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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

You're a Parent Before the Baby Is Born

When I was at the doctor last week, she said something that is still bothering me. When we were talking about heparin injections, she said, "oh, and sub-cue injections aren't a big deal." Okay, if you're comparing sub-cue to IM, that's probably true. And if you're comparing sub-cue injections to having open-heart surgery on a daily basis, that's definitely true. But sub-cue injections in my opinion ARE a big deal. It has nothing to do with the amount of pain and everything to do with the emotions tied to it--the idea of self-inflicting pain as well as WHY you're giving yourself an injection.

So I smiled politely and said, "they're a big deal to me."

To which she replied, "some diabetics give themselves daily injections for their entire life, Melissa. It's not a big deal."

And here is the difference (and correct me if I'm completely wrong since I'm speaking as a non-diabetic): diabetes is a condition that affects your life. Therefore, when you give yourself an injection, it is to save your own life. Infertility is a condition that actually affects someone else's life--your not-yet child's life. Provided you don't commit suicide (and depression leading to death is a very real possibility in the IF world, so I'm not taking this lightly), infertility will not end your life. Therefore, when you're giving yourself an injection, you are actually saving someone else's life. In the first situation, we have an inborn desire to survive, therefore, we're willing to do anything to save our own life. In the second situation, we are acting like a mother long before we ever become a mother. You are putting your child--your not-yet child--before yourself. You are doing everything in your power to protect them and see them into this world. And it's that drive that brings you to give yourself an injection and it's that drive that I find to be such the big deal, Dr. Not-As-Good-As-The-Ninja-Nurse-Practioner.

Which then leads to the question, when do you become a mother? And can you ever lose motherhood once you have it? If a 60-year-old mother loses her 30-year-old child, does she cease to be a mother? Why do we not afford the same sensitivity to mothers who lose their children inutero or through stillbirth? Why do we demean their motherhood by not including them in Mother's Day and instead giving them a separate day in October (the 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day) which is actually about the loss and not about the motherhood? Why have we set up our society in such a way that women who experience pregnancy loss feel embarrassed to call themselves a mother around other mothers? Why do they consider themselves a not-yet mother when they have already engaged in mothering duties--protecting that not-yet baby as best they can?

You're a mother when you pick up that needle and hold it to your stomach. You're a mother when you take any steps necessary to becoming a mother--including making that first RE appointment or filling out your adoption paper work. I want to use October 15th to remember children lost. I want to use May 13th this year to celebrate us.


Heather said...


Tara said...

Interesting, Mel. I'm not sure I agree... I think I would allow that IF women are already "maternal" if not already "mothers." I know that I am not yet a mother--the fact that I have no problem giving my niece and nephew back to their mother and father after a day or two, tells me that. :) But I still want to have a child or two of my own to KEEP and nurture.

I think the fact that your Dr. said injections are not a big deal is awful! Even if she was speaking to a diabetic she shouldn't say that. There is more behind an injection than the discomfort of a pin-prick in most cases.

Kay/Hanazono said...

First, thank you for this post. As a bereaved parent, I always really appreciate when people recognize that even though my son was born still, I am still a mother.

Second, whyTF was that nurse bickering with you? Because what she thinks is the "right" answer? Because she was trying to change how you feel? How unbelievable inappropriate. Honestly.

aah0424 said...

Although I'm not a mother in the literal sense, I often think of myself as having a mothering personality. I was a mixture of uncomfortable and touched this past Mother's Day when my best friend called me to wish me a good day. I told her it wasn't my day it was her's and she proceeded to tell me that she thought wanting to be a mother as badly as I did called for recognition.

Anonymous said...

Hummm.... Very interesting post.

I think you become a mother from the second that precious little one implants - period. Even if you lose that baby, you are and always will be a mother.

I have a friend who had a very hard time dealing with Mother's Day this year because she had lost the only pregnancy she had the previous August. No one was acknowledging her as the mother she is - so, I bought her a Heart of Motherhood set from Hallmark with a charm for the month her baby should have been due. Just because her baby (and my babies) was not born to this world doesn't mean she is a mom.

Re. the push for October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day - I feel very strongly for this push, not as a "second class" status for the mothers who have lost their children whether it be in-utero, stillbirth or as an infant, but as a day to honor those children who were too perfect for this world.

I hope that makes sense.

As for your doctor's comments... Ask him/her if she has ever really been in your shoes - maybe then she can understand how big of a deal it is for you.

Anonymous said...

...Gotta love TYPOES!!!

"Just because her baby (and my babies) was not born to this world doesn't mean she is a mom."

was supposed to be:

"Just because her baby (and my babies) was not born to this world doesn't mean she isn't a mom."

