So this is about the time I was at a conference and having a really good time talking to old friends and meeting new ones and then I walked in to a room and saw this. (That’s a link to a photo, in case it’s not clear. I am not making much sense right now.)
For a moment i was confused. Are these women wearing fake painted bellies? Do I need to try one on? Is this a contest? Is… oh. Then I realized. These were actual pregnant women, actual fecund people with live, large babies rolling in their bellies.
And I stood stone still for a moment, trying to appreciate what was in front of me, the bravery of these women to sit like this and be painted at late stage pregnancy… but in one moment, I knew it was hopeless. There it came, and I couldn’t stop it. My throat tightened and my nose did that weird tingly thing and my eyes filled up with salty tears because these women in front of me were pregnant, they were round and large and fertile and I… was not. I am not. And I likely will never be again.
And I did not wish to be inappropriate in front of these poor women who were just trying to, you know, be pregnant and not bother anyone, so I put my head down and I walked out the door, not even looking where I was going, just going somewhere else to try to make my mind think of something else instead of infertility. And because my life is an episode of an ironic sitcom I walked in to the room filled with dog treats and immediately flashed to the day we had to put our cancer-ravaged dog to sleep because hey, brain, when you’re already bringing up shit to cry about then why not bring up ALL THE THINGS AT ONCE so I turned around to leave that room and mentally bitchslapped myself and planted a motherfucking smile on my face and walked back out in to the hallway trying desperately to look like there was nothing wrong, maybe succeeding, maybe not succeeding, I don’t know.
But burying it didn’t help, because then I was morose and cranky the rest of the night and then the next morning the tears came out anyway, messily and embarrassingly and all over my cinnamon bun in front of a poor unsuspecting friend, so my strategy of dealing with it by ignoring it is clearly winning me lots of how’s-that-working-for-you points.
Let me be clear: Pregnant people don’t bother me. Other people’s pregnancies are things to be celebrated, even if it can sting sometimes and I keep that part to myself. I don’t begrudge anyone else their fertility, even though it can sometimes seem unfair and confusing. Later that same night, I found myself in an elevator with one of those beautiful women with the painted bellies and we had a nice chat about exactly how long it took for her to get that paint done (answer: hours!) and it didn’t even tweak me at all. So I can’t tell you why that particular initial moment hit so hard, why the sight of 5 beautiful swollen pregnant women filled with promise and sleepless nights hit me in the chest like a truck.
What I do know is that saying goodbye to even the hope of fertility is not a switch. It’s not a line you can neatly draw in your life where you say, today I can think about having a baby but tomorrow I will not, and that is what I shall accept. Reality is a difficult thing, it turns out. Realizing and acknowledging that everything you had believed about how your life would be when you were 12 is not exactly how it has worked out, those four kids you always thought you’d have and the house filled with chaos is not quite what’s happened. And who wants four kids, holy smokes, even the thought of the house filled with chaos is exhausting and being a good parent for four kids would be really hard because being a good parent for one kid is hard enough holy crap. So basically my brain is telling me that I would have been a shitty parent if I had any more kids, which, thanks brain, you’re a dick, and it’s not making me feel better. Having one kid is certainly easier than having two or three or twelve, but “easy” isn’t what I’m mourning. It’s that I never in my life ever up until this moment thought I would only have one child. One pregnancy. One go around. Even when I was pregnant, I always thought “next time I will do ______” because that time certainly couldn’t possibly be the last.
And yet, it appears that it was.
I still have everything. I still have a bassinet and a pack and play and three strollers and a bucket seat that is probably expired by now, bags and bags of baby clothes and a breast pump and bottles, slings and carriers, cloth diapers. It’s all still here, waiting for the child that is just not going to come.
So maybe what I need to do is find one of those almost-mothers and give them everything I have, give them all these things so that they will be used. That they will be slept in and drooled on and snuggled and washed and worn by a tiny baby smothered in love instead of rotting in the back of a closet. Because keeping them all there is not celebrating anything. It’s dried up and dusty and hanging on to a wisp of a wish that will never come true.
Life is linear, and we are so used to pausing live TV and rewinding things to double check that it is hard to accept that something is over when it is really, inevitably, yes, too late now, it’s not going to happen over.
But I have to face it.