Spring Cleaning Takes On a New Meaning


spring cleaningWhen I started this blog more than a year ago my head was crammed full of unspoken thoughts and my heart was in such pain that I could hardly see straight. Deep seated anger clouded my judgment. My mental health was fragile at best.

Seems in relinquishing infertility treatment and letting go of the life I thought I would be living I had some “issues” to address. Since then I’ve been fighting my way to some kind of peaceful existence. I’ve written about trying to find my way out of the cul de sac that had become my life, unpacking baggage I’d been carrying around for years on end and fighting demons that seemed intent on keeping me restless. I was making some pretty good progress on my mental health but the past week or so the demons have been working over time. What can I say? They like me. I’m an easy target. The result has been insomnia and a weird malaise that has no obvious cause.

Shlomit helped to crystallize my current angst. She’s written about the identity crisis and mental health challenges that come from living through a difficult transition. As we continue to evolve we take on different characteristics. Much like clay being molded I was trying to shape a new Pamela Jeanne, carve out a well-formed non-mom persona.

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There I was in the library, my nascent new self looking for yet another book to inspire me, to infuse me with a sense of well being. And then like a WHACK up the side of my head, something hit me.

In the display case sat a book called Beyond the Mommy Years. Just seeing the cover filled me with quiet rage.  A photo of soapy knee bent in a tub and a hand holding a glass of wine implying a celebration of a job well done. A victory for having made it to a new stage of life. A voice inside my head said, “walk away. you do not want to crack the spine. shake it off.” What did I do? I checked it out.

Yeah, the book has been sitting on my kitchen counter until this morning. I just opened it. I needed a target to vent my anger. The jacket cover reads: “Thirty million mothers between 40 and 60 years old are about to face childless households for the first in decades. And for many, the community found on the playground, on the playing fields, and even at PTA meetings is gone.”

Oh, reaaaaaallllly? And I’m supposed to feel BAD for these women? They’re feeling grief you say? They’re trying to figure out this “postmommyhood” (the author’s term) stage of their life? Boo hoo.

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Well get in the BACK of the line ladies. You’ve got some serious hard time to do before you’re going to find any sympathy from the likes of me. Try living the empty nest syndrome of a different flavor then we can talk. Until then, well…

So clearly anger has made its way back front and center in this unpredictable recovery of mine. Yes, there’s some good evidence here that I still harbor smoldering resentment for those who have zero appreciation for what ‘infertiles’ have to live through. My mental health can be easily rattled.

So, every time I think I’ve skipped ahead in my recovery, the reality of living infertile in a — let me add, clueless — ‘fertile’ world manages to sneak up on me. Sigh. More work to do. On today’s list is some spring cleaning … the closets, under the bed, the places where I’ve stuffed things I wasn’t ready to get rid of just yet.  And maybe, just maybe I’ll break some china. I’ve got to dissipate the anger somehow.


24 Responses

  1. niobe

    March 16, 2008 3:25 pm

    Yeah, I know what you mean. Every once in awhile, I bump up against something that suddenly envelops me in a wave of feelings so that I feel like I’m drowning. For me, it’s almost always sadness and not anger. But I think that in many ways, anger is a healthier and more constructive reaction.

  2. chicklet

    March 16, 2008 3:54 pm

    I personally think the anger helps. Sometimes we need to be angry to get past the hurt and craziness. Sucks that you’re there again but really, isn’t it better to be angry and smart than weepy and stupid (uh, over their loss of mommyhood now that the kids have left)?

  3. Lori

    March 16, 2008 4:29 pm

    I always think that healing should go in a straight line. That once I “get over” something it should not bother me again.

    But with IF, things keep coming back. Healing seems like more of a spiral. The seemingly endless healing process forces me to process deeper and deeper. To my bones, I fear.

    I understand the desire to break things. But not to clean things (small joke to lighten the mood).

    Hugs, PJ.

