The Want-to-Be Mommy WarsMarch 18th, 2014
There is a whole community of women out there I’m sure most of you don’t know. And for that, I’m thankful. It’s a community of women who are struggling with infertility. Some of them have suffered the crushing reality of recurrent pregnancy loss, while others have never been pregnant a day in their lives. Then there is a large area of grey in the middle. Some women have issues they know all about, but have yet to find the right plan for getting themselves a THB (that’s a “to hold baby” in infertility lingo). There are some who have no know issues, but still cannot get pregnant, which is an infuriating medical mystery. Some are dealing with male factor issue, or age related issues. And some are suffering primary fertility, while others suffer secondary.
Emotions are high in all of these groups, and while everyone has the same goal, the community can be as welcoming as it can be polarizing.
Women who have one issue can inadvertently (and sometimes not so inadvertently) make quips about how they are happy they at least don’t have another, more complicated one. Women can wish they had one ailment, assuming it would be easier to manage than the one they have. And people are fast and furious with their advice on just what outer worldly things will get you pregnant (for instance always sleep with socks on, never eat cold foods, avoid dairy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine and take 8 heaping tablespoons of maca root and tiger cock essence while standing on one leg under a full moon and shaking your moon stones while saying fertility in 19 languages).
It can be difficult to filter everything, and just take what you need. It can be difficult not to upset someone else when you discuss your successes and failures. And just like there are mommy wars, there are want-to-be-mommy wars just waiting to be waged.
One such war I’ve sat on the sidelines of for the last 21 months, is the war waged between those suffering primary infertility (the inability to get pregnant or carry a child to term) and secondary infertility (the inability to get pregnant or carry a child to term after having had one or more children).
I just don’t understand it.
Some women suffering primary infertility claim those of us suffering secondary are “lucky”. At least we have a child to care for, so it’s not the same. And you know what? It ISN’T the same. And that’s exactly why it’s not a topic anyone should debate.
It took a long time (14 months) for us to get pregnant the first time. I felt some of the same sense of loss I do now, but in the end, we got pregnant without medical intervention. I cannot claim to know what it’s like to suffer the pains of primary infertility. And while the two are related, they are not the same.
While I get the privilege of suffering the emotions I face while trying not to impact the child I have, it does not soften the pain. While I am so very lucky to know what motherhood feels like, I also am so acutely aware of what I’m missing not starting that journey again. While I enjoy having a child in my family, I suffer the reality that I may never give her the sibling I so want to. And while people have trouble understanding primary fertility but offer condolences (trite as they may be) I face people who instead of offering me any words of encouragement remind me that this selfish desire to add a child to our family is impacting the child I already have. And then get asked why I don’t think she is enough, as if that’s what this is all about. I am constantly belittled because I have a child, and that somehow negates my right to yearn for another. People’s sympathy comes in the form of “2 kids is harder than you think” and “just love the one you’ve got” and I am supposed to smile and nod my way through that.
I don’t know what it’s like to go through primary infertility, but I can assume the pain of that is right in line with the pain of secondary infertility. I have additional things to think about, like the emotional and financial impact any fertility treatments might have on the child I already have. The watching as my child’s peers go on to have sibling relationships she so longs to have. And the lack of empathy from a whole group of women who I would hope would know how lonely and alienating this is.
My struggle isn’t worse that anyone else’s, but it isn’t easier either. Everyone has a right to feel their situation to the full extent. It’s always easy to think the grass is always greener, and I can’t say I wish I suffered primary so that I didn’t have to suffer secondary. It’s not that at all. It’s just that secondary infertility is so lonely and when I have to eliminate those suffering primary infertility from my possible support centre, it leaves me without anywhere to turn. Fertile people don’t get the pain; they don’t understand the emotional strain. I’ve alienated more than one group of people through this process, who don’t want to continually hear about how depressed I am over something the think I should just “move past”. I adopted a “don’t tell unless asked” policy and no one ever asked, so I stopped telling all together.
The parenting wars are ridiculous, and we should all work harder at trying to stop them. If not for our own sanity, then for the state of the world we hope to leave for our children. However, if we start to have pre-parent wars, then we are really doomed.
We need to support each other, in all our struggles and triumphs, because the alternate is a grim reality.
No one struggles harder than you, so remember that when you’re considering the struggles of someone else who knows the same to be true for them.