I’ll Admit I Did Not Take It Well

Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixaby Images

Royal baby news surprisingly strikes me sideways

I awoke rested and peaceful, cradled by a soggy morning filled with a delicious sense of pause.  

As I made our coffee I reveled in having a day with my husband – a lazy morning and a day off, rare for him lately, where I felt good enough to go with him to get some much needed and long awaited clothes shopping done.  

Delightfully anticipating dinner at our favorite authentic hole in the wall Japanese restaurant, I cracked open my laptop.

“Well god damnit!” I barked, as the latest royal family pregnancy news smacked me in the face.  “Megan and Harry are pregnant already – they just got married like five minutes ago.  I guess THAT was easy” I spewed to my husband.  

I’ve generally been much less sensitive to triggers lately.  I wrote about this time I thought would never come in my recent post, Where Have All the Triggers Gone?  

The day prior, upon leaving a yoga class one of my classmates mentioned to me that she’s tied down in New York by some things but wants to move out of state to be closer to her grandchildren.  And I didn’t even flinch.  Now, I didn’t show any specific interest either.  I instead responded by sharing that MY life was also currently in a suspended state where it wasn’t clear how and if all the pieces were going to fit together.  I’m highly discerning regarding with whom and when I will take an interest in other people’s progeny.  My approach is to save as much energy as I can to spend on my life, since I’ve learned the hard way the vast majority of other people won’t.  But I digress.

Back with my husband, I kept bringing it up.  He looked mildly irritated that the bubble that was our day seemed to have burst.  “Let it go” he said gently (he’s the only person I know who can utter this and not make it sound like an offensively simplifying dismissal).  

“I AM letting it go.  By letting it OUT.” I shared.  Though I considered ignoring them, I proceeded to peruse the headlines once and thoroughly, knowing this would dampen any potential future shock and facilitate feeling.  Feeling that might illuminate something important about my process and my experience, feeling that will eventually expedite it through and out of my system.

When one hasn’t lost their innocence to baby making, as I have, or when one has acquired parenthood with relative ease, the result is a phenomenon I like to refer to as fertile world math.  As perky as it is mindless and clueless, fertile world math presumes a pregnancy that is three months along automatically equals a live, healthy baby.  And potential names.  Gender guesses.  What kind of parents they’ll be.  What the kid will look like.  All swaddled in a trance like sort of glee.  In short, pregnancies provoke swirling chatter of all that I lost.

Infertile math is on a whole other level.  And it goes a sumthin’ like this:  “WTF??  She’s 37.  I started trying when I was a year and change older than her and it didn’t go ANYTHING like this.  It’s like they had the wedding, blinked and now here we are.  I thought I’d have some more time.  So if they’re announcing now, it must be at the typical 12 week mark, given the intense and ridiculous public scrutiny over these things.  So that means they got pregnant mid to late July which means they got pregnant within a measly two or three cycles after getting married.  Well isn’t that a shot to the gut in the form of EASY??  A few cycles is probably more than enough for someone living under such a microscope, but still.  The simplicity of the whole thing just floors me.  She’ll be barely 38 (because I did the real math!) when I bet they start trying for another one and I’m sure that will go just swimmingly too!” 

In typical infertile math nature, my mind went right to the point – in spite of my aggravation I hoped that nothing would go wrong.  Within the greater scheme of what could happen in human reproduction, potential names and genders are really quite irrelevant after all. 

My eyes then happened to scan over a headline that “Prince William is pumped” over his brother and Megan having a baby.  “Well of course he freakin’ is!” I continued to spout.  “This way he won’t have to navigate difference – one thing the vast majority of parents exceedingly SUCK at.   He won’t have to, within his immediate family, navigate the difference in experiences between easily procured parenthood and infertility, between parenthood and non parenthood.  He’s getting the one thing so many parents thrive on, that’s having those around them enter their world and be just like them.  I’ve seen from personal experience what a CHORE it can be for people who have known us for a long time, even for those well meaning folks, to acknowledge and oh hark, INTEGRATE our experiences into the whole.  Prince William just unearned his way out of having to do something he would have failed at to some degree.  So congrats on that.  But so admirable it’s newsworthy?  I don’t think so.”  

At a certain point, after things had percolated for a bit, it started to become clear.  There’s something deeper going on here.  Isn’t there usually?

