Women who become Mothers After Battling Infertility (MABIs) intrigue me. While I have not a clue what it’s like to walk in their shoes, they’re the closest proxy to what I might have been like as a mother. They’re a different breed. The hardship and emotional scars more often than not make them the polar opposite of the dreaded Momzilla.
MABIs have an extra gear, a sensitivity and empathy that extends beyond the norm. You can usually spot them easily. They generally don’t push their children in oversized strollers with a demanding, ‘get the @#$ out of my way’ attitude. They don’t drag their children into nice restaurants (or other places meant for grownups) past their bedtime, or when they’re sick, coughing and miserable. And they know their audience. They can read a crowd and know when it’s perhaps not a good time to launch into a story about the joys and frustrations of parenting.
From time to time they file MABI informant reports. Like undercover agents they reveal what it’s like to be in the belly of the beast — you can almost feel their pulses quicken and appreciate their desire to take a swing when trapped by a Momzilla in the Mom’s Clubs or play date scene.
Some MABIs have gone password protected. Think of it as the witness protection program for infertiles. It’s a good thing. They need the protection and anonymity. The Momzillas, no doubt, would demand off with their heads if they know where to find them. Take this report from one infertile, now a mother, who described a Momzilla…
about How People Are So Rude To Parents With Babies. This complaint was
pounced upon in our mother’s group a while back, and I just couldn’t
bring myself to join in. I was the one sitting timidly in the corner,
protesting, ‘Gosh, I’m surprised, people have been supernice to me…’
and feeling, once again, like I was somehow on the outside of the group.”
Most people respond to courteousness with courteousness. If Momzillas are behaving badly is it any wonder people behave badly in return?
There’s a particular irony in that Momzillas seem incapable of recognizing that they make a mockery of the very behaviors that mothers are supposed to help instill in their children: kindness; patience; courteousness; sharing, goodwill, etc., etc.
You don’t have to be a MABI to understand this. There are also associate memberships to the MABI society — the MSTICs (pronounced like “mystics” – Mothers Sympathetic to Infertile Challenges).
Those of you who have had your fill of Momzillas — MABIs or MSTICs and, of course, my core readership WWCs (women without children) — are welcome to share your observations. Don’t worry. Momzillas don’t visit this site. They are tone deaf when it comes to understanding women who can’t have children.
February 3, 2009 5:12 pm
I haven’t had anyone be rude to me yet so maybe I am doing something right. Of course LB is only 7 months old.
One thing I will (I suspect) never get used to is the amount of attention a little baby brings. Complete strangers smile at her or stop and say “hi”. LB loves the attention and for that I am happy, but I feel like we should stay invisible out of respect for others dealing with infertility. It really makes me uncomfortable. I wonder how other MABI’s deal with it?
February 3, 2009 6:26 pm
I wonder if I was a MABI way before I was an infertile (more likely a MSTIC). I had my first and tread ever so lightly into motherhood (a Momzilla I was not… clearly), and then, secondary infertility rocked my boat and has for many years.
I suppose that my low-key approach the first time around prepared me for what was to come.
February 3, 2009 6:51 pm
I like to think I am the type of sensitive and insightful mom you describe. I do attribute it to all the years of infertility. I have a depth and compassion that I would not have had if childbearing had come easily.
I could NOT join mothers groups. I found a competitiveness and entitlement that I could not stand. And yes, even now that I am a “mom” I am not one of them. I am still very different.
February 3, 2009 7:04 pm
I agree that there seems to be some difference in MABI and MSTICS: I think IF just makes us all more aware about others and their feelings.
February 3, 2009 7:07 pm
fascinating post- as always, m’dear.
There is also the total weirdness of being pregnant after infertility. I find myself telling ANYONE and everyone that asks about the Snork that it was years in the making and if I have time I go into mind-numbing detail about all the drugs, treatments, depression, etc.
It is also weird to be within a group of women that are due the same time because they talk about the most insane things: planned pregnancies around vacation time! setting up nurseries before reaching the 2nd trimester! It is just a mind blow.
I don’t take a single moment of this for granted and I only imagine how much more of a tight rope I will start to walk in the Spring.
