I stumbled upon this entry in the NY Times Motherlode blog by Amy Klein called “Baby Envy”, and found myself in complete resonance with the experience of the author. I found it so hard to be happy for other pregnancies when I was in the midst of the deep pain from my miscarriages. And I felt terrible about it. I was hard on myself, telling myself if I were stronger I’d be able to muster happiness for others despite my misfortune. I told myself I should be able to support my pregnant best friend and sister-in-law, even though I shared due dates with both of them before I lost both pregnancies, and the progression of their pregnancies only amplified the absence of mine. I put tremendous pressure on myself, and grappled with where the line was between swallowing the pain and taking care of my emotional recovery.
The author is candid in explaining how much pain other women’s pregnancies brought her. I assumed it was a common experience among those of us struggling with fertility, our deep, dark secret, but also our common bond. I was intrigued so I read through every comment posted after the article, and was horrified that so many women, including those claiming to have suffered painful infertility issues, blasted the author for her honesty. What do other women’s joy and pregnancies have to do with your own inability to get pregnant? they commented. (As if we actually think that those pregnancies can take ours away).
I got a knot in my stomach reading that perspective. Is there some fault in my character that I’m so wholly immersed in my own losses that other pregnancies cause me pain not happiness? I would have glimmers of happiness, and I would try and hold onto that feeling as much as I could, trying to prove to myself that I was a big enough person. I want to be that person, strong, joyful, happy for others even during my own times of adversity. But there’s a certain trauma that follows infertility and pregnancy loss. It attaches to you and makes it impossible for your wounds to heal. Each month, each menstrual cycle, it’s own small death, with it’s own fresh cycle of grief.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in fear of the next pregnancy announcement. I gravitate towards my friends that feel “safe” – those that are unmarried, those that don’t want kids. I dread the punch in the gut that the news inevitable brings. The belly photos that populate my Facebook feed, with no warning whatsoever. And although I remind myself I don’t know their backstory or what their struggles may be, they illuminate my own losses. Forces me to remember. A trigger for my own sadness.
“These are the days of ugly emotions.” And we feel guilty for having them. Another reason to feel bad about ourselves, in addition to the shortcomings and failures of our bodies. We know we don’t want our friends to suffer. But no one wants to feel alone either.