  4. jc

    March 16, 2008 4:54 pm

    You’re a braver woman than I am – I couldn’t have read it. I’d be more likely to tell it to “Bite Me” just a little too loudly and get kicked out of the library. On the other hand, empty nesters are kind of a relief to deal with. They are just discovering other things to talk about besides their kids, they don’t want to know why I don’t have kids, and they aren’t longing for grandkids yet. Since I don’t have a childless post-infertility peer group (hey, I don’t even know what to call myself yet), it’s the next best thing. Unless, of course, they refer to themselves as being in “postmommyhood.” Then they have to go.

  5. annacyclopedia

    March 16, 2008 11:17 pm

    I agree with Lori on this one. I totally understand the frustration of feelings coming back, things I thought were dealt with. And I never really remember that healing is a spiral until I’ve spent about a week beating myself up about how dumb I am cause I’m angry/terrified/grieving again. So I hope you can be gentle with yourself and let the anger be there and do its work. It’ll go again, and probably come back again. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or your healing process.

    Hope your cleaning/smashing extravaganza brings you some peace, and thanks for writing this post.

  6. loribeth

    March 17, 2008 1:49 am

    One of our bereavement group topics is “The Grief Spiral,” making the point that grief is not a linear process, & there is no set order to go through Kubler-Ross’s “seven stages.” I actually Googled the phrase “grief spiral,” & there’s a whole lot of literature on the subject — a lot of it referencing C.S. Lewis.

    I totally agree. Just when I think I’m doing better, something seems to suck me back into the vortex again. I’m not sure how or if I will ever climb out of it completely.

  7. Freyja

    March 17, 2008 2:30 am

    Oh poor, poor them. 😛

    Even when I feel like breaking things I basically never do, mostly because cleaning glass up is such a PITA. The one exception was 4 years ago when my husband made me so mad I broke his computer. *blushing*

  8. Irish Girl

    March 17, 2008 11:54 am

    Your use of the word “recovery” is pretty well suited for living child-free not by choice and the infertile experience as a whole. Others who are “in recovery” have to deal with their demons on a day by day basis. They must change the way they see and experience the world in order to be successful with their “recovery”. All the while, whatever it is they are “recovering from” is all around them! Isn’t that what we are forced into doing as infertile women? Surviving in a world filled with exactly what we want but don’t have.

    PJ, your posts are always so thought provoking. Thank you.

  9. luna

    March 17, 2008 2:49 pm

    as the others have said, I think anger (and resentment) is such a natural response to the grief of infertility. and as lori said, grief is not linear but spiral and comes around and whacks you in the head (or ass) sometimes when we thought we were done with all that. maybe it’s a more useful emotion than sadness to channel into something productive. a good primal scream might help too?

    thanks for continuing to write with such honesty. ~luna

  10. Kami

    March 17, 2008 3:51 pm

    “And for many, the community found on the playground, on the playing fields, and even at PTA meetings is gone.”

    Even though I hope to be a mom, I can’t imagine ever finding a community in these groups. Those mom’s won’t have a clue about what it means to have gone through IF first.

    I hope that some day, the fertile community might have a hint about what it might be like to live on the other side.

  11. Beth

    March 17, 2008 4:51 pm

    I hear ya. I do have to tell you tho that the counselor I was seeing a few years back told me that it was PERFECTLY HEALTHY to have adult temper tantrums. She even encouraged me to break things (in an appropriate way, of course)!

    So, my little tidbit to you: dollar stores are a GREAT source for glassware so hideous the only reason it was created was to be broken in the midst of an adult temper tantrum! Break on sister, break on!

  12. Kellie

    March 17, 2008 5:14 pm

    I read often but rarely leave a comment. Today, however, I just wanted to write and thank you for opening up your heart and soul on this blog for the past year. Though my husband and I are pursuing adoption through the foster system, I can relate to so much of what you have to say. You help me and I’m sure many many other women feel less alone, so thank you.

