"...Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Romans 8:24b-25

21 October 2011

I Was "That Girl"

Recently, my cousin, who has been aware of her infertility far longer than I have been of my own, had a small family gathering to celebrate her dad's birthday since he and his wife were in town from out of state.  My cousin only lives 45 minutes away from me and I couldn't justify missing the gathering, especially since I do not often see my uncle.  I was also under the impression that my sister, who is pregnant with her 5th child, would be there with her family, and possibly some of my other siblings.

So, the day arrived, and although I was very tired and had a long weekend ahead of me, I made the drive, looking forward to seeing family I don't often see.  My parents were there, my mom's other brother and his wife were there, another cousin of mine was there with her kids, and then there was me.  It was a small gathering, but it was nice for visiting.

I'm not yet used to this whole "being pregnant" thing, and I'll be honest, I'm not as big a fan of the attention I get now because of the pregnancy as many people tend to be.  I'm not sure if it's because I don't really feel pregnant, if it's some latent feeling of being undeserving of such attention, or if it's because my husband isn't here with me to enjoy it and be a part of it.  All I know is it's a strange thing to be the center and focus of pregnancy talk after so many years of standing on the outskirts of conversations about pregnancy.

Usually what's on my mind when I'm at a family gathering is: 1) What food is there here that I can eat without making the hostess feel the need to prepare something special, and 2) How can I keep from reliving awkward memories from the past and/or making new ones for the future.  Since I hadn't eaten in several hours, my mind was mostly on the food.

As I was standing in the kitchen, the cousin who was hosting was setting things out in preparation to eat, and one of my aunts and my other cousin came over to me to talk about the pregnancy.  I didn't think much of it.  It was nice to actually have something to talk about besides my food restrictions and the fact that I don't work or have children.  So I shared my observations about pregnancy, and had a great conversation with my aunt and cousin.  I didn't even feel awkward talking about being pregnant.

And then I looked up and saw my cousin, the hostess, standing on the outskirts of the conversation, listening but not participating, and I was immediately in her shoes in my mind.

I tried to convince myself that the conversation probably didn't bother her since she and her husband had decided to adopt rather than attempting to pursue any medical intervention.  I tried to believe that she probably wasn't feeling pain because her 9 year old son was running through the house, playing with his cousins.  I even tried to convince myself that maybe she didn't even hear what was being said because she's hard of hearing and with all the background noise her hearing aids might have missed the conversation.

But this is the same cousin that had once told me that even after adoption, the longing is still there...the hope still comes with every cycle and the disappointment on calendar day one.

I was torn.  I didn't want to be rude and abruptly end the conversation, but I didn't want to be insensitive and continue it, either.  I tried, and eventually succeeded, to change the subject to that of dietary needs and restrictions, but the damage had been done.

I, an infertile pregnant woman, had stood in the kitchen of another infertile woman and had a long conversation in front of her with other people about the joys of my own pregnancy.  I was "That Girl."  The one that didn't recognize the need for sensitivity.  The one that didn't shut up, but rather gushed on and on about the experience of being pregnant.  I caused a fellow infertile woman to be keenly reminded of her infertility, IN HER OWN HOME!

I immediately wished I hadn't come and even wondered why I had.  What did I really think I had to offer my uncle by being there?  His brothers and sisters, daughter and grandson were there, and that's really all he needed on his birthday.  I had come simply out of a felt need to show my cousin that she was important to me.  Then I went and did the very opposite thing by completely forgetting about her and running off at the mouth.

I approached her tentatively and apologized to her.  She was very gracious and responded that that's just the way things are at family gatherings when someone's pregnant and she's grown to expect it.  That did not make me feel any better, and it didn't convince me that she wasn't wounded.  But the damage had been done and there was nothing I could do to take it back.  Had my other pregnant sister been there, it might have been a bit different scenario, but she wasn't there.  I was the only walking reminder of my cousin's infertility.

I wish I could say that that incident is my one and only cringeworthy moment.  But I can't. I can't even say that it was my first.

Two weeks prior to that family gathering, I was shopping at a local Natural Grocer's when an acquaintance I hadn't seen in years, who happens to work at that store, recognized me and asked how my husband and I have been.

