I was forwarded a blog post today from a great friend who happens to be a mother.
It is from the perspective of a mother, who never had the struggle of trying for children, all 3 came easily to her. She writes about an important lesson she learned the first pregnancy, when she was full of joy and broadcasting it to the world. Some people just can't share in that joy, no matter how much they would like to.
She made several really great points. One being, infertility is often suffered in silence, so very often those around them are unaware of the pain they face, over and over again, each month. It is mostly a hidden grief so many people are oblivious to the impact of their declarations of parent-appropriate emotions. Second she acknowledged her own struggle with empathy even once she did know, and admitted her desire to have her feelings trump those of the infertile friend. This was her own personal experience but one I know that isn't an isolated situation.
The summary of the blog was to encourage mothers in particular to be sensitive, understand the continual pain, and to try not to do anything that just adds to the grief. I appreciate that sentiment, thank you. But I really hoped my friend who had sent the post hasn't been burdened with guilt for her sharing pregnancy joy and toddler trials. So now I wanted to offer my own words to mothers from the other side, and hope other people battling infertility will consider these words as well.
Over the nine years of trying without success to be a mother I have encountered many different responses from women who are mothers but I have also encountered quite a few infertile women as well, and I have learned that mothers are not the only ones at fault for the hurt feelings that happen around infertility.
We who fall under the label infertile, even for a season, sometimes choose our feelings over friendship, and we act like we have cornered the market on pain and strife.
We who can't be labelled mommy can let jealousy, envy and resentment cloud our ability to see mothers as just woman who have different struggles than us, but struggles just the same.
We who have empty wombs and arms can be so harshly judgemental for no other reason than our target was able to get pregnant and give birth, something they have no more control over than we have control over our inability.
The blog author mentioned she wanted her joy to trump the sorrow of the one who couldn't be a mother, but at times I have wanted my struggle to trump the struggle every mother goes through.
It took awhile for me to realize how unfair that was but it finally dawned on me, I don't compare any other pain, I don't begrudge someone dealing with anorexia because I have a problem with over eating. Hardships of motherhood are just as difficult as the hardships of infertility. I'm sorry to say my final lesson that hammered that home was learned at the expense of my sister, who had her own journey through infertility for 5 years, but when she had her first son and it wasn't an easy birth or newborn phase, and she didn't even complain, but as she shared her difficulties, my immediate reaction was to resent that her gratitude didn't automatically overcome her distress. It was then my eyes opened to just how insensitive I could be to moms, how insensitive a lot of infertile women could be to mothers.
I realize it's part of the society we live in, people tend to fall into ignorance to the impact of what they say or elevate the importance of our own feelings, but that doesn't excuse it, or help maintain healthy relationships. And there seems to be a growing hyper sensitivity increasing rather than just compassionate sensitivity around this area in particular.
Granted, it would be nice to have people consider my feelings before they say something like 'if you want kids so bad you can have my brats', but I never want a friend to feel like they have to walk on egg shells around me or feel like they can't share the reality of their life with me, because then I am not being a good friend, or a friend at all really. My feelings are not more important and do not negate the feelings of my friends. It hasn't been as hard to change how I choose to react and feel about it now that I am aware.
And maybe I'm also really lucky that I have pretty amazing friends who really do respect and honor my feelings, and feel them with me, and so it makes it easy to value them over holding tightly to my pain. I am a lucky girl.