An Easter Note to Self

Pulling into the parking lot, we were overcome by an unanticipated wave of families with young children.  Someone decollapsed and snapped into position a twin stroller as I got out of my car.  On my right, as I walked into the garden center, a set of grandparents were suspended in time, gazing oozingly at their grandchild before re-entering their vehicle.

It was Good Friday, and Holy Shit indeed.  

“Okay” I said out loud to my husband.  “Mental note to self, and to anyone else who is child free not by choice, and especially those of us who honor our lost children via gardening – DO NOT GO FLOWER SHOPPING ON GOOD FRIDAY.”  Or on any of the days preceding Easter and Passover that involve a school vacation day, for that matter.    

Before getting out of the car, I was overcome with an old yet familiar urge to have my Infertile On Board sign displayed.  I had created it as a response to the white stick figured families that were all the rage on back windshields as I was going through my fertility treatments.  And I mean really, why should I not have a sign for me and MY life??  It’s general purpose is to serve as a reminder that a family with healthy living children is not the only circumstance humans are experiencing that is worthy of consideration.  I still often wonder if anybody ever got my not so subtle hint.

I’m not sure if my lessening desire to slap my sign up is due to the evolution of my healing process, or due to the fact I’m not driving much because of my nervous system disorder.  Staying in a lot does have its benefits, such as having less contact with humans, which, from the point of view of a childless not by choice survivor of infertility, results in a smaller accumulation of alienation and perpetual eye rolling.

But in the garden shop parking lot I was overcome with an urge to pop my sign up on my back windshield, only to recall that it’s lying on one of our garage shelves.  I’ve seen a small wave recently of “Mom” signs on back wind shields – “Dog Mom”, “Soccer Mom”, “Syracuse Mom” and the like.  Should the wave turn into a tsunami I vow to get my own fashioned:

NOBODY’S MOM

AND STILL WORTHY

This renewed commitment to back windshield signage comforted me slightly as we continued wading through romper room walking into the garden center.

“Well fuck ME nine ways to Sunday” I announced as we made our way through the store, which was literally overrun with families with young children.  I’ve found that verbally expressing myself in these situations feels validating and diffuses my frustrations.  And no worries, I can assure you no one is listening.

That said, our journey to pick out pansies and organic lawn products was also punctuated by “It’s a good thing I ended up taking extra medication!”, and an “Oh gosh honey, I can HARDLY WAIT to get in line with everybody!”.

Our navigation through the store also came complete with stare – offs between us and the stroller brigade in the events where only one person could squeeze by.  It seems that planet stroller presumes they have the right of way based on what I’m not sure – on having received the all too random privilege of being able to reproduce?  I’m happy to say my calm and gentle demeanored husband piloted our shopping cart right through in these situations.  It likely takes a lot more for us to be in such a circumstance than it does them, we reason.  Thus, we need to keep moving.

Being four years out of treatments I’m at a point where I can, alongside sadness over that which I’ll never get to experience, find a mild delight in the adorable bunny ears and precious pre-holiday childhood exuberance that was zinging throughout the garden store.  Dabbling in such poignancy does not lacerate my insides the way it used to.  Nor is it what I need.  

I’ve been in this place lately in my healing process.  Triggers that used to fall under the category of “impaling and day ruining” have now made their way to the “It doesn’t ruin my day anymore, but it doesn’t serve me either” station.  An important contemplation, given that anyone living with infertility and/or involuntary childlessness has to walk in a world that does not give us what we need on so many levels.

“What in the hell happened to the other 20%?” I started to wonder as we waited in line amid a black hole of strollers, referencing the average worldwide percentage of people who don’t parent.  I came to the conclusion that either:

  1. The rest of the 20%, unlike me, were smart enough to have figured out this is not the time to purchase spring gardening supplies, thus making me one of the dumber people in the CNBC community, or,
  2. Long Island, New York is a bonafide rabbit lair and I’m more severely outnumbered than I realize.

