Mommy Club Outcast

The dreaded question that all women struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss have to learn to cope with is: “Do you have kids?”

It’s an innocent question that can elicit a range of emotions, depending on where we are on our journey.

I was out for dinner with my family. I ran into a mother and her young child in the bathroom. She asked the aforementioned dreaded question. This time I was able to say “Yes… My little girl is sitting with her daddy.”

It was a small victory, the realization that this was the first time I had been asked this question since the birth of my daughter… I was finally able to answer without hesitating, stammering, blushing, or wanting to crawl underneath the nearest floor board. I had made it. At long last, I was now officially part of the exclusive “Mommy Club”.

The woman sighed an exasperated and exaggerated sigh. “Oh… too late. I was going to tell you DON’T DO IT! Run away now while you can!”

And there you have it.

I will NEVER truly be part of the Mommy Club.

As long as being part of the “club” includes resenting my child and commiserating with other mothers (even in jest) about hating being a parent and how much I miss my childless days… I can never be a member.

In my mommy circles I spend a lot of time listening to what others have to say… but I seem to have nothing to add that makes sense in the context of the conversations. We are experiencing the same kinds of universal parenting events: diaper changes, feeding, sleepless nights, vomit stained shirts… but my perception of the events is so vastly different. I just don’t “fit in”.

When I was pregnant I tried to join some online pregnancy forums. It turns out that many of these communities are simply venting boards for women to complain about morning sickness and other pregnancy discomforts. They are not seeking solutions or sharing suggestions or ideas, just wanting someone out there in internet land to say “Oh, you poor thing”. I didn’t belong in the normal virtual preggo club. Nor did I belong in the real life preggo club in the OB/GYN waiting room, which was mostly comprised of women lamenting their rapidly thickening waists, swollen ankles, nausea and heartburn.

Communities specifically geared toward high risk pregnancies and pregnancy after loss were more my style. These women knew anxiety and pain. These women celebrated with me when my nausea and vomiting continued at full tilt and required medication in order for me to gain enough weight to support a growing baby, reassuring me every day until she was born that I was still pregnant and that the pregnancy hormones were still raging strong. These women joined with me in celebrating the expanding belly that pointed to a developing fetus, the intense heartburn that reflected positive hormonal changes, the pelvic and back pain which indicated that my body was shifting to accommodate its precious cargo, the need for extra doses of insulin to keep up with the baby’s impact on my endocrine system, the need for extra iron to help with the anemia which was proof of the growing demands of my growing baby… They cheered me on as each week of bed rest bought another week for my baby’s organs to mature and for her weight to increase. Every typical pregnancy symptom, every bit of discomfort, was met with a round of applause because it meant that I was STILL pregnant, that this pregnancy was progressing, that this baby had a fighting chance at survival.

The impact of infertility and loss does not just disappear the moment you see two lines on a urine test or the moment you hold your baby in your arms. I wonder if I will always feel like an outsider looking in at the “club”.

This journey has given me the gift of being able to truly enjoy and celebrate what others may have considered a very difficult and uncomfortable pregnancy and birth. My experiences have ensured that I will appreciate every single vomit and urine-soaked moment on this wild ride of parenthood. Perhaps I get all of that in exchange for not really belonging in the Mommy Club. And maybe that’s a pretty good deal.


Cringe-Worthy Children’s Songs

As a musical sort of gal, I often sing to Willow throughout the day, usually substituting my own lyrics about whatever we are doing to the tunes of familiar children’s songs or popular songs from my teen years. We have a diaper changing song, a staircase song, a quiet contemplation chair (bathroom) song, a plant watering song… you get the picture. Occasionally I will sing the actual words to a song. More than a few times I’ve stopped myself in the middle of a song when I realize what I am actually singing about.

Which brings me to…

“Cringe-Worthy Children’s Songs… A tongue-in-cheek review of some familiar yet demented ditties”

Alouette: Yes, let’s pluck a poor bird’s feathers from his still warm body while we joyfully learn the names of his body parts en Francais. Poor little bird didn’t know what was coming. Cruelty to animals packaged in a sweet little ditty. What would PETA think of this?

Three Blind Mice: Let’s teach our kids to use knives to maim and torture small animals. The farmer’s wife cut off the mouse’s tail while it was still alive? Yikes! Someone call PETA or the SPCA! Apparently the mice in question were also visually impaired! Talk about kicking someone while he’s down…

Ring Around the Rosy: If my tenth grade high school history teacher was correct, we are joyfully singing about people falling over dead from the Plague. Why are we smiling and dancing as we sing this? Who wrote this maudlin piece in the first place, and why is it so much fun to act out dying at the end?