I could care less if I accidentally insulted a momzilla, but if I said or did anything to upset anyone dealing with infertility I would present myself for proper flogging.
February 3, 2009 7:07 pm
You have touched on one of my pet peeves regarding moms in general – The ability of many moms to make their world just absolutely revolve around their child. (I should also make a disclaimer that I have secondary infertility and have a little boy). I worked and went to law school in the fifteen years between college and the birth of my son. As a single person, I traveled considerably and developed varied interests. I no longer practice law but am still interested in the outside world. I keep NPR on all day! I would love to have people to go to a nice restaurant with sans DS, and I would love to have intelligent, adult conversations about something other than kids. It has been a challenge to find this. (Note: We moved to MN 2.5 years ago where 3 and 4 kid families are the rule, not the exception. We are dd with our one.) I love my son, and while he is a huge part of my life, I was a multi-faceted person who enjoyed adult conversation before he was born and would like to continue to be. That just seems impossible in this era of uber parenting. Thanks for letting me vent.
February 6, 2009 1:38 am
I just had to reply because I live just across the river from MN. But, I too have noticed that people having larger families here and throughout MN is THE rule and NOT the exception. But I hate that I feel isolated here because there really are very few women that I can carry a real conversation with. Plus, I have observed that most of the women my age have a social network that consists of mostly of other moms. I am usually excluded. So, when I find a woman whose conversation expands beyond kids, play dates, and school, I really feel like I have found a gem. 😉
February 3, 2009 7:14 pm
I like to think that I am one of those that can read the tone of the people around me and I keep my mouth shut. Honestly I think whiny mothers who gripe about every little nuance of their children’s upbringing are as annoying, or actually more annoying than those who gush over their children’s perfection.
I never mentioned my children unless someone asked (if I were with people that I knew didn’t have children and had no idea if it was by choice). I let others take the lead. I do admit though that more than once I have brought up the fact that we tried for 8 years before becoming parents and that has opened the door for discussion if they feel the need.
February 3, 2009 7:31 pm
Spent a couple days with a mum friend. She related a couple stories about older women who seemed quite content with their lives without children. I wondered how she knew that, but when I related to her my experiences with infertility, I think she heard me. I told her that it’s not about ever getting “over” it, just living with it. I hope our conversation stays with her.
February 3, 2009 9:05 pm
Sadly, I know of a few IF women who, having finally had a baby or adopted, seem to have slipped over to “the dark side.” A woman from my pg loss group used to talk incessantly about her very active adopted pre-schooler, complete with sighs & eye rolls — AT our group meetings!! She actually once asked me if I wanted to “take her” for a week!! I couldn’t believe my ears. She no longer attends our group — but still inundates me with dozens of those sappy chain e-mails rhapsodizing about the wonders of motherhood. Ugh. Thankfully, most women I’ve encountered are more like those you have described.
February 3, 2009 11:52 pm
Adrienne, I’ve noticed the exact same thing. I’m only 22 weeks pregnant (after RPL due to PCOS) and have started to show up to LLL stuff and make mommy friends. And ALL they talk about is their kids, or something involving children. Yes, I”m interested in homebirth and cloth diapering, but not THAT much!
If you try to steer the convo towards something more adult, like food, it invariably goes back to how they don’t have time to make good food because of their kids, or something equally inane.
And I too have had IF friends go over to the dark side, and I am vowed not to.
February 4, 2009 12:14 am
OT Sorta –
I’m getting frustrated with these IF blog rolls because 90% of the time these bloggers have given birth or adopted.
When I’m feeling low the last thing I want to come across is pregnancy announcement after pregnancy announcement. It’s like giving myself my own pregnancy drive-by.
Instead of finding a fellow IFer I get hammered with photos of babies. Which makes me even more depressed.
Most of the MABI blogs I read turn into the most child obsessed writings I have ever come across. It is Momzilla to the fourth power. That is the Lord’s truth. They get pregnancy amnesia and forget all the IF supporters that comforted them along the way. Once the baby comes it is all mommy issues all the time. No offense to the MABIs here.
It’s like what happens in real life when all your friends start to have kids. There is nothing in common anymore. The distance grows and you’re left behind. Again.