Pregnancies in and of themselves aren’t the annihilating sight and reality they used to be for me.  But pregnancies involve so much more than what is apparent on the surface.  The innocence and sense of belonging that allow someone to plunk themselves into the surrounding festivities are collateral damage in my world.  The lens through which the general public views and expresses themselves around the topic of human reproduction now appears delusional to me.  My dreams, and whole life track really, surrounding baby making, pregnancy and parenthood were unequivocally crushed.  Over the past nine years now I’ve had to be flexible with those dreams, tortured by them, grieve them, sit in the confounding blank space that follows their absence, and start to seed new ones that, as promising as they are, are ultimately entirely incapable of replacing the old.  I’m not yet able to dream the dreams I fought so hard for and lost on behalf of someone else.  And while I’m open to wherever my process takes me, it’s ok if I never can.

In her heartfelt and insightful forward for my friend Kelley Lynn Shepherd’s book, My Husband Is Not a Rainbow, Michelle Neff Hernandez comments on secondary losses:  “One of the most significant is the loss of innocence that accompanies grief.”  She goes on to point out “Those days of living free from the keen awareness of the fragility of life are blissful, and fleeting.”

I lost embryos, dreams for the future – dreams that are societally assumed from day one at that – and the life track of parenthood.  I have no idea what it’s like to loose a spouse, but yet I totally feel you Michelle!  

Though my loss doesn’t entail the death of a physical person, I also found this to be quite relevant: “Death sharpens your view of life in a painfully clear way, as if you are looking through a kaleidoscope pointed directly at the sun.  For a time, that flash of color blinds you, and then slowly, day by painful day, your sight returns.  But you suddenly see the world with bionic eyes.  Everything will be different in your post loss life, because surviving the death of someone you love changes you.”

It is these changes Michelle refers to that have been almost as distressing as the loss of my children itself.  I am different in the world now.  The predominant outwardly expressed perspectives on human reproduction are entirely incongruent with my lived experiences and those of my tribe.  The naiveté with which so many can or are willing to dive into baby frenzy touches a very sore place within me.  I wonder if it’s the actual baby people are so thrilled about, or is it really that Harry and Megan’s scenario validates their belief in a fair, just and orderly world?  

Interestingly, some of the judgements towards them were equally miffing.  A critically toned report that Megan used an app to accompany her conception efforts.  A judgey woman who probably had two easily conceived kids in her twenties “expert” saying it is a bit too soon, supplying a brief sermon on marital stress born from having children early in a marriage.  “What about the marital stress caused by infertility and the herculean decision making that comes with that and involuntary childlessness, ya moron?” I found myself thinking.  While I was irritated and triggered by the news, I don’t think anyone has the right to judge Megan.  To try to get pregnant in the public eye in her late thirties in a role that implies, well, producing lineage, she can do whatever she needs to do as far as I’m concerned.  

I’m now aware, painfully so, of the numbers of people for whom things don’t go this easily, and of those whose ending doesn’t involve a baby or child at all.  Though of course not Harry and Megan’s fault, I’m achingly aware of the messages a quickly procured high profile pregnancy sends to the general public – that this is the way it always goes.  And I’m excruciatingly aware of the social losses and missing ease that have resulted from my changed world view I never asked for.  I have come to the point where I notice flickers of appreciation for the wisdom, insight and realism my experiences have dumped upon me.  Not worth the loss of my children, but it does seem to breed an interesting confidence of sorts, and I’m not about to ignore any of the good stuff that emerges.  I’ve come a long way in my reconciliation process, but there are still days when I resent having to see life and the world in the way it has been shown to me.  In short, part of me misses being dumb.  It was just easier.

Speaking of retained innocence, as it also turns out the pregnancy was announced on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day which is acknowledged in many countries around the world. This was addressed in a piece in the Huffington Post.  I tried to keep the comments in perspective, but most I glanced at were dismissive, judgmental and cruel.  Ultimately, I’d like to think we humans can find ways to respectfully coexist amid the strikingly different experiences of fertility and infertility, parenthood and non parenthood.  And that would have to involve the privileged majority’s willingness to step aside from time to time, giving those who struggle the well deserved space to be seen and heard.

Strange as it is to admit, I realized that I had subconsciously identified with Megan and Harry a bit.  I too am in an inter-racial marriage and am a few years older than my husband.  I had never wanted to be a young mother, I wanted to be an experienced mom.  I had been through my own hard knocks and was adventurous with my career pursuits, experiences that I had hoped would perhaps benefit my children.  I had gotten some creativity out of my system so that I would be less likely to pass my own bitterness over unwalked paths and dreams untried on to my children.  I felt some loose parallels between Megan’s path and mine, except that when I got to the point of having a baby, the baby didn’t come.

