Vantage Points and Shame

Today I volunteered at the MT’s playschool.  It runs from 9 am to 3 pm which is a pretty long day for kids aged 19 months through 5 years.  It gave me some perspective on a few things. A vantage point.

First, the MT has some truly remarkable qualities of which I am deeply proud.  Among them is his empathy with others when they are suffering.  A new kid who just started with the program last month is very young and “cry-ey” in playschool teacher/parent vernacular. She was having one sob-fest after another before 10:30 am.

My eldest (living) son tried several times to console her. I watched as he offered her among other things both compassion and affection.  She rebuffed him every time.

The MT persisted. Not in an annoying or thoughtless “it’s all about me, you rescuer” way. Patiently. Softly. Using hushed and warm tones and gentle touch. Eventually I had to tell him that she only wanted to be held by an adult (and one particular teacher if not her mom, who wasn’t there) and that he would not be able to help even though he was doing the “right” things to comfort and acknowledge a friend’s suffering.

Other vantage point have presented themselves of late. For example? The MT adores his baby brother but in recent months has blurted out things like “Mommy can we have a baby girl?” or “Mom can me and [baby A] have a sister?” and “I want a baby girl Mommy.”

Yeah kid.  Me too.

These moments are not helping with my ambivalence and deep longing for a third child (which began as an ache for a daughter but has morphed into a more general longing for a child).  Yet they too offer a vantage point and challenge me to sort through my melee of feelings and thoughts on the subject.

In the past few weeks since first sharing my feelings about this topic I have swung like a pendulum between declaring the prospect absurd and out of the question to pining with an intensity that is hard to put into words. The LP and I have drafted pro and con lists and shared them with each other.

Mostly I’ve detached from my feelings and spent the majority of my time numb about it.  Somehow that seems easier than engaging my feelings.

I was thinking about all of this today while volunteering (I was looking at family photos on the “Family Tree wall” which made me want to interview every parent with more than two living young children).

Unexpectedly, I got a text from the LP’s only nephew’s wife. She is expecting.  My eyes burned and I had to bite my lip hard to stop from bursting into tears in the middle of the playschool Pirate Ship.

Almost immediately I wrote the perfunctory “Congratulations” and “Cute”tt about their pending announcement (which included a 12-week ultrasound photo. Because when we have not personally experienced loss those things make sense I guess?)

To be clear:  I don’t begrudge women or couples who celebrate their babies or who make early (or any social media) announcements. But. Still. They send me down a rabbit hole.  That hole is rife with pain and other feelings I don’t even know how to articulate and feel deeply ashamed even acknowledging now that I (finally) have two living children of my own.  How dare I have these feelings?

I did cry when I told the LP when he called to ask how things were going at the playschool.  I couldn’t help it.  I felt ashamed and confused by my emotions then too.

After my “shift” at the playschool I finally gathered my wits if not my feelings and texted again to thank her for telling me before announcing on social media (she’s pure lovely and one of my few Face.Book connections on my real-name account). I also admitted that I still find unexpected announcements on social media traumatizing for reasons I cannot explain (given the two living kids thing).

The weirdest part? I had a dream the other night that she and her husband were having another baby (they had number one last year on the MT’s third birthday). They got married on the due date of the baby we had longed for and lost in my first pregnancy.  I never forget their anniversary. Sometimes life’s timing serves ulterior purposes I guess.

Anyway, watching myself withhold my feelings in a space where it was not safe or responsible to acknowledge or feel them and reflecting upon it late compelled me to think about why I have so much shame in relation to something so “natural”. By way of example, it goes something like this:

Thought/feeling #1: Why can it be so easy for others and so hard for us? (Eyes burning.)

Thought/feeling #2: I will never make an announcement like this and I never have. (Chest aching, throat tightening.)

Thought/feeling #3: How heartbreaking is that? (Tears welling up.)

Thought/feeling #4: It’s your own fault for letting fear and recurrent loss run your life.

Thought/feeling #5: You have two healthy living children.  Even if you fought tooth and nail for them, they are here and you are pining for the grass you perceive as greener on the other side of some imaginary fence.  Shame on you! (Cold wind encasing my body. Feelings going numb.)

