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Friday, June 30, 2006

Belonging

My heart goes out to a recent reader who began her comment with the thought that she doesn't belong here (on this blog or in this book) because she had no difficulties getting pregnant. She lost her beautiful daughter at 38 weeks. She is struggling with the recent news of a sister who is pregnant. The reader shared her pregnancy journey with a friend who gave birth to a healthy child--a person who would have been her child's playmate--and needs to navigate that relationship. She is healing. She is mourning. And she belongs here.

We define infertility with broad brushstrokes. It's a diverse community--those who can't get pregnant and those who continuously get pregnant yet miscarry. Those who are rich and can afford fertility treatments and those who need to quit their journey to parenthood due to financial means. Breathing inside this space are those who are using donor insemination, donor eggs, surrogacy, adoption, IVF, IUI, Clomid, or timed intercourse. Everyone is at different points in their journey. There are women who have been trying for 6 months but have the nagging suspicion that something is wrong because their cycles vary each month. And there are the 4 years veterans who have been dealing with 48 BFN and don't know if they have the emotional wherewithal to face number 49.

We are defining infertility as someone who either has difficulties getting pregnant or has difficulties carrying a child to term.

Why this community needs to be inclusive--infertility is hard enough without second-guessing whether or not you belong on its streets. We frown on any level of comparative grieving. There should not be a hierarchy in the different classes of infertility. It is impossible to measure grief and it's not helpful to quantify your grief (I'm mourning my miscarriage. Yeah, well, I'M mourning my stillbirth so my loss trumps yours. Really, well, I'M mourning the fact that I've had four miscarriages so my loss is worse than yours). It doesn't assuage the pain of the other person. I'm not sure what people believe they are accomplishing with this type of comment.

There is a phenomenon that we've noticed--this need to apologize for your grief. This need to diminish your loss by comparing it to the loss of others. To be embarrassed to admit that you cry over a not-yet-child when there are others mourning the loss of a husband or wife that has been in their life for years and years.

I'm guilty of this same kind of thinking. I would cry and then in the same breath admonish myself for crying when there were people who had lost their whole family. What was my pain in comparison to theirs? I would lurk on the message boards and then feel guilty because I had only been trying for ten months, and how could I think that I was worthy to sit at the Infertility Girls Popular Lunch Table when those girls had been trying for three years AND had been through fertility treatments.

You know what--it did nothing to minimize my pain. You can't talk yourself out of mourning. You can be distracted from mourning (and yes, infertility brings with it both literal mourning over the loss of a not-yet-child AND figurative mourning over the loss of how you viewed yourself as a woman/man), but it always has a way of creeping up on you in the dark. Damn those night time monsters under the bed...

Therefore, YOU belong here--and I'm saying this to all of you who have stumbled across this blog and later to all the people who stumble across the book. You have something valuable to add. You have something you need to vent. You have a story that will help others know the best possible way to support another person. Please keep posting in the comments section or writing us directly (thetowncriers@gmail.com). If your heart has ever hurt you belong right here.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I began treatment for primary infertility, I used to dream that once I was pregnant all these feelings of 'not belonging' would disappear and that I would forever be happy with whatever life threw at me because I had what I wanted.
Of course I was happy, when my daughter was born. However, aspects of parenting I find hard, and if I am honest, I have had some postnatal depression. I am embarassed and frightened to admit that, frightened that people will say 'how can you feel depressed, you've got what you wanted?', I also question this, but realise the answer/reason is complex. I once heard that infertility teaches us to anticipate failures and I wonder if I will ever be the same person.

For a while I fitted in at the new mother groups, now they are moving on to pregnancy number two..all perfectly timed of course. Some bemoaning that it didn't happen the first month they tried, how can they say that to me???

Again, I will not fit in, with my one and only..too frightened to try fertility treatment again and be swept away in the all- encompassing grief that comes with it.

I never thought I'd feel like this, and yes the feelings are less intense as I do have a child, but I still feel 'wrong' and different.

People don't understand, family where disappointingly no support last time, so we know we are on our own this time.

Ellen K. said...

Excellent post. Hope you don't mind if I link it from my blog.

Anonymous said...

I've read this posting a few times and I can't exactly bring myself to agree with you. I so want to & feel a bit guilty about disagreeing. I too know what it is like to feel on the outside & I hate to see anyone there. But I just can't listen and accept advice from a gal that has only tried for 6 months and 'suspects' something is wrong. Unless infertility has been diagnosed by a dr., I can't put these folks in the same bucket as a women who try time and time again or can't carry to term. Until a dr. dashes your hopes of conceiving like the rest of the world, are you really on the outside looking in? This person is still hoping that they are not like you - they don't see themselves in the same category. They are not yet in your shoes and the future is still bright.

Nicole M.

serenity said...

Countless times I've tried to temper my grief because we've "only" been trying for 18 months on my infertility board - when there are women who have been trying for years.

I tend to try and minimize my grief on a regular basis. And it makes me feel worse than just letting myself feel whatever it is I'm feeling.

Thank you for this post.

Lut C. said...

I have to second what Nicole said.

My heart goes out to the reader who lost her baby. It's a tragedy. And I'm sure she has a lot of feelings similar to those that come with IF. But is she IF?

What about my acquaintance who had two beautiful children without any problem, but lost the third one during birth due to a cord incident? Does she suddenly belong in the IF community? She suffered a tragic loss, but does she know what I'm going through?

In essence, the only thing that separates a new IF from a veteran IF is time.
That's not the case with basically fertile women who've suffered such a shattering loss.

The communities on PG loss and the one on IF are distinct, though related. On some level we relate, on others we don't.

About needing to be inclusive and comparing pain. Those are two different things.
A community that is all-inclusive, stops being a community. Should all of mankind be included in the IF community? Even that excludes aliens.
Not all of mankind understands what we're going through, which is the point of having a community of people with similar experiences. People who get it.

Comparing pain has been covered umpteen times in the IF blogging community. It's not productive, period.