I’m not a very externally driven person, especially these days.  The feeling of belonging, however, is a most basic human need, as is the need to see yourself reflected somewhere out in the world.  It’s not that I feel I don’t or can’t belong anywhere, however a basic assumed sense of belonging in this world is one of the things often stripped by infertility and involuntary childlessness.  There is some obscure layer of me seeping through in all this, looking for someone like me.  An ever vigilant watchdog giving the horizon a thorough binocular scan, back and forth, back and forth.  Though I don’t wish what I’ve been through on my worst enemy, Harry and Megan could have been one of us.

They could have had trouble conceiving.  Perhaps they would have come out with their infertility battle, maybe even succeeding in enlightening the general public.  They could have needed the support and backing of our community.  They might have come to a point where they needed to refocus on their marriage, moving ahead without children.  Megan could have joined Gateway Women.

In reality though, this is an awful scenario.  First, Harry has already lost enough.  And then, for every “everything happens for a reason”, “your time will come”, and “god works in mysterious ways” utterance we have gotten, they would be privy to thousands if not more.  And I’m not sure that’s survivable to be honest.  The thought of going through what I went through in their position, under the microscope of the public eye, an ultra uninformed public eye at that, is enough to make me spontaneously fall over.  In the end, having the pregnancy out there is better than knowing someone is in such overbearing pain.  Plus, they could go through hell and in spite of their high profile experience the public would probably still be thick as a stone wall when it comes to empathizing with the experiences of infertility and involuntary childlessness.

So alas, here we are.  One of the plusses of being almost five years out of treatments and into a life without children is that these outside occurrences don’t knock me down hardly as far or as long.  A mere two weeks later and I’ve pretty much forgotten.  Most days, any images or mentions I may be unwittingly exposed to only spark a slight eye roll and the tiniest of kicks to my well-calloused gut.  

To those still in the trenches of absorbing our absurd reality, that place where every unsolicited image turns your insides upside down and illicits a full body sting, I salute you.  You are in a place that is as raw and real and human as it gets, a place that requires the utmost courage to inhabit.  To those who have somehow made it to slightly less churning waters, or maybe even have been washed up on a sandy beach, welcome in its solidity, remember to honor your grief waves that still come ashore.  The collateral damage from our losses is deep reaching, getting a grip on our new reality is a most layered journey.

Process on, my fellow warriors.  Process on. 

 

23 thoughts on “I’ll Admit I Did Not Take It Well

  1. I feel this post so hard. The news also smacked me upside the head. I had it in my mind that they would wait until after their current trip to start trying to avoid her being pregnant while traveling and with such a rigorous travel agenda. The timing of getting pregnant a hot minute after the wedding was not lost on me either. She’s my age…I started trying a long time before she did, and we know how that all worked out.

    I too thought well maybe they’ll have trouble, and maybe, just maybe, infertility will get influential and vocal spokespeople. I mean I wouldn’t wish it on anyone (I truly wouldn’t), but damn.

    I think it’s part of my all-out resistance to Halloween this year.

    • I totally hear you on being the same age as she is – those (I don’t know, what do you call them?) parallels can be so stabbing. And I too had something similar in the back of my head regarding their trip. We’re not able to travel right now due to my nervous system disorder, immigration issues, Julio’s work hours and a lack of money, moreover I’m not sure when we’ll be able to. So of course I had to grumble to Julio “so much for the childless people being the ones who get to travel!”.

      YES – “influential and vocal spokespeople”, those are the words I was looking for. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was thinking that, I was hesitant to write it. XO

    • Oh and PS – I love a good renunciate. I’m passing out candy for the first time in 7 years as we speak and am not as near ready as I thought. I’ve got a small pile of used tissues on my couch as evidence. I will be renouncing Christmas this year however. Judging from how Halloween is going that’s probably the right decision. Meanwhile, chardonnay at 8:00.

  2. OMG me too me too me too!!! Even before the news I admit thought spitefully, “they’d better not get pregnant right away” and then felt the all-too-familiar sucker punch of the news when it came in.

    Last night I was watching Jerry Seinfeld on Netflix telling another comedian to go ahead and have kids – and another show where the woman just says they’re going to get pregnant with another like it’s so goddamn simple, like it’s ordering a pizza or something. Innocence lost, absolutely. I’m now 18 months post treatment and recovery time is faster but…still. Props to those who can write a book about their experience… reliving it just doesn’t gel for me – I’d have to pay someone to re-read my old blog posts and do it for me haha…

    • That’s funny, I took in some of the wedding during which I told myself to enjoy what I could because probably soon they would become an annoying sight. Although I’ve come to expect it, the things the privileged majority says are still mindblowingly clueless. Am going to dedicate the winter to making headway on writing my book and I’m hesitating to re-read my posts:-)

  3. This news triggered so many. For me, it was the announcement on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day that lead to my venting, but I also emphasize with your points and why this would be so hard. To have a celebrity in the public eye (an American princess, no less) make an announcement shortly after their wedding is yet another example against everyone in the infertility world who has spent any amount of time in the trenches. Though we don’t know the reality of their story, the perception is that it’s easy and requires “relaxing” or “waiting for the right time.” All of the myths this community has struggled to debunk.

