Words of Chance, Caution and Kindness


The voice of the late 20-something echoed in the ladies room.

“I wonder if I’ll be as laid back as Christina when I get pregnant…”

When I get pregnant. A casual, off-handed expression of inevitability. It’s what I once uttered with all the certainty and innocence of one who didn’t know any better.

“Sure, you will,” came the reply from an equally confident friend.

They didn’t know I was there. I waited for them to leave.  I wouldn’t have said anything anyway. I didn’t believe the older woman who had once tried to set me to rights when I was on the verge of turning 30.

“Don’t take anything for granted where pregnancy is concerned,” she cautioned.

I didn’t know then how right she was. It wasn’t a question of a ticking biological clock but flawed plumbing that prevented pregnancy for me. No matter. Her words haunt me still.

* * * * *

I’d also like to offer a word of thanks to Nancy, Mel, Niobe and all mothers and fellow infertiles alike who embrace those of us childfree after infertility and loss with the gentle understanding that we didn’t arrive here lightly. As I told Nancy, whom I’m recognizing for her Act of Kindness, we didn’t love our children-to-be any less. We just never got the opportunity to hold them.

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15 Responses

  1. Matthew M F Miller

    January 8, 2008 3:36 pm

    Beautiful, beautiful post – got me very emotional. Fertility arrogance is something I’m sure we all had, something everyone has, before things don’t go how we planned. Here’s hoping that girl in the bathroom won’t have to go through what you have endured.

  2. luna

    January 8, 2008 3:43 pm

    yeah, I had a similar haunting experience in my very early 20s. My former SIL was unable to conceive after 2 failed IVFs. Once while walking on the beach she urged me “don’t wait TOO long” and I thought those words didn’t even apply then. I also had other issues besides just my old eggs. But my later experience not only gave me so much empathy for my x-SIL but reminds me to serve up some rare assvice for a few people I think could use it some day down the road. Mine has been “a cautionary tale” of sorts which has prompted more than a few friends to push the issue with their partners before it got “too late.” Can you say infertility poster girl? ~luna

  3. Kami

    January 8, 2008 4:39 pm

    My sometime acupuncturist is now TTC for the first time at 38 years old. I have gone to her on and off for about a year. I know she has other people she has treated for infertility. She was worried because she didn’t get pregnant the first month (not temping, just not preventing). I suggested she temp and go to an RE if she times intercourse for 6 months and doesn’t get pregnant.

    I could tell she didn’t think that applied to her. She said, “I come from a very fertile family.”

    I wanted to tell her, “Yeah, so did I” or “Well, what about your husband?”

    I also wanted to ask her how she thought other infertiles got into this situation. Don’t you think we thought we were healthy? Don’t you think we thought we were fertile?

  4. loribeth

    January 8, 2008 5:11 pm

    Ah, the confidence of youth… I too was once that blissfully naive (sp?). I can sympathize, as my office seems to have been overrun with 20-somethings (mostly still single — but with baby fever nevertheless) and (slightly older) pregnant women over the past year or two. I recently learned that the mother of the 28-yr-old in the cubicle next door is just a year older than I am (!!!). Turnover being what it is, I don’t believe any of them know that I was ever pregnant, much less the rest of the story. I suppose that if they think of me at all in relation to children, they just assume that I never wanted them, end of story — and unless I’m asked some pretty specific questions (which is doubtful), I’m reluctant to tell my story & rain on their parade.

  5. MrsX

    January 8, 2008 6:48 pm

    These moments always kill me – you are confronted not only with their sheer naivete but also you feel stupid all over again for thinking the same thing for yourself. Who thinks that they are going to be infertile? I also don’t like being the cautionary tale for my friends (even though my infertility was because I had totally blocked tubes). Part of me wishes that I had that naivete still.

    In the end, though, I truly believe that infertility makes you stronger and this is just one of those journeys that you certainly didn’t want to go on, but you have become a better person for. I for one have become much more empathetic with others’ plights and understanding of the emotions that we all go through. I’ve also learned how to forgive myself and to be proud of myself.

