Our Tribe Comes Together to Honor a Milestone
I was never a fan of the concept of showers. In my twenties I felt indignant that, according to some rather dominant social systems, my deserving of a blender hinged on the status of my love life.
According to my vision, if we had to have showers at all, then ALL women (and maybe men too, who knows?) should be given one upon striking out on their own in the world, partnered or not.
By the time I had my own bridal shower at the age of 33, we kept it small. I just wasn’t that into it, plagued by my discomfort with the whole tradition and its inherent inequities.
Ten years or so later, I found myself tussling with a different set of inequities, seemingly far less black and white than the former. The obliteration of anticipated milestones for those of us who wanted children but couldn’t have them hangs heavy as one grieves and transitions into their life unexpected.
Living in this void for me was initially breath stopping, but as time went by I was able to grow some space for what WAS happening to coexist with what wasn’t. Which naturally begged the question “Well what ARE the milestones and rites of passage to be marked and celebrated on this path, this child free not by choice path, then?”
As it happens, there are a few hiccups in finding clarity on this. First, there’s the fact that in the earlier stages of grief the notion of celebrating is simply audacious. As a matter of fact, if I had read this post two years ago, I might have clawed my own eyes out. “My children are GONE and you want me to celebrate? Are. You. Out. Of. Your. Ever. Loving. Mind???????” Perhaps “honoring” is a less jarring concept.
Then, there is the unprescribed nature of our journeys. They are not as linear, not as easily externally definable as someone getting hitched or having a baby. For example, my ability to dream again, to interface with our new potential future, has started to come back over the course of the past year, gradually seeping in and, naturally, different than it was before.
But I did have an epiphany I wrote about a few posts ago, where after a multi year long spell of not being able to sustain excitement for, well, ANYTHING, I found myself about to complete a yoga teacher training and quite engaged in what may lie ahead.
It occurred to me that this I Actually Want to do Something is a milestone and a very important one at that. My experiences with infertility, fertility treatments and involuntary childlessness have led to the absence of a hard fought for future, a complete and utter loss of control and a severed relationship with the experience of cause and affect. And I know I’m not alone. Coming through, and perhaps out of that, is no small rite of passage.
Now, I get it. No one is going to throw me an I Actually Want to do Something shower or caress my I Actually Want to do Something belly while telling me how beautiful I look or swoon over the contribution my actually wanting to do something is going to make to the world. There is no I Actually Want to do Something national holiday set aside to mark my role in life, there will be few to no “Oh, I KNOW, my I Actually Want to do Something is in its first year TOO! (Insert dipthongy gooey child talk vocal tone here) connections in daily conversation with my fellow humans. Actually wanting to do something is something that can only be appreciated by those who have had for years the desire stripped from them.
A few weeks later, I had a Skype session planned with a member of our tribe, and was made casually aware that a few others would be joining. On the appointed afternoon we rang each other up, managed a split screen Skype and a couple of minutes in I was cheerfully informed “This is your shower!”
A brief moment of dumbfoundedness swirled as I stumbled to connect back to my post, followed by me snarkily asking if I was going to get my belly rubbed (come on, I couldn’t resist that one). As the ladies graciously held onto their lunches, we joked about the possibility of playing silly party games or perhaps one of us holding up inanimate objects so everyone else could coo and shriek. A lovely hour of chatting and catching up followed, and as the result of this (albeit somewhat tongue and cheek) shower, I spent the rest of my day blanketed by the odd feeling of things actually feeling right in my world. In other words, I was “positively glowing”.
The affect of my “shower” was so good it got me wondering what else we can honor and celebrate in each other (looping back to my earlier rites of passage question). And again, it’s not an easy answer. Depending on where we are at, many of us are exhausted just trying to figure out how to be in this world. Our paths are eclectic, our evolutions so internal.
But with the constant possible presence of those who don’t see us, it might not be a bad idea to ruminate on establishing some tribal honorings.
A few weeks after my shower my husband and I were on our patio snatching an unusually warm and sunny October morning.
