Saturday, September 16, 2006

When the Fertile World Meets the Infertile World

I was thinking about this earlier this morning, about how for as well as things seem to be going with this pregnancy, that I can't forget the pain and isolation my infertility and pregnancy losses gave me.

For instance, I was shopping yesterday and looking for a coat as my regular winter coat is a slim cut with princess seams and won't do for the winter with the belly and boobs. At this shop as I was inspecting this swing coat (not maternity so it might get some wear afterwards) the sales assistant came up to me and was discussing the fit. I decided to buy it and at the register she asked me if it was my first, to which I replied "Third pregnancy, first baby." and then she said with some understanding "congratulations."

It's not a specter but it's just that being pregnant before, and not being able to get pregnant before that, were all sources of grief, discontentment, frustration and isolation. So being pregnant now isn't really a tra-la-la life is beautiful, I'm an earth mother and everything is perfect now. I'm not that trivial. It's part of my life now, some of the most painful experiences I have been through up until this point -- and I didn't find a lot of support from my social network IRL.

Sure I'm kind of fascinated by my changing body, somewhat pleased and distracted by the new sensations of movement coming from my belly, coping with the discomforts and the like. I worry that the baby is going to be okay, that I'll be able to have the c-section and not end up dead or with a hysterectomy, and hoping that my fibroid decided to shrivel up and go away. I talk a little to the baby and my partner and I talk about it and what is to come. I'm distracted by it daily, but I'm not obsessed about it. I've learned that it's not just up to me and a good portion of this it out of my hands -- I just have to hope for the best.

So tonight I was shocked when my sister-in-law at dinner basically attacked me. I was talking to her husband, my partner's brother as he asked me about when I was going to tell people at work. She asked some question that I gave a quiet answer like "okay" to and then got all huffy and went on like about how was it okay to talk about my pregnancy because it felt like it wasn't okay and it was making her really uncomfortable. She asked this in a totally aggressive way as if I was to blame for her discomfort. I replied calmly that after four years of infertility, two miscarriages and surgery for us both that I was just feeling a little subdued about it. She replied in indignation "well if that's the way it's going to be..."

She and I are not close though I've known her for almost ten years. She moved to town five years ago and didn't continue working and just set out to get pregnant, which she did eight months later without much of a hitch. When they first told us that they were pregnant I was happy for them, for her. I brought out some books that I had and shared with her stories of how pregnancy and childbirth were dealt with in Native American culture and 19th century society. I didn't want her to have a totally medicalized pregnancy, I knew about the benefits of midwifery, doulas and different labor styles from having read articles and accumulated knowledge since I was in college. I think I overwelmed her as she never once consulted with me after that about anything regarding her pregnancy. Additionally due to the excuse of her not feeling well (and granted she might not have) they blew us off on two occasions during her pregnancy when we had dinner plans -- and once when I went out of my way to make lasagna. They never rescheduled, they never reciprocated or reinitiated. I figured she wanted space and I gave it to her. What else was to be done. We were just starting to try to conceive during that time, work was stressful and life was busy.

Her second pregnancy was announced two weeks after we found out we were pregnant for the first time. It was agonizing for me as I had the retained tissue through what would have been six months pregnant and there she was easily having her second. She wasn't there for me during that time at all and honestly I couldn't even stand to look at her. When I had my fibroid out and the repeat d&c that November and they came to visit me in the hospital I mentioned that I was finally not pregnant any longer and she just looked at me like I hadn't said anything. My friend was in the room then and commented to me afterwards that she found my sister-in-law to be a bit odd at that moment.

I think that my sister-in-law has been living in babyland and mommyhood for too many years and that has colored her vision. As anyone who has been through miscarriage will tell you, it's not all bliss after you have had the worst thing happen to you, you rather feel like you are walking with your guard up. I also think that my sister-in-law and mother-in-law have been talking, they are feeling some information deficit about our pregnancy and assume that I think that everything is going to fail at any moment -- my mother-in-law has basically said as much to my partner. I don't talk to either woman except at family gatherings, we're not close and I don't see why my being pregnant would change that.

My partner, his brother and I spent a good portion of dinner after that talking about work and trying to hire more staff so I can take a leave of absence. My sister-in-law was either annoyed that we had such things to talk about or embarrassed by her outburst (I know her husband was) or both.

So anyway, I feel a bit wounded for having been attacked so and now I have to pretend like it wasn't anything because I don't have the type of relationship with her where I can tell her how wrong she is. Besides, I have a somewhat strained relationship with my partner's family as I always feel like I am being judged and not understood. The fun part is that its my nephew's birthday next week and then my mother-in-law is coming in two weeks so I totally have to see them even though I don't want to right now.

I feel like I should go find some articles for them about how very normal I am coming from where I have. Do you have anything that you think might be helpful? Is it even worth it?

What do you think about these links?

Things We Wish You Knew - RESOLVE

Ways to Support a Parent Whose Baby Has Died - SHARE (PDF)