Wednesday, February 1, 2012

backward

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.

23 comments:

  1. Oy, this is a tough one. I am inclined to say, it's not the adoption per se, but the fallout thereof (some of which a more sensitive person could have avoided, says someone who has had her share of insensitive moments). Be that as it may, losing friends is hard - I'm sorry.
    (if this comment goes through - know I have tried a couple of other times and have had login troubles!)

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  2. I can't stand it when friends that are "in the know" act oblivious! It's worse than when a fertile friend gives stupid IF advice.

    My biggest advice is to take care of you or write a strongly worded email.

    Oh how soon they forget...

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  3. OK, I'll start lightheartedly and say I spit the sip of peppermint mocha americano onto my computer screen (luckily I was at work and it wasn't my personal desktop) when I read "I've blown my wad." Totally unexpected and hysterical.

    But back to the content of the post.

    I was reminded while reading about last weekend's adventures in infertile torture of my Xmas Party several years ago when my friends brought their small children (did I mention it was a Xmas COCKTAIL party???!) and then proceeded to talk about their pregnancies and other peoples' pregnancies... even though the youngest child at that time was already 2. And they were at my house. Insert insult directly atop injury.

    I think what you're saying is completely fair. We "can" handle a lot, because we have to. Not because we want to. Being expected to suck it up and deal day after day gets not only old, but offensive after, oh, a week. I think your friends need to know this. And I think it would be beneficial to THEM to foster the friendship by planning outings and meet-ups SANS children. And don't give me the bullshit response "Oh it's so hard to get a sitter..." - no one's buying.

    I know you probably feel like there's nothing to salvage at this point but that's the hurt talking. You were friends for a reason. Whatever was there is there still, but right now they are getting so much more out of the relationship than you are and they need to rectify that asap. Make the sans-kids suggestion to them.

    I'll wait for you to report back ;)

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  4. Yeah, I think you are tapped out, and I can see why. You can't always be on the outside looking in without needing to turn away from the window now and then. We have only so much energy for certain things before we need to recharge our batteries. And like rechagable batteries, it seems the charge holds less and less each time.

    It's not much consolation, I know, but I was thinking about you this morning and wondering how you were doing. I wish it were better. You need a break.

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  5. Not wrong at all my love. Not wrong at all.

    *kicks infertility in the balls*

    I actually got my nose out of joint today when a fellow IFer told me congratulations for having the kid placed with us and it was clearly the most un-congratulations I've ever had. It was oozing with 'I hate you and I wish you would die because I don't have a kid and you do now' and I thought to myself...
    Yup. I would do that to.

    I suck.

    I wish there was no such thing as infertility.

    xx

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  6. I read this entire post going, "That is SO right!!" I don't understand why people act this way and it used to make me furious, and quite frankly still does. Children are a wonderful blessing, they are, but they're not the ONLY conversation topic! And you are SO right, why on earth couldn't they engage in conversation about your job! It's not like they completely forgot what it's like to have a job!! Surely they can relate to whatever job ups and downs you would present in a conversation, and make some kind of contribution on the subject.

    That is an amazing revelation from your spiritual director, and I ashamedly admit that it never occurred to me that way until just this very post. And HOW on earth did those people NOT realize how torturous that conversation was? You are SO right...why didn't they think to change the subject?? I will never understand the lack of sensitivity with which the subject of infertility is treated. I mean, if you were in the presence of someone struggling with cancer, you wouldn't go on and on about how thrilled you are that you don't have cancer, and how wonderful your cancer-free life is! No! If somebody did that, everyone would think it shocking and horrifying. And yet, it's done to infertiles without so much as a second thought. Or even a first thought. I'll never, ever understand.

    And to conclude...I am seriously in awe that you made it through that dinner! No exaggeration, no sarcasm. I read it with dropped jaw thinking, I never could've done that! You DO deserve Olympic medals. Copious amounts.

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  7. dearest misfit,
    I can only imagine the pain you are experiencing in your heart. I pray for the "right" words but, I find I don't end up with any. I can send you a virtual hug.... send up a Prayer to God... so if it helps any please consider yourself hugged and prayed for.....
    dee dee

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  8. Yeah, you might be tapped out. Understandably so.

