I was never an athletic child. More of the nerdy braniac in fact. I'm also a child of the 80's, which means I grew up in a time before everyone got a ribbon at soccer tournaments and before their was a collective national concern for our self-esteems. So I have distinct and somewhat painful memories of middle school gym class. Maybe some of you who are old enough remember it. Two teams are created and team captains elected. Then everyone stands in the middle of the room, and the captains pick who they want on their team. Harmless enough in theory. Unless you're one of the last people picked. I remember the feeling of panic as the desirable athletes were invited to join each team and the crowd got smaller and smaller. I remember the shame of feeling unworthy to be chosen, of be unwanted, of being left behind.
Fast forward 30 years, and although so much distance has been put between myself and those days, that feeling of being "different", "defective", "unworthy" has resurfaced as a result of this fertility journey. Each and every time someone announces a pregnancy, I am brought back to that place, to middle school gym class. I am twelve again, awkward and hopeful, waiting to be picked, trying not to show everyone how much I want it, scared that I will never be chosen.
Pregnancy announcements are always tough for me, and each one stirs up different emotions. When a dear friend announces a first or second pregnancy, I am filled with joy for them but it is a joy intertwined with envy, disappointment, panic, and grief. Visions of being pregnant with them, of being on maternity leave together, and of celebrating our children's milestones together fade away. The joy I feel for their miracle stands in sharp contrast to the pain being left behind on the journey. If it is someone who has multiple children already I find myself resentful of their good fortune, and then of course, embarrassed by that resentment. Seeing how effortless getting pregnant seems to be for them when it it clearly out of reach for me taps into my feelings of being defective. If it is a friend who has been struggling with infertility it is the easiest for me to celebrate. I understand the trauma they have been through and I rejoice with them. It also hits me the hardest, because it's lonely on Infertility Island, and it's hard to lose the people standing there by your side. They still love and support me of course, but it's different. Their focus shifts to their babies as it should, and I am left shouldering the burden of chronic infertility on my own.
So, how do I handle this so that I can feel gracious, joyful, and present around my pregnant friends and coworkers? By honoring and respecting where I'm at, and by giving myself the grace and space I need. I am working on acceptance- of myself, my situation, and my emotions- and I have been using affirmations to help myself with this. I say things like, "I accept and respect all of my emotions", "I accept the space I need to heal", and "I accept myself completely in every moment." That may mean that I need to give myself permission to cry, to take Facebook holidays, to miss a baby shower, or to skip out of baby focused conversations in the hallways. I take my time to process my feelings and lick my wounds so that when I am around pregnant women, I can give them the best of me.
I am still on the bench, and it's not easy, so I just let myself feel the muddy mix of happiness, pain, gratitude, and longing. That complexity, that depth of feeling, that capacity for love in the face of pain- that's what makes us human, and that is the richness of spirit we will impart on our children.