One year ago, just at this time in late October, I felt like crud. Like total, run down, down and out, crud. I was exhausted all the time. We had taken two foster placements in August, an infant and a toddler. I figured that the craziness of an infant and toddler was just finally catching up with me and I needed to take more breaks and cut myself some slack. My appetite was diminished which I assumed was from the increased stress of our new family, but then I started to lose a little weight. And I was napping. Every day, I was sneaking away to take a nap. I resolved that if I didn’t feel better in a few weeks I was going to the doctor.
I didn’t get better. I got worse. Because I was pregnant. But I didn’t find out until early November. And so today, this week, I’ve been spending time remembering what I was feeling like one year ago. We had intentionally been taking a break from doing any type of infertility treatments. I even wrote a post about how we were still taking a break from actively trying. I wrote it 2 days before I found out I was pregnant. Hello, IRONY.
A year later I have a 4 month old. And every day I am utterly amazed at that fact. I have been in dialogue lately with some other bloggers and friends about how once an infertile becomes a Mom there is still this sensation of being ‘stuck’ still in infertility. Of being ‘haunted’ by what you went through to get here. Of being one identity for so long, and now having a new identity, but the old one doesn’t quite fade like you think it should.
We all have many aspects of our identities, our job, our families, our hobbies, if we are parents, all make up our identities. But while these various aspects of identity all layer one on top of the other to make up a whole, the infertile/mom identities don’t reconcile. They don’t layer together to make some new homogenous identity. Instead they kinda clash, they try to fit together, but at best it ends up looking like a Venn diagram of identity:
I’m that grayish-purpley area. Because other aspects of my identity mesh together nicely, “wife and mom” mesh, or makes sense, “runner and organic hobby gardener” mesh, “seminary graduate and Christian” mesh. But “Infertile and Mom”, they just don’t go, they are diametrically opposed to each other.
And so my inner psyche tries to force them together, my brain tries to catalogue them in a neat and organized way. But it doesn’t work, the brain operates on logic, on grouping and organizing things in an orderly fashion. But these two identities will not neatly file away together in my brain. And so I am left in this purple-gray haze of being an “infertile Mom.” Which makes NO sense. And thus, the ‘haunting’ sensation. The memory of our struggle and the loss we still feel and the continued worry of ‘what if we struggle to get pregnant again?’
And so this week, I’m letting myself linger in those feelings I had a year ago. I’m trying to accept that while I am now a Mom, and over the moon happy to be so, that it is ok for part of me to still feel the loss and worry of infertility and miscarriage. To be honest, I feel like sometimes people, who haven’t gone through infertility and loss, are like “Dude get the hell over it, you have a kid, move on!” I feel that expectation from society in general. And then I berate myself for not being able to do that.
But then I read the blogs of other infertiles, and see that they too are struggling to reconcile the infertile/mom identities. That they too struggle with a sense that things aren’t quite meshing in their psyches. And I read about long-term illness survivors, cancer survivors, and how it is medically documented that even when cured, these patients still hold onto that worry and fear, which is why there are survivor support groups.
And I cut myself some slack. And I read all your blogs and take comfort in your support. And I look at my daughter, and know that our struggles to have her, to be at this moment in our life, are part of our story. And it’s ok if part of our story isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It’s our story, and it’s a pretty awesome one I think.
*A special thank you to Prof. Walters of Boston U for instilling in me a love of Venn Diagrams.