I was groggy from having had very little sleep and wasn't prepared for a conversation.  I told her we were fine and that my DH was deployed but should be returning early.  When there was an awkward pause, I thought, "What else is new with us that she'd want to know about?" and then I realized most people share news about their pregnancies, so I did.

Technically, there's nothing wrong with sharing that news with people when I haven't seen them in years, but there was something that flitted across her face in a fraction of a second.  But I was tired and wasn't sure I had really seen it.  We parted ways, I finished shopping, paid for the groceries and left the store.  As I drove away, a number of observations flooded my mind and I wondered if those observations were enough confirmation that perhaps she too was infertile.

I was kicking myself by the time I made it home, and praying that I had not wounded her or made her day difficult.  I called her at the store to ask for her e-mail address, and then sent her a long rambling apology e-mail asking her to forgive me if I had caused her pain, not knowing for sure she was even infertile.

She replied several days later, assuring me that all was well and that I hadn't wounded her.

But the fact that I had so easily spouted out the news of my pregnancy without even thinking weighed heavily on my heart.  And then to have followed that incident with the one I described at my cousin's house...I truly never thought that I would be "That Girl."

I have loathed and despised others who have filled that role, wondering how it was possible for someone to be so completely unaware and insensitive, vowing that I would NEVER be that way, if I were ever blessed with a pregnancy.  And yet, here I am.

I pray that God will grant me the grace and discernment to avoid filling that role again.  I pray that He will prevent me from causing others pain as they walk through this journey of infertility.  I pray that I will always be mindful of the pain others may be experiencing that I know all too well.  And may God keep me from ever being "That Girl" again.

07 October 2011

An Update and a Rant

It's been a while since I've posted on here.  I haven't had a ton of things to say lately, but also, I've had a difficult time keeping thoughts in my head long enough to get them typed out.  Seriously, I was in the middle of posting a Facebook status, and lost the thought mid-sentence.  So, we'll see how this goes.  

After my last post, by God's grace, I was finally able to settle in with the idea that this pregnancy might actually stick.  I'm thankful I was still having blood work done weekly to monitor the placenta's progress because after my first sonogram with my OB, I have had to wait over a month before being seen again.  I have to admit, I got spoiled to having a sonogram at the RE's office every other week.  So it was comforting to have the numbers of my progesterone and estradiol levels go up so I could know things were progressing as they should.  Eventually I was even allowed to stop taking the progesterone and estradiol I had been prescribed and I have now officially graduated my RE.

I'm happy to be able to say that things are progressing well with the pregnancy and I am at 13 weeks 2 days today.  I was under the impression that the first trimester was officially over after I completed the 12th week, but then I read online today that I'm technically still in the first trimester until the end of the 13th week.  Either way, it's good to have a glimmer of hope that I may just get my energy back as I had two wonderful days this week with energy (until I got hit with a stomach bug).

Prior to this pregnancy, I had grown accustomed to hearing insensitive comments made by well-meaning people who know nothing about what it's like to deal with infertility yet feel compelled to speak on the subject.  I had developed responses (both to share with the speaker and also to keep to myself), and was becoming adept at looking at them with pity and sympathy because they just didn't "get it."  (I've had the blessing of having many fertile friends who were able to "get it" without having to walk through it because they could see past themselves and made every attempt to imagine themselves in my shoes.)

And I knew to expect the "pregnancy police" to come around once I started to show or when I spread the word that I was pregnant.  Those people that feel it is their duty to delineate to every pregnant woman they encounter the "do's" and "don'ts" of being pregnant.  I also expect to have certain family members become entirely too interested in every aspect of the pregnancy, feeling compelled to take on the role of "pregnancy police."  (If you're a family member reading this blog, you're not one I'm concerned about...otherwise you wouldn't have access to this blog ;-) )

I remember reading some responses on some blog posts about complaining after finally achieving the BFP (Big Fat Positive) after battling infertility.  Many people shared their thoughts that if anyone had the right to complain during pregnancy, that it was someone who could truly appreciate what they had.  I took that to heart and have allowed myself to have mini pity parties for a moment or two as needed, not sharing it with anyone other than myself or my husband, or occasionally my Tweeps.  But truly, I have found even the most unpleasant changes of pregnancy to be fascinating, so I haven't really been complaining much at all.

