Comparatively

Wow. Thanks for all the comments on my last post. I didn’t deserve all those but I appreciated them. I am much obliged.

So, on to my favorite subject. It’s actually funny that I’ve been writing about this almost exclusively since I “came back” since I’ve hardly thought about it at all for the past two weeks. Maybe this place does make me think about this stuff more. Or maybe it just makes me take my random scattered thoughts and try to make sense of them, or at least try to tackle them in a thoughtful way. Who knows? Certainly not me.

Anyway, so I noticed something the other day, when I was thinking about family building, which is rather frequently (surprise, surprise!). When it’s just me, alone with my thoughts, I feel not-so-bad about the whole family building situation. I mean, I want another child very much, and there is a part of me that feels angry and frustrated that it’s not happening how I want it to, but deep down I do believe that things will work out, whether that looks like having another biological child, or adopting a child or ending up with only one. There is definitely a way that I want it to go, but I do feel pretty confident that in the end I’ll be okay, even if I can’t see how that is possible right now.

I will admit, this is a very different place than I was when I was trying for my first child. Back then, I didn’t think there was anyway to experience happiness in my life without achieving the final result I so desperately sought. I don’t know if it’s because I got that thing I so desperately wanted, or that I learned a lot about myself on the journey to that thing, or maybe a combination of both sprinkled with a few bits of this, that and the other, but I do believe now, that in the end, I will find a way to accept and even celebrate the path my life has in store.

That is how I feel when I’m alone in my car or on a walk or in the shower or wherever I might be thinking these solitary thoughts.

But then what happens is I see a picture on Facebook of our friends’ son gazing adoringly at his newborn brother, or I see another friend on gchat who I know is due with her second next month or I see a tweet about how great breastfeeding is going this time around or I read a blog post about how in 30 weeks a new breastfeeding relationship will begin or I freeze when my friends call, wondering if they’re about to break the news that their second child on the way, or I avoid my cousins’ phone call because I can’t remember how far along she is but she must be in the 2nd trimester by now and I get all freaked out and panicky and angry and despondent, all at once. There is something about seeing other people having what I want that sends me into a tailspin, and I can’t figure out what it is.

It’s not jealousy, or at least it’s not just that. I’m sure jealously plays a role, but this feeling is so visceral, it literally socks me in the chest, taking the breath out of me. And I’m very happy for all these people and their new additions, but there is something about knowing that they already have, or are going to have, what I am trying so hard to get, that immediately makes me lose sight of that peace I feel when I’m alone, when I’m not considering their stories, but just my own.

What is it about the comparison that leaves me reeling? I can’t figure it out. Of course I recognize the twinges of “it’s not fair” and “why them and not me?” and “what am I doing wrong?” and “it must be nice” and “seriously, what the fuck is wrong with us?” and “I wish I could have that so bad” but honestly, none of those feelings on their own (or even wailing together in a despondent pity symphony), can explain just how upset I feel. Especially when the emotions I experience when I’m not comparing my life to theirs feel relatively accepting, even serene.

I honestly don’t know what else to say about this. I was hoping it would hit me while I was typing but it’s not. I’m at as much of a loss now as I was when I started this post. If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them. I just want to get this feeling under control so I don’t have to hide from all the people in my life who are having second babies, because there are A LOT of them, and if I push them all away there won’t be anyone left.

So my lovely blog readers, I’m splayed out on the couch. Head-doctor me. (And no, there won’t be a check in the mail.)

5 responses

  1. Yeah, I so, so get this. It’s much easier to not be stressed about building your family when it’s not in your face, via FB, or in person, right? I really need to buy you the book “Status Anxiety”: it explains this phenomenon so well and how to opt out. I need to reread it myself, because I am going through very similar feelings about recent pregnancy announcements.

  2. If you want some head-doctoring you should ask your local stalker-psychology-professor. I’m sure he’d be thrilled to help. And I figure he owes you for all the ‘good material’ he’s gotten from you ;-P

    I totally get this feeling, and I could never explain it either. Somehow it all just seems so much more URGENT when you’re seeing what you want right in front of your face.

  3. When I was trying for #1, I used to repeat to myself constantly “it is not a race. It is not a race. It is not a race.” I can’t say it helped a LOT, but it did help a little. And for years I was jealous of anyone whose child was older than mine, because it meant they got pregnant before me – never mind if they started trying before me or what. But it really doesn’t matter when it happens, so long as it happens (never having a child, first or second, is another story). You WILL get there, and it will be okay.

  4. I’m really struck by how clearly you can articulate what you want. You want another child, of course, but you also want to be able to preserve the serenity you feel when alone about not having your second child yet, even when confronted by the many things that trigger your pain. You want to keep your friends by being gracious about their fertility and family-building success.

    Here’s the kind of question my life-coach would ask if presented with this scenario: Where is that serenity located? Where is it in your body? How does it feel? Can you visualize it? Then, maybe something like, what kind of container or structure can you envision for protecting and preserving that serenity? Get as detailed as possible – color, texture, smell – and pull up that protective image every time you get hit by one of those assaults on your peace of mind.

    I almost feel like this is one of those things you can’t analyze your way through. Your intellect guides you in so many aspects of your life, but I wonder if this is just one of those areas that intellect can’t quite manage. I know it is for me. It may be that understanding the intellectual “why” of your dilemma isn’t actually the way to getting what you want in this case.

  5. You know what it is? It’s peer pressure, and successful marketing of the “ideal” family, or the “family you SHOULD have.” Facebook can be a form of advertising. I’m sure for younger people FB is peer pressure on how to a) have a good time on the weekend, or b) get the fanciest clothes (or whatever, i don’t have too many young people on my FB!). With my friends these days FB is all about having good holidays (oops, I’m guilty of participating in that). But advertising, marketing, peer pressure, call it what you want, is so all-encompassing that we don’t really know why we want the Apple iPad, or the cheeseburger, or that fancy car, or that second child, we just know that we want it. Yet, if we step back we can have clarity – as you found. Which is why that sentence makes me so happy – “I do believe now, that in the end, I will find a way to accept and even celebrate the path my life has in store.”

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