Crossing over: Severing the infertile bond

Before I go any further, I just want to say that in no way am I meaning to try to tell people what to do in these posts.  Everyone handles the transition to motherhood from infertility differently, and many with much more grace and simplicity than I have.  I don’t know why I’ve struggled so, but I have found a lot of help in writing it out recently, so I really do only mean to express my take on the matter. I’m sharing it because, well its on my mind.  And this is my blog.  Please don’t think I’m saying that you are insensitive for posting pictures or writing about motherhood, I’m just trying to explore why it is that I’ve had a hard time doing so.  Thank you all for being so kind as I share this…for some reason I feel more vulnerable now than I ever have before.

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One thing that I’ve struggled to articulate since conceiving was what the heck was happening to the relationships I had with the women I’d befriended since trying to conceive. I had seen and felt it happen when friend conceived before me.  There was suddenly a divide that felt massive.  As if suddenly they didn’t understand anything I was going through.  Other bloggers have likened it to leaving an island, or drawing a dividing line, and I even wrote about this mysterious Planet Pregnant.

Back when I started writing on here, it was actually my intention to have a place to try my hand at writing my own apologetics.  I’d spent most of my life trying not to get in the way and offend people with my beliefs, “I wouldn’t do that but whatever works for you.”  I’d finally gotten to the place after my conversion that I realized there is value in standing by your beliefs and being able to articulate them well.  I needed practice and started writing after my friend from school started her own (we were both new Catholics), and I was basically owning her blog with my comments.  (Check out the first posts, it was really me and another one of her friends, destroying Elizabeth’s combox.  Whoops!).

But as the months went by and our sub-fertility was realized, it became the topic of the blog. And that’s when the relationships started forming, which was an unknown by product of blogging about such an intimate part of your life, the longing for a baby. And I realize that these relationships were mostly limited to online because I wasn’t talking about it much in person.

What I’ve been struggling with for the last two years now, is what happens to those relationships when you have a baby.  Its one thing for your friends to leave you, but its another thing to be the one leaving. These is a bond that you can form with other women  who know the deep longing for a child, who sharing this intimate longing that I dare say even your husband may not fully understand in the same way.  What happens when that bond is severed?  When you go from knowing what someone is feeling because you are feeling that same intense longing, to you merely just remember what that feeling is? There is suddenly a line, a division with someone with whom you used to say “I’m so glad you understand!” because no one else did.

When my friends would leave me behind, I felt like they didn’t understand anymore.  Now that I’m on this side, I see that that couldn’t be further from the truth. The knowledge of the pain is still there, there is just more to the story now.

This Cross I Embrace once wrote (can’t find the link right now…) about how it almost hurt more when other infertile women “crossed over”.  It felt wrong to say it, because these are the women we’ve been praying for to conceive, and why would I be sad to see them get what we’re all yearning for?  But I understood that ache from that side, because I felt it.  Happy for the pregnancy and new life, but devastated once again at the reminder of the absence of your own.  But there was more to it than that (I guess I’ll come back it this in the next post). I remember a line in that post that struck me to this day.  It was that the only difference between us now was that the infertile friend would gladly trade places to experience the trials of motherhood but there is no way the infertile/now mother would go back to the “other side”.

Of course none of us would trade our child for a life of  infertility.  To say that would be ludicrous and a mockery of how seriously we claim want and appreciate this gift.  We wanted all of it, not because motherhood looked like an easy walk in the park where you just get to cuddle a baby all day, but because we wanted to be given the challenge to fulfill our vocations to motherhood that we thought God was calling us to. Things that are worthwhile aren’t easy!  Even in the darkest trials of motherhood, there is no way we’d really want to permanently trade back in our child.

But the pain of loosing the intimate bond with other women who are in this same trial?  Other women who know what its like to have the deepest desires of your heart denied, and yet still remain faithful?  Women with who you share your deepest values for life and yet have them denied repeatedly while the world doesn’t quite understand?

I wasn’t prepared for how much that would hurt, even on this “side” of the journey. 

You go from sharing those intimate thoughts and moments to suddenly, being cut off from that connection.  Sure, you make other friends, solely by the chance that you happened to parent a child around the same time.  “Mom friends”. Who are great, and yes, serve a very important purpose.  It turns out that we women need to find community in whatever stage we are at during our lives.  At least I do.  And motherhood is a very physical stage filled with lots of flakiness and naps changes and just generally requiring flexibility 24-7, so its nice to have people who understand.

But then the conversation dips beyond sleep patterns and development into values and…you know, the inevitable “We’re just going to try for one more.”, “I am so done”, “What type of birth control are you using?”.  The questions that reveal that, oh wait, we don’t actually share any of these values that mean so much to me.

And I think one important thing to take away, maybe for any relationship, is that one relationship doesn’t have to fulfill you in every way possible.  There’s nothing wrong with having friends that you have this interest in common with and then other friends you do something else with, blah blah blah.  But I know there is something incredible about the bond that I had with other woman who know that longing for children.  Even if that’s the only thing we had in common.  There is something special about sharing such a vulnerable time with others who supported each other in times of grief and pain, praying for the cross to be lifted. A giant bright light in a very painful time.

