Sunday, 10 November 2013

Contents of my uterus: confidential until further notice

Not so long ago, I received an email; to be precise from this friend, he of the oh-so-early, oh-so-unassailable-pregnancy-optimism.

This most recent communique was a quick, punchy two-liner probing enquiring about the...ahem, situation with our efforts for a dream baby. Quote: success with pregnancy...dare I ask?, followed by a signature asking that I pass on his best wishes to H. He is clever and interested and witty and great fun to have at a party, this friend. No one has ever accused him of being overly delicate.

As for me, I have never been someone who confided my deepest feelings and angst around our struggles in that department to my friends or family, at least not since the early days of loss and grief, when I learned a disheartening lesson about how disinterested, selfish, trivializing people can be when faced with the kinds of tragedies they'd rather not think about. Most have a tendency to make it all about them, so that even when they do speak, clumsily, it is to assuage their own fears or feelings of inadequacy. (But that, dear readers, is a post for another day.) However, just as I have not shared the deepest darkest truths of infertility after loss, neither have I been secretive about our reality. Friends who ask after our well being have been told, in there amongst the updates on job searches and big moves and recent vacations, that yes, the patter of little feet is something that fills our daydreams, that no, it has not been easy and no, there is nothing (nothing!) yet to report. The friend in question knows about our struggles, which is one of the reasons I was so screamy about his artless pregnancy announcement back in my most barren - of hope or baby - summer months.

Normally, I would have brushed off this equally artless, if well intentioned, attempt at friendly concern with just the sort of update described above: full of trivialities about our goings-on, inserting somewhere in their midst a concise response on the contents of my uterus in the negative.

But.

But, it just so happens - still much to my amazement, even writing it now - that when this particular enquiry reached my inbox, I was (am) indeed with child. It arrived, in fact, only days after we had first encountered that glorious second line. Not only that, but really, the brevity and focus of this email prevents me from just throwing out a random, cheery response which skirts the issue entirely: We're great! Still in England! H is working on his thesis! and so on and so forth and so blah blah blah.

Initially of course, my lack of response was due to the fact that, well, we were processing some heavy, if exciting, stuff. For many days I simply didn't oh ok, still don't now, have much time or headspace for anyone or anything other than the burgeoning hope growing within me, the terror that has been its twin, or the intimacy of the secret that H and I share (uh, with all the lovely peoples of the interwebs, natch).

But then, actually, how do you answer this email? I don't want to write my little seedling out of existence with a harmless lie. It would feel too much like...tempting fate? Lacking maternal instinct? I don't know exactly, but I wasn't prepared to do it. At the same time, I'm obviously not in a place where I am wanting to share this massive, life changing news, this secret of secrets with all the world. It is still too precious; let me savour it a while longer, as the magical, intimate, unbelievable, sacred thing that it is.

Nonetheless, this stupid kindly email has forced me to think much earlier than I had anticipated about the inevitable question of when and how and who to tell.

I have feared this time, feared it long before I even had that concrete, second-line, reason to. I fear the forced joyfulness (where for us, pregnancy is far from the joyful, naive time that most parents experience). I fear fresh grief, over the knowledge that no one who has not been through something similar can really, truly provide any emotional support for such a pregnancy as ours. I fear the sense of isolation that will grow with that knowledge. I fear the 'helpful' advice on how we should be coping with it all, because I'm already bitchy and hormonal and mostly, besides H, nobody can do anything right even if they try and I want need to protect that as my prerogative for right now, here in my little cocoon. I fear the anger which will almost certainly be my response to the amnesiac joy I anticipate from others, forgetting my sweet baby S (if they ever acknowledged him to begin with), forgetting the heartbreak we experienced just in getting this far, belying the view that another pregnancy will fix it all and maybe, finally, I'll 'go back to the old Sadie'.

I won't go back. I don't want to. I don't want to forget my son, for he is as much a part of this family story, of the branches that shyly, tentatively search outward as the tree grows, as are H and I and this new little seedling, this branch. He is the deep and abiding love that has enriched the soil in which our family tree grows. And our struggles after S, the other losses and the months of disappointment and the prodding and invasive appointments with numerous medical specialists and the fear of remaining forever childless. All those experiences, too, colour this path, not only with abiding sadness, but with the gift of intense joy, the relish of every minuscule progression towards the future we've so long dreamed of with such ardent hope. Our joy is our sorrow unmasked, in the wise and comforting words of Gibran. Those same sorrows that have carved us with scars are also what allow us this joy; they are forever intertwined.

And really, on a more selfish, less poetic point, I fear that amnesiac joy coming from those who could not share my sorrow is a step too far for me. Maybe, in these moments, I don't have the ability to forgive and forget. What right do people have to share in my fresh joy when they could not share in, or even be present for my raw grief?

But all this too, I suppose, is a post for another day. Now I just have to figure out how to reply to that email, before I start to appear really rude.