He proceeded to tell me one of his older sisters had called him up, excited that I might be with child. At least a few of his sisters had spoken (he has 6 in total, no brothers), and his Mom in El Slavador was on board, giddy with excitement.
I initially let out a loud guffaw – no, excuse me, a loud, snide guffaw. And then another. “They know I’m freakin 45 right???”
And then, as my eyed gusted up into my head: “Isn’t it so NICE to know you’ve been HEARD?”
And again to my husband: “I don’t want to attack you, but are you SURE you’ve explained things clearly to them, because I don’t want to assume them COMPLETE AND TOTAL MORONS if that’s not accurate. Don’t want to be unfair or anything.”
He assured me he had and then had stated our reality again when they broached him with our ‘pregnancy news’. We then launched into a conversation topic all too common in our household, that is how to explain the concepts of over and done (and perhaps any other 4 letter words I may feel like spewing) to full grown adults.
The day before I had posted this very well done piece on involuntary childlessness from the Guardian on my FB page. The best my poor husband could guess, and not that I really cared because whatever the case it all boils down to insanity anyway, was that one of his sisters saw the post and misinterpreted it because you know, nothing says “baby on the way” like a piece of journalism on the subject of involuntarily childlessness.
This wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened – my ‘infertile on board’ sign has been assumed to be a baby on board sign on at least a few occasions I’m aware of. And I mean really, why not take everything you see in the broadminded vein of “You’re finally entering MY world now”.
His sister had gone on to laugh (because it’s all just so FUNNY(??)), being that they had planned to come to my door with cake and flowers. Oh can you imagine the carnage?
“Sarah would have kicked us out” she had stated, at least making one accurate intuitive leap.
What really made me sad about the whole thing is it shoved into me the reality that these people clearly had no idea what their son/brother had been going through for the past four years. No flipping clue, as they continued to cuddle up to the cushy myth of “it’ll happen when it’s supposed to”. Yeah hey, don’t mind US.
At the moment though, what really had me going was the cake and flowers. “Cake and flowers? Cake and flowers!! So if I get knocked up I get cake and flowers, otherwise I get NOTHING?? Yeah, nice code by which to live. You know when I should have gotten cake and flowers? How about every bloody time I got out of bed the first two years after our final failed treatment? Or what about on the occasion of my SURVIVAL perhaps? Yeah, I’ll give ya cake and flowers. Fucking shit.”
“I so want to be the guy in Castaway right now. God, if all I had to do was figure out how to kill fish with a speer so I could survive – and survival didn’t entail having to be around people – wouldn’t that be nice?”
“Holy crap. It’s 11:30 am, I have a nervous system disorder, and I need wine. That is so messed up. Seriously.” I managed to put my glass of wine off until the afternoon, but in the meantime the desire did not budge a centimeter. The next morning I got my period.
SO. With the need to somehow celebrate each other reining quite apparent, what do you think?
Can we find marked ways to honor our evolution or are our journeys too unique? Perhaps our experience just doesn’t translate well into the shower and other specific milestones world of things. My general beef with showers has always been that they can be seen as implying someone has achieved something, when in fact maybe they really haven’t, not any more than the next person anyway.
What are some of your perceived rights of passage on your path into and through your unexpected childless life?
Clearly I have more questions than answers but one thing I know for sure is that the more societally seen we are the better. Finding ways of honoring each other might be one possible way to make a dent in this.
45 thoughts on “SHOWERED”
Another perfect post!! The missing “shower” is just another aspect of our many losses. I agree, I do wish I had been given a shower each and everyday I got up out of bed when I was in my darkest of grief moments -although I would not had been such great company, but I understand your point that you present so brilliantly! – Perhaps when you feel ready our shower/celebration can be during your yoga retreat (a girl can hope!). It can be for each and every one of us!! xoxo – Kristine
Thank you Kristine! The lack of acknowledgement is so strange, isn’t it? It’s like we make it to and through these rites of passage whether it’s surviving and getting out of bed most mornings, taking tender steps forward to build a new life, getting some motivation back or distancing ourselves from people in our circles who refuse to see and hear us……and then none of it is in the conversation. Part of it is that finding someone who can appreciate these things is rare, but it’s also that those who are doing the mothering of living children are the ones who automatically get the validation and air space.