But THEN...as I was falling asleep one evening, blissfully singing a Bon Jovi tune a Facebook friend had planted in my brain, I was hit with a sudden headache and an intense desire to eat (and I had already brushed my teeth so I was NOT going to get up just to eat something and have to brush my teeth again).  I ignored both of them for a while, but sometimes, it just helps to share your pain with others to make it a bit more bearable.  So I grabbed my phone and posted the following on Facebook:

Well, hello there, Headache and Sudden-Hunger-Pangs :-/
I don't remember inviting either of you to join me.

And that was it.  I thought it was cute and clever, and that pride was probably my downfall.  Because later (I don't remember if it was that night that I saw it or the next day), I read a response from an acquaintance from one of my high schools.  This is what she wrote:

"as soon as you started creating life you invited
all kinds of cool feelings into your life."

Initially, I clicked "like" because that's my knee-jerk response when I don't know how to respond to someone I can tell means well, but actually offended me greatly.  But the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became.  Here is a woman who has several children, and while I can't prove it, it APPEARED to my extremely defensive frame of mind at the time that she was looking down upon me in all of her "experienced motherly wisdom" as if to say, "oh, honey, welcome to the club, get used to it, parts of this sucks," but it's phrased in such a way that what I HEARD when I read it was, "Well, if you can't handle all of the "fun" and "exciting" changes your body will be going through then you should have considered that before you got pregnant!"

Now, let me interject here...I am already a mildly defensive person.  It comes from years of believing everything everyone told me, only to realize later in life that many people took advantage of my gullible nature either for fun or for malice (all of which were hurtful to me), so my Pollyanna mentality flew out the window when I became disillusioned.  Now, I protect my heart first and ask questions later.  Sometimes, coupling this defensive stance is the aggressive attitude that goes with it.  The one that has a constant retort with just the slightest intent to sting when spoken.  This feature is not always there.  It usually only rears it's head when I haven't had enough sleep or when I've already had it "up to here."  But since I became pregnant, both of those tendencies have been amplified exponentially and I barely have a filter on my mouth to speak of.  Pretty much whatever is in my head is going to come flying out of my mouth before I can consider the ramifications of what I'm saying.

The longer I pondered my acquaintance's response, the more steamed I became and the more I felt I had to defend myself.  (By the way, I truly admire those people who can say, even when angry, "I don't owe that person an explanation," and then follow through on not needing to give the explanation...I, however, am the explanation queen and offer them to anyone who will listen, as I always feel the need to defend myself.)

So, I later replied (rather than deleting her comment altogether, which is what I wanted to do) with this response:

"Trust me, I knew what I was signing up for.  Totally worth it.  Still, I'm allowed to have my moments."  (actually, I misspelled allowed and had to fix it, which didn't help my pride)

To which she responded how happy she was for me to be pregnant and that she knew I would love it, as if to say, "Whoa, Nelly!  I wasn't judging you!" ;-)  And I was fine with that response.  It is, after all, difficult to know what is being conveyed in writing when it's in real time and unedited.

But I bring up this story because what I DIDN'T expect was to be judged by FERTILE people for taking note of my discomfort during pregnancy.  And honestly, most of my friends are super supportive and are excited to be able to have conversations with me about all of these "cool feelings" I invited into my life.  One thought that kept swimming through my brain was, "Why is it perfectly acceptable for fertile people to complain throughout the entirety of their pregnancy, but the minute someone who paid tons of money and went through myriad painful procedures and years of disappointment in order to become pregnant starts complaining the 'let me remind you what you signed up for' police are beating down her door?"  Seriously, lady, I think I earned the privilege to have a complaint or two.  (And please understand that I do differentiate between complaining and being all "woe is me!" about pregnancy.)