Though/feeling #6: I should reply so she doesn’t think I am traumatized or begrudging them for their good fortune and ease of successful conception. (Sending congratulatory text.)

And on it goes.

From the vantage point I now occupy I see that I’ve been stuffing down my feelings about my own longing for the last several  months.

Last Friday I wanted to cancel the telephone consult we scheduled quite a while ago.  It is scheduled to take place in a little over a week with a doctor at a Canadian facility where we might be able to cycle if he will work with Dr. Braverman and follow his protocol or if he will prescribe my past successful Braverman protocol even if he won’t support working in a consultative capacity with Dr. B. Friday was the deadline for cancelling and getting a refund on the charge for speaking with this doctor.

The LP didn’t want me to cancel. I don’t know why not but I didn’t cancel. Yet I’ve oscillated wildly – so wildly it’s kept me up at night on occasion and I’ve had to settle on numb rather than engage my feelings, whatever they might be, about it all – and had come to rest on the decision not to try again about a month ago.

For a variety of reasons I am not ready to share here I have been flip flopping since then. On the whole I get the sense that my heart simply is not in this. I think it is reluctant to face getting broken yet again.

I do not know how to explain it. I feel detached. Afraid. Ashamed. Uncertain. And exhausted by the indecision. A part of me just wants to shut this process down, grieve the sense of loss and move on. I want out of the limbo.

Which brings me back to shame. Damn that emotion. It is a destructive little devil. And immobilizing.

Is my ambivalence fueled in part by shame (and her evil cousin, guilt?)? I do not know but for the first time the question has presented itself to me and it feels hungry, in need of an answer.

I think I need to start journaling again. And therapy. I’ll add both to my to do list.

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27 thoughts on “Vantage Points and Shame

  1. Oh, my goodness. The torment we put ourselves through, us deep feelers/over-thinkers/sensitive types. Reading this made my heart ache for you. I can just feel the pain and the angst and the flip flopping and the…you get the point.

    Children often act as channels through which spirit send us messages. How many boys/children MT’s age would come off with this desire to have a baby sister? I can’t help but wonder if this is another gentle nudge from Spirit, guiding you towards trying for/having just one more.

    You must be/should be so proud of MT. I’ve no doubt that his empathy and kind heart is not only a reflection of his own spirit, but that of his mom’s, too. Well done, you.

    • You know, I was thinking about what you wrote and recalled the LP telling me just the other day that my doctor (who is also a friend’s doctor, I referred her there) said every boy she’s had as a patient or a patient’s son has wanted a boy for a sibling. She found it surprising that our friend’s son didn’t have a preference. She’s also the MT’s doctor. I think she’d find his wish shocking!

  2. The MT’s loving heart and empathy sounds a lot like his awesome mommy 😉

    The guilt of longing for another baby when your hopes and wishes of a live baby have been realized is nothing to feel guilty about. I wholeheartedly understand that place myself but the ability to expand our family is not as simple as it should be. It’s not getting frisky and peeing on a stick and shouting from the rooftops. It’s quite a bit more complex and life-upending than that for those with infertility and RPL. It’s also one more reminder of our reproductive shortcomings and I don’t know that I’ll make peace with that anytime soon. I guess what I’m trying to say is that your ebbing tide of emotions is quite understandable and nothing to have shame over.

    I pray your heart and spirit directs your next steps whatever they may be and until then, I’m sending lots of love to your sweet family.

  3. Sending much love to you my friend. Your oldest sounds like a lovely soul. I don’t have much to offer in terms of advice besides take all the time you need to decide, yet listen to your intuition. You know deep down which path is right. It’s just scary to admit.

  4. Oh I’m so sorry about the residual anger, pain and the subsequent shame triggered by pregnancy announcements. I’m right there with you. I find myself having an incredibly hard time being happy for certain people in my life when they naively tell me they are pregnant, especially when they tell me very early. It just shatters my heart and brings out the green eyed monster. I would like to move past these feelings but I’m stuck. Despite my two gorgeous living boys, I feel like until my reproductive years are fully behind me, I will always have this hurricane of emotions blowing through me when I hear pregnancy announcements. All the hugs.

    Also your MT sounds like such wonderful, sweet, and gentle soul.

    • I hear you about the hurricane. Such an apt description.

