Our Tribe Comes Together to Honor a Milestone
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.