February 4, 2009 2:25 pm
I agree with you. Despite most of my IF-online support group who stay empathic with their sisters who didn’t (yet) I have noticed than a small group (maybe those who are newbies to the group, and get pg right after) I think they completely forget how it was just 2 or 3 months earlier…
On the other and, I have a friend, mother of 2, that complains about her two boys ALL THE TIME… last weekend, she canceled her big boy’s 6th birthday party because he doesn’t behave properly… That make me so sad, to know that the little boy would remember for his all life that he doesn’t have his birthday party… And I have the fear that he would blame his mother for that… He his not bad, he is a 6 yr old boy… Or am I wrong, and a little boy deserve to be punished like that…?
February 4, 2009 12:27 am
I love the idea of a MABI. And that perhaps coming out the other side of infertility someday (please god let it happen) the possibility that there could be some benefits to this struggle we now find ourselves in.
Thanks for this post! it was exactly what i needed today.
February 4, 2009 3:53 am
A new acronym!
I’m only 12 weeks into motherhood, and so far I haven’t had any run-ins with Momzillas. Perhaps it’s the lousy winter weather that prevents me from getting out very often, or the fact that I don’t live in a “breeder” neighborhood with SAHM cliques, but other first-time moms seem to leave me alone because I have twins. I noticed this during pregnancy too. Perhaps if I had not experienced infertility, I would have felt left out, but I was glad to “have an out” from the bizarrely competitive discussions of birthing methods, breastfeeding diatribes, etc. that I came across in yoga class and parenting magazines and which seem particularly foolish after all I went through.
February 4, 2009 4:59 am
as usual, an insightful and articulate post. I can’t say for sure that I will ever become a mom after infertility, but I DO know that IF I do, I’d like to think that I’d be a sensitive and compassionate one. still, I wonder if I’d continue to use my blog space to write about my experience, or not. and that’s not because I want to forget about the pain of infertility, but because I’d wonder who might even be reading that would care.
February 4, 2009 6:27 am
I actually feel a since of liberation as the mother of 2 adopted children after years if infertility. i know i will never have to compete as a momzilla with other momzillas, because i know in the momzilla eyes, adopted children will always be viewed as non-natural and therefore, inferior. momzillas loss.
February 4, 2009 3:04 pm
I agree that most MABIs are sensitive — they’ve learned through the pain. However, like several others commenting here, I deal with a terrible MABI at work on a regular basis. Talk about momzilla to the fourth power – it’s unreal. She never, and I do mean never, stops talking about her 2 children (both born with the aid of IVF), and about being a mom. EVERYTHING leads her to say “Well, I’m a MOM, so . . . ” the blank can be filled in with anything from ” . . . so that doesn’t scare me” to ” . . . so that doesn’t seem so bad to me.” It never stops. She and I have talked about my situation (never will be able to have my own children), and she expressed her sympathy and ranted that “I know just how you feel!!” Yet, even so, the same scenario KEEPS ON HAPPENING. I’ll give one brief example, but believe me, these things happen continuously. (As a precursor, I’m good with children, damn it. I know how to talk to them and how to bond with them. Additionally, I babysat all through high school AND for 3 different professors in college!!) Ok – so this is the typical scenario, which happened last week. In walks MABI, aka, MOMZILLA to the 4th power, again with her 8 and 6 year old boys in tow, VERY VERY LOUDLY as usual saying that they should stay with so-and-so in her office. When the boys protested “Why should we have to stay here with so-and-so?” The answer from Momzilla/MABI was sooooo loud (she’s a loud person, y’all) “Because she’s a mom, so she’ll be a good babysitter.” Believe me when I say that it gets much worse than this, but this is the latest example. She makes me feel 2 inches tall, and I’ve told her so, and she’s obviously NEVER going to get it – despite all her quip about ‘having walked in my shoes’ and ‘know just how you feel’. Sigh.
February 4, 2009 7:26 pm
Ugh, my next door neighbor is like this woman. She’s not infertile, but did have a miscarriage and knows about my many miscarriages. Still, she asks me EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. she sees me if I’m pregnant. Seriously, we went on vacation and when we came back she asked me then, because she reasoned people often get pregnant on vacation. I did, but didn’t know at the time; still, it was totally ridiculous!