And the absence that exists when that bond is broken when you “cross over” is upsetting, even amidst the joy of having a child.

I plan to next write about if and why this bond is actually “severed”. This is probably what I’ve been struggling most to understand and articulate in the past year. 

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August 14th – The Day That Would Never Come

I’ll get back to my other series, but because of the special meaning of these dates to me, I wanted to share this. It is a repost from several years ago.  “10 years ago” has now become “14 years ago”.  And we find ourselves on the brink of another move: back to the East coast.  Coming full circle!

August 14th has a special place in my heart for reminding me that things do happen eventually and if I’m just patient enough, things will come in their right time and place.

More specifically, August 14th, 1999.

I was in 9th grade and had just survived a move from Nebraska to Virgina a year earlier.  The sole fact that I was in middle school and middle schoolers generally have a difficult

time anywhere was probably enough to make me hate Virginia, but at that the fact that everyone thought I was a farm girl and cows roamed freely in Nebraska, I was made fun of for my way cool Saudi Arabian backpack, had to leave my new found best friend back in Nebraska, I was kicked off my Odyessy of the Mind team upon arrival in Virginia, we stopped going to church, AND I wore glasses (oh the horror!), Virginia never even had a chance.

My only saving grace was the fact that I knew we were moving soon.  The following year we got orders to Belgium.  Brussels, Belgium.  I remember having to look up where Belgium was on the map (its in Europe, I think?).  “Hmm…that seems like an odd place,” I remember thinking.  I don’t think I had any preconceived notions about Belgium.  I don’t think I’d ever even heard of it!   That didn’t matter.  All that mattered was we were moving.  Somewhere else.

And we were moving on August 14th.

For MONTHS I looked forward to that date.  But I never thought it would actually happen.  We were supposed to move cool places before, like Nevada and Italy, and that always ended up falling through.  Of course this would fall through too.   For months I couldn’t will August 14th to come fast enough.

But it eventually it did.

And that was 10 years ago.

Somehow every year on August 14th I think about little 14 year old me, waiting so impatiently.  Dragging on each day just to get that day where now life can begin.  Anyone who knows me knows how impatient I am still.  I don’t think I’ll ever completely change.  But I do try to calm it down a little and realize that eventually your August 14th does come.  Whether its the date for your wedding that you’ve been looking forward to your whole life, a move (into a new house), a graduation (from the never-ending graduate degree) or the time to begin the next phase of your life, your August 14th it really will come.

And before you know it, you’ll be looking back 10 years later and think,

Wow.  If I knew August 14th was going to come to quickly, what else could I have been doing in the meantime?

***Interestingly enough, I also remember arriving in Belgium on August 15th, discovering that we couldn’t do anything because everything was closed.  I didn’t get why at the time, but years later I discovered that its the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Makes me think that such a memorable day in my life is also one of the most holy days in the Roman Catholic Church is just too much to just be a coincidence… ***

On blogging after infertility: Being That Pregnant Woman at Subway

I’ve heard it said that blogging is just navel gazing.  So then, that must make blogging about blogging must be the epitome of navel gazing, huh?  Well then this here is some serious navel lint licking, since this goes way beyond gazing.

Its no surprise I’ve had issues trying to figure out how to do this whole blogging thing after having a baby. Its not surprising, because, well, a lot of other people have faced the same questions. I hope its obvious why. At least for me, I’ve had an intense fear of being That Pregnant Lady at Subway.

Don’t you know her?

I remember her vividly.  It was around the start of our “trying” and we were on a vacation. Another conference-turned-vacation, but still. Trying to rent our car and just enjoy ourselves, relax, and not think about “trying” because that’s how it would work, right?  (Short answer, no).  We got our car from the rental location and just decided to eat at Subway since it was close, easy, and we were both starving.  And that’s when I saw her, That Pregnant Lady at Subway.  Just standing there.  Ordering her sandwich.  Being pregnant and all.  Completely innocent.

But not to me.

And at that moment, I couldn’t handle it.  I didn’t know her, her story, or anything about how quickly or slowly that baby got in there. But there it was. Her belly. She was pregnant.  I was not.  I did not need to know anything else to have the reminder of our struggle.

So I didn’t burst into tears or claw or attack her or anything (just didn’t know where you were going with it…) but the reminder started the thoughts which brought up That Discussion That My Husband and I Always Had About Infertility once we got into the car.  And it brought back all the emotions regarding infertility that I was just trying to ignore for just a little bit, you know?  Have a nice moment with my husband?  Not think about it all? 

And as much as we can say “Oh its not that pregnant woman, its infertility” (because it is), That Pregnant Woman at Subway just was a big giant reminder. And it was looking at her that made my eyes tear up. And it was her I couldn’t make eye contact with.