I returned home, feeling thankful that, as an avid gardener, I’ll at least get milage out of our hard won pansies.  I noted that my garden store escapade had been enough Easter for me, and honored this by spending a content, introverted weekend writing, spring cleaning and yes, gardening.

28 thoughts on “An Easter Note to Self

  1. As always, love your writing! I have an image of you standing in the store, swearing. Goddamn it. Yes! And what is it with the buggies! Have shared. Love, Jody x

    • Thanks, Jody. Whatever your image of me standing in the store swearing, it’s probably not at all that far from reality. And the buggies, yes…..I feel they are so much more wielded as status symbols now than as the necessary pieces of equipment they really are.

  2. Girl I feel you! They have an annual Easter Egg Hunt right around the corner at the park near my house and I made the mistake of looking outside my front window just as multiple blissful children and their families were walking by, looking at our flowers blooming in the front yard, then standing out there and chatting. Part of me wanted to cry, part of me wanted to back over the parents in my car. Is that so wrong?

    • Oh, ouch, that sounds like a painful image to stomach.

      You pose a valid question (that made me laugh hysterically). I’m probably not the most impartial sounding board for rage filled fantasies, as I used to have many of my own and integrated them into my reality as totally normal. Reminds me of when someone asked me if something they wrote came off as too snarky – I’m like “Is there such a thing? And if there was would I notice?”

      • It all kind of reminds me of that conversation that Sterling K Brown’s character has with his wife in This Is Us, when they get anxious about something and the way they deal with it is to go through worst case scenarios with each other and then things don’t seem so bad afterwards… That’s why we have these blogs to say what we got to say and blow off steam 🙂

        Btw I read your blog out loud to my husband especially when you walked into the store and he was pissing himself laughing 🙂

      • Thank goodness for our blogs:-). And every now and then, real live therapy. I shared a not so nice image with my therapist that would be evoked in my head when fertile people would complain about things (like the price of diapers or the cost of extracurricular activities, my two favorites), and she laughed hysterically. We need to take whatever normalization we can get……as for your husband, when people pee on themselves as the result of my words I never know if I should feel really awesome or somewhat apologetic – it’s a toss up.

  3. Thanks for your writing, as always it makes me smile and feel you are expressing thoughts I’ve often had. It does worry me sometimes when I go out and events are dominated by parents; is it that people like us are too timid to be seen I wonder?

    • Thank you Stephanie. The parent dominated events do make us think from many different angles, that’s for sure. I want to see more of “us” out there, but then we don’t necessarily have something (like oh, a child) that outwardly “marks” us. But then again when I’m in those situations there’s a part of me hoping that the “us” faction has mostly stayed home or is doing something somewhere that brings us a measure of peace. I also often think that the experiences of parenthood and non parenthood are just so extraordinarily different from one another that there are limits in terms of possible integration.

      • During one of the Easter holiday days I went with my man to a local restaurant at lunch time (normally I go in the evening) and it was full of families with young children ditto a nearby bird watching centre we visited. I ended up feeling that “otherness” feeling and having thoughts of what am I doing here? I don’t like those feelings but I guess if I really want to do something I will have to deal with them. You’ve made me think when you say the experiences of parents and non parents are extraordinarily different. Don’t know if it’s just modern life (people used to live in smaller communities where extended family was more relied upon) but it seems that the opportunities to feel included in children’s lives if you are not a parent are on the whole very limited and this adds to feelings of alienation. On a slightly different note one of my friends who is childless by circumstance when asked at a party if she was single then was asked if she lived alone replied “ no I live with the rest of the world”.

      • Regarding your friend – Best. Answer. Ever. Love it.

        I think the isolation of modern life does have a lot to do with it. Although in less modernized cultures, women who can’t have children are generally more or less expected to serve and assist those who do (as opposed to going out and having their own lives), so I’m glad I’m not as privy to that as women in other cultures might be.

        Also, I wonder if some of the “otherness” we feel in situations like the ones you described comes from the lack of awareness people with children have that there are other life scenarios that are not the same as theirs playing out right before their oblivious eyes.