I’m thrilled your tribe threw you a shower. Because I completely agree with you that only celebrating certain transitions and milestones is exclusive (and focuses on a lot of the wrong things). You’ve gone through hell. And then you went on to complete yoga training (wow) with the intention of reaching people who are grieving (wow, wow) all while being in the middle of the grieving process yourself (wow multiplied by infinity). Seriously, bravo.
The cake and flowers thing would have gotten to me too. It’s like they are somehow waiting for you to snap out of your situation and somehow become magically pregnant. Denial to the point of creating so much unnecessary pain.
Hi Cristy – Well, wow. What can I say? It feels amazing to be acknowledged. And, I’m annoyed at myself to admit, slightly awkward (only because it’s a rarity, I can definitely get used to it!).
Thanks for getting the cake and flowers thing. I’ll bet your experiences have given you quite the interesting (and perhaps unfortunate?) perspective on people and where some of them are coming from.
first – you are fucking awesome. no surprise there 🙂
so i have never had anyone offer to throw me a shower – not for my first marriage nor for my wedding to the man i’m married to today, and so because of that, the thought was if our pregnancy had ever materialized into birth, we’d just buy our own stuff from our registry. we didn’t conceive of having a “here’s a party for you to give us – two grown-ass adults – the things we need to take care of a child”. if someone wanted to buy us something, we’d have the registry, but i’d been to enough baby showers in my life where i was turning invites down long before my infertility diagnosis as i thought they were ridiculous – not to mention how they almost always leave the husbands out or consider them as secondary “babysitters” rather than equal parents/partners. that and i can’t fake liking a gift worth shit. so it’s funny, even as we hope someday to get an adoption referral, we don’t have any plans to ask someone to throw us a party if it ever does happen. hell, no one showed up to grieve with us when our baby died, so i find it hard to consider those same people for when/if adoption occurs.
and there you have my bitter arse talking about showers 🙂 but really, you hit the nail on the head with other markers in life to celebrate.
for me? it’s the card i get from my awesome real estate agent every year celebrating how many years i’ve owned my own home (bought all by my single self 11.5 years ago, with no help from anyone). it’s celebrating on my blog how may years since i started my own business (5.5) and am still doing it well – so well that the thought of working in an office again nauseates me. it’s remembering the day we picked up our four, day-old ducks at the post office and began to raise them. it’s celebrating the day we brought our rescue dog home who, now 14, lies immediately behind my chair snoring as i write this. it’s the first time my husband and i went to france and walked through the gardens at giverny. it’s celebrating the fact that two years ago this week we had our first failure of DEIVF and after six tries at that, we are still standing, still together, and stronger than ever.
someone get us hallmark cards for that !! 🙂
Your milestones in life are awesome! I just wrote out an “Our Journey” timeline on my blog and marked not only infertility dates, but also things like “got my Master’s” and “bought a fixer upper just for us.” Like you all, I want those struggling through this childless journey to realize there is more to life than having a baby. Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder to find our “worth” since it often seems the rest of the world is just waiting for us to get pregnant…
Great idea… I’ve talked about them but I should really physically create a timeline…hell, I have an infertility treatment timeline on my blog already! Thanks!
Right back atcha! And yes!! A whole pile of Hallmark cards for you (& your husband!)!! Awesome list.
And I of course so love the title “here’s a party for you to give us – two grown ass adults – the things we’d need to take care of a child”. It should made a standard option for the term “shower”.
I also love (and partially hate – you know what I mean) your point about celebrating with those who didn’t show up with you in times of grief. Even though I benefitted from support during my recent nervous system disorder, as it was isolating, debilitating and scary for a spell there, it was hard on a level to accept it. It made me angry that people called, checked in on me and visited, when I got so little of that during and after treatments. I found myself simultaneously being grateful and in the moment while a part of me screamed “where were you when my children went missing???” I know the scenario you mentioned is not the same thing, but it reminded me.
And congrats on buying a home on your own, that’s amazing.
