An anvil dropping on my head — that approximates the combined effect of a Salon article about Bristol Palin’s suprisingly blunt assessment of unintended motherhood magnified by the equally thought-provoking comments readers left on my last blog post suggesting we set aside feminism as the catch-all scapegoat for infertility. How could I ever put those two ideas together you wonder?
Well, we’ll start with Geohde’s comment because they came on the heels of reading the Salon piece and provide the best segue. She wrote: “it isn’t easy no matter how and when we attempt reproduction. My career is currently on hiatus, and it’s going to be hard to get back. To be honest, it’s exhausting trying to fill so many roles in life.”
As I started to reply to her comment a stunner notion hit me. Yes, it is hard to fulfill so many roles especially if one adds motherhood to the mix — but it’s exhausting in a different sort of way for infertiles trying to create or fulfill elusive as well as real roles. That’s right. Think about it. There are the actual roles in our lives and the wished-for roles.
In my mind’s eye during my earliest adult years, I envisioned myself juggling the demanding but fulfilling roles of a working mom — mostly successfully, of course — this is fantasy after all.
And while the reality of the situation was that I wasn’t able to conceive, I feel a bit exhausted nonetheless by the emotional drama of not living up to my long hoped for role. There’s heavy baggage I’ve been carrying around in failing at something that comes so naturally to hormonally super-charged teenagers. In short, my life is not what I expected and it can be disorienting even now.
And that’s where Bristol Palin, the teen-aged daughter of former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, comes in. Oddly enough, Bristol and I share something in common when it comes to making sense of elusive dreams — and feminism has nothing to do with it. Here are her words In an unscripted TV interview captured in Salon:
“I don’t know if it’s what I expected,” Bristol said of young motherhood . “But it’s just a lot different. It’s not just the baby that’s hard. It’s like I’m not living for myself anymore. It’s for another person.” Later in the interview, she again repeated this line — a heartbreaking point if ever there was one, and one we don’t talk about much because we feel obligated to acknowledge that of course motherhood is a sacrifice, of course there are consequences, of course for many women and men, choosing to have children and become less self-obsessed is a pleasure. “
I have only the vaguest notion of the demands of motherhood — and those are based on my teenage babysiting years tending to the monotonous and never-ending needs of infants and toddlers, and watching my college-educated mother set aside her ambitions to raise the four children she had in five years (need I remind you that my parents are Catholic?)
The Salon reporter watching the young, unwed Bristol on Fox News observed:
“…Van Susteren was determined, in this mother-and-child-worshiping world, not to lose sight of how blessed and happy Tripp’s very existence is. ‘I realize what joy a child brings to a family,’ Van Susteren continued delicately, ‘but was there any sort of sense that maybe this would happen a year or two from now?’
Bristol did a lot less beating around the bush. “Of course,” she replied matter-of-factly. “I wish it would happen in like 10 years, so I could have a job and an education and be, like, prepared, and have my own house and stuff.’ ”
And that’s about when the anvil fell. There is no easy way to be a mother — regardless of age — but it’s equally hard to be an infertile amid the romanticizing of the “mother-and-child worshiping world” we live in.
Now, I do have “a job and an education and my own house and stuff” but there are no children, which I thought would have come along say 10 years or so ago.
And I can’t blame feminism. Some couples just aren’t equipped to make babies, no matter how hormonally charged we may be.
It seems all of us will find ourselves emotionally exhausted and disoriented from the interrupted dreams of what we thought our lives would or should be.