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring: So many questions… was the old man drunk or suffering from sleep apnea? Did he need a CPAP machine? Why couldn’t he get up in the morning? Did he suffer a concussion from bumping his head? Or worse… Did he DIE?!? Why are we so cheerfully singing about him instead of finding him medical assistance?

Rock a Bye Baby: I started singing this to Willow at bedtime the other night and suddenly stopped when I got to the part where the cradle falls down with the baby in it, no doubt leading to the child’s death or dismemberment. Why are we so sweetly singing about a serious accident that really could and should have been prevented? Who hangs a heavy baby-laden cradle from a tree branch, anyway? Somebody needs to take a basic parenting and infant safety course. Just sayin’.

Hush Little Baby (mockingbird): Is there anything that Mama ISN’T going to buy you? No wonder we are surrounded by kids with entitlement issues. Sometimes birds don’t sing and rings don’t shine… Maybe we need to teach our kids to accept some imperfection in life instead of sheltering them from any and all disappointment by buying more and more “stuff”.

Hmmmm… maybe I’ll go back to making up my own lyrics!!!


These Things I Cherish Today

Dear Willow,

Today you have been on the outside for three months and three days.

You are making the sweetest little noise while you nurse. It’s like a soft, repetitive humming that expresses your satisfaction and contentment.

All is well. And all is well. And all manner of thing shall be well.

You always smile first thing in the morning when I am changing you. When I’ve had a hard night and haven’t slept you make everything better with that smile. Your whole face lights up and instantly brightens my mood and my day.

I never want to forget the way your hair smells after your bath, the way your hand grasps onto my finger even in your sleep, the way you collapse onto my shoulder when you are too tired to hold your head up, the way you gaze intently at your daddy as though he is the most interesting person in the world. These things I cherish today and tuck away into my heart.

Over the last several years that we waited for you I made promises to myself, to you, to the Universe. I promised not to resent or dwell on discomfort and changes in my body during pregnancy and birth. I promised not to take small moments for granted. I promised to cherish the full experience of motherhood with all of its challenges and rewards, to avoid seeing things as mundane, to always appreciate the magic inherent in the miracle of your very existence. You make it so easy to keep up my end of the deal.

Thank you for being you, my sweet baboo.



Small Talk

People often innocently make comments or ask questions that they do not intend to come across as rude or hurtful, such as asking the cervical cancer survivor why she doesn’t have kids yet, or asking the pregnant woman whose last child was stillborn if this is her “first pregnancy” or “first baby”. My journey over the past several years has done much to create an awareness of just how much of our day-to-day “small talk” can trigger feelings of sadness, shame, and inadequacy for those of us who do not fit neatly into the box marked “normal”.

In the past few weeks I have been part of a number of awkward “mommy” conversations. Women have made comments or asked questions which have made my stomach churn. I know that none of them were purposely trying to upset me, and I have asked the same kinds of questions in the past. So, while I am not angry at them, I still feel the sting of their words and of the assumptions underlying their small talk.

“Oh she’s so beautiful! You should definitely have more. [to Willow: Tell mommy and daddy you want a baby brother!]”

“So you’re enjoying being home with her? Haha, I remember that. Just wait until you have another one. It won’t be as easy then.”

“So when are you having another baby?”

“Good for you for getting a gender neutral stroller. You never know what the next kid will be.”

“Don’t worry. Once you have more kids you won’t even notice the barf on your shirt.”

The assumption is that I, like many other women in our society, will have more than one child. The assumption is that I CAN have more children. The assumption is that our family is not complete with “just one”.

Before we were married, my husband and I spoke of having two or three children and filling our home with love and laughter. As the years went on, and the medical complications piled up, I started to realize that if we were ever given the gift of just one baby, I would thank God and be grateful for our miracle. We would still be able to fill our home with love and laughter. One child could and would be enough.

There are days when I feel great sorrow over the fact that we cannot just “decide to have another baby” and make it happen. On these days I need to remind myself of the gifts inherent in our situation, and of the beauty I have in my life as a result of our journey.

