You’ve struggled. Only God knows how you’ve struggled, with your partner running a close second. You’ve yearned. Maybe you don’t have any children. Maybe you have children already, but you want more. But the child, for whatever reason, does not come. This basic act, this everyday miracle, appears so easily for others, but not for you. Maybe it’s a mystery, and they tell you just to keep trying, maybe you’ve been diagnosed, maybe you’re in the roller-coaster of fertility treatment, the misery of peeing on sticks and sticking yourself and testing, testing, testing. Or maybe now just is not the time, maybe now will never be the time, because your health will not permit it, or your wallet will not hold it. But regardless: you want a baby, so badly, that your heart hurts and you can almost feel the emptiness below your belly button. And no baby is forthcoming and when everybody is having a baby but you, it hurts..
The pain of this wanting is dreadful. It leaves you turning away from birth announcements, looking longingly at newborns one second and turning your back on them the next. It leaves you in tears. It can give you pangs of hatred for friends announcing their pregnancies. It just plain hurts. And you dream of this phantom child: when they would be born, what they would wear. Baby gear is both attractive and repellent. Babies are both attractive and repellent. If you have older children, you’ve stashed all reminders of their babyhood away. The lack of a wanted child is a difficult pain, a horrible burden. However, there are small ways to cope, ways that can help you limit your pain – or at least not have it slapping you in the face all the time.
1. Don’t Look at Baby Announcements
I don’t care if it’s your own sister-in-law’s. Baby announcements remind you that someone else has what you don’t, and that can cut deep. They’re also full of squishy newborn pics, which many women find triggering. You may find yourself going down that dangerous path: what did she do to deserve a baby that I didn’t? Or worse: She doesn’t deserve that baby. I do. That level of vitriol is both ugly and unhealthy. Maybe you’re the saint yearning for a child who can look upon a baby and reflect only on the joy of other people. I’m not. Most women aren’t. Avoid the announcements.
2. Curate Your Facebook
Pregnancy announcement? Unfollow, after it cuts deep. Complaining about pregnancy? Unfollow, after you ride the raft of jealousy. Just had a baby? Unfollow, so all the feels don’t gobsmack you as you obliviously scroll through your newsfeed. Yes, you will miss seeing all these babies being born. You will miss seeing their first months, the staged pics with onesies announcing their age. If you see some triggering pics, immediately flip to a predetermined bookmark: something stupidly funny, with cats named Princess Monster Truck or something.
3. Be Careful Who You Share With
First of all, you never know who’s nursing a bun in the oven – and waiting to tell until they’re 12 weeks. Second, some people simply will not understand. People suffering from primary infertility will get, ”Well, you can always adopt,” without any conception of how difficult the process is. People suffering from secondary infertility often hear, ”Well, at least you have (one, or two, or three) kids already.” They don’t understand that this isn’t about your kids, or your love and gratitude for them; this is about wanting another. If your parts work but your health prevents you from having more kids, the judgement will rain down. Everyone wants to solve your medical problems. Everyone wants to tell you you’re selfish. Prevent all this and only share your feelings with people you trust to listen kindly and offer support. That may mean you don’t talk to your parents about it.
4. Be Careful Who You Share Your Plans With
Trying for some more IVF? Unless you want the whole world calling to see if the cycle took, keep mum. That goes for most fertility procedures. If you’ve decided on adoption, be wary: many things can go wrong along the way. Until you have that baby in hand, it might be best to do what I recently saw a gay couple do and STFU about it until you have babies in hand. If you’re planning on foster/adopt – well, the questions will be so offensive (”Won’t they hurt your birth children? What if they were crack babies? What are you going to do when they leave?) it’s best to stay mum until the kids move in.
5. Stay Away From Baby Items
You may need to buy a baby present. There’s Amazon for that; you don’t need to hit up Ye Olde Baby Big Box Store. When you shop for your other kids, stay out of the baby aisles, no matter how tempted you are by cute dresses and teensy onesies and mittens. Don’t linger near the baby gear; walk on by those cribs and strollers. And you may need to leave various Facebook groups for baby gear BST; I had to ditch a ton of Facebook groups devoted to babywearing and even unfriend some people who constantly posted babywearing selfies.
6. Leave the Baby Groups
Were you in the local La Leche League group, the Babywearing group, a birth month club (or two), groups related to your children’s early medical needs? Seek them out of your social profile and leave them. You can always re-add them later. But for those with secondary infertility, having a post from the Tongue Tie Babies Support Group pop up in their newsfeed can be a huge blow.
7. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Moms
Babies happen. It’s not their fault. They come to the deserving and the undeserving, the perfect and the imperfect, the childless and the giant family. Do not spend time telling yourself that you deserved that baby more than so-and-so. It only leads to bitterness and anger. You don’t have to summon up a wild joy that someone else is pregnant when you’re not, but you don’t have to wallow in comparison rage, either.
8. Still, You Will Hurt
Your niece’s tiny toes will bring you to your knees. A cooing baby in Target will make you hurt so badly so you’ll dive into kitchenware to dry your tears. The end-caps of diapers and bonnets and bulb syringes will pain you. But still, you will keep going. You will keep trying for that baby, for your own baby. And one day, it will happen: through modern medicine, through spontaneous miracle, through paperwork and social workers. The baby will come, if you’re willing to do what it takes to get it (and that might be waiting years on a social services list, and knowing the baby could be taken from you any day). But it can happen. The waiting is the hardest part.
(Image: iStock / monkeybusinessimages)