      • I agree that there are some present day cultures where
        childlessness is a far greater stigma than in the West and glad I don’t live in those. Perhaps we are indeed two separate tribes and for many reasons it’s difficult to bridge the gap.

      • Yes, perhaps it needs to be both between us and planet parent, generally speaking. Differences need to be highlighted for the sake of understanding, and the connections that are there need to be built upon. Such a puzzle!

  4. The stroller brigades. I loathe them with an utter passion given that it tends to bring out the asshole in most people. Your husband’s response of just pushing through is perfect. Arguing isn’t worth it because they are poised to argue, not react.

    Sadly, I think that most of the 20% who are not parenting have adopted mechanisms of avoid certain places during holiday events. The thought is it’s just not worth the trouble and, frankly, most adults with children in tow tend to gravitate to certain situations mainly because of “tradition” or “firsts” or “shared experience,” making it less appealing all around.

    All that said, I’m glad you got your flowers and gardening supplies. Hard won, absolutely. May your garden bloom

    • Yeah, I just don’t get the implied hierarchy of the stroller brigades. I’m usually not a fan of most hierarchies, whatever side of them I end up landing on. Although, every now and then, like as in maybe twice before within the past number of years, someone with a stroller and wandering toddler in tow will unnecessarily go out of their way to hold the door for me. So there are rare birds out there. Just none at the garden store on Good Friday.

      For me, it’s not so much the traditions and firsts that people are highlighting in their lives, it’s the lack of awareness that a not so insignificant portion of the population has lost that, and the lack of awareness that there are people in their midst having a very different, and much more sober, experience through no fault of their own.

  5. You need to move to Canada. 😉 Most places are closed here on Good Friday. I was going to say I’m not sure about garden centres, but then I’m not sure the weather here is warm enough yet to warrant a trip to the garden centre. In fact, we are getting snow warnings for later this week…! Pros & cons, right?? 😉 We noticed the stores were a LOT busier than usual on Thursday, though — and we avoided shopping entirely on Saturday. It was still busier than we expected today, though… most places were open, but government offices were closed, and I think a lot of schools were too. I guess we have to leave the house SOMETIME (or we’d go nuts, not to mention starve without buying groceries…), but still….!! Great post (as usual)!

    • To leave or not to leave, that is the question! Existing in this world can feel like the ultimate chess match. It’s funny how many years one can go out of TTC and still be realizing things (as in don’t go garden shopping on Good Friday).

  6. Easter is a major gardening time here in NZ too – though obviously different, preparing as we are for winter. (Like Canada, pretty much everything is closed Good Friday AND Easter Sunday, but beware the malls and garden centres on Easter Monday and Saturday!) Yes, I would definitely have kept away from garden centres last weekend. I’ve been through experiences like yours though, and have learnt what places to try to avoid at peak times.

    I am so pleased to read that “Triggers that used to fall under the category of “impaling and day ruining” have now made their way to the “It doesn’t ruin my day anymore, but it doesn’t serve me either” station.” It takes time, a long time, but it’s nice to hear that they’re not a brutal stabbing anymore.

    Also, I was thinking about the sign you’d like in a window. I’d be a bit more pointed. Mine would say (if I were brave enough),
    “Not a Mom.
    Don’t need to be one
    to be worthy.”

    • It’s true that it does take such a long time. We need a under our belts to start to be able to sense shifts out of such intense pain. The first couple of years there were plenty of shifts, but it was really just from one emotional dagger to another. Now at least there’s the benefit of more of an ability to function involved.

  7. I. Hate. Strollers. Always have (even before infertility), always will. The “drivers” of strollers are, more often than not, so self-righteous. And why have they gotten so huge these days?? You don’t need a friggin’ minivan for your kids to go shopping.

