Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Aftermath of Yesterday's Post

The responses I received yesterday after my post were overwhelming. I heard from close friends and from long-lost friends who are either going through what Mike and I went through, have gone through it, or have gone through far worse but still understood what I meant by the feeling of bitterness.

I also heard from some on the other side of the spectrum, those who got lucky the first or second time around.

I just want to clarify that by sharing yesterday's post, I was not trying to offend anyone on any side of the spectrum, least of all those who did get pregnant quickly. (If you know me, you know that I spend a lot of my time looking for ways to not offend people, especially family and friends.) 

My family is quick to remind me that I do not hide my emotions well (either on my face or in my writing), so if at any point in the last year, I made friends or family uncomfortable because my unfortunate bitterness came through, I am sorry. It was never my intention then or now. And while I may have been bitter, it didn't mean I was any less happy for your situation. It's always hard to walk in another's shoes, and if you did get lucky with pregnancy the first or second time around, I hope that the next time you don't have to walk in mine. But if you do, know that I'm here for you as a sympathetic ear.

I also heard from friends who had troubles with their first or second pregnancies but got pregnant immediately when they started trying again. So that's always good to hear that what happened for us this time may not happen the next time around. And if it does, it does.

Last, if you read the comments I posted about things people say to married women and thought, "Did I say that?" or "Did I say something similar?" or "Did I offend her?" or something along those lines, let me say that we've all been there. While the things I wrote sound very specific, for the most part, they weren't said to me just once and you can substitute words in and out to get a variety of the things that have been said to me. I've heard a lot of questions like the ones I posted over the last two and a half years; it's just only in the last year where they affected me more than usual. I'm sure I was guilty of dancing that line before; it's only because of my experiences that I have learned to watch what I say in these situations, and I was merely trying to educate others to possibly do the same. I acknowledged that the people who asked me questions such as the ones I mentioned didn't necessarily know we were trying. To them the conversations were harmless and friendly and they certainly never meant them maliciously or in a way to offend me. But that didn't change how I internalized it.

Yesterday's post was a way to share what Mike and I went through with my family and friends. To let them know that if they're secretly going through something similar, that we know what it's like. Over the last year I read many message boards, trying to find the support and advice I was looking for. But I had a hard time identifying with the women on there. They were strangers (and a lot of them wrote in "text talk" or used poor spelling and grammar, which just made my inability to connect greater; let's call it an occupational hazard). I wanted to put myself out there for my friends and family so they had a face, a name, a personal connection to someone they could talk to if they ever needed to. That's all. If I upset anyone in the process, I am sorry.

At the end of the day, all I want is for people to be happy. (Eek, what a Miss America response; perhaps I should tack on world peace while I'm at it.) And regardless of what stage of life you're in, or where you fall on the pregnancy spectrum, I hope that you are.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Message to the "Bitter"

On Sunday I got to announce some really exciting and long-awaited news: Mike and I are going to be parents! It was news that the optimist in me thought I'd get to share much, much earlier. And it was news that the pessimist in me thought I might not get to share for a very, very long time.

By most standards, our road leading up to pregnancy was standard—all the websites say that most couples conceive naturally within a year. Well, we made it in just under the wire. And despite starting the process of tests to make sure everything was working correctly, we did, in fact, conceive naturally.

I struggled with the idea of writing this blog because, although I clearly like to write about my personal revelations, this seemed a little too personal, a little too TMI to share with the online world. But then I thought about all the people I know who've gotten pregnant in the last year or two who did so on the first or second try, and I wondered why I wasn't hearing about people who had to try for a little longer. Was it just because they weren't out there in my inner circle? Or was it because they just didn't want to talk about it? (I mean, it's not like it's something you share on Facebook: Yep, just took my ninth pregnancy test in as many months, nothing new.) I certainly understand not wanting to publicly talk about it.

While some of our friends and family knew we were trying, we didn't exactly rent out skywriters and billboards announcing the news. And after a couple of  months, those friends and family members stopped asking about it once they realized, yep, I'm still drinking wine, and nope, I'm not talking about any upcoming due dates.

And while a lot of those same people offered support when I opened up about it, I didn't feel like I had anyone to talk to who would really understand. Of my friends who are pregnant or have kids, either they got pregnant easily or they've had very complicated pregnancies, not all ending in the birth of a child. I felt like I was stuck in between two worlds—there were those who wouldn't understand the disappointment month after month, and there were those who I could never talk to about my "struggle" because compared to theirs, mine was nothing, and I certainly didn't want to be insensitive. It got to the point where I even went to therapy for a bit (gasp! How New Yorker of me!) because I just felt so lost and defeated. (For the record, after about a month of hearing some of the things I was internally thinking said out loud to a stranger, I realized where I needed to start making some changes. Therapy wasn't quite the venue for me in the long run, but I'm glad I tried it.)

