I was wrong. Just when I thought I was in a good place, I was mistaken. I thought that I was going into this IVF process all Zen-like. I was going to accept the outcome, be grateful for my life no matter what, be grateful for the journey and all it taught me. But then, fear had something to say.
Warning: I try to put a positive spin on many of my posts. I try to see the bright side and look for the lesson in all of our trials (hence, the name). This post is not that. If you are looking for the bright-happy-enlightened-optimistic side of infertility; this isn’t the post for you. If you need to stop reading, I would never blame you. My intention is to just be real with you and with myself. And what’s real is: there are times when it’s ok not to put a positive spin on a shitty situation. It doesn’t make me negative or pessimistic. I’m not unenlightened and I’m not a mess. I’m just being true to the reality of this experience.
Anyway…back to the point. A simple sentence in church sent me down a spiral that got me reacquainted with fear real quick. A simple sentence: would all of the parents, grandparents, and godparents please stand up. I made a joke to my husband: “Well, this is fun”. His answer: “You’re a godparent, go ahead and stand up”. But that wasn’t the point. I wasn’t sad because I wasn’t standing up.
I was sad because it was a visual reminder that this isn’t normal. I understand it’s not uncommon, but none of this is normal. If ever there was a visual representation of what infertility feels like, this was it. Dozens of people standing while I stay seated. It was a small fish in a big pong kind of feeling. A rubbing salt on a wound kind of feeling. A life is really fucking unfair kind of feeling.
I felt silly, tearful, alone, lacking, and inconsequential. That last one is the one that really stuck - inconsequential. Do I not matter because I’m not a parent? Logically and rationally, I know that I do matter. But it sure didn’t feel like that in the moment. I don’t have a stake in the game in the same way parents do.
As I tried to stop the swell in my eyes, I looked around for some reassurance that we weren’t the only ones sitting. And we weren’t. I found an older woman sitting a few pews away to my right. She was sitting alone. Not standing. I wanted to go and not-stand with her.
Having a very vivid imagination, my brain started writing a story about this old woman sitting alone; not standing. I imagined that at one time she had a husband. A great husband and a romantic love story, the kind of love story you see in movies. They went on adventures together and laughed and fought and made up and lived a deeply rich life. Despite their deep love, they never were able to have kids.
Life brought this old woman and her husband through many years together, and the time came when they had to say goodbye. So she did because life happens no matter how much you brace against it. She grieved as you do when you lose your partner. Over the years, she has come to terms with not having children and she wasn’t as bothered as I was when everyone else stood in church. She has the gift of time and wisdom. Throughout this process, she never lost her faith and now she goes to church alone.
She has nieces and nephews who spend time with her every now and then. They include her in their lives as much as they can. She’s grateful for the time they offer her and their willingness to include her in their lives. Yet when her friends talk about their grandkids, she’s reminded of what she doesn’t have. When she sees cute pillows that say “If I’d have known how much fun being a grandparent is, I would have done that first”, her heart hurts a little bit. When her friends get homemade art projects from their grandkids’ preschool, she feels a familiar sadness. All these years later and it still stings. It doesn’t last long, but it’s still there.
A couple of things about the story I wrote in my vivid imagination:
1. It’s possible- even probable - that none of it is true. She may have 10 kids and didn’t stand because her knee was bothering her. Her husband may have missed church because he wasn’t feeling well. She may have never wanted kids.
2. Whether or not it’s a true story, it is a glimpse into the deep parts of myself that I try to avoid: fear. I was able to quickly write this story because that fear, which I try desperately to disown, is there and it’s real and demanding to be noticed.
No matter how much I try to deny it, to avoid it, fear will find a way to seep in. It will creep up in a daydream during the middle of a church service and leave me completely breathless. The deeply rooted, often unnamed and unexamined fear that those of us on this path face is this: Not everybody gets to be a parent. Not everybody gets to be a grandparent. Not everybody gets the ending they want.
In an infertility world full of vision boards/manifesting energy/meditation/inspirational quotes/and The Secret (I won’t even get started on this ridiculousness), fear feels like a taboo subject. Instead of pretending my fear isn’t there and meditating it away, I’m choosing to sit with it. Here I’ll be, just sitting – not standing – for now.