    We live in an era where having a celebrity or role model come out about their inability to reproduce would greatly help the ALI community. Sadly, that’s not something that many want to promote because it’s far from easy (Jennifer Aniston is still a rockstar for her Op-Ed in my opinion) and the backlash is usually fierce. Nevermind the general surreal hype that we have around celebrity pregnancies that truly needs to go away. Sadly, I don’t know when that’s going to change as most people still resist the idea that human reproduction is a landmine-filled topic.

    Abiding with you as you process all of this. It’s far from fair.

    • I can really see how their announcing on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day could be a shot to the gut. I just feel like people who have suffered these losses, which are not yet recognized and talked about to the degree they need to be, could at least have a minute. It’s not too much to ask.

      Totally agree with your commentary (of course) and you make some true and interesting points regarding all the obstacles in the way of allowing our realities to be seen, heard and integrated.

  4. Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for sharing this. I reacted exactly in the same way as you did when I heard about this news.
    The chance of getting pregnant spontaneously within 2 months at age 37 is so low, and the pressure on having another royal baby so high, that it would not even surprise me if I heard that Meghan and Harry had prepared already everything before the wedding (fertility check and freezing embryos if needed…).
    For the public opinion, it is ok that Harry “broke the rules” by marrying an American actress… but remaining childless is not even imaginable. As soon as the wedding was over, all tabloids were already wondering when a pregnancy would be announced.

    The “fertile world math”: I like this formulation. I also wrote on my blog about these two worlds, the fertile world completely ignoring the infertile world and being unable to see that the way to parenthood is paved with pain, fear and loss. And sadly for us, this quick pregnancy perpetuates the illusion that fertility is something which can be controlled and that “everybody can have kids”.

    Very good point: “He’s getting the one thing so many parents thrive on, that’s having those around them enter their world and be just like them“.
    And I also fully agree that grief comes along with a loss of innocence, which according to me is a gift: I feel now more resilient and prepared for hard times.

    Kind regards,
    Léa

    • Hi Léa –

      Thanks for the reminder – with the challenges I’ve faced post fertility treatments, I have noticed an increased level of resiliency regarding how I cope and handle things.

      The lack of awareness of the darker sides of human reproduction makes things so difficult, especially since whatever experience anyone ends up having profoundly influences their path and development forward. I was recently at a party where my childlessness came up, and one couple started feverishly telling me and my husband how EASILY they got pregnant (thus qualifying them for the most insensitive humans of the year award). When the wife walked away though, the husband admitted to me that they “had some help” conceiving their twins. It made me wonder how many other people have walked the infertility path, even for a little bit, and then go out into the world and fake it.

      Loved your post on the “two worlds”!

      • Dear Sarah,
        thanks a lot for your reply! For me, it is unbelievable that even couples who struggled to conceive tend to perpetuate the myth of easy fertility. Their lies don’t help anybody: they are doing a disservice to themselves by denying their experience, to other infertiles and also to younger people who will continue to think that there is always a guarantee for children.

      • So spot on, Léa! While I wish so many others were not silent and complicit in playing a fertile world charade of sorts, it is a testament to our strength and integrity that we speak out.

      • Hi Sarah, I thought of you reading this article on Michelle Obama revealing her daughters were conceived by IVF: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46154857
        She speaks about the importance to share experiences to raise awareness: “I think it’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how they work”. Exactly 🙂

      • Yes, it’s funny that all came out on the heels of Harry and Megan and of my last post. Thanks for sharing! Needless to say I agree with her statement that you quoted. Though I’m not sure it would have been feasible for her at the time, I do wish she came out sooner. I feel like there’s a lot to reprocess now, especially given the heavy and overt focus she had on her mom hood throughout her tenure as First Lady.

  5. As always well written. Especially the sentence about missing being dumb, I really miss that innocence. Even if there a pregnancy in a book or movie I sit there waiting for the loss, feeling anxious the whole time.