I call showers Celebrations of Heteronormativity. My extended family insists on doing women-only showers even it’s a bridal shower for a couple where the husband does all the cooking, I insisted on a low-key wedding shower to placate my family and made it clear that party games would not be tolerated. And it’s so wasteful – my family could provide everything with hand-me-downs, but insist on buying new.
These people weren’t there for me when our foster adoption fell apart, yet I’m expected to show up for them with a handmade gift (I’m the family knitter). My family is so baby-centric that they barely acknowledge my presence when we’re in the same room.
I love your milestones, and I’m going to start looking for my own.
I’m sorry your family is not showing you support. Good for you for looking for your own special milestones to celebrate, though!
Brilliant. I don’t tweet anymore but saw your link to yours and you’re a serious badass. Got a blog I can follow?
Hi Jen – So sorry you had to experience an adoption gone awry, and that you weren’t properly supported by those who are supposed to support you and who you support. This double standard you speak of weighs heavily on me. It never ceases to amaze me how I’m expected to instantly empathize with the natural stresses brought by raising kids – a cranky toddler, teaching a teen how to drive, general fatigue – but there’s no onus on anyone to empathize with the loss of mine.
Wow! The ‘cake and flowers’ thing is gob smackingly awful. What a slap in the face. So sorry that close relatives don’t seem to ‘get it’. I do think it’s a symptom of people/society not being able to cope with grief and pain, everyone so desperately want news that makes THEM feel better and that they know how to cope with. I totally get the ‘ooh, I actually want to do something’ feeling, it’s like an awakening after a long darkness. Well done you, congratulations on crawling out of the pit and doing something fantastic.
Lesley, thanks for understanding the “I actually want to do something” awakening – it can be a looong time coming, can’t it?
And for hearing me on the cake and flowers debacle……I hear you (of course!) on people and society not being able to cope with pain and wanting to manufacture ‘positive’ outcomes to satisfy their own delusions. Since my husband’s family is from rural El Salvador, an area that was on the outskirts of the civil war there for quite some time, they are generally more adept at coping with life’s harsher brutalities, which makes their behavior strange on a level. On the other hand, their background is traditional agricultural, meaning the men worked the fields and the women cooked and had babies (how my husband got to be the broadminded person he is is a mystery to everyone) so I can see that that’s what they mostly celebrate. Not that modern society has evolved all that much though, right? So I can forgive them for the lack of self actualization they have had in their lives, but not for not seeing and hearing us.
Wow! You deserve 100 cakes and an entire field of flowers for managing to remain standing after all that you’ve been through. And you’re not just supporting your own two legs but also those of countless people who find theirs through reading your amazingly honest and nail-on-the-head validating posts.
Oh Julie, thank you! We should start a “cake and flowers for everyone” campaign, what do you think? We have all been through so much. May we all come to stand on our own legs somehow…..
I just had the thought of showing your comment to my husband’s family – not so feasible in real life but never mind cake, the thought of them reading your words is somehow delicious.
I don’t even get a wedding shower as I’m single and involuntary childless. It’s like I don’t even exist
I’m so sorry, Stephanie.
So sorry you feel this way Stephanie. It would be hard not to, what with the emphasis put on women to be partnered and to parent. All while we’re expected to have a career, solid education, be independent and not take abuse. Hope this shifts to something more affirming and valuing one day, but for the time being living in a society where you don’t feel seen and heard is no doubt disheartening.
You deserve an I Didn’t Marry the Wrong Person party where you get to smugly lord it over all your divorced friends.
But seriously, we always seem to give cake and presents to the people who need them the least.
Another perfect post. I was thinking the other day that we got more support after our 2nd miscarriage (which also happened to be our longest pregnancy) than after our spectacularly failed last cycle which meant the end of treatment, also family members with kids get meals made for them cos they’re sick & looking after a kid, but not us when struggling to get out of bed everyday due to overwhelming grief! Maybe we should be giving ourselves “Thank f@ck we’re still alive” showers about the point we realise we can keep living & find some pleasure in life after all (still waiting to reach that point but it’s still early days).