So though parts of me still cringe a bit about putting this very honest and very real part of me out there, the other part of me wants to put it out there for those who might be going through what Mike and I went through. I even shared this post with Mike before publishing it because I wanted to make sure he was OK with it too. After all, it was our path to pregnancy, not just mine.

My mother has always said that I am a planner, and I am a perfectionist, and while I work hard for things, they generally seem to come to me easily. So I thought this would be just one of those times where I would get what I wanted when I wanted it because I had put my mind to it.

Nope. Lesson learned. This wasn't something I could completely plan the timeline for. I had to stop thinking in terms of "Well, I might be pregnant then" or "We'll see if I'm able to do that at that point." This wasn't something I could map out in one of my notorious color-coded Excel spreadsheets. (And in hindsight, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I stopped trying to plan my life around the what-ifs, and therefore I got to experience something awesome: our trip to Australia. If we had gotten pregnant when we started trying, or if we kept considering the future based on what level of pregnancy I might have been in, we would have never taken that trip. So sometimes you just have to play the Polly game. [Yes, I know it's supposed to be Pollyanna, but in my family we were much bigger fans of the TV movie remake with Phylicia Rashad, so it's always been the Polly game in our household.])

On our first day in Sydney for what would end up being our babymoon.

And as many married women know, once you've been a wife for a bit, people start wondering when the next step is . . . sometimes they think it out loud and straight to your face. Over the last year I heard things like:
  • While at a bar and drinking a beer: "Are you pregnant yet?" (To which I silently raised my beer glass and gave one of my dad's should-be-patented "Are you a [expletive] moron?" looks as a response. By the way, that person's follow-up was "Well, that doesn't mean anything." Um, yeah, it means I'd be a horrible mother. But moving on.)
  • "You have no idea how expensive things like daycare are, seriously. No idea." Yep, I do, actually, because Mike and I have been financially planning for the next stages of life since before we were actually trying. But I'll just smile and nod and pretend like I'm clueless to all things parenthood related because I couldn't possibly think about those things before I have kids.
  • "When are you going to start having kids? You know, you're not getting any younger." (For the record, I am nearly twenty-nine and, in my book, that is still very young for having kids. I never personally felt the age pressure at all.)
  • "Now that X and Y are pregnant, I've decided you should be too." Well, God, if it's that easy, thank you for giving me that blessing. Oh look at that, now I'm pregnant. Thanks so much for fixing it!

Then there were the people who knew that my sister was pregnant last year . . . my younger sister. And, oh my God, how did I feel about that? And did I feel the pressure to also have kids now? And well now I have to have kids so her kid has a cousin. And blah blah blah. (My sister will probably be the first to tell you that I didn't always handle her pregnancy well, even though I was super excited for her and about being an aunt. There were times that I was jealous—but not, for any reason, because she is younger than me. It was just because she had what I wanted, and I didn't know when it would be my turn . . . and I was ready for it to be my turn. I remember holding my nephew when I had a private moment with him and my dad in the NICU, and I just started crying. Part of it was the awe of loving that little guy so much already as his aunt. But the other part was the fear of not knowing when I was going to get to have that feeling with my son or daughter.)

I realize that for most people, the questions, the jokes, the discussions were just friendly banter, but for me, it was just another reminder of what wasn't working and what I desperately wanted. These people didn't necessarily know we were trying and not having success. But knowing that didn't make me feel any better. And with each stupid question, I would get a little more bitter. And that's silly, because there was really nothing for me to be bitter about. But nonetheless, I was. It's the honest truth. 

And with every person on Facebook who announced their pregnancy, another notch in the bitterness belt was marked. It didn't matter if I talked to that person regularly or haven't talked to that person since high school, I was bitter. So although I was ecstatic to finally share our news, a part of me wondered which of my friends and acquaintances saw my announcement and got a little bitter themselves? And so to you guys, if you're reading this blog, I just want to say, I know how you feel. Maybe not to the same degree, because I know I couldn't possibly begin to understand some of the more-difficult journeys people go through to get pregnant. I realize that Mike and I are lucky, and I hope we continue to be throughout the pregnancy. And I hope that you find luck somewhere along the way, whether it's naturally or through the miracle that is modern science, but until then, know that you're not the only one who didn't get lucky the first, second, third (. . .) time around, no matter what your Facebook newsfeed tells you.

(And on that note, when I do decide to post about my pregnancy or if I decide to share belly photos, I'll be doing so via the blog. So if you are interested in that kind of thing, you'll find it here. And if you're not, you don't have to worry about another person on your newsfeed sharing only baby-centric posts.)