I am working on it. Source

22 comments:

  1. This was why I waited until I HAD to announce my pregnancy at work. I didn't want the super happy responses from people. We had already lost Oscar and Bella and then Tittle. While I wanted some people of support at work (I told about 3 people) I didn't want the entire office to know, because they would come over, be oh, so happy, and I would tell them how scared and worried I was. I ended up drafting an email and sending it right before I left early on a Friday afternoon. That way, there was an entire weekend to give me space before I had to deal with people face-to-face. It's different when people know that you're doing treatments, so they know that you'll have an answer. Sending you hugs as you work out how you'll respond to these types of people.

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    1. I just know I can't have those conversations about how scared and worried I am with most people,because they simply don't get it and then you're left feeling more alone and frustrated that you can't communicate well...and invariably, you get those comments (intended to comfort but so off base) like 'I'm sure everything will be fine this time' from people who can be sure of no such thing. My direct colleagues know that we were pursuing IVF, because some of the appointments would have clashed with work, but not that I'm actually now pregnant. It's all just so hard... and so tiring, and I'd love to be able to simply focus on this life inside me. I'm so grateful that you understand what I've tried to convey here Brianna, and at the same time so very, deeply sorry that you do.

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  2. It was really odd during the first tri of my pregnancy. I thought that I would want to shout my news from the rooftops! but we only told parents, siblings, and then a couple who knew exactly when the retrieval/transfer occurred. Otherwise, I wanted to keep the news to myself until about 16 weeks or so- it was cool to have such a big secret!

    If you don't feel like you want to tell H what is going on (and you have every right), say something like "still working on it" or "no news to report so far." I would say that is vague enough

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    1. Maybe I'm a bit private on stuff like this (also coloured by my losses) but I don't actually think it's so odd. Like you said, it's the most amazing and most precious secret, and there aren't many opportunities in life to carry such a wonderful piece of news!

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  3. I made the (incredibly naive) mistake of telling everyone when we started trying. So we got a lot of these well meaning, but incredibly annoying inquiries. Including my mother who took zero interest in our baby making efforts, suddenly wanting to know details about the fertility treatments on the same day I found out I was pregnant. But was in no way ready to share that info for many more weeks. I started telling people "no news to report yet, we'll let you know when there is". That way you're not lying. You're not saying there's no news. Just nothing you want to tell people. And the last bit hopefully stops them from asking again.

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  4. When I was still newly pregnant and not ready to talk about it outside the very small circle of family and friends who had supported us all along the way, the grandmother of one of the children I work with went on and on about how I'd be such a good mom and did I want kids and blah blah blah, which happens frequently, given what I do for a living. Since I wasn't telling even people I've known my whole life at that point, I just said "We're working on it," which wasn't a lie because I was working very hard on trying to believe that this new life was going to stick around. And I had never experienced pregnancy loss, so I can only imagine how much less you want to go around telling anyone and everyone about the goings-on inside your ute. I think Mel's "no news" suggestion is a good one to keep people's noses in their own business for a while.

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    1. Seeing these responses, I think that loss *does* influence things in a way that is perhaps not the same for infertility, because really, the invasive nosiness (though irritating), is not nearly as big an issue as the fear of exposing something that makes you so vulnerable, of having people react badly or lack understanding (which most do), and of realizing just how far my own experience is and will be from the norm. I think the fact that most people equate pregnancy with baby really means they can't understand unless they've experienced it. You're a rare exception Daryl, and your empathy always amazes me.

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  5. Ugh, hate nosy people. How do you reply to that? I don't know. You could just say that you don't want to talk about that right now, or ignore it and see how he handles that. People started asking me if we were going to go back to fertility treatments, while we already were, and I did my best to deflect the conversation and ignore the question... not a lie, but not the whole truth... and bought myself more time that way. Of course, that could be harder to do through email.

    If someone asked me right now, I'd have t figure out how to answer... I wouldn't want to confirm. It's a tough situation. If you're not ready to talk/tell though, then you're not ready too, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

    I hope you can find a reply you're comfortable with.

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  6. All good advice above. I just want to add my thoughts on this friend.

    Honestly, given how callus he's been, I would share the news with him last. There's really no need for you to answer his email at this point (I'm assuming there's some underlying guilt on his end after realizing he's been an ass) and frankly you should be spending you time focusing just on getting through this period.

    Regarding an announcement: I also didn't start sharing until I started to show (which was 14 weeks for me). I didn't want to deal with the naive comments nor the assumptions that all was right with the world simply because I was pregnant. So my vote would be to push it off till it becomes apparent and even then tell those you feel comfortable telling

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  7. It might prompt more questions from him, but you could always say something like "we are hopeful 2014 is our year."

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  8. Though I am not in your shoes, I hope soon to be, and I've thought long and hard about how forthcoming I want to be. Those who know about our recent reproductive woes (and there aren't very many, IRL) will be told. Those who know about our miscarriage (or, unthinkingly and foot in mouth, ask why we don't have children yet) will be told this: When we have something to report, we will let you know.

