As most of you know financial realities have forced us to postpone our TTC#2 plans indefinitely. Originally we were going to start trying again in October. Our thinking was, if we (miraculously) got pregnant right away, and everything went off without a hitch, the baby would be born right after Isa turned two. This age difference felt a little close and overwhelming to us but we believed we could handle it. And of course we assumed it would not happen right away and wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to let it happen. Even if it took a year, or longer, we wouldn’t feel particularly stressed (hah, well in theory anyway).
I have to admit there was a part of me that was sure we’d get pregnant right away, just because we were scared to. And I was so looking forward to trying without the pressure of having it happen quickly. Now none of that matters because we are not trying in October. We’re not trying in the foreseeable future. I don’t know when we do plan to start trying again, in fact. And it kind of terrifies me.
With that in mind, cut to pregnant bellies.
I have always been kind of obsessed with pregnant bellies. Even before I was TTC I’d look longingly at them. When I was in my early twenties, long before I really felt (or was) ready to have a baby, I was jealous of pregnant bellies. They are just so, I don’t know, awesome. I truly hope that my obsession with pregnant bellies will stop one day. I don’t think anyone condones a 60 year old woman staring wistfully at every burgeoning baby bump that happens by.
Of course when we started TTC my pregnant belly obsession became markedly more pronounced. Especially after my loss, I immediately checked every woman in the vicinity, wondering whether she were pregnant. It got marginally better after I had Isa, but I I still felt drawn to pregnant bellies, now longing for that idyllic (as I always choose to remember it) time of excitement and potential.
I will admit that now, if I see a pregnant woman walking alone I no longer feel jealous of what she has, after all, I had it to once (though I might feel a twinge of envy that she still has it). But then I remember how when I was pregnant and I saw people with babies I coveted the assurance that everything would be alright. I do remember (vividly) how uncertain that time was and I have no desire to resume the anxious worry that accompanied my pregnancies.
Oh course seeing a woman with a pregnant belly and a small child in tow? That has felt a little different. That woman has something I do not yet have. And even when I wasn’t ready to have it, it still stung. But now? Now that TTC#2 is postponed indefinitely? Now I it stings something fierce. Now it’s more akin to a dagger in my heart than the small but persistant paper cuts of before. Now it’s really hard.
I don’t know what it is exactly that hurts so much about seeing someone with what I want. Is it just a reminder of what I can’t yet have? Or is it the reminder of how easily others achieve it? Does it just suck when it’s pointed out that we are being prohibited from growing our family as we’d hoped? Is it shameful that we can’t manage what others so easily afford? I really don’t know. All I know is it hurts. More than I expected.
Yesterday I took Isa to a children’s museum. In the Tot Room, which is for children who are no taller than 42 inches, there were dozens of mothers and their kids. I would venture to guess about 1/3 of them were noticeably pregnant. So many beautiful pregnant bellies being rubbed incessantly. It was kind of overwhelming and it made me want to leave. It was the first time, since our postponed family planning, that I’d seen one pregnant-mom-of-a-toddler let alone 10+ in an enclosed space. I was even informed of a totally un-pregnant (and super skinny) looking well-to-do mother’s “fragile state” when she barged into the room (which admittedly did wreak of poop – someone’s kid needed a diaper change STAT) proclaiming that as a newly pregnant lady she could just NOT TOLERATE the stench. And then she went on to repeat how newly pregnant she was multiple times, lest we had other more personally relevant issues to consider.
Recently someone posted an article on Prompt-ly about “circumstantial infertility”. The author was a 40-something woman who had always wanted children but never found the right man. She claimed that her suffering was similar to her medically infertile counterparts – after all, they all wanted a child but were denied the chance due to circumstances outside of their control. This article inspired a really interesting conversation about the idea of “circumstantial infertility” and if someone who can’t have a child when she wants to because she lacks a partner or her partner is currently deployed or otherwise unable to participate in the necessary physical act should be considered infertile. What about same sex couples or single moms by choice (SMBC) who have to pursue ART? Are they also circumstantially infertile, even if they do achieve pregnancy through medical means? Does my (financial) inability to have a child now, when I want to, make me a sufferer of secondary circumstantial infertility? Is there such a thing as financial infertility and if so does someone who has to wait a mere year to continue building her family even quality?
I want to clarify that I in no way believe I am circumstantially infertile. Nor do I claim membership in the infertility community. I have always flashed my loss card in this space and when commenting on others’ blogs (though I believe my history of amenorrhea and the thousands I spent proactively on acupuncture blur that line somewhat – more on this forthcoming). I would never assume that my current frustration and pain mirrors that of a woman who needed to pursue ART to achieve her first pregnancy and isn’t sure she can afford it, or if it will even work, a second time. I personally believe the suffering when one has to pursue ART due to what might be perceived as a “failure” of one’s body is of a different caliber than of those who can’t build a family because of other circumstances.
I remember waiting for Mi.Vida to be ready to have a child. I remember being frustrated and angry when others got pregnant during that time because I wanted so much for us to be at that place too. But it was a different pain than when we were actively TTC and not getting pregnant. The disappointment of “we’re doing that too, but for it’s not working for us” was much more visceral than what was felt when I was waiting for it to be our time. For that reason, and many others, I believe that the truly (medically) infertile suffer a different kind of loss than those who might claim circumstantial infertility.
I remember when we started trying again after my loss. When my fear of amenorrhea was overshadowed completely by fear of another ectopic. I remember bargaining in my stages of grief, that if I could only have one child, I’d be happy. I only need one, I pleaded, and I’ll be okay. And you know what. It’s true. I will be okay with one child. The desperation I felt of just wanting to be a mother, is not there this time. I am a mother and while I will grieve deeply if I can’t build my family the way I’d hoped to, I will always be so thankful for the daughter I have. I know how lucky I am to have experienced pregnancy and motherhood and I will let my desire for another child overshadow the gratitude I feel for those special blessings.
Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really want to have another baby. A lot.
What are your thoughts on “circumstantial infertility”? How would you compare it with medical infertility? How would you compare primary and secondary infertility? Or is it infertility is infertility, is infertility?