Tonight as I tucked you in, I knew that this was going to be the last time I would kiss a sleepy infant good-night. Tomorrow night I will sing “Goodnight Willow” to a toddler. I shed a tear, not out some imagined grief over “losing my little baby”, but out of sheer wonder, amazement, and gratitude. How did we get so lucky? How did we get this far?
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.