And honestly, my husband, who will never be a mother, is a better babysitter than me (I’m shy around kids that aren’t mine, and other awkwardness), but everyone wants me to babysit, and not him, even if they’re his friends….
February 5, 2009 12:55 am
Hop over to my blog, PJ — I received an award today & I’d like to pass it along to you! : )
February 5, 2009 3:59 am
After thinking that I might never be a mother, I’m hopefully a few months shy of having that become a reality, but guess what, I don’t like other people’s children. I never have and can’t say that’s going to change. I hopefully will not annoy anyone with my child nor will I plaster their picture all over my desk. My complaints about pregnancy are limited to the stuff that scares the crap out of me, and after all the hell I went through I don’t think I could complain in good conscience (maybe some sleep deprivation might change that). As for my blog changing, who knows, but it’s my blog. I have always understood that becoming a parent is a huge change and if I’m not ready to embark on that journey with you I’ve had to stop reading in the past, and I’m okay if others have to do the same to me. As for the stupid comments, I hope I’m never that brain dead to make them to anyone or in general.
February 11, 2009 6:28 pm
Wow! Did my recent email to you inspire this? I am truly a MABI and a MSTIC. You captured my “survivor’s guilt” superbly.
Keep on writing girl! You don’t need me as a guest poster. I will stay tuned and possibly file an undercover report.
Best wishes to all…
February 11, 2009 6:39 pm
It certainly triggered some thinking and then it snowballed from there. I get some of my best ideas from reader comments/emails. Keep ’em coming!
February 12, 2009 8:57 pm
I found your blog through a friend of a friend…
I am now a MABI. My heart aches for those who are still waiting… still wondering if they’ll ever get the chance. And now that we’re dealing with IF issues again, I cannot help but find myself where I spend 6 years. I am one of those who has a keen eye for women and couples without kids. And I clam up, I say a quick and silent prayer and move away as fast as I can. I know what it’s like to see babies and pregnancies all over… in fact, I know of 6 babies coming this summer… when I should have been due (again) as well.
I super appreciate your blog post, and I look forward to seeing more.
February 13, 2009 2:30 pm
“Most people respond to courteousness with courteousness.” I think that puts it in a nutshell, actually.
April 30, 2009 11:18 am
I was doing a google search of my name “Mabi” when I stumbled on this blog.Nice post.I enjoyed it.
I am a blogger as well and will be happy to have you visit my blog (http://www.mabifominyen.blogspot.com) given that I equally blog about parenting among many other things.
June 6, 2010 11:44 am
I came across your blog (wish I had known of it a few years back!) and wanted to respond to this post, albeit a bit late…
As a “MABI” (love the term!), I feel I’m in an odd situation. I had struggled with secondary infertility (after a doomed first pregnancy, terminated due to severe chromosonal abnormalities) for a couple of years and did, luckily, have a healthy baby girl.
However, my desire to have a second child was never realized. It took me a while to accept my situation, realizing I was lucky to have one. I had done the fertility treatment route once, was about to attempt it again, but realized that money/time/effort were in short supply, and that’s how I made my decision.
As a result, I think I have become more sensitive to those who don’t have children (either by choice or circumstance), and the topic of kids is never brought up immediately (i.e., assuming everyone of a certain age/marital status has a child). Much as I adore my child, she is not the center of the universe. I have a life and many interests besides her, selfish as that may sound to some mothers.
Likewise, I do not make inquiries as to when someone will be having kids, or having more kids. Pre-child, I would be asked “Do you have kids/plan to have have kids” (Like it’s anyone’s business — DH and I waited a few years before we decided TTC). Post-child, I was often asked more questions like “So when do you plan to have another/Is that your only one?”
Even if you do have ONE child, and although only-child families are becoming more commonplace, they are still an oddity, esp. in a suburban environment where a carful of kids (average family size is 2-3 kids) is viewed as a status symbol.
For those of you who wanted to have children but didn’t, I do feel for you, but don’t think all of us who were in your shoes once have readily forgotten what it was like at one time.