Saturday, June 14, 2008

Say Hello to My Little Friend

When I was about 10 or 11, I decided that I wanted a cat. I have no memory of what possessed me, but chances are it was that I decided this was just what I thought I needed. Up until then, we'd had no pets since my parents both worked and I was at school most the day. My father couldn't bear having a dog knowing that it would be alone all day and he was not partial to cats (oh, how times have changed on that one! He now has this t-shirt. Seriously).

I needled, wheedled, begged, whined, pleaded - everything to get a cat. When they finally gave in, I said no thanks. Why? Well, in addition to being a Grade A manipulator, I realized, even then, that what I really wanted was to know that I could do it. I could get them to agree. Once I realized that that was the goal, I had won. It wasn't about the cat at all - it might as well have been a bike. Needless to say, I didn't have a cat (or any pet) until I was married. That time, I truly wanted a cat.

I have to wonder, though, if my sometimes physically painful desire to have a child is just a more grown up manifestation of the same thing. Do I want it this badly because so far I haven't been able to do it? Has the whole process become another challenge to overcome with the final victory not having a child to parent for the rest of my years, but just producing a living baby? Is this my Petulant Inner Five-Year-Old (who is kissing cousins with My Inner Drama Queen) throwing a hissy fit because I was told "no?

I will be the first to admit that I have gotten most everything that I wanted and those times that I didn't usually were directly related to something I did or didn't do. In other words, not since I was a kid have I been denied something I wanted without my usually having something to do with that denial. (Perfect example: I *would* have graduated from grad school cum laude if I had paid more attention in one stupid class that I took my very last semester and gotten a better grade.)

Yet, I also can't remember feeling this much physical gut-punching pain as I do when I hear that someone I know is pregnant or has a baby. It is literally like a punch in the stomach. And, surprisingly, what is so painful to me is not the idea of having this child, it is the loss of the more pedestrian things that go along with being pregnant - getting to wear maternity clothes, picking out cribs, painting nurseries, picking names. And most of all, it's having Pregnancy Innocence. I lost that one the first round out of the gate, never to be seen again.

After the initial gut reaction, my inner 5-year-old immediately stamps her little foot, crosses her little arms, and through a pouty little mouth yells, "That's not fair! That's what I want! I want to count the little toes! I want to look at cribs! I want to pick out nursery colors! I want, want, want!" I want everything that goes with being pregnant, including having the healthy child at the end. Most of all, I want to feel as if I have a legitimate chance to make it to the finish line.

Although, again, is this just my desire to complete that which I have not been able to? The best way to get me motivated is to tell me I can't do something. Works like a charm every time. But, what was accomplished? This is not the same as getting into a better class at school. This is a child, more of a lifetime commitment than anything I have undertaken. Am I seriously treating it as a challenge like a marathon or a goal to accomplish in and of itself? I have this terrible fear that we are successful and that baby is placed in my arms and all I can say is, "What now?"

I suspect, as with all things, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I had similar concerns when we got Fluffy and the Bad One five years ago. I was very honest with Sweetie that I was afraid that I would lose interest once they were no longer kittens. After all, they were adorable kittens doing what kittens do so how could I possibly find them interesting when they were older, more sedate kitties? What I didn't count on was that they would wrap me around their little paws just as easily as if they were swatting a string. I, of course, have loved them from the day we brought them home and in fact, love them more now that they have gotten their "kitten years" behind them. Just goes to show what I know.

Maybe it is best to have compartmental goals - 1) get pregnant, 2) stay pregnant 3) worry about actually raising child when we get there. Small bites, small steps, small goals, all lead to a big mountain. For this process is in part a marathon, with each phase being another leg of the journey.

I will leave you with a quote from Lance Armstrong in that epic story of success in the face of absolute failure, Dodgeball:

"Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I'm sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that's keeping you from the finals?"

Truer words have never been spoken.
image: readerwalker

22 comments:

DC said...

Ah, Pregnancy Innocence. How I miss her.

peesticksandstones said...

What an awesome post! I think about this sometimes, too. My desire to have a baby is about a million times stronger the more out of reach it becomes. It's also maddening because I've also always gotten everything else I've put my mind to -- though usually with lots and lots of work and setbacks first.

And yes, I totally feel "the punch" every time I move someone on my blogroll to the pregnant list, or when I see ultrasound babies or read about cribs people are picking out. Wishing so much I could be more "yay!" and supportive and jumping down excited for people. How do others do it?

Lori said...

I so relate to this post.

It was so unimaginable that I couldn't work, study, cajole or press through IF. I had always been able to go after my goals.

And also, I was not always sure I was meant for motherhood. Some days, I'm still not.

Love the Dodgeball quote.

Pepper said...

I relate to so much of this post. I don't just want to parent, I want to be pg and go through all the rituals that it brings. I don't think I would have been a good parent if I had become pg when I was younger; I just didn't have the patience or the appreciation for the gift that it is. I'm not sure that I have it now, but I do think I'm 100 times better than I was even five years ago.

MsPrufrock said...

I'm forever leaving comments on blogs about how I think one of the largest motivations for me pursuing IF treatment was that I was told I may not be able to have kids. I had this weird need to prove everyone wrong, and ensure this prophecy could be debunked.

That Dodgeball quote is one of my favourite from the film. I like Peter's response too - "Right now it feels a little bit like... shame."

loribeth said...

I too can relate. I've always managed to achieve just about everything I set out to do in my life, with some hard work & maybe a little luck. Infertility is a slap in the face in that respect.

Candid Engineer said...

