Wednesday, June 26, 2013

forgetfulness

I delight in my daughter. Being her mama is the most precious privilege I've been granted. But parenting can be stressful. Physically exhausting. Emotionally draining. It can bring out my insecurities and drowned me in guilt. It can raise the stakes for seemingly innocuous decisions. It can dampen romance. It can hammer out a cleft in a rock-solid marriage.

When I spend time with my friends who don't yet have kids, I often find myself wondering what it's like. Granted, it wasn't long ago that I was in their shoes. They may be perfectly content in the pre-parenting stage of life, but I wasn't. I was unhappy, pining for a baby, wishing away my childlessness. My current vantage point is so different, and I have to admit that...at weak moments...I even find myself fleetingly envious of friends who still have the freedom to travel Europe...or even just see a movie. I find myself wanting to trade places - just for a day or two - with those ladies who can wear bikinis without having to subject themselves to a three-week juice fast in preparation. I find myself imagining what it would be like to sleep in...like they get to do...twice a week. 

The friends that I'm talking about aren't struggling with infertility (as far as I know). But I have many friends who are. And here is the crazy, shameful, painfully honest part. I have to admit that their are times when I - even I with my history of loss, IVF and now secondary infertility - have to bury the impulse to encourage these women to savor their child-free days. In those clouded, worn-out, desperate moments, I forget that becoming a mother didn't take away the freedoms and privileges of child-free living...infertility did. My life changed long before Harriet came into it. Like a ruthless sniper, infertility took out freedom after freedom, privilege after privilege, years before my daughter was in my arms. And the same is true for my infertile friends.


When I long to have a figure that's ever-ready for swimsuit season...I must not forget that many of them have already lost the thin, fit bodies they were used to. Their tummies bloat and pooch from the medications, prompting strangers to ask when they're due. Their breasts sag and leak as a result of late miscarriage. Their arms and legs go soft due to exercise restrictions. 


When sex was excruciating for six months after giving birth and a doctor had to burn off scar tissue to prevent permanent damage...I needed to remember that intimacy can be nearly unbearable for infertile women. A doctor is deciding when and how sex happens. It becomes scientific and unfeeling. Something that is meant to be so private has gone public, and they are mourning that loss...lying with their husbands in beds that might as well be housed in procedure rooms, feeling so alone.


When my love for my daughter literally steals my breath and makes my heart feel like it's going to explode, when the fear of something happening to her rises to the level of spiritual warfare...I remind myself that my infertile friends do know that love and that fear. Many of their worst fears have been realized. They love their miscarried and stillborn babies every day of their lives. Many others know the agonizingly ambiguous loss of their dreams. They love the children in their imaginations. It is a real, powerful, mama bear love that should never be dismissed or minimized. 


When I find myself fantasizing about having the freedom to go on vacation, have a nice dinner out, or sleep til noon...I cannot forget that infertile women lost those freedoms long ago. The money, time and energy that should be spent on fun and entertainment is now being used for appointments, procedures and medications. They can't take trips because they need to be close to the clinic. Their diets are restricted in order to maximize their fertility. Early morning appointments steal much-needed hours of sleep.


When mommyhood creates distance between my friends and I, when I feel I can't fully focus on them because I have a toddler vying for my attention...I must never forget that the friendships of infertile women suffer as well. Girls nights are replaced with baby showers and birthday parties. Except these events are always about other people...and other people's children. Friends struggle to know how to help so they offer platitudes and unintentionally minimize the struggle of infertility. Infertile women then close in around their pain and their once-dear girlfriends pull back for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. 


When my husband and I deliberate over discipline issues or public vs. private schooling...I must remember that infertile couples are agonizing over impossible decisions as well. Should they do IVF? Should they donate their extra embryos? Should they increase their medication dosage and risk multiples? Should they switch clinics? Ask their parents for money? Pursue international or domestic adoption? Foster care? Should they just stop all this madness and try to find happiness elsewhere? Their minds are exhausted. The pros and cons lists litter the kitchen table. They feel stuck in a land of maybes, ifs and shoulds.

It takes only a moment for me to remember what it was like to be traveling that same road. And that's when a sincere prayer - a head thrown back, fists clenched, begging prayer - sprouts in my soul.