Yes, there are triggers everywhere and we can’t control those…I think that’s part of the “cross” part of infertility…but, I think the fact that they are everywhere has literally made me not want to be one on this blog.  I just, don’t want to be That Pregnant Woman at Subway for others, at least on the internet. (Figuratively, at least at this point – I guess I could have literally been last year.  This is not a pregnancy announcement)

I can’t help that I am for other people in real life, which I’m sure I have been.  Its just frustrating and humbling, and of course something that I can only get on “this side” as I have the hindsight to look back at myself and how I dealt with infertility.

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Its been very difficult for me to accept what I can and cannot do in terms of helping other deal with the cross of infertility. The thing that makes being That Pregnant Woman at Subway more difficult on this blog is the relationships that have formed from it and the transition that occurs as a result. 

I’m going to explore that in my next post so this doesn’t get too crazy long.

I have about 17 more parts to this “series”, if we’re going to call it that.  Please bear with me as I’m trying to be genuine to myself and the fact is, I haven’t been able to be because I haven’t been able to give these thoughts feet to go somewhere.  So here I go exploring it, in bite sized chunks, with the help of some friends.

The story of a house

I’ve been meaning to write the story of our house for over two years.  Now that we’re finally leaving, I feel like its now or never. 

The first thing I thought of when I found out we were moving was, Man, I’m going to miss this house.  I apologize to all the friends and family we’ve known out here, but really, the house was the first thing that came to mind.  This little house in these foothills overlooking the city has become our home over these last two years. And it was such an emotional decision to choose to live here that I’m sure will matter to no one but me, but I want to write it down here anyway.

When we came to California looking for a place to live, we were still living in Mexico City.  Cramped, busy, noisy, dirty (well, the part we lived in), Mexico City.  Moving to cramped, busy, traffic-y, tons of people EVERYWHERE (but beautiful geography!) California.  My heart was yearning for big empty spaces and nature and trees and it seemed impossible for us to find it and still have a commute that wouldn’t drive my husband crazy.

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A horse in our yard! And yes, I look like a tourist in my own front yard.

All our friends pointed us to the area that a young couple should want to live, near the restaurants, nightlife, and within walking distance to all types of shops.  Who wouldn’t want to live there!  We looked at apartment after apartment and didn’t even consider entering the single family home scene, until one random realtor just wanted to show us something really quick.  It had just come on the market and she could tell that we weren’t sold on anything else she was showing us.  A little duplex waaayy up the hill.

It was love at first sight for me!  So silly, to feel so attracted to a cute house.  The features of a 100 year old house, like the doorknobs, curved ceilings, and original windows.  The updated funky Spanish tiled kitchen, the original hardwood floors, the beautiful backyard!  To be shared with 2 other tenants on the property, but still!  A beautiful backyard, with fruit trees!  It was just out of our price range but not too far off from what we would pay for an apartment in the “cool” area.

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Part of our kitchen

It was our last day to look at places, yet we left the house confused, unable to make a decision.  Its seems like such a silly choice.  If you like the house, go for it!  We had the experience of Mexico just wanting to make us abscond to the hills and live by ourselves, but this was even more than just that.

The house had begun to represent something more than just a place to live and call home, it became the embodiment a life I couldn’t have.  I saw that extra bedroom and that yard that would be perfect for a family with a child, not for a childless couple.  This was a house for a family, not for a pair of young adults that should be wanting to go out at night!  But we were in this place in life not to our own choosing.  So why couldn’t we have that?  We wanted so badly to have a simple home life, but everyone kept telling us we should go out and enjoy our childlessness!  Live it up, since we could! But that wasn’t what we wanted.  Was this house and this lifestyle going to be withheld from us too, because we couldn’t have kids?  Or if we chose to live there, would it mock us with its space and empty rooms, a sign of a life we could never have?

Its hard to write out how and relay the feeling that I had, but I remember crying over this.  Another example of how sub/infertility sneaks its way in there and affects seemingly unrelated decisions.

We were never able to just make a decision on where to live.  We literally narrowed it down to an apartment and this house.  But we just couldn’t choose.  I was too scared.  And so we flipped a coin.  I just wanted to say, “I WANT THE HOUSE.  I want that dream.  I can’t have a child but I can go on and live in the house!  They aren’t the same.” But I was scared.  The two felt too intertwined.

I didn’t even know I had been holding my breath, but the coin decided and I was so happy not to have the burden of feeling like I was “forcing” it, but getting to live in such a beautiful space.  And fortunately, the landlord agreed to lower the rent, making it financially equivalent to the apartments we were considering.

This place became our home.

Our little escape from LA that we didn’t know existed here.  A place where I got my first job post graduation. A place where I took this picture.  And where we literally welcomed our son 9 months later.  Where I decided to stay home and care for our son.  Where I made countless things from our yard.  Where we taught almost all our NFP classes and had friends over for dinner.  Where we had a nursery after all and where that babe has learned to walk.  So many things that I couldn’t have known would happen 2 years ago.  This place that holds all the memories from such a unique time in my life.

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First picture on the day we moved in. Welcoming you to our house :)

But it remains just a house on street, that belongs to someone else.  Just a place that held our memories, not created them or thwarted them from happening, as I may have first thought.  Who would have thought this place would have meant so much to me!