I have been told by some other parents that when they assumed they would have more children, they didn’t take the time to really appreciate the little things about their last child or his/her development. They didn’t take enough photos. They saved boxes of clothing, being sure not to let children wear a fancy outfit except on special occasions, lest it be ruined for a future sibling. They may have moved without mindfulness through certain developmental stages, rushing to get the last child out of diapers or weaned so that a brother or sister could soon be on the way. They missed out on drinking up every precious moment… appreciating, loving, and cherishing even the time spent cleaning up various bodily fluids.

Willow has baby memory books, countless photos, and a year long calendar with something written in each square about what she did each day. She gets to wear her fancy outfits just for kicks, and I don’t get upset when she vomits on them or a diaper explosion renders them rag-worthy. She fascinates and delights me with her every movement and sound. I don’t find myself desperately wishing for more alone time, reminiscing about life before baby, or fantasizing about my freedom when she moves out of the house or starts school. I don’t get upset that she will continue to spend some time every evening screaming until her digestive system fully matures. I fully experience the quiet moments of her night feedings with her and don’t resent their frequency. I enjoy watching and celebrating the fact that she is getting stronger and learning more each day, but I don’t feel the need to push her to quickly reach milestones or to move into a new stage of development before she is ready. I have the privilege of soaking up and stretching out every delicious moment that we have together, knowing that these moments are fleeting and I will never have them again.


A wife’s letter to her childless husband on Father’s Day

A lovely piece by a fellow blogger. Wishing all of the Angel Daddies and daddy hopefuls peace and courage this Father’s Day. You are not forgotten.


I lay in bed the other night, hands crossed over my heart and legs pin-straight, and thought of those words:

This is not about me at all, is it? This is all about you.

That’s what you said to me when I told you I wanted to have the procedure done. A procedure that would be risky, as any procedure is, but that might point us to what’s wrong. The answer to why our children are in the clouds and not here with us.

I was angry at you for saying such a cruel thing. So I went to bed in silence and didn’t tell you to sleep with God and dream with me like I always do. I didn’t kiss you or reach for your hand in reconciliation. I simply lay there, emotionally entombed, trying not to breathe too hard or feel too much as I waited for sleep…

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Father’s Day Musings

Father’s Day is this Sunday. For some it is a day of celebration and joy. For others it is a day wrought with pain and despair. Many of us are stuck somewhere in the middle.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -H. Nouwen

When my father passed away in 2002, after a long battle with cancer, my boyfriend (now husband) quietly held me through my grief. He didn’t try to act as my therapist, like many of my well-meaning friends attempted to do. He didn’t try to “cheer me up” by buying me flowers or cards. He didn’t advise me to “take comfort in memories” or to “focus on the future”. He just held me and let me cry. And cry. And cry… Until I could cry no more and was emptied of the day’s grief, and the aching subsided enough to allow for stillness and sleep to seep in for a few precious hours. He did the things that I desperately needed someone to do for me but did not know how to articulate or ask for–to be present with me, to witness my pain, to allow my pain to exist without “fixing” it, and to calmly and quietly experience it with me. I spent an entire night crying in his arms, and it was possibly the best therapy I have ever received. I knew that he was the One. I knew then that I wanted to have a family with this man, that I wanted him to be the father of my children.

Last year on Father’s Day we were coping with the death of both of our cats, as well as the news that we had just lost a pregnancy. Father’s day is always hard for those of us who desperately want to be parents, but last year was the worst Father’s Day I have ever experienced. I was missing my own father and wishing he were here to hug me and love me through my pain. I was angry at the unfairness of a Universe that would tease us with the possibility of long-awaited parenthood and rip it out of our hands on the very weekend that fathers in North America were being given sloppy toddler kisses and handmade cards in the shape of ties. Up until this point, I had been coping with my childlessness every year by celebrating “Cat Mother’s Day” and “Cat Father’s Day”, including exchanging cards, insisting that we were, indeed, parents in our own right who deserved to feel loved and celebrated on days that make many couples feel “less than”. My trademarked powers of positive thinking, gratitude and silver linings were depleted. I was spent. Empty. Adrift. Hallmark has yet to create a card for that.

I know that this weekend will bring up some tough feelings for many people. Perhaps you have lost a child or lost a father. Perhaps your father abandoned or hurt you. Perhaps the father of your children has passed away, or has disappointed, hurt, or left you. Perhaps you wanted to be a father but life has not worked out in a way that satisfied your heart’s desire. Perhaps the very sight of a Father’s Day card makes your stomach churn.