Lord God, hand them their dreams. They have already earned their parent wings. They are fully mothering the children they're waiting for. Fill - oh, fill! - their empty arms.




73 comments:

  1. Favorite post, EVER! You described my life and my thoughts far better than I ever could! You are AMAZING! So thankful for you! Love you, friend!

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    1. I'm so glad the post spoke to you, Amanda! I'm so thankful for you as well.

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  2. I agree with Amanda. This is a fabulous post and describes so many of our questions, thoughts and considerations perfectly. What an amazing Mama you are. So glad to "know" you.

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    1. So glad to know you too, Suzanne. You are a true gem.

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  3. This is fantastic, Em. Thank you so much for writing. For remembering us. For refusing to minimize the pain and hurt. You are awesome.

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    1. You, my friend, are awesome. Thanks so much, Erika.

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  4. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. For this prayer. xoxo

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    1. Praying it all the time, Aubrey.

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  5. Wow, this is an amazing post! Thank you so much for putting all of this to words so eloquently. This post would be great to share with friend and family members who have never experienced infertility, because I think it would provide them with a lot of insight into our reality.

    You are awesome :)

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    1. That was one of my hopes in writing this post - that people who haven't been through this particular struggle would be able to understand it just a tiny bit better.

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    1. Thanks Ann! Glad it resonated with you!

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  7. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written. :)

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    1. Thank you so much! Headed over to your blog now... (-:

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  8. You are such an amazing women!! I admire your honesty and your wisdom. Even on your super hard days, I know that your husband and daughter are SO blessed to have you in their life. Glad that God doesn't give us more that we can handle, and that includes you!

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  9. This is such a wonderful post. Thank you so much for the beautiful prayer also Em :)

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    1. I pray this prayer for you ladies all the time.

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  10. Wow, what an amazing post! I don't know what to say other than that. All so very very well said.

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    1. Thanks so much, Fiona. It was a tough post to write. I really labored over it.

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  11. You are a beautiful writer, and have hit the nail on the head multiple times. Thank you for writing this, and sharing it.

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    1. Thanks so much for the sweet words, Sarah!

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  12. This is a brilliant post. Brilliant.

    This line in particular:
    "Like a ruthless sniper, infertility took out freedom after freedom, privilege after privilege, years before my daughter was in my arms."

    It took my breath away.
    xoxo
    T.

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    1. Wow, what a nice compliment! Thanks so much, Turia!

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  13. Em, this was an amazing post, you made me tear up a bit.

    I don't think it's wrong for you to want a few minutes to yourself. Even though all of us want our babies, I think that we all understand that parenting won't be sunshine and unicorn farts and that every parent needs a few moments for themselves.

    Thank you for this post. You're an amazing woman and mother and your baby girl is lucky to have you. <3

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    1. Sorry about the tears Aislinn. Hope they were the "good" kind.

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  14. As someone yet to cross from the ALI to the PAIL side of the house, this line was the one that resonated the most with me:

    "In those clouded, worn-out, desperate moments, I forget that becoming a mother didn't take away the freedoms and privileges of child-free living...infertility did. "

    Infertility steals so damn much for so damn long. I may never be a mother, but this is a feeling we all share whether our stories have a happy ending or not. Infertility is life-changing and, I think for most, that change is life-long and exists irrespective of where we are in the process.

    The thing that worries me the most, however, as I interact with my parenting after IF friends and as I read this beautiful post is this. So much has already been stolen from you all, don't let IF steal away anymore. Don't be ashamed to say some days, "Well, this parenting thing is damn hard," or "I could really use a break!" Don't ignore your worries or suppress your feelings because your IF has stolen that very normal part of parenting from you.

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    1. Your last paragraph is so true, but I really think it's important for we moms-after-IF to choose our audiences wisely when we need to vent...not because you can't handle it but because it's just not courteous or necessary. I always try to balance being real with being kind, and sometimes that can be hard. I think that's why this post was a tough one to write.

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  15. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Honestly, as blessed as I know I am to be pregnant again, I've been SO run down and jealous of my friends who can go play softball, drink beer, raft after work, sleep in, etc. etc. etc. I wouldn't give up being a Mom for anything, but it doesn't mean the grass doesn't seem greener sometimes...

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    1. Isn't that jealousy the weirdest, most guilt-inducing thing? Whoever came up with the grass is greener analogy was right on the money.

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  16. Beautiful, Em. And all so very true.

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    1. So glad the post spoke to you, Catwoman73.

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  17. Thank you for this post, Em. I really needed to read it today. From my perspective as a woman still without children and struggling with infertility/loss, I often fantasize about and over romanticize what life would be like as a mother. It is important to remember that parenting is not the end of the race. We are humans battling infertility, and we will still be humans if God blesses us with a child. Life will still be life, and it will come full of challenges. Your post reminded me to appreciate the things I do have right now, to cherish my time with my husband. But in reminding me to appreciate the gifts I do have right now, you also wonderfully articulated the pain, embarrassment, and heartache of this fight. As always, I so appreciate your wonderful writing. I'm truly thankful to have found you as a friend.

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    1. Wow, Annie. What a gracious comment! You are a real blessing to me.

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  18. GREAT writing, great thoughts and wonderful insights. I just love reading what you've written!

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I feel the same about you!

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  19. Em,
    This is an amazing post. I admire your eloquence and honesty, but maybe most of all your courage.
    God bless you and yours!
    Em

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    1. You know, funny that you mention courage because this topic kind of terrified me. I read and re-read it before finally posting it, worried about how it was going to be perceived.

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  20. What a great post! I just teared up reading it! :) You are such a wonderful person!

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  21. Amen. A wonderful post that brought tears to my eyes.

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    1. I appreciate the comment, Jessah!

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  23. Terrific post! I can also relate to all the things you've written about. Thanks for sharing.

    xxxooo

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    1. Glad I'm not alone in this, Kacey. (-:

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  24. Wonderful, and honest. Yet I find myself worrying that you are being tough on yourself out of survivor's guilt. It's okay to feel that parenthood is tough. You don't have to minimise it by comparing it to infertile women. Though I am endlessly grateful that you still recognise the path of those women, and the ongoing impact of infertility. I particularly liked this paragraph:

    "When my love for my daughter literally steals my breath and makes my heart feel like it's going to explode, when the fear of something happening to her rises to the level of spiritual warfare...I remind myself that my infertile friends do know that love and that fear. Many of their worst fears have been realized. They love their miscarried and stillborn babies every day of their lives. Many others know the agonizingly ambiguous loss of their dreams. They love the children in their imaginations. It is a real, powerful, mama bear love that should never be dismissed or minimized. "

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing that. I think I will be posting it on my own blog. Even when I am doing one of those things childless couples can do easily - I'm writing this looking out at the Red Sea in Jordan.

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    1. Thanks so much for the comment, Mali. It really made me think. That survivor's guilt thing could definitely be true. I think that guilt often plays a major role in mothering...or at least it can if we let it get out of hand. I'm certain that my own personal guilt feeds off of the fact that I have "survived" infertility, even though I'm back in the trenches now.

      Thanks too for sharing this post on your blog! It's the best compliment ever when another blogger does that. Makes my day.

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  25. This is beautiful, Em. Raw and honest. So many thoughts come to mind with all of this, especially as someone who is finally on the road to resolution after years of infertility and 2 losses. I'll be the first to admit that while on this journey, there were many days I would glad trade places with those who were pregnant or parenting, especially following my miscarriages. It wasn't that I assumed that parenting would be easy, but my heart ached to not be holding my children and I desperately wanted to know that joy.

    I guess what I'm learning is that the grass is always greener on the other side, especially during moments of hardship. To see a childless couple and assume they are living it up is just as naive is to see a couple with young children and assume that their life is always blissful (social media be damned for many of these facades). Thank you for that important reminder and for expressing it so eloquently.

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    1. Wow, Cristy! I wish I could copy and paste these paragraphs into my post! What a perfect way to explain exactly what I had hoped to say in my post! And I love that you mentioned the social media piece because that's a big part of it.

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  26. Yep that is exactly what IF has done. You worded it so nicely. Thanks for that :-)

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Heather! Glad you found something here that you could identify with!

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  27. Love, love, LOVED this post!!! I honestly could have written so many of those same words, it's like you were in my head! Thank you for your beautiful honesty!

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    1. I have felt the same way about your posts, Rebecca. (-:

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  28. Em, another fantastic post. You hit the nail on the head. I wish more than anything to be a mother, but I have seen other blogs where it's hard, like you said. But you said it perfectly, that IF has stolen our time, energy and emotions too. I always look forward to your posts!!

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    1. I hope and pray that IF is done stealing from you, Risa.

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    2. Em, I am definitely holding onto those words. <3

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  29. A perfect lookback at how life changes when you're handed that diagnosis, or when you start trying to build your family with assistance. All of this is so true.

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    1. Yay! How exciting to get a comment from you! Thanks for reading my blog! (-:

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  30. Coming here from Mali's blog. Same as Mali, I was also SO touched with that particular paragraph that you wrote 'coz we've decided on living life without kids. Ain't an easy decision to make and it takes years to really let go of that dream.

    Even though we won't have kids in our life, I don't wish for people to have survivor's guilt. One close friend of mine (a mother) experiences that after I shared my IF struggles with her and I told her that I wished that she hadn't felt that. All I wish for is sympathy and empathy and validation of my grief and she's given me all that. :-)

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    1. So glad that your friend has been able to remain a good, true friend even as your paths seem to go in new/different directions. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, Amel. Glad to have found yours as well!

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  31. Beautiful. Real. Raw. And so, so relateable. Thank you.

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    1. So glad you could relate. I haven't been to your blog in a while...headed there now.

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  32. No truer words could have ever been written. Even though I walked that road, I hadn't compared it to before and after kids. People dealing with IF give up just as much if not more as others and often it goes unrecognized. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It really is true - infertile people have so many of the "costs" of parenting with none of the benefits.

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  33. Wow. This post really took my breath away. I know (vicariously...) that motherhood is a tough job -- of course every parent needs a break now and then! It's just quite refreshing to read about one parent (you!) who remembers the childless and our struggles. Your perspective is considerate to those of us who long for a child, and its gentle wisdom, I am quite sure, makes you a better parent. Thank you for this!

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  34. Thank you, Lauren, for your wonderful comment. I so appreciate your words. Glad you stopped by!!

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  35. I love your honesty and this post. Thank you for being honest with how you really feel, and also taking the time to think how it would be if you were just childless, still going through infertility. You are so right...even with no kids yet, the bikini body is gone, the vacay funds and freedom to just take off at a moments notice, and extra funds to do all the fun stuff are still limited. It's extra hard when you have nothing to show for it (kidwise). You are just so amazing for recognizing both sides of the coin, and that is why I love reading your blog!

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    1. It's kind of crazy (and depressing) to sit down and take stock of the losses infertility causes...especially when you're still in the thick of primary infertility. Hoping and praying you will be on the other side of it soon.

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  36. What a thoughtful, beautiful post. I was lucky to get pregnant easily, but from reading so many blogs, I can catch a glimpse into how difficult it must be. Just a glimpse. But, that doesn't mean that parenthood isn't also hard. Life is just difficult. I think your post hits the nail on the nail because, underneath it is about appreciating what you have.

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  37. This blog was such a beautiful, heartfelt look at the wearing down that infertility can cause women. I always felt like we were being dragged along behind a ship, as all our happy friends waved down at us and yelled things like "It's all in God's timing!"

    At the same time, infertility can make you bitter to the struggles of new moms. Both need a voice, both need to be heard, and both need the empathy of the other. What a great blog!!

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  38. Beautiful. And so honest and real.

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  39. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Someone who "gets it" and knows how "we" feel. After a whole year of infertility we found ourselves finally pregnant however those dreams were slashed. Having had a miscarriage and instead of being wheeled out of the hospital holding a baby my husband bought me a bouquet of flowers to sit in place of the baby we had dreamed about. We have been back in the saddle for an entire year and two months of endless cycles and currently on our 3rd cycle of injectibles and we pray we these arms will be filled soon. Thank you for getting it, thank you for eloquently putting it, thank you for reaching out and going there, thank you for your sincere heart....I needed it today!

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