Sometimes when things get ugly, your real feelings reveal themselves.
Such was the case during an argument I had with my husband when I was pregnant. I had my 20 week ultrasound coming up, and I really wanted him to attend the appointment--I was nervous I would find out something was wrong with the baby, and I also wanted him to be part of the experience. He wanted to go too--but his boss at the time had different plans. Although he had blocked the appointment time on his calendar out for a month, his boss was insistent that he go out of town that morning, and only that morning, to soothe the worries of a nervous client. To my husband, attending the meeting didn't seem like a good idea in any case, because he would not be available to work with the client permanently. When my husband explained both his general reservations, and that he had a personal obligation and could not attend the meeting because he had a medical appointment, his boss was not pleased. He repeatedly pressed him to reveal the reason for the appointment. When, under duress, my husband told him about the ultrasound, his boss was quiet for a moment. Then he said, "You know, I have four children, and I never went to any of their ultrasounds. I don't think that's very important. What's the big deal anyway?" He told my husband he needed to go home and think about his priorities.
You can imagine the argument that ensued later that evening. I was shocked that my husband began to question his own decision to go the appointment. "Is it really that important?" he asked. "Are you kidding me?" I responded. "Don't you remember what we've been through all these years? And what it took to get to this point? Half a pregnancy under your belt, and you are already thinking like a breeder!" The word, ugly, fell off my tongue.
Now it was his turn to look shocked. He paused and said angrily, "Don't you ever, ever, call me that again!"
That's when I realized it--"breeder" was now the most vile thing we could say to each other. It was the ultimate throw-down in our relationship. It was clear even though we were not conscious of it, because of my infertility, we both felt like we were in a minority group, separated from the rest of the fertile world.
To me, that's a real problem, because most of the people whom I love have no fertility problems whatsoever. I don't want to feel separate from them. On the other hand, I can't deny the fact that infertility is often painful and unfair, or that many times, people without fertility issues say insensitive and thoughtless things. Or worse, that some people, like my husband's former boss, take their fertility and good fortune for granted.
In my conversations with others with infertility, I know that my husband and I aren't alone in this struggle. Too often, the infertile folks feel left behind, out of sync, and separated from the rest of the world. While they are undergoing treatment and enduring disappointments, the rest of their peers are, seemingly effortlessly, having babies. The situation, by its nature, is divisive, with its "have and have not" undertones.
I have come to realize that one of the great tasks of life, at least from a psychological perspective, is to be able to honor your own unique experiences while simultaneously recognizing the different experiences of others. It takes a lot of emotional energy and maturity, and it is hard to do when we are in pain. However, I feel that even in the throes of infertility treatment, it is vital to try to do so. Although others may never be able to understand us and our experiences, we must still try to understand them. Without this, we risk being permanently cut off from the 92 out of 100 couples who do not struggle with infertility, even if it is in unconscious or subtle ways. This can keep us from fully dealing with our feelings of anger, grief, and loss, and can prevent us from moving forward after our infertility issues have been resolved.
Thus, although it is doubtful that my husband's boss could ever understand my feelings about my ultrasound, I realized I must try to understand his emotions. It seemed that he hadn't considered that there was anything to be nervous about during his wife's pregnancies, and that he was lucky enough that everything went well. That he didn't seem to fully value his own good fortune, and that he would clearly pick a client above his family, struck me as sad. I wondered whether or not, in the long-term, he would feel good about these choices. Seeing him as a person struggling with his own issues, and not just a "breeder", helped me to bridge the divide between myself and the fertile world.
I would love to hear about other experiences with this issue. Do you feel separate somehow from the fertile people in your life? If so, how did you deal with it?
Thanks so much for reading, and as always, if you have any questions, or have any ideas for future blog posts, please let me know!