    I kinda numbed myself to their announcement, and promptly muted many words and hashtags on social media to try and protect my bubble, but having the happy couple touring our country recently it wasn’t possible to avoid it. I was feeling weird, jealous or something seeing some ppl post about going to wait at places round town on the chance of seeing them, and wasn’t quite sure why I felt that way, and then realised I probably would have gone and done that too if she wasn’t pregnant and I wasn’t trying to avoid all the talk about that, and realised I was experiencing yet another loss, another situation where I didn’t feel I belonged. So many unexpected secondary losses to deal with!

    • Oh yeah, their darned tour! That must have been aggravating. One of the toughest feelings for me, still, can be watching or even just having an awareness of people easily and mindlessly engaging in social situations that I either avoid or are work for me if I choose to participate. I experienced that big time on Halloween as I watched the parents and other family members congregate in groups – totally sobering for me to witness their easy social interactions.

      • Yes Halloween is a tricky one for me too, I was glad I had something on that evening so didn’t need to come up with an excuse to hide from it.

  6. Yes. Yes. Yes. After trying 7 years. Brutal when people
    get pregnant 5 minutes later. I had this same
    twinge in my stomach. I actually grieved May 19
    when they got married in anticipation of this.
    I too was 36 when I got married. I knew they were
    already on the project. I’d bet this is round 5
    of IVF that we are seeing. Will they admit it? No.
    The myth of easy fertility continues…
    I so too wish I had that innocence again of thinking
    it would be easy.
    I could be wrong but I doubt it.
    Not bitter. Just real.

    • That was smart of you to grieve on May 19, Kate! The frustration is still immense though, no doubt. I have to admit I did wonder if they had any medical intervention the helped them to get pregnant so easily. “The myth of easy fertility continues….” – absolutely! See my little ditty in my reply to Léa:-)

  7. Yes, I cringed a little, but had been prepared for it the moment their engagement was announced. But I was also grateful that she didn’t have to go through the public trauma of the Japanese princess. Like you, we’re torn between not wanting anyone to go through what we have been through, but wanting people to understand and acknowledge what we’ve been through. So having high profile people champion our cause would be useful.

    As I’m a different generation, I do know that the Royal Family is aware of issues like pregnancy loss and infertility. Only weeks or even days (I can’t remember) before my first ectopic pregnancy, Sophie (Countess of Wessex I think, wife of Prince Edward) also had an ectopic pregnancy, ending in emergency surgery. Her ectopic was one of the reasons why I was aware of the condition when I was diagnosed. They then had to turn to IVF for their children, and I think of that every time I see them (at the TV weddings etc).

    Sending hugs to all those who found the news hard.

  8. I had a lot of mixed feelings about the announcement too. Initially the fact that it seemed to have happened so easily for them really bothered me. But then like you mentioned, I also wouldn’t wish infertility on anyone as it is such a lonely and hard journey. I also wonder whether they might have had some help behind the scenes. If so it is unlikely they would ever talk about it. I can’t relate at all to the people doing “fertile math” who are so sure that everything will work out and be fine.

    • It’s good to know I’m not the only one who can’t relate to this easy breezy human reproduction narrative! I’ve spoken to many who, like you, suspect H & M had some medical intervention. I wouldn’t be surprised.

  9. I sort of expected Megan to be pregnant quickly, not that quickly mind you, but soonish. I want to believe that they had to have had some help… It would make it all seem less fairy tale and make me feel less abnormal. I’m 38 and have been a patient of the infertile world for 4 years.

    Honestly, what hurts me the most is random, I had a transfer at the end of June and was pregnant when they announced. Both of us were due in April, but I miscarried. It was my 1st miscarriage. It hurts, not because this revolves around Megan but because I got to be a “regular” for 60 some odd days; its one thing to have miscarriages which are devastating and strip us of what could have been…but its another wound to have a miscarriage as a woman who struggles with fertility.

    I do wish them the best, but I also don’t want to hear or know about anything. Sort of the same way I’ve made myself immune to the slew of children that Kate and William have with ease.

    It would make me feel better (in a fucked up way) to know that she took medications and injections 3x a day for a month, had a retrieval and then a transfer. 🙂

    • Hi Kathy – I appreciate your important point re: miscarriage amid otherwise functional fertility and miscarriages amid a prolonged infertility battle. To be made an unwilling witness to someone’s pregnancy whose timeframe parallels the precious one you lost is unequivocal torture – my heart is with you. Such a justafiable hurt.

      I totally get where you’re coming from but for me, funny enough, knowing H & M did treatments wouldn’t give me much of a boost – the alleged quickness of their “success” indicates they are at least in the possession of viable genetic material and a hospitable womb, already so much more than most of us have been given.

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