    I have a great deal of respect for those who decide to get off the IF train and live childfree. I think it takes unbelievable courage to make it and to live it gracefully. You are doing both. Best wishes.

  6. Jenna

    January 8, 2008 10:17 pm

    “We just never got the opportunity to hold them” This really resonates with me. Thank you for posting this.

  7. beagle

    January 8, 2008 10:43 pm

    Unplanned pregnancy “runs in my family” (more likely just a lack of responsible family planning). I was utterly preoccupied with avoiding pregnancy for more than a decade. I too was guilty of that certainty.

    It’s long since been knocked out of me.

    Loving the unseen children of infertility and loss. . . that is the thing that makes this online community such a place of belonging for me when the “out there” world just doesn’t understand the sadness behind my socially acceptable smile.

  8. meghan

    January 9, 2008 12:09 am

    I have wanted to tell so many people not take their fertility for granted. Haven’t found the right way to say it yet…and I doubt it would be received well…since I don’t think I would have taken it well either

  9. Lori

    January 9, 2008 3:09 am

    Add me to the list of people who experienced this conversation from one side in my younger days and the other in my wiser days.

    A special hug for you, PJ. Very touching.

  10. niobe

    January 9, 2008 1:46 pm

    This post really touched me.

    And, thinking about it, the thing I find hardest to deal with is that those naive women who are absolutely sure that they will get pregnant easily and have an uneventful pregnancy and a healthy baby, so often turn out to be absolutely right.

  11. Yodasmistress

    January 9, 2008 1:46 pm

    I have a male coworker who is all about TTC. He has been for a year or so now but is waiting for his wife to catch up. She’s around 30 but, like me, has a little sis who popped out a kid as a teen so she assumes she’s uber fertile. Which I did too. Lol. Even if I didn’t shake my my head at the naivety on that day, I did when this same coworker and I were planning for the coming year and he made some comment about how they were going to have a baby in the fall… since they’re planning to start TTC this winter.


    I went over and looked at Nancy’s blog. I think she hit on something very important. Sometimes I too feel like I’m unworthy of reading your blog. It’s like we’re in high school and you are a Senior and I’m a Freshman. No matter what advice I give you’ve probably heard it before. I seriously doubt that I can say anything you would find truly insightful or profound in regards to IF. At the same time though, I keep coming back and reading and commenting anyway. I can’t stay away. Going back to the high school analogy, even if I can’t teach you anything, I selfishly want to hang around because I’m certain you have things to teach me.

  12. Nancy

    January 9, 2008 7:26 pm

    I wish no one had to take that advice to heed. ~hugs~

    (btw – something is in the works. An idea. Something. It’s spawning and I’m quite excited. Nothing to share at the moment, but there will be a time when it is.)

  13. Deathstar

    January 10, 2008 2:02 am

    Years ago, this older woman, a fellow actress warned me that if I wanted to have children, I should really get going on it. At first, I thought, what a nerve, I’ll get pregnant when I’m good and ready for it. Sigh. Yep, I often wonder if we had tried just a couple years earlier, then maybe…. I know that woman had wanted children of her own, I could practically smell her regret and sadness. She was trying to tell me, in the only way someone who only casually knows you, that she knew the pain of infertility. Well, I’m that lady now, and my good friend is now having problems trying to conceive, and I am right beside her telling her not to wait, to do the blood tests, find out where she stands medically. I tell her not to wait until her and fiance are married. I gave her all my unused pee sticks, and tell her to do whatever she has to in order to have a child. I don’t want her to feel the pain and despair I have gone through. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

  14. Bea

    January 10, 2008 6:53 am

    I hate to hear people talking like that, too. And the old, “Make sure you wait til you’re really ready…” By then will it be too late?

    I heard enough stories to realise some people ran into unexpected problems. I never believed I’d *be* one, but at the same time I think it may have been a factor in our decision to start when we did (at 26). I think it’s worth making sure couples are aware of infertility and – where possible – are leaving themselves enough time for plan B if so desired.


  15. SaraS-P

    January 15, 2008 10:10 pm

    I seems absurd that I WAS that naive twenty-something so recently. Indeed, don’t take anything for granted where pregnancy is concerned.

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