Sorry your family still haven’t got it – they have the option of whether to face reality or not, whereas we have to live with reality every single minute. Xo
Thanks so much for sharing your insights on your experiences – the lack of casseroles for people in our shoes really is quite stunning. As far as the “Thank f@ck we’re still alive” shower concept – I’m all in.
SO SO SO true on the difference between being stuck with something every single minute vs getting a break or opting out altogether. When my friend’s husband died 6 years ago, it was a tough concept to get used to in one’s late 30’s, but I reasoned that since she had to live with it and I had only to live (as far as I knew) with the idea of it, then on the account of that alone I was going to stick by her. That’s why I admittedly have little bystander empathy in cases like this – I feel like being me is much harder than thinking about me and spending time with me, so deal with it.
So glad your tribe threw you a shower. Showers really aren’t done very much here, unless people are adopting US habits (which I wouldn’t doubt, but which always depresses me , eg Halloween), and so I have never once been invited to a baby shower.
BUT, the cake and flowers comment. I wish you’d had the opportunity to tell them they could still bring the cake and flowers, and celebrate you being part of their lives. If I get to meet you, I’ll try and bring cake and flowers! (… or …I’ll just bring wine!)
There are many reasons in favor of moving to New Zealand – wondrous natural beauty, no showers……..don’t be surprised if I show up one day.
If I do get the opportunity, I might tell my husband’s family how hurtful it was to hear about that scenario. Love the concept you bring up of people celebrating each other’s presence. This whole thing stirred up for me the invisibility that seems to come with infertility and childlessness. I realized this summer my own nephew had no idea that I have a blog with a bunch of followers that helps make people feel less alone (hopefully most of the time). So, I told him (childless subject matter and all) and he seemed to think it was pretty cool.
I recently started talking more openly about my childlessness with my nieces. I figure the only way things are going to change is to speak up with adults, tweens & teens (who are mature enough to learn about childlessness), family, friends, strangers, etc. I’m so glad that others, like you, are talking about infertility and being childless as well!
Yes yes yes! My husband and I, who grew up in very different cultures, have so often remarked that, while our infertility/childless experiences would still have been horrible, knowing from a young age that ending up without children is a not so unlikely possibility would have taken some of the edge off. It would have dialed down the isolation quite a bit I think. Even though 20% of our female population worldwide over the age of 45 doesn’t have children, people are still saying to their kids “When you have kids one day…” Unbelievable.
I’ll be backing off somewhat on the subject from my nephew since he just turned 12 and will soon have a whole set of other things to contend with developmentally. But I’ve educated him (and he ‘gets it’) so he can be aware if he ends up in a similar boat one day and/or be a better friend/support for the people in his life to whom this does happen. And you’ve probably noticed – unlike adults, young people don’t try to fix us, they instead display actual compassion and empathy for our situation. Keep speaking Brandi & thanks for commenting.
You are welcome! Thank you for the support! 🙂
Just saw this chat about celebrating presence and it made me think of why Thanksgiving here in the US is my favorite holiday – it’s purely about food and gratitude. Ever since I was a kid it was about going around the table and talking about what we are thankful for, and getting my Australian hubby into the habit has been awesome now that it’s just us two at Thanksgiving.
It’s been just the two of us for the past number of years on Thanksgiving too:-). I wonder if knowing that which is both basic and precious can be gone in an instant tunes us in more to celebrating presence (of ourselves and others)?
I did have a bridal shower (a couple of small ones, actually, which was much nicer & less nerve wracking than the huge ones my Italian in-laws hold). My only pregnancy ended a month before the scheduled shower. I do have the invitation in my box of keepsakes.
I toyed with the idea of throwing ourselves a party for our 25th wedding anniversary, but neither dh nor I really like being the centre of attention, & I struggle with the seeming vanity of celebrating ourselves (particularly since everyone else has kids who organize the party for them). My BIL, SIL & nephews did give me a lovely Pandora bracelet with a couple of charms for my 50th birthday, which bowled me over. Dh has since added some charms to it for me. it’s kind of a hodge-podge, but I love it and the thought behind it. 🙂
Your post (& Stephanie’s comment above) made me think about my cousin, who is the same age as me (mid-50s) but who has never been married or had a baby, & so never had a shower or a wedding. But when she turned 50, her parents gave her a lovely catered party at a hotel. 🙂 I wasn’t able to go but I wish I had… I did send her a pretty lapel pin & a little album of photos of the two of us growing up together. I think just knowing that people want to come celebrate you, and celebrate something WITH you, is what I miss about these milestone celebrations… the presents are secondary.
