I write this post with no intent to make anyone feel badly or sad; people with children, or people without children, people who are single, people who aren’t single, ostracize those who are currently with child, or those who are don’t want children. It truly is not about any of that. But I write to talk about a very personal experience, and what it means to be in a situation, to learn from it and to notice all that goes on around you when it comes to you in crystal-clear, hi-def vision. Almost like you went from black and white Kansas to full-on color kaleidoscope of Oz. For me, that’s what 38 has felt like.
Jeff and I miscarried last January. While it is one of the most painful experiences for couples to go through, it was a doozy to experience fresh off the altar. I always have known that I wanted children – part of that reason to see what a mini-me would like – but more because that’s what I always knew to be a reality. I was the youngest cousin and the youngest sibling of a large family and so I saw scads of little kids being born around me while I was growing up. I didn’t know that I would want anything different. And Jeff wanted children, as well. So knowing that this was something that we both wanted, we jumped into the next steps of “trying” with both feet.
Of course, when it happened, I swept the sadness and grief of it all underneath the proverbial rug where all my other failings and heartaches in life are stored. And I went on. And so did Jeff. And then I saw something happen before my eyes. (Take note: all of these things were already happening before I got pregnant, I got married, even before I met Jeff. But I was so focused on finding someone that I put blinders on to what other life was going on around me. Isn’t that always the way with all aspects of our lives?)
- Everyone, everyone, it seemed was pregnant. Pregnant women were everywhere. FaceBook was full of ultrasound pictures, tummy photos and birth announcements. It made me think that until the miscarriage had happened, everyone was just leading normal lives. And then after it happened, everything snapped to and the world seemed to get knocked up all at once.
- “Trying” didn’t seem like a fun thing to do anymore. Because now we were focused on the trying, rather than focusing on the intimacy of the “us” part of the whole thing.
- People say all sorts of things all the time about stuff. But it became heightened for me… “Any baby news yet?” “You look fat; you aren’t pregnant, are you?” And while I know people mean well (except the fat comment!) and are excited knowing that Jeff and I want children, the fact that I have to answer these questions is a constant reminder that I’m not pregnant. And it makes me feel like I’m on baby-watch. Don’t people have a celebrity to focus on?
- I suddenly became overly sensitive to those traditions we have grown so accustomed to: the breaking of ribbons at wedding showers indicates how many children one will have, the berating of brides on their wedding day of the possibility of “honeymoon” babies, etc. The whole world seemed like one big baby pressure cooker.
- I became really good at pretending. Good at “liking” people’s good news on FB, good at listening to people talk about their pregnancy, good at picking out presents for baby showers. Well, not quite so good. I practically burst into tears at a Baby’s R Us looking for a shower gift. I had to struggle to hold it in at the check out and make it to the parking lot, my car parked right next to an empty “mommy-to-be” reserved spot.
The more the world became pregnant around us, the more Jeff and I struggled to remain positive. To know that our time would come sooner than later. To try and concentrate on being married for goodness sake, and that to know when it’s supposed to happen, it will happen. (I also personally love the “just try and relax and enjoy each other” phrase when it comes to “trying”. That works about as well as “you will find someone when you aren’t even looking.”)
I found that I was right back where I started. I used to be the unmarried one, now I’m the childless one. When does this cycle ever end? Which leads me to mirror my points above, just a few short years ago when I was still dating:
- Everyone, everyone seemed to be getting married. The world around me seemed to be holding hands in one big, circle of married, blissful joy. And here I was off to the side, still single.
- Dating was no longer fun. I couldn’t not look for a potential husband at 36. “Just having fun” seemed to be a moot point after I went through date after unsuccessful date.
- People said stupid shit then, too. “I can’t believe you are still single!” (Read: What are you doing wrong?) “I know the perfect guy for you; he’s single!” Terrific, but he has a personality of an ass-hair. “You do like men, right? I’m just checking.” Yep, pretty sure. “Don’t you ever want to get married?” Of course! You think I’m dating for fun?
- I suddenly became overly sensitive to traditions of all the single women catching the bouquet (as the years dragged on, it ended up being me in that circle and a random 13-year old), of bringing dates to parties and holidays, etc. The whole world seemed hell-bent on coupling people up.
- I became really good at pretending. And I became a really great bridesmaid and wedding guest. I plastered on smiles, liked people’s wedding announcements on FaceBook, and got some great shower gifts. I don’t think I ever broke down in a Williams-Sonoma, but I’m sure I was on the verge whilst looking through the “cookbooks for couples” section.
You see where I’m headed with this. Which begs the question: When will it ever be enough, no matter the circumstance, no matter “the what next?” goal we are waiting for? Whether it is finding someone, waiting for the perfect job, trying to get pregnant. When can I relax and enjoy the ride of life? When can I put faith and trust that life will lead me right where it should? Do we blame FaceBook for constantly news-feeding us other peoples’ updates on their lives, their wins, their successes, their nuptials, their babies as if it was truly a glorified, glossed over, fairy tale dream come true? Do we blame our friends and family who care enough to ask us questions about our lives and try to offer help to the best of their abilities? Or do we instead look at ourselves, and say “what are you doing to help yourself in this situation? How are you living in the moment?” In other words, Are we getting in our own way of living a happy, fulfilled life?
So here I am at 38. And like the beloved 70’s show Eight is Enough, 38 for me right now is more than enough. I’m extremely blessed with a partner who makes me laugh every day, drives erratically, slow-dances with me in the kitchen. I’ve got a good job, amazing friends and family – and damn it – I’m going to enjoy it and them. In the meantime, I’ll be lucky if I’m blessed with one child, but if I get eight, Lord help us all. I’ll need a shoe to fit them all in.
Copyright, 2015, Leah F. Gallant