I have complained very little about anything to do with being pregnant.  Truthfully, I have had very little to complain about.  I find everything fascinating and exciting and I'm storing it all up in my heart because this may be the only time I get to experience any of this.  What I find myself complaining the most about is other people.  Not just the regular complaints I would have about other people if I weren't pregnant, and not just the amplified complaints I have about people doing normal things that suddenly annoy me because of copious amounts of hormones coursing through my body, but these are complaints about people who are interested in my pregnancy in a non-loving way.  They may mean well, but they're not motivated by love as much as they are motivated by having the need to say something.

Case in point: I go to a weekly bible study.  I have known many of the women involved in this study for several years.  Before I became pregnant, all the questions I received from these women were about DH's deployment and how he was doing.  Now that I'm pregnant, I get bombarded with questions about the baby, how I'm feeling, how far along I am, and all that mess.  If these were perfect strangers just learning that I'm pregnant, or even people I only see once a month, I could completely understand and accept their questions.  But these are women I fellowship with WEEKLY, often more than once a week, and all they can think to talk about with me is the condition of my health?!?!  Seriously???  I have a real problem with that!  Take the time to get to know me if you're going to use the air you're expelling, don't just waste it with veiled "chit-chat" by pretending that you're asking legitimate questions.  Honestly, I shouldn't have to tell you each week how far along I am or when I'm due if you really paid attention to the answer in the first place!  Needless to say, I'm frustrated about this.

Last thing before I close this forever-long post.  My mother-in-law was a champ all throughout our pre-pregnancy infertility days.  She struggled for four years before finally being able to conceive DH, her first child.  So, she truly understood our pain.  I'm not sure what happened, but somehow the announcement that we are pregnant changed her from being very understanding and "minding her own business" to feeling the need to pass on information from either herself or others on her side of the family that would be better left unsaid.  I mean, seriously, just because a family member insists that you pass on instructions to your pregnant daughter-in-law doesn't mean you can't install your own filter and choose NOT to pass on information that isn't worth repeating.  Which leads me to believe that she too feels that I need to hear the information that her family insists I need to hear.

What kinds of things do they want me to know, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  The first lovely bit of information I received all the way from Florida was that I needed to be careful to not wear tight pants while I'm pregnant because it's important that I not squish the baby.  Ummm...thanks.  Thanks for that wise and sound advice.  Especially since I make it a habit to wear skin-tight, uncomfortable clothes all the time to catch the stares from all the guys (please hear my sarcasm in that)!  I won't go into a discourse on the lifestyle of this side of the family.  I'll just say that they're the side of the family that often gets spoken of in hushed whispers, and leave it at that.

The next advice came about a week or two after the recent Lysteria outbreak was announced on Cantaloup crops in the country.  Granted, this information would have been useful, if it had been given the day the news announced it instead of two weeks later.  But the insistence with which they conveyed to my MIL the importance of giving me the message indicates that they were certain I was out buying all the cantaloup I could eat and feasting on it daily.  Maybe the news takes a while to get to that part of Florida?  I don't know.  But by the time I heard the word from them, I had already passed up cantaloup once at the grocery store and twice at a friend's house, because I don't live under a rock!

The final thing actually came from my MIL herself and kind of threw me for a loop.  I finally started showing just a bit last week, and I went to visit my in-laws for dinner.  While we're eating, not having conversation, just eating, my MIL busts out with this statement:
"No, you don't look fat at all.  You just look pregnant."

I was flabbergasted.  I thought, "Did I ask if I look fat?  Because I don't remember saying anything about feeling fat or about anyone commenting on whether I appear fat or not.   Did someone tell you I look fat?  Or do you actually think I look fat?"  But I didn't say any of that.  Instead, I swallowed my food, looked at her, and said, "Thanks."

There have been many challenges in dealing with people as DH and I have walked through Infertility, and I would have thought they would have prepared me for the challenges we will have of dealing with people while we are pregnant.  But truly, they have not.  People are people and will always be practicing opening their mouth wide enough to put their foot in it, but neglecting the important part of actually swallowing their foot (myself included).  Of the many challenges I will face during the pregnancy, and then afterward as a parent, the one that I think will be the most difficult for me personally will be dealing with all of the other people who have opinions about my life.

Thanks for reading.  Prayers for my attitude toward other people will be greatly appreciated.