Nothing like READING my comment before posting (insert rolling eyes here!).

Lisa said...

I agree with your ideas for the most part, but regardless of your final points and questions, the doctor who said that was speaking to a completely different point. Her views reflect those of so many, and that is that you CHOOSE to go through infertility treatments. I read this in between the lines of her message: since you made the choice to stick yourself, have surgery, have your doctor "impregnate" you through a catheter, or any other myriad of emotionally and physically invasive procedures related to IF, why are you bitching? You're arguing apples and oranges with someone like that -- because even though this is a medical doctor speaking, the message is clear: your plight is nothing like that of a diabetic, who did not choose to have to this life threatening medical condition.

Good thought-provoking post.

Piccinigirl said...

I'm not sure how to feel about what the dr said, and to be honest a BIG part of me thinks it was rotten, but I guess she was trying to make the shots "easier" psychologically for you..maybe?
As for the "mothering" part, I never feel like I belong in a group of women talking about their children, I always feel like I'm at a party I wasn't invited to, crashed and was wearing a trashy skirt, trying to fit in when I couldn't possibly.
Yet, this post makes me think about the "will" and "desire" to be a mother. To do everything I can to make sure I become one may be just enought to call myself a "mother in waiting" and you are right in many ways: I am "motherly" in that I would take drugs, have ultrasounds and IUI's and still be able to go on about my day.
I think a day to remember all of us is a great idea.

Katie said...

I'm still stuck on the fact that the doctor totally invalidated your feelings with the "people who are diabetics" comment.

I don't care if EVERYONE doesn't have a problem with it. I DO. And as my healthcare practioner, it's YOUR job to deal with ME.

not in a therapist-how-do-you-feel-about-that but rather, hey, let's work on this together.

Dox in the doghouse today.

Katie said...

Oh, and I've never been pregnant NOR given birth and I can be the BIGGEST MOTHER you've ever seen!

kathryn said...

This was a very interesting post for me. I feel like I've been a mother for as long as I can remember. I just didn't have kids that whole time. To me, there are a lot of titles that don't require an action. Is a courageous person only courageous when they perform an act of heroism? Also, on the other side of the coin, I've heard over and over again that anyone can be a father, but not everyone can be a daddy (typical talk show jargon). I agree with the sentiment, but if that is true that a man can be a biological father without being a daddy to any child then can't we say that a woman (or man) can be a mother (or father) before he/she has a child to parent? I totally understand that according to a strict definition, it takes a child to make a person a parent but we can't discount what is in our hearts, feelings, emotions that make us into parents as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a mother in the eyes of general society, but I know there have been times when I've personally felt like a mother. When I start to watch what I eat, when I take medications that aren't for my own health, when I start to imagine life with an addition. I had a nurse tell me once that "you really do start to love that baby from the second you see a positive test." Yes. And if you haven't already felt as such, you start to feel like a mother. If we weren't parents in a sense, then we wouldn't feel the pain of IF- the conception efforts wouldn't be as hard, the "positive" victory wouldn't be as sweet, the losses and wouldn't be so unbearable. I really begun to think of the label of "parent" as more of a mentality. And I don't think that takes away from those who currently parent actual (tangible) children.

Murray said...

People don't understand what they can't see.

Carlynn said...

I had to comment, as a diabetic and an infertile. I inject myself 4 times a day and it is a big deal. Sometimes I do it without even thinking about it but often I feel a little pang of sadness that my body is just not coping, that I have to help it. And even if it is a sub-cu injection, some of them really hurt and I get beautiful little bruises on my stomach every now and again. I have no idea what people think when they see them. Even though I need to give myself these injections, they are not "not a big deal".

And infertility injections are still hard, even as a regular injector. I have less fear of needles than I used to but I still dread those 10 days of stimulation. I think of the child I dream of having but insulin injections are just as hard. Sticking needles into oneself is just not a natural reaction.

And doctors can say unbelieveable things sometimes.

~r said...

I would hope she meant that physically it's not a big deal. Too many discount the emotional impact of IF treatments... but I think many doctors do that with many conditions, so this is not unique.

I don't know at what point a woman becomes a mother. I absolutely believe that a woman who has lost a child is still a mother, whether that child was 30 years, 30 minutes, or 30 weeks at the time of death... but at the same time, I don't really consider my miscarriage my second child. I know there are others who do, and I'm not about to tell them they're wrong. So maybe motherhood is a state of mind, and each individual just knows when she's reached that stage?

Mrs. Flinger said...

Of course you are. You're a parent as soon as you long to have a child.