After my minor setback this week I decided to throw myself on the couch. Dr. PJ (my pragmatic head) will have a session with Pamela Jeanne (my unpredictable heart).
Dr. PJ: You were making so much progress. What was it about that email from a business acquaintance?
Pamela Jeanne: Maybe it was the chirpy nature of it. The reminder that babies come to everyone else. My womb suddenly felt so empty. Right on the heels of that another email arrived about a technical conference from a male acquaintance that began, “my 1yo took his first steps this morning.”
And if that wasn’t enough to rattle me, later in afternoon I had to shut my door as the sounds of a baby shower-like exercise took place with the office assistants taking turns suggesting what the latest newly pregnant woman should name her child (this is the eighth pregnancy in a small office in the past year). It felt like I was under siege.
Dr. PJ: Clearly something much deeper is bothering you…
Pamela Jeanne: Ah, ha! I get it. Before I go to the grocery store, the beach, the restaurant, I climb into a metaphorical suit of armor and prepare myself for the onslaught of pregnant women, babies and toddlers. My heart is prepared to do battle. But that armor is heavy to wear around so I leave it at home rather than take it to work.
Now it’s making sense. I expect my office, my workspace to be something of a sanctuary — a place where I can safely avoid pregnancy chatter. Suddenly my sanctuary was no longer peaceful.
Dr. PJ: You know your friend Karen recently wrote about a book that had this advice, which I’d like you to consider: “Often, experts tell us that all we have to do is think positively. They tell us that emotions like anger, grief, and shame are harmful to our health. They aren’t. These emotions are harmful only if they are denied, minimized, or suppressed into our unconscious. There, the energy persists and builds unseen until it becomes powerful enough to wreak mischief.” Perhaps your unconscious trying to tell you something. What do you think it is?
Pamela Jeanne: Well, and let me be clear I do have the capacity to be joyful about babies and pregnancies when I’m in the right place. All I ask is that people respect that it takes incredible strength and effort for me to express that joy amid the painful realization that no babies will ever grow inside of me. I often wonder if the tables were turned how would other side handle it. It’s easy to be magnanimous when it’s not you, isn’t it?
Now back to my unconscious, I suppose after the last embryo transfer the loss was too much to comprehend. It was simply easier to suppress the hurt, sadness and yawning loss than to deal with it.
Dr. PJ: Are there any other emotions you suppressed? Remember, if we don’t release the energy it’s going to build up and cause problems down the line.
Pamela Jeanne: Well, I suppose…and this is hard to say because, well…I want to be nice. That’s how I was raised.
Dr. PJ: Out with it.
Pamela Jeanne: Okay, okay. I’m still angry, and sometimes that anger burns.
Dr. PJ: This sounds serious. Who are you angry with?
Pamela Jeanne: No one and everyone. It just aggravates me to no end, still, that there’s so little acknowledgement of the lasting impact of infertility. Just about everyone thinks it’s a bump in the road. IT’S NOT! It’s a f@#$king crater.
No, no. Actually it’s more than that. I’ve been forced off the main highway onto a less traveled, lonely road.
Dr. PJ: This is good. Get it out.
Pamela Jeanne: All right. I’ve had enough with the minimizing that people do. Just f@#$ing acknowledge that infertility is HARD. Don’t try to tell me that everyone has “issues” they’re sensitive about. This is not about being overweight and wanting to be thin. This is not about wanting a nicer house or a bigger car. If I hear one more person tell me, “My single friends get upset when their married friends talk about their husbands…” I’ll f@#$ing scream.
I was single once. I wanted to be married. Yes, it was hard to go to weddings at time. I envied my married friends. It was NOTHING like infertility. You know why? Love does not require complex biological systems to operate properly. Love doesn’t time out. I know people in the 50s and 60s who’ve fallen in love with the infatuation of teenagers. Love can be waiting around the corner on any given day. People seeking a mate have hope for the future. The hope gets them through the tough days.
My hope for getting pregnant died, okay!? I have no hope for ever knowing what it feels like to get the flutter. My baby album has two photos and they’re of embyros. I had to rid my house of baby clothes I bought when I thought I might actually get pregnant. Do you have any idea how hard it is to pack up those dreams and give them away to the Salvation Army?
Dr. PJ: Good, good. Anything else you’d like to add, heart?
Pamela Jeanne: Implying that I should hide my infertility to “protect others” or to be ashamed of talking about it just because you are is just wrong. I’m going to talk about it. If it makes you uncomfortable, well, welcome to my world.
And one more thing, head. Stop pressuring me to be “over” my infertility. Don’t you dare try tell me when it’s time to stop grieving. I’ll be done when I’m done.
Dr. PJ: I think we’ve made a lot of progress. Let’s keep talking, and remember to let those emotions out…
Pamela Jeanne: Wow. The adrenalin is really pumping now. I’m going to put it to good use and go exercise. Thanks, I really needed that.