I will always have a daddy-shaped hole in my heart. I’m hurting over the loss of my own father and my daughter’s loss of ever knowing a biological grandfather, but I am so blessed and overjoyed to finally no longer be aching over the loss of the dream of seeing my husband holding a child of his own. This is the very meaning of the word bittersweet.

To those still in the trenches of the pursuit of parenthood, I salute you for your courage and determination and wish you strength and hope on the journey, wherever it leads you.

To those mourning the loss of a father or a child, I send hugs and comfort, knowing that no words will ever be enough.

To those embroiled in anger and confusion, I wish some moments of peace and clarity as you navigate your way through this emotionally charged weekend and the days and years ahead.

To my husband on his first Father’s Day: Thank you for the gift of seeing you raise our beautiful miracle baby. Thank you for showing me what a wonderfully patient and loving daddy you would be long before we had a child of our own. Thank you for your strength, love, and perseverance during the past several years of this journey. It was worth it. All of it.


Raising Patient Children: Response to an Article

I just read a Huffington Post article on what parents of impatient children should not be doing. The first example really resonated with me, as it was about allowing a child to interrupt a conversation.

As a child with many thoughts to share (read that as “chatty”, for the teachers out there), I used to resent it when I was completely ignored by adults having “important adult conversations”. I have a distinct memory of my friend’s mom completely ignoring his little sister for what seemed like an eternity while the mother spoke with another adult. The little girl’s pitch, volume and urgency rose higher and higher until she burst out in tears and her mother finally turned to see that she had soiled herself while waiting to tell her mom she needed help to use the bathroom. I vowed right then and there that I would not ignore a child’s needs so that I could carry on a conversation.

As a teacher I quickly learned that allowing or encouraging constant interruptions from attention-seeking students was NOT going to work in a busy classroom. Discussions with other teachers, educational assistants, volunteers, administrators, specialists, etc. are indeed important, and time is not provided outside of classroom time for these. Brief, important conversations between professionals can make or break a day for a child with special needs, and these conversations need to happen in the classroom, often while surrounded by thirty other needy little people. There is simply no time to allow for anything but extremely urgent needs to interrupt these vital adult conversations.

The answer, as with many things, lies in the middle path. We do not need to completely ignore children without acknowledging that they want our attention in order to “teach them patience”. Nor do we need to constantly make them the centre of our universe to prevent any and all discomfort.

As a child, when I approached my mother with one of my many “pressing issues” while she was on the phone, she would cover the receiver, tell me that she was on the phone and to wait until she was done, then calmly go back to her conversation. I knew that I had been acknowledged, and that I would have my turn to speak, and this generally placated me (even when I was determined to tattle that my “mean big sister” had smushed my baby doll’s head and made her look like an alien… but I digress). The same rule applied when we had company over. I will admit to falling asleep on the floor beside the couch while I stubbornly waited for my turn to share while my mother finished an after dinner conversation.

I had an associate teacher who used the “3 B” rule: blood, barf, and bathroom. If a child’s need involved one of these three issues he or she was permitted to interrupt the teacher with a quick but firm “excuse me” preceding the request or sharing of information. Otherwise he or she would have to wait quietly until the teacher was done her conversation. Incidentally, the part of her rule that pleased my inner child and sense of fairness the most was the teacher’s insistence that the rule applied to conversations with both adults AND children. Her interactions with other students were just as sacred as those with grown-ups, and each student felt respected and heard when it was his or her turn to have the undivided attention of the teacher.

Whether we have one child or thirty vying for our attention, we need to find a system that works to respect the needs of all involved, big and small.

The article also mentioned not immediately giving children electronic devices to keep them busy while they wait for appointments. I had never thought of this, as we didn’t have iPads growing up, but I do remember being given homemade trail mix or raisins to eat, and I always had books to keep me occupied and quiet when we were out and about. The author says that we don’t actually teach kids to wait by immediately providing them with something to do. I hadn’t considered this. Perhaps quietly and mindfully waiting for a few minutes in the doctor’s office before bringing out my iPod to entertain myself (a.k.a. “electronic soother”) is a good habit to get into, regardless of whether my child is there to see me do it or not.

The article also mentions not getting up from the table to refill a child’s milk until AFTER mommy has finished her plate. Please refer back to my post on Mommy Martyrdom for my views on this.

All in all, some good nuggets. I love reading things that make me go “hmmm”…

Here is the original article that sparked my thoughts today: