When I started blogging in January of 2009, I was dealing with infertility about as badly as anyone could, shy of picking people off from a clock tower with a high-powered rifle (and if my vision were better I wouldn't have ruled that out). Once in a great while, I have the good sense to reflect on how far I have come, and how, though my dysfunctional responses to infertility and life in general are legion, there used to be a legion of legions.
Unfortunately, any ability to take a global view of the thing means that I also realize, once in a while, that I am sliding backward into the abyss. Isn't that nice?
I'm sure I've mentioned this on here before, but one infertile friend got pregnant in August (or July) and the other adopted in December. Also, friends of infertile couple #2 (the adopting ones) moved into town over the summer. These friends have three kids (and are obviously not infertile - she's a home-schooling SAHM, so obviously, I have never met anyone with whom I have so much in common. The first evening I spent with her she had a whole bunch of whiskey and literally spent a straight 45 minutes telling me that her oldest is gifted [might be true, but regrettably for him, his mother isn't] and showing me iPhone pictures of his artwork since he was 3 [he's now 5]). I know, that sounds like a joke about a social evening attended by an infertile, but it really happened, and I didn't kill her. I was actually nice. I refrained - with great effort - from telling her that I had spent my entire time in school through 12th grade in gifted programs, and giving her suggestions. Instead, I nodded wisely at pictures of scribbles and offered it up.
But at that point, friend #2 (who was sitting there through this conversation, apparently marveling at my comments, with her eyes glazed over) had not yet been matched for adoption.
So last Saturday, we spent a darling evening. The new friends in town are great cooks, and they invited us for dinner. When we arrived, their three highly energetic young children were still running, shrieking, and refusing to finish their hot dogs. Also attending were friend #2, her husband, and their new baby. Of course. And to round out the group, another couple. The wife in this one is the one who sent the very understanding email about how she wouldn't mind if I didn't want to attend her baby shower. So of course, they also had their six-month-old. I got to watch five children fed, hear endless comments on the baby, participate in an hour-long discussion on "cry-it-out," and otherwise enjoy myself thoroughly. Shopping was not once discussed.
The weekend before, at the home of a different set of friends (couple #2 and infant still in tow), the hostess asked me politely how work was going and I realized that...I was the only woman there with a job. (Friend #2 is technically employed but is not working while the baby is a baby.) Two years ago, all of those women worked full-time. When I answered the question, they stared at me with polite smiles. No responses. No engagement. No comments of fellow feeling. I engaged the diatribe about the gifted five-year-old artist...
It may go without saying that I never want to see any of these people again, but just in case it didn't, I will say so.
I was really and exuberantly happy for friend #2 when I heard they had been matched for adoption. I even reminded myself to email her sister and make sure she was planning a baby shower. (I forgot - thank God.) It took a week or two for the whole business to sink in, and for me to become unbelievably, outrageously angry. After that, I realized that I probably would not be able to see her and the baby in the same room without making a truly terrible face. But I did that, and it was OK. I make almost no comments on the baby, I have never asked to hold him, I engage conversation on him to an extremely limited degree, I did not go to her shower, and I did not RSVP. I've sent a pretty clear message (none of that is even intended to send a message). I started worrying after a few weeks because it wasn't getting better. I've never been upset this much and for this long about anyone else's baby. Last weekend was the ultimate test - could I make it and act normal?
Last weekend - that's the above-described dinner with the five children and the cry-it-out discussion. I did. I passed with flying colors. I gave my opinions and understanding about cry-it-out. I talked about what my stepmother did with my sister; I laughed about the fact that I'd learned this stuff from Supernanny. If there is a gold medal in the infertile Olympics, I won it for every event. I swept the match. I won.
I didn't even realize how shockingly insensitive and oppressive the entire conversation had been until some time after we left their home. Yes, I could have left the room where all the girls (and babies) were sitting and gone out where the guys were smoking to shiver and talk about something - anything - else. I have that as an option. I can do that.
If I were sitting in a group of married girls who were grousing about the specific ups and downs of married life in front of a 35-year-old friend who had told me how upset she was that she was not married, would I have changed the subject after five minutes? Ten? Thirty? Sixty? (And, yes, I emailed friend #2 before the baby came home and told her that I was very upset and needed space.)
I think two. I think I would have forced a change of subject after two minutes. If it didn't happen, I would turn to the single friend and start a conversation with only her, about something she found interesting. Not stare at her while she talked about her alien life - talked with her.
I think I would have done that even if she had been witty and engaged on the subject of married life. I hope I would have.
So despite my heavy burden of gold medals, I am not OK. I am not suddenly able to have any amount of conversations about nothing but other people's children. I know all of these people (except the new friends in town) very well, and I am apprehensive at the thought of even seeing them. (By the way, I am missing the adopted baby's baptism on Saturday. Haven't RSVPd to that either and am not planning to.)
My spiritual director (whom I really need to start seeing again) made an interesting observation. I told him that sometimes I do really well and sometimes I have no patience, and he said that I was probably analyzing it wrong. It's not that dealing with this is a skill that I will fully acquire and then it will be easy. Dealing with it is always a cross. We have a certain amount of strength. Some weeks we are carrying a lot of other crosses already. And if I win the infertile-listening-to-a-coworker-go-on-about-her-pregnancy award on Monday, that doesn't mean I'm a fierce competitor and can take on a 90-minute labor and delivery story on Tuesday. It probably means I've blown my wad - I've taken as much heartbreak as I probably have in me for a while. So if someone tries to tell me a L&D story on Tuesday, I will probably stab her in the eye with one of the useless pens my office buys. And I shouldn't be surprised by it.
Of course, he was right.
And I think that friend #2 adopting may be the worst thing that's happened to me in at least the last year, and maybe longer. I'm reviewing the last year in my mind. There are no close competitors. It's the worst thing that's happened to me in an extremely long time. Traumatic. Terrible. Unbelievably painful, and a source of continuing (and possibly increasing) trauma. Not just not-as-happy-for-me - affirmatively terrible.
No one will see this. No one wants to hear it. No one will even ask how I'm doing.
That might be what infuriates me the very most. Everyone knows about friend #1 being pregnant now, and friend #2 adopting. Nobody says, "Hey, you lost your buddies. Must be rough." Or - if they don't want to venture that far out on a limb - "I know about friend #1 and friend #2. So how are you doing?" The friends themselves seem oblivious that anything could even be wrong, when I have actually said that something is and they know it specifically. The other friends act as if everything is fine and it would be too much burden on them to talk about something other than their kids - no burden on me to listen to it.
Is it wrong to want the earth to swallow them all up? I restrain myself from wishing them ill, but I wish none of them, nor any of their children, had ever been born.
I think I'm about tapped out.