For me, it’s all the internal work and milestones that hardly anyone realizes exist and take up much of my energy and make me much of who I am right now.
Glad to hear the woman you mentioned was celebrated, and I hope she’s valued and acknowledged in ways and on days other than her birthday! I threw Julio a 40th b-day party, which went wonderfully, but it was strange on a level as it was only 2 years after our final failed treatment. I still felt half there, half not there and was well aware we were having this party because of what we weren’t doing (parenting) and that felt like shit.
I’m sure it’s the least of it, but so sorry to hear of the brutal timing of your scheduled baby shower. Interesting that you kept the invitation, I really feel that “what should have been” is such an important piece of what is.
So much this. We don’t get enough chances to be the center of a circle of love. That’s what I remember most fondly about my wedding day – walking down the aisle and realizing that everyone I loved was there.
Do you think it would be easier to throw an anniversary party to celebrate everyone who has been a part of your lives these past 25 years? You could display pictures of you with your friends and things like that.
You are brilliant. You made me laugh out loud and I applaud your humour and awareness!
Thanks so much Rachel. For me, dark humor and sarcasm are key…..
Excellent post!! I have often thought, “Where’s MY damn casserole??” And I love Slidingdoorsnz’s idea of throwing a “Thank f@ck we’re still alive” shower. Infertility and all of its aftermath has exhausted me. I’m so proud of myself that I have continued to get out of bed most days, to work through my soul crushing grief (because it’s more than just my children that I’ve lost- I lost the majority of my significant relationships and I lost the life I had always dreamed about), and to do the gut wrenching work of creating an entirely new life for myself. It’s good that I’m proud of myself because no one else (outside of my husband and the living-life-after-infertility blogosphere) seems to notice. Or care. Thanks again for so accurately describing how I feel. It makes me feel less alone.
Seems the “Thank f@ck we’re still alive” shower idea is picking up steam! I’m proud of you too, but more importantly I’m glad that you recognize your own power because, as you know I’m in total agreement with your observation that few others seem to notice, never mind openly acknowledge our journeys. Thanks for bringing up the collateral damage aspect of things, I believe they are every bit as life altering as our initial losses.
I adored your “I Actually Want to do Something” post. This is the milestone I am waiting for – to get my mojo back and be attracted to doing something, instead of jaded and wishy-washy about everything career-related. I think it’s worth the biggest shower. I’m not sure what rites of passage I’ve had on this journey but I think a definite one was suddenly not feeling as bad about it all, one day, out of the blue. Post infertility and my late-30s/early-40s existential crisis I just wasn’t looking forward to anything any more, not even getting a slight buzz about holidays or special occasions. I was 100% going to die alone, family-less and friendless as everyone got more and more and more consumed with children and grandkids. It coloured everything. But one day I did get a slight lift about something and I felt a tiny bit excited for the first time in ages. Around the same time I stopped being affected by family chat and other triggers, and just ignored it or walked away from it. I wish I’d noted the date as i believe it was a huge milestone. But the big one that I’m gagging for is the “I Actually Want to do Something” one – watch this space, it HAS to come soon. Thanks for the inspiration!
That’s a huge milestone, DS! I think you deserve a shower for that! I’m not sure where I am with the whole being annoyed by people thing, but I do know a shower is not yet in order for me on that front. I have started walking away from some battles and consciously channeling my energy, slowly but surely, into things that will make a difference on a broader level so I don’t feel I have to single handedly educate every last person on infertility/involuntary childlessness. I do find people get to me less, but it’s mostly because I have drastically lowered my expectations of them. I’ve also spent almost a year now not co-mingling much with my fellow humans (oh, the benefits with a short term nervous system disorder), so this might leave me temporarily more tolerant of them. These internal milestones are tough to pin down in that their occurrences seem so organic. If I knew what made “I Actually Want to do Something” happen for me, I’d tell you.
