Yesterday I was in a birthday funk and so I went shopping at Big Lots (we don’t have a Target; Big Lots is the next best thing & it’s cheap). As I shopped, I kept noticing pregnancy/motherhood-related paraphernalia. It was everywhere, as it tends to be when you’re trying to avoid it.
I was like, “Aaaaahhhhh, God. Not another reminder that I can’t get pregnant! When will this torture end?!?” And then, the light bulb.
It’s not going to end, unless it does. But if it doesn’t, if we never manage to get me pregnant and I have to live the rest of my life with that being the case, then I also have to live the rest of my life feeling like I got stabbed every time I see a pregnant woman, or a stretch mark cream, or an ad for a class action lawsuit that’s looking for women who took antidepressants while they were pregnant. Pregnant! Pregnant! Pregnantpregnantpregnant!
That’s no way to live. And since I set out to find a way to live with this infertility, and live well with it, then I need to find a way to cope with what I am at this moment naming “Constant Reminder Syndrome,” of CRS*. I need to get over it.
*It’s the thing that happens when you’re trying to conceive and everywhere you look, there’s a (constant) reminder that you aren’t having any luck.
But there’s a problem: I don’t think I’m faking it when I see that stuff and feel a little wind knocked out of me. It’s a pretty visceral feeling, when you wake up on your 35th birthday and realize that your boobs have stopped hurting, which means the HCG shot is wearing off and that there isn’t more of it occurring naturally in your system, which probably means the IUI you underwent six days ago was a failure…Right. That’s a visceral feeling, but the one I set out to talk about was the one that happens later that day, when you go shopping to distract yourself from your own aging reproductive system, only to stumble on several reminders of it. So I can’t just say, “I’m not going to let it bother me anymore.” I am looking for more of a pep talk here.
It starts with me realizing that… the visceral feeling? It might never have occasion to go away. Learning to imagine a life without children has been the thing that has most helped me since we first realized that conceiving wasn’t going to be easy. Accepting the possibility that we might not have kids, and realizing that Buble will still be Buble and I will still be me and all the joys and pleasures and beauty of our life will still exist even if we never have kids–it hasn’t been easy, but it’s taken so much weight off me. And it’s an ongoing process–obviously, or else I wouldn’t have spiraled into Big Lots despair yesterday.
Anyway, I know we’re supposed to accept our feelings as they come, and if we feel like wallowing in bed all day when we get a Big Fucking Negative, then we should just let ourselves do that. And I’ve had days and will have days where that is what I do. But then, where do you draw the line? Do you skip your niece’s first soccer game because the little kids make you sad? Do you stay home on Thanksgiving because your cousin is pregnant and it’s just too hard to be reminded that you aren’t?
Well, pardon me if this sounds bossy, but the answer is No! It’s Fuck no. You don’t stay home and lie in bed because you feel sad when you see pregnant things. Yes, it’s hard, and it’s awful, and you never know when something’s going to remind you of what you can’t or don’t or won’t have.
But you guys, I’m not just describing infertility there. I’m describing life, or life as seen through the eyes of a miserable sonofabitch, anyway. We always say that infertility doesn’t make us less of a woman or less of a person–but what are we when we begin to avoid special occasions where our presence will be missed? Or when we cringe every time a rounded belly enters our sight line? What are we when seeing a stock photo of a mother and baby plunges us into self-pitying despair? We, who have our blood drawn with the frequency of vampire fetishists, whose husbands and partners poke us with needles on the regular, whose feet have settled into more stirrups than John fucking Wayne’s–we are strong, resilient women.
We are fighters, and we need to remember that the next time we spot an off-brand tube of stretch mark cream at Big Lots. We need to remember that that tube has a long, long shelf-life, and that probably no one in her right mind is going to buy it. So it’s going to be there every time we go to Big Lots, and since the closest Target is ninety miles away, we need to learn to deal with the stretch mark cream instead of letting it bring us down. Because that stretch mark cream? That stretch mark cream may as well be our pregnant cousin or our insensitive mother, or our stupid depleted ovarian reserve: it’s not going anywhere and it is not strong enough to ruin our life, or even our day. Because we have seen worse, and we are built for something better. And we are going to walk away from the stretch mark cream and go home to our loving husband and our overjoyed dog, so that they can remind us of exactly what that “something better” is.
Constant Reminder Syndrome is never going to go away. That is just the tiniest bit devastating to me–I’m strong, but I’m not impervious. I will never deny the pain it causes, the pain any of it causes. But neither will I let it dictate my ability to live a full and happy life, or to provide one for Buble and Mary Todd and my friends and my family. I think that would be giving up, and I’m not interested in doing that.