    I am comfortable with this line because it honours the life we lost, and honours the future lives we hope to nurture. And if I, like you, am asked when with child, it honours the life within.

    With so much love to you and your little one xoxoxo

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    1. Thank you for stopping by Lauren, and for the love. Right back at you!

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  9. I agree with other commenters... be vague. You don't owe him ANYTHING, and this is YOUR pregnancy. I know that after experiencing loss, the whole concept of "telling people" became a whoooole new ball game. You'll know what's right.

    Comment right above is my favorite - "when we have something to report, we will let you know." Perfect. And also kind of puts him in his place... like, dude, why are you even asking?

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  10. I really like ReadyForMyTurn's suggestion, if you feel the need to address it at all :) All really great suggestions though!

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  11. Yeah, I get you. We told our parents and siblings right from the start, as well as a couple of friends who knew we were doing treatment and our story. Then, at 14 weeks we told some other close friends and family members. But only this weekend (at 24 weeks!) have I been able to comfortably let it go on Facebook, and that is subtly, as in, I am holding a pan of homemade enchiladas and you see my round belly. It is not one of those pregnancy announcements that explicitly state it, or an ultrasound pic but you see it. I somehow feel the need to tell our story (if / when) people ask... and I can not just pretend this was easy. I also don't want to unintentionally hurt anyone who is / has been struggling, as I know how it can hit you. And I am open to talk about it, to share. Wait until you are ready, and in the meantime know that we are all really happy for you.

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    1. Thanks Amanda :) Although I'm not there yet, I can imagine how all those other elements come into play too. I'll want to be able to share the truth of our journey in any announcement we finally make, not only because I want to provide that support and solidarity to others going through the same, but also in order to include my child(ren) that came before. It's a tricky one, and although I think most people don't really get the sensitivity around it, in the end you're totally right: you have to do what feels right for you and who cares about the rest. In my case, that would probably involve an announcement only *after* the kid is alive and screaming...and maybe entering university ;)

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  12. I agree with being vague-- depending on how close of a friend this person is. I like the "we'll let you know when we have something to report." Or a simple reply that you don't want to talk about it at this point. This is why I tried so hard to avoid my close friends during the first trimester. Possibly not the best way to handle things, but it worked!
    The rest is tough. I do feel like my family has brushed aside my miscarriages and my fears, and that they expect everything to "go back to normal" now that I'm pregnant and doing well. I still have many triggers and scars, and I think people would prefer I forget. Impossible.
    Don't feel pressured into sharing more than you're comfortable with. People can be really pushy! They need to get smacked back down to reality (aka, land of the tactful) once in a while.

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    1. You know, you've hit the nail on the head. I think it's 'the rest' which is what is really getting me thinking. Perhaps it's just the realization that my own experiences will never fit into that (rather stringently enforced) norm that is making me sad, angry, frustrated..and as I said, I fear my own reactions as much as anything, being a reminder of that. As you say, those scars stay, and whether or not others understand, rather than suppress them I would like to allow them to be incorporated into my ongoing experience in, for example, the gratitude I have for my current pregnancy.

      I certainly have no qualms about showing people the door back to the land of tactful! Thanks for understanding and for your words of encouragement my friend.

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  13. The "We're still working on it" suggestion made me smile, because it's so deliciously true -- the bun IS still in the oven, and your body is doing important work!

    "What right do people have to share in my fresh joy when they could not share in, or even be present for my raw grief?" I get this. So much about IF and loss has felt invasive ... the treatments, the shocks of upsetting news ... I too would want to savor this time quietly with those few who understand and share the reverence.

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  14. Thank you so much ladies for your thoughtful replies and advice on how to handle such situations. I really appreciate having you around!

    The truth is, I'm not so much bothered by this friend as by the thoughts that catalyzed around his queries. Our relationship isn't of such great consequence even if I do see that he's trying to show his interest in a clumsy way and really I feel no great compulsion to reply as I had intimated in my post. It's just that I realize there will only be more of the same, especially as this pregnancy progresses (trying to stay positive here!), and the realization of how far my own experiences are from the norm, and how painfully huge that chasm of understanding can be makes me feel...lonely, and a little sad.

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  15. I love the way you write about not wanting to become the old you, not wanting to forget. I have felt exactly the same. And even though it maybe wasn't always socially acceptable, I used to say, when people that did not know about my infertility background, congratulated me on my pregnancies, that I had gone through stillbirth and that being pregnant was thus not an easy thing for me. I did not want to pretend our first child never existed.

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    1. Socially acceptable or not, these are our truths, and our children. Our families will forever be missing one, because as you say, being a mother, you don't want to forget or ignore your older, missing child(ren). It's something I'm struggling with at the moment, and it means so much to know you get it, as sad as it is that you do. Thank you friend.

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