  13. Summer

    March 17, 2008 8:19 pm

    I’m not someone who likes to get angry. Maybe it’s because my father was easy to anger and I never liked how it felt to be at the other end of his anger. But, one thing I learned from IF is that there can be healthy and productive anger. And so even though I don’t like to be angry, I see now that maybe anger isn’t completely unproductive.

    So, maybe this anger that you’re feeling is not the kind to get rid of, but rather the kind to feel because it is part of your recovery.

  14. Baby Step

    March 17, 2008 11:09 pm

    This stuff makes me really angry too. I had to go to a concert at my step-daughter’s elementary school the other night (she is in 6th grade). Every time I am surrounded by all the parents, I just feel like a fish out of water. I am surrounded by people that have given birth, raised their kids to thriving 12 year olds, and I just don’t fit in. I HATE going there but my husband doesn’t get it at all. I feel like the only one on the planet when I am there. Surrounded by people but utterly alone.

  15. foreverhopeful

    March 17, 2008 11:34 pm

    I agree with JC and think you are so brave to even read it. You’ve overcome so much and you should be proud of yourself. Its ok to feel anger still. Its a natural healthy process and it takes courage to be honest and to deal with our emotions. Too many people pretend & hide their true emotions and let it fester. Keep writing and sharing your feelings. Thank you always for your honesty.

  16. Rachel

    March 18, 2008 5:20 pm

    It may be that the anger never subsides… but that one day, it will never be as strong as it has been this past year or so. I agree with all that feeling it is the most important thing. I love the little sketch… that’s an angry little character! Keep writing.

  17. Chris

    March 18, 2008 8:28 pm

    It’s just so hard to feel like we think we are past something, only to be blindsighted by a casual encounter along the way. I thought I was feeling OK about never being pregnant, but then walked past a display in a store and the sadness came rushing back. Damn.

  18. Deathstar

    March 19, 2008 1:21 am

    A friend of me once said that pain can be like having holes in your heart that never heal. You can live with it, but from time to time it aches.

    There should be a book out there (written by you) for all the people living with infertility. Whether or not they decide to live childless or adopt or have their own, it will be a lifeline to someone out there. We all need to feel like we’re not alone.

  19. shlomit

    March 19, 2008 2:31 am

    oh yah, sister, sing it!!!! sometimes i don’t think i get angry enough, so i totally enjoyed this post!
    (and thanks for the shout out, btw)….
    the one predictable thing about this IF and beyond krap: it’s unpredictable!
    keep writing, my friend!

  20. shlomit

    March 19, 2008 2:32 am

    ps…must be something going around…i’ve been furiously cleaning my abode….something about moving on for me, i think…and a good outlet for the rage (that and copious amounts of red wine!)

  21. Bea

    March 19, 2008 4:45 am

    Oh, to have problems that size. Now, I’m sure it’s a hard adjustment and all, but if it’s your biggest worry I reckon you’re doing ok. Let them have their book. Hopefully they can read it and move on to more useful concerns.


  22. JJ

    March 19, 2008 5:37 pm

    I was particularly side swiped with sadness this morning as I listened to a co-worker drone on and on about how she wants her uterus removed “because shes done the kid thing, and just wants to get rid of it”
    I echo all above–thanks for the amazing writing you do!

  23. Alacrity

    March 21, 2008 3:06 pm

    PJ –

    I really do get a lot out of your blog – I am at least a year behind you I think – and I couldn’t even pick up that book let alone check it out and read it!!

    Anyway, I was just thinking the other day about how the process of coming to terms with childlessness is so much like a pendulum – at least I hope it is, because that means that the swings into grief and anger will become less intense as time goes by. I will have to think about the spiral.

    Anyway, thanks for writing about your thoughts and feelings. As others have commented, not only is this “the gift that keeps on giving,” it is a very isolating and lonely ride to be on. The online network helps.

  24. Baby Meanings

    March 13, 2009 8:02 am

    Everytime the anger comes to anyone, it’s healing therapy though it’s not a good one. So, for me it’s ok to be angry as long as in the right control.

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