Monday, November 16, 2009

The day I became the "other" woman

I went to the bank to open up a safe deposit account. As the friendly young associate processed the paperwork I asked her about opening up a 529 at some point. [A college savings account, I know- I'm a bit ahead of myself] She asked me how old my child was, I blushed saying set to arrive in May. Her expression dropped just a tad, with a thin lipped smile she said That's great, we've been trying forever but oh well.

I tried for a while too, I told her. She looked at me with surprise. I'm not sure why. Maybe because when we're consumed in the monthly trial of trying and failing to conceive we forget how many millions are also in our shoes. I told her about PCOS, my miscarriages, and my clotting disorder. She told me she was born with two uteruses that she just now resolved and advanced endometriosis. Her eyes welled with tears as she talked about adoptions that failed to come through. I can't stand the thought of another Christmas without children, she said.

We talked for at least an hour. I gave her the contact information for my doctors, and also the website for Mel's Stirrup Queens. She said she felt so alone because all her friends had children on command. I told her she wasn't alone and that online there is a community of support that can help her get through this.

As I drove home I felt overwhelmed. Had she not told me, I would have been another fertile woman overly eager to plan her child's future who unintentionally reminded her of the painful void in her life. This was an important reminder to me that I don't know the full stories of the pregnant women I see around me, or really anybody. I don't know the backgrounds and the secret struggles they may endure. But I also learned something else: Talking about infertility and loss is important. She struggled for two years with no one to talk to and feeling like her infertility was a stigma which she alone suffered from.

Its strange to be regarded as a pregnant woman. I went to Target and as I approached the maternity section I felt my chest constrict. I walked around the pants and shirts feeling a rush of excitement like I was somewhere I did not belong. I was pretending to be part of a secret select society. Infertility and loss really fucks with your head apparently.

I sometimes wish I could wear have a symbol, a necklace or a bracelet that gave a silent message that I too struggled. I want to be pregnant and I look forward to my belly taking away the sight of my toes but it hurts me to think the sight of me pregnancy might hurt someone else. That one day I might sit at the doctors office rubbing my belly while the girl across from me is waiting for her lab appointment to see if her betas are dropping from her miscarriage. I was there so recently and the pain of those scars still stings. But she won't know. She will see me and feel bitterness towards the world perhaps, like I once did. She will bite her lip to fight back tears like I once did.

A symbol of my struggle would not take away the pain of another but it would help us feel less alone. Yet, short of wearing an I'm infertile! maternity shirt, I'm not sure how to get the message across. I guess like today, I will talk about it when I can, to who I can. It's not enough, but its something.


  1. It's hard to know how to make it obvious to those around it. I seem to end up dropping it into conversations, in my facebook announcement etc. Just wouldn't want to make it seem like this had come easily, you know? I think when I was poking around a while back, someone had come up with a certain colour of embroidery floss to make into a bracelet to say that they were suffering/surviving IF.
    I bet you made her day, to have someone who understands talk about it with her.

  2. Oh wow, what a powerful exchange. I'm sure you helped that girl more than you realize. It's sad, but there is such comfort in numbers.

    I always wish that I could be more like her. That I could bring it up instead of just allowing my expression to fall. I really respect that, and I respect you for taking the bait and opening up and talking with her.

    IF and loss are experiences that change us forever. As much as we want to be "normal" pregnant women :), we never will be, IMO. There's always a sense of disbelief, of waiting for the other shoe to fall. Or of guilt because we might be causing others hurt. It sucks, but I think we should be proud of such empathy; too bad more people don't have it.

  3. Wonderful post, and an important one to keep in mind. I'm glad you were able to talk to her - it probably meant a great deal to her to have someone understand the depth of pain inside a statement like hers.

  4. it was so nice of you to talk with her and share your story, i'm sure you know from personal experience how much it probably meant to her to find someone who understood, i hope she looks into the online community.
    you could wear the infertility's common thread braclet...
    not sure if that link will work, i couldn't copy and paste for some reason so i had to type it all out, just google infertility's common thread if it doesn't.

  5. Wow - you probably have had a huge impact on that girl. I can't imagine the lonliness I would have without this community. You did a great thing.
    I have my materials for my bracelet. I've been waiting until I show a little bit. Once I get more confident, I'll be ready to talk about it some more.

  6. That's wonderful, that you could help her out! I'm sure that exchange has changed her life!

    I see others have mentioned "infertility's common thread" which I wear (there is a link on my blog), but that only works for people who know what it is, as far as letting other IFers know who you are...

  7. What a powerful exchange. You reached out and took the time to give her support and empathy, and in doing so decreased her isolation and some of her pain. You were a friend to a stranger, how powerful is that?

    When we are given a challenge and then given a route out of it, it's so important to retain empathy for people who are still going through it. It's so beautiful that you are open to doing so with the sweet love & support that I adore about you!


  8. How touching, and what a difference you made in her day. This is why I am open about my IF, too... I think it's important to support one another during something that can be so isolating. Appearances can be deceiving, and it's hard to remember that a pregnant belly does not mean conception happened immediately and without trials.