    I remember dealing with the same thing. I am convinced that most of the world is completely narcissistic, incapable of a decent conversation. Of course, it does seem particularly true of mothers. I remember lamenting about how all they could do was talk about their children, while I stood there childless and no one could even throw me a bone and ask about all the stuff I did in parish ministry (which they are all well aware of.) No. It was more important to hear about their babies. I was always really hurt by that. It's sting was particularly bad in the infertility realm, but it's also just a general "can't-you-be-just-a-bit-less-self-absorbed-and-ask-someone-about-something-in-their-life-for-once" issue.

    But I would like to congratulate you on your award. You earned that gold medal a couple weekends ago, though I know it isn't much consolation. Know that here on the blogs, we'd love to talk about anything you'd like. Have you done anymore house decorating? Purchased anything amazing lately? How's work? Your husband? Exercising?

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  9. When I was diagnosed with cancer a month after I graduated from college, there was a clear line in the sand that some of my friends - one in particular refused to cross. That line was even recognizing that I had cancer. It was almost as she chose not to believe it and that is fine - I didn't expect her to understand what I was going through and if she would have tried to continue our relationship and talk about the normal things that we always talked about (and just ignore the cancer) I think that would have been okay. However, it was worse that that, she just stopped calling or e-mailing (we lived in different cities, she was a former roommate in college) and I got the sense she wanted nothing to do with me because complete avoidance was easier than engagement. I found this very hurtful. Interestingly enough (or maybe not) she seemed to pick up where we left off when I was recovered.

    I am not equating any of this to your situation, it just reminded me of that painful time in my life and need to recommit to engaging people where they are at - regardless of whether they are in the same current life position as me and engaging them on topics that are near and dear to their heart - not mine. I know hardly anything about decorating or home remodeling, or baseboards, or wallpaper, but I love reading what you write about those topics (and not just those, but I am just using them as an example) - you make them interesting and I think it would be great to talk with you about those and a multitude of other topics not related to pacifiers or sleep training. Regarding infertility, I used to pride myself on being able to engage in those same discussions as you were having over the weekend and in my case trying to prove to other people that even though I was infertile (at the time), I could still be a good friend to them and hopefully by engaging them in the subjects they enjoy, they would eventually get around to asking me about what I enjoy. As you know, that rarely happens. So, I don't know what the answer is and I am sorry if I am rambling, I just know this post made me think about a lot of things and some things I need to reevaluate and do better in my own life.

    On a completely random topic - I realized we haven't seen any home remodel projects lately. Come on - you had me hooked with the toilet demolition and rebuild. What have you conquered lately??? And I am being completely serious. You are my home decor hero!

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  10. Okay, I would have thrown a wine glass down on the kitchen floor and would have left there without my coat, flying so fast I probably would have dinged up somebody's car on the driveway...and I would have screamed at the hostess the next day...and, to be honest...would likely never be invited to see any of them ever again after several offensive remarks that I made that were so left field they would have left me even feeling guilty.

    I seriously can not believe your bravery. You are a classy woman.

    But, you do not need to handle their talking on and on and on about their boring lives.

    Yes, they sound boring to me. Because there is nothing so boring as an utterly self-centered person, formally IF or not.

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  11. I am also dying to see your projects' progress.

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  12. I'm new-ish to this whole blog world. I just have to say that everything I read your blog I think "Yes, Thank you! Finally, someone had the courage to say this; to put words to my feelings."

    The advice that your spiritual director gave you is great. I will be rereading that paragraph often!

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  13. Wow, I'm amazed at you making it through that dinner. I would have needed to find a reason to leave earlier. You're right, sometimes it's like moms forget what it's like to have a job, or a life outside their children. Those can be the most uncomfortable conversations... you can just smile and nod for hours. Ugh!
    In all seriousness though, meet-ups without kids are a decent plan... so what if they have to hire a babysitter? Hopefully you could get them to engage in topics other than their kids in a different setting.

    And yes... I want to see more home remodel projects too! :)

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  14. TCIE is more street-savvy than I am...

    I have heard "blow the wad" as old-fashioned, maybe gangster-era slang for spending all of one's money at one go. As soon as I read her comment, I got a bad feeling that it might have another meaning, but I waited till I got home to google it.

