just sticking with infertility for the whole of this article.