Really nice, well-written post. I think it's great that you've been able to understand this about yourself. It probably changes your perspective a bit. If you decide to try again after your break, I wish you the best of luck.

ClizBiz said...

I deeply appreciate your naked honesty in this blog. I, too, get that gut punch of shameful jealousy while also worrying that I wouldn't know what to do with a baby if it came FedEx.

I'd like to think we all get what we want in this life but looks like there are no guarantees. I, for one, am still waiting for my pony.

chicklet said...

Lance Armstrong saying that in Dodgeball, when I watched it, I just about choked. It's just so insane what he's gone through. Gawd.

Miss Schlegel said...

I only feel EXACTLY THE SAME. When I got my final "no kids for you m'dear" news, there was this tiny part of me that thought, "Oh, thank god. I never really wanted them in the first place." And another part of my screamed, "You're saying NO! But I want them!"

I'm not an only child, except technically. The younger of my two brothers is twelve years older than me. Like you, I got everything I wanted.

It all comes down to our ability to live with ambivalence, to understand that to not want something ABSOLUTELY doesn't mean that you secretly don't want it at all. While it's a nice analogy, you desire to cajole your parents into giving you a kitten is not exactly the same as they way you want a baby. I hate to be predictable but this is a Walt Whitman moment, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I contain multitudes." (Um, I think I missed a bit, but you know the one.) My point is all what you say is true, even the bits that can't be true in the same room together. You want and do not want a pregnancy. You want a pregnancy because you can't have one and also because you desperately want a child. When other people get pregnant, you are jealous and competitive, but you are also genuinely reminded of your own losses and your gap.

I guess what I'm saying is we all have to live with ambivalence. Personally, I like my ambivalence. I don't relate to those people (like Lance) who strive for this one goal their whole lives. Yawn.

Oh, and I'm also saying that you may well one day look down at the child in your arms and say, "what now?" I have had friends warn me that having a baby after infertility is particularly hard, because everyone expects you to be letting off fireworks every night and being eternally thankful, but you're the same sleep-deprived harridan that every other mother is for the first year of a baby's life, who occassionally looks at their child and goes, "Um, have I just made the biggest mistake of my life?" That might happen. So don't beat yourself up if it does.

seriously? said...

God that does make you feel like a loser for quitting anything huh?

I agree with Pepper too. It isn't just about being a parent, it is about the whole process of becoming one by being pregnant and having all the milestones that come with that.

I hate failure and now I feel like one. I have to say a part of me hoped the problem was with DH because then at least I wasn't the failure.

Shelli said...

I've written about this before on my own blog. For me, the big wakeup call was having things flow so easy for me, and then all of a sudden it was as if every door slammed shut on me (fertility just being one). I was not prepared for the jealously either.

It feels everything I do now is a lot like trying to escape quicksand... exhausting and endless.

Elizabeth said...

Sometimes I think you are reading my mind :-) I'm an only child and therefore used to getting what I want. I'm set in my ways and like to be able to read all evening if that's what I want to do, and I worry that maybe I just want a baby b/c it's proving so hard to obtain. But then, I think about NOT having a family, and I shudder.

Ms Heathen said...

Thank you for this wonderful post, Mrs X. I related to just about every word of it.

I'm also one of those women who believed I could achieve just about anything if I worked hard enough at it... and then infertility struck, and I was unable to do something that seemingly every other woman out there could accomplish without even having to think about it. It is strange how something as adult as wanting to have a child can bring out such specifically infantile feelings of frustration.

I very much liked your idea of compartmental goals - as you say, perhaps the knack is to focus on getting pregnant, and then to worry everything else when the time comes.

Deathstar said...

I've honestly had to deeply consider the fact was that was part of the appeal of pregnancy was the attention I would be getting along with it. When I finally got to be engaged, I was all about look at me, I'm getting married, I'm getting married - it seemed like this ever elusive thing I had been searching for years. I had no idea what a good marriage was. Oh, man, what an ego. I mean I KNOW THAT IT'S WAY MORE COMPLICATED, but in part, isn't that why we can get so upset when others get pregnant. It's like waiting to get picked to be on the dodge ball team. When is it MY turn. Great post. Also, love the Lance Armstrong's quote. I'm stealing it.

Amber said...

I've been thinking about how to word this exact situation in my own blog. What if I don't really want what I think I want? Scary stuff. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone.

Jill said...

I get it.

TABI said...

I often wondered too if I am just suffering from wanting the forbidden fruit. All this suffering is making me want this seemingly unattainable goal. But overall I think your heart and the rest of our hearts are in the right place. Love the quotation too! I need words like this to keep kicking me in the butt to not quit!

Kim said...

The thing that is really unfair is unlike training for a race or studying for a test - the amount of effort you put into trying to get pregnant does not guarantee a positive outcome. And that really stinks!!! nclm

Melanie said...

Boy do I relate to this one. I wonder often if my desire for a child has morphed into a desire to overcome the universe telling me I can't. I'm still sorting through it.

Shinejil said...

I know exactly what you're talking about Mrs. X, and that desire to be able to do what everyone else does easily has tortured me endlessly on my IF road. It's gotten better recently for whatever reason, as I've accepted that I suck in the reproductive department. But I often wonder, too, if it's all about me wanting to fit into a certain mold. And where my true longing for a beloved child ends, and my ego begins.

In short, thought provoking as usual, dear. And love the final quote.

Rebeccah said...

I'm right there with you on all counts! If I can graduate magna cum laude (it was painful--not sure it was worth the effort), why oh why can't I keep a pregnancy?

On the other hand, Lance does have a point ...