    Apparently we're both right...http://onlineslangdictionary.com/meaning-definition-of/blow-(one's)-wad

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  15. You have a very wise spiritual advisor. : ) I completely agree. And, like the others, I am amazed that you managed to hang in for the entire dinner. It's so totally unfair that we are always the ones who are expected to consider our parent-friends' feelings, needs, interests, timetables, etc., yet nobody returns the courtesy for us.

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  16. I don't know how you survived. Seriously. There is no reason to subject yourself to that. I just wish that you didn't have to represent the eastern seaboard for the IF Olympics.

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  17. I'm blown away by the ignorance of the women at the dinner party! Especially as they are friends, some have been IF and they know you do not have kids and of course mourn for them. You handled it amazingly. Honestly. Truly. You deserve a medal.
    I'm so glad you shared your conversation with your spiritual adviser! It makes me feel better that I don't have to get punched in the face every day ... just when I've built up enough tolerance again.
    I just plain hurt for you.

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  18. Ahhhh, yes. I remember when DH blew his wad at the blackjack tables. They asked us never to return after that.

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  19. Wow. I so wish you were not suffering this degree of pain and betrayal and exhaustion - it reminds me of the old saying 'With friends like that .....'

    I agree with the commentator above about the narcissism of the world we are living in. Even parents who listen to these stories, apparently with great interest - how many of them are genuinely interested, and how many are just waiting for a chance to monopolize the conversation and brag about THEIR kids?

    I completely agree with the thoughts you had above about how to handle talk about a situation that is grievous for a person in the group .... ex. financial difficulties, unemployment, being single, having lost a loved one, whatever. I think those of us who have suffered have a bit more insight and compassion but then ... there's your friend who apparently did not? I don't get it.

    Personally I would be tempted to avoid the whole thing, but I suspect the advice above about maintaining the friendships is bang on. Might there be an opening to email or say, 'Because of my situation, I often find it difficult to be around kids. I would really like to maintain our friendship and spend time with you. Do you want to meet for a coffee (go for a walk - go shopping - whatever) sometime, perhaps when DH is home during naptime for the kids????'

    Whatever you decide to do, know that you are loved and valued here.

    Hugs.

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  20. In reply to your comment on my post:
    I've loved almost every minute of my travels (except one really scary flight to London) and chaperoning students made it relatively low cost. I never felt lost, confused and there was always someone to translate if needed! There were moments when I wondered if it was really my life, as I sat there in Venice, eating $14 ice cream and being served by a man in a tuxedo. It was lovely.

    But, I agree with you that traveling abroad makes you sweet on the US. I used to tell my students that the thing they would appreciate most upon our return would be the consistency of American plumbing, and without a doubt, I was always right. I've encountered holes in the floor, toilets in the shower, and a shower so small I couldn't bend over to wash my feet.

    My dream list of destinations includes the Czech Republic (because my family is from there), Bali, Ireland and Japan. May never happen, but I love to think about it.

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  21. I am still mad at that dinner party. I know I am a rageaholic!!!

    Sorry. But, you are better than me.

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  22. Please don't write any emails, seriously, they are always a bad idea when it comes to a serious topic. While you may have been giving yourself medals, they may have inadvertently turned into a hair shirt, so to speak. Your feelings are your own and you have every right to them. I know what it's like to be on infertility island watching all your friends leave one by one. You need a break from showers, dinner parties with children in attendance and all conversations regarding labour and delivery. I do recall a few times when I attended a shower, but had to leave for another engagement an hour into it (and before the stupid games and gift opening but not before I stood by the buffet table and drank wine). I also liked to drop presents off ahead of time.

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  23. I could never handle the hours long conversations of baby stuff before Isaac came along - I ALWAYS escaped to where the men-folk were hanging out. And I still do that when pregnancy convos come up. It's one thing if ALL the women there are participating in the conversation, but to have one person (or several) left out is not nice at all (hostessing isn't what it used to be, right? she should have steered the convo in another direction after a few minutes). And it's even worse if they KNOW you're infertile. Ugh. Sorry you had to put up with all that :(.

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