Oh, as for the WTF scenario – WTF?? Is it because they had got wind of the ‘shower’? I’m 45 too and this would really irritate me, and i don’t know if I’d be ready to have a hearty laugh over it….
I don’t think they would have gotten wind of my “shower”……I think either they A) misinterpreted my FB sharing of the Guardian piece featuring Jody Day or B) Coming from rural El Salvador, their perspective towards conception is very God oriented. I’m sure my mother in law has been praying for us to have a child (effective, no?:-), so in their minds, therefore……Science, anyone?
I’m in Ireland and you see some surprising stuff on the fertility messageboards/forums, written by otherwise sensible youngish women – prayers to various saints, recipes for blessed ‘fertility bread’ being exchanged, repeated rosaries, etc. Was quite a cultural shock for me… I’m strictly science only.
Oh gosh! I was glad you’d finally your “shower” with supportive friends, then got to the part where people somehow convinced themselves you were pregnant. The absurdity! I agree, it’s important to support people at their life transitions; it’s just harder when the life transitions aren’t so recognizable as weddings, births etc. I have a list of important milestones in my life; each at least as important as the canon milestones. It’s all private though: I have journal entries and other artifacts to mark them but not the public ritual. I’ve never been too attached to public ritual, so that hasn’t bothered me, but it’s something to think about. I guess my hope is that everyone has enough caring people around them, that they can say “I want to celebrate X!” and people would rally around you to do so, whether it is a recognizable occasion or not. I know I would do that for a friend or family member.
I love that you have a private system for marking your journey and process! It’s a great reminder that the internal acknowledgement of these things is key. You hit it on the head with your last two sentences – I think with less conventional milestones/rites of passage we need to speak up if we feel the urge.
Thank you Sarah!!!! I recently started reading your blogs and you give me sooooo much relief in knowing that I am not alone or crazy in having different realities in my awareness – the one that is and the one that isn’t – the kids I sometimes hear screaming in my quiet home or big yard… I love the way you express what I have been afraid to admit out loud, thinking it is just my depressed screwed up brain. And I find that I am in a really similar place in the timeline of processing this whole change in life-plan. I remember one milestone about 2 years ago when I realized that I hadn’t cried for 2-3 days! I couldn’t remember how long it had been. And then I do remember finally feeling like doing something – it felt so good!!! I am thrilled that you have a tribe that gets it and can understand and celebrate these huge milestones with you!
A few years ago, for breast cancer awareness there was one of those stupid games on facebook where you are supposed to post a suggestive but unclear line that was code for something else and somehow that was supposed to raise people’s awareness about breast cancer. Well that year, it was something like “3 months and counting” if you are married and a bunch of my friends were playing the game. I remember looking at it horrified, that gulp of crying stuck in my throat with a flash in my heart of the reactions I would get from everyone who knew and loved me…and that I would then have to tell them that it isn’t true and feel their disappointment. The whole thing just sent me back into my anger and depression. I just find it amazing how hard it is for people to put themselves in our shoes while we are constantly making room for being understanding and accommodating of the trials of raising kids.
But my favorite moms are the ones who don’t make a big deal about it, who don’t wear it like a badge of honor – and I feel the same way about my infertility (at least when I am not in the throws of grief). Sometimes I want to yell about the injustice, but I feel more comfortable with my own privacy about it – and I really am working on not letting it define who I am. That is a tough one sometimes. Part of it is because I have adult step-kids that I didn’t get to raise, but am still sensitive to not wanting them to feel like they weren’t enough, and I don’t want their mothers to know the details of my husband and my journey into non-parenthood. So I really appreciate those of you who are public with your journeys, for what you are doing for us all publicly and privately on these nights when I feel like crap and want to know that someone else knows what it feels like. Thank you! ❤
Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I never did like “showers” either. Instead of pouring our love on people when they are already happy we should be pouring it out on those in grief.