    Anyway, I can really relate to what you said about things not ruining your day anymore but also not serving you. That’s where I am too. I used to avoid certain places/events because I didn’t want to get hurt. Now I avoid them because there’s no point for me to be there. Add it to the long list of things that my family and friends (i.e., fertile people) will never understand…

    • I know, they look like friggen rocket ships. Wonder what a product designed to make our lives more palatable would look like? And DO?

      Glad you can relate to the space I’m in. For me it’s more fruitful but also strange on a level because it, initially anyway, felt more ambiguous. Sharp emotional pain does have quite the definite quality to it! We’ll have to unpack this further, if you feel like it.

      • Yes, I would love to think and converse about this idea more. Ever since I stopped forcing myself to try and fit into the fertile world’s way of existence, I’ve been much happier. But I have also seen much less of my family and friends. It doesn’t really bother me though. They are not making any effort to understand my reality or meet me halfway. I’m not bitter when I skip out on certain places/events. I just feel like I have a bigger picture about it all than they do. So many situations really do not serve me and, in fact, they can exhaust me. (And when they’re not exhausting me, they are boring me hahaha.)

        I really believe that I will eventually create a life for myself where I can be social and a productive member of society without having to enter fertile people’s worlds while denying my reality. Apparently there is a whole segment of society that does not have kids and I am determined to meet them. So, yes, this was an overall long-winded reply to say, I wholeheartedly want to unpack this idea further. Like you said in a comment above, I think there are limits in terms of how much those parenting and those not parenting can integrate.

      • Love your ambition in creating a life that honors and serves you, Phoenix!

        The lack of effort others make to meet us partway is amazing though. I’m also liking your perspective on having a bigger picture on things, especially the attending, or not, of social events. And there’s that similar place I’m in again – situations that used to infuriate or re-traumatize me now register as exhausting and boring. Wonder what that’s all going to morph into?

  8. I’ve learned not to go grocery shopping right after school lets out for the day. The carts that have a huge plastic shaped car around them, so the kids can “drive” are a nuisance. And the “shopper in training” mini-carts that the littles push around rarely make me smile when I’m on a mission to get what I need and they are blocking the aisles! Normally, the carts, buggies, etc don’t bother me… But grocery shopping isn’t my favorite thing, so I just want to get it done as quickly as possible!

    I must say, though, that I do rock my “Dog Mom” magnet on the back of my Jeep with pride! 😉

    • I’ve always been a grab what I need and go grocery shopper too – rarely do I browse (and I admittedly would like to have a better understanding of those who do:-). I became even more of a food shopping sprinter when, during IF treatments, grocery stores became a minefield of PTSD triggers for me. Fortunately that seems to be waning though – I just took my very first food shopping trip by myself since coming down with an autonomic nervous system disorder 15 and 1/2 months ago (not related to the PTSD), and the produce section was literally filled with pregnant people. And I’m like, “I think I”m ok”.

      • That is awesome! I’m so glad that the triggers are lessening for you. HUGE step forward in healing!

        And yes, I also envy those who can browse. My hubby is one of them. I enjoy going to the store with him, but by myself… Yuck! LOL

  9. Just found your blog! I am with you girl. The 20% are out here. I had to start hanging out with older friends with teenagers and empty nesters. It’s the only way. My only consolation is that I don’t have to pay for counseling sessions for my teenager or college. Recently had a few teens adopt me as their aunt. People without children always seem young and easy to talk to for teens. That part has been a silver lining. But I have my days when the loss seems to great to bear.
    —tribal member in Indiana

    • Hi Kate – The social thing is quite a conundrum. I too have noticed a much easier connection with people in their 60’s and 70’s since stopping treatments (although many of them do need to be educated regarding infertility and involuntary childlessness). I’m also taking a couple of calculated chances with people in their late 20’s/early 30’s who don’t yet have kids. They are very “worth it” people who, if I educate them and they get used to my situation, if they should go on to have children maybe our friendship will still work? Many of our tribe members disagree with me, and I do realize it’s a gamble. As far as socializing with my peers, except for the occasional rare bird who is interested in me and my life, pretty much NO.

      PS I have extended family in South Bend.

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