As we walked back along the residential complex where my friend resided, she said something that touched a nerve, a part of me that still winced at reminders of my less than ideal fertility. When one friend asks another if she has children and her eyes glaze over as she quickly shakes her head and deflects, I feel something turn inside me.
Memories rush in. Of years of deflecting and wearing a mask. Of eyes that glaze over and look away. Of hastily changed topics and suppressed screams of “why me?”
Over the years I have made peace with the fact that my body does not work the way it must. I have taken the time to mourn the loss of children I would never have. I have paused to reflect on a dream that would never be fulfilled and lit a mental candle for it to rest in peace. I have found closure over time.
So, when occasionally I see people at various points on the infertility spectrum, my heart aches. I know their pain. I have walked in those shoes. My eyes plead with theirs to stop and set the pain they are carrying around down. I wordlessly whisper the things I want to say to them in my head. I know too well the burden of unsolicited advice.
Like I do when I bottle something up, it finds deliverance in words sent floating in the ether. Words that I hope will give someone a companionable hand.
Grieve. Let it out. The more you hold it in, the heavier it is to mask. Scream. Vent. Cry. Do what you have to do to dissolve the knot in the pit of your stomach when you read the next birth announcement, receive a baby shower invite or pass by a newsstand boasting pictures of a pregnant celebrity.
Connect. Look around. Reach out. There are people in your midst walking in the same shoes you do. They have either clocked more miles are just beginning the journey. There is comfort in shared pain. If the idea of swapping personal stories with people you know mortifies you. Look online. Preserve anonymity while leveraging the comfort of community.
Reserve judgement. Not everyone ribbing about your future family is rubbing it in. Some people are truly clueless about how insensitive their normal conversation could be. Engage and educate. If they still do not get it. Ignore.
Prioritize. Now is as good a time as any to redefine boundaries. To be selective about the people you want in your life. Changes happen all the time. It happens when friends get married, start families and move away. Sometimes it is OK for you to initiate the change. To be the one who carves out space. To become part of new groups and follow newer interests.
Most importantly, recognize that life is inherently unfair. Smiling faces do not necessary mean happy faces.
Pic credit: Argyropoulos (Used under a Creative Commons license)