      Interesting thing about MT is that he is anything but gentle in most other respects. He has a great big personality, goes non-stop and as one friend put it is a force of nature. Which made the tenderness and compassion yesterday stand out that much more.

  5. MT is such a sweet boy ! This recounting of his interactions with his classmate so warms my heart !! As for your feelings…ahhhhhhhhh the filthy stench of IF! There is nothing that takes away that pain or the memories, not even a live birth. I pray you find a way to reconcile it and move forward in faith and work on a baby girl ! Praying for you~ ♡♡♡

  6. You know, from my vantage the longing is very familiar but the idea of feeling ashamed of that is not. I guess you really have to go back to that pros and cons list, right? If you want another child, maybe let yourself off the hook and just acknowledge that desire without all the judgement. I mean, it’s pretty normal. Why does suffering through IF/loss mean that you can’t have the same normal feelings that other women do (i.e. struggling with the discomfort of pregnancy, tough adjustments to motherhood, longing for more children)? Why do we as a population have this added pressure to take what we get and like it? F*** that. This is really about you and what you’re willing to go through to get it. That’s where the weighing and decision-making come in, but the urge to explore the possibility is totally valid and personal and okay. Xo

    • Hmn.That’s a very candid and helpful assessment.

      Funny thing about the pro and con list and its reflection of perspective – mine was long and highly detailed. His was short and looking from 30,000 feet and clearly based on an underlying belief that “she is a great mom therefore…” If only I could unclutter my mind so readily. I will work on it. Thank you.

  7. One doesn’t discuss which restaurant to go to unless you’re hungry. First simple hunger… then the not-so-simple decision process. But you don’t discuss restaurants unless first, you’re hungry. You want a girl, and this triggers the maelstrom of mind and emotions. If you hadn’t had any conception and carry-to-term issues, you’d tell your son, “Sure! Someday soon, sweetheart…”. Is it possible that all the difficulties of the past create a feeling of shame/guilt that this normal, common, ordinary desire of both you and your son is not a simple one in your case? I think your son wants a sister, and you want a girl. Everything else is just… tagalong everything-else stuff. Perhaps it would feel less torturous to move from the what (a girl) to the how. Difficult still, but not wind-tossed storm-blown emotional torture.

  8. There’s so much emotion in this post. And so much of it reminds me of how I felt on our road for number three. I too tortured myself for feeling bad when I had two amazing children. I also couldn’t deal with other people’s happiness and the frightening ease of other’s pregnancies. I will only say that when you know there is a space in your life and your heart for another, the longing and desire to have that child in your arms is as fierce as it is for your first. Stay strong, the right road will open up before you. xxxxx

  9. First, your son is so kind, it warmed my heart reading about it. As for your longing for another baby, don’t let infertility and loss cloud your feelings. You’re entitled to it as much as any other (fertile) woman. Maybe try to put it aside during you pro and cons list? Re the pregnancy announcement feeling, it’s amazing how infertility and loss affect us for the rest of our lives, whether we manage to have living babies or not. I could really relate to your train of thought and oscillating feelings. Hoping the journaling and counselling will help to clear your mind.

  10. Pregnancy announcements can send me down a rabbit hole too. I think it can be a normal reaction after all we’ve experienced. It can be shameful, and although I don’t have children I feel ashamed when I can’t rejoice for others because of what I don’t have (namely, a living child) when I’ve been blessed with so much else. This all just does a number on our minds and thoughts, and even something that is so natural, such as longing for a daughter, can be an emotional,trigger. I understand why you oscillate back and forth, we open ourselves up to emotional pain by trying again and you have to be ready emotionally to put yourself out there again. I don’t know if any of this is making sense, but I understand the emotions behind this and am wishing you much peace and strength as you try and navigate these feelings.

    • It makes perfect sense actually. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this out. The idea of the longing as a trigger of itself is something I hadn’t thought of and I’m finding it helpful to see it that way; this offers a place to start working through my feelings and the uncontrollable freeze and try to escape reaction I get when the descent into the rabbit hole begins. I had started to think why don’t announcements from other recurrent loss or longtime infertility sufferers bother me in the same way. But I actually can’t think of anyone I know in that category who’s done the cutesy eviction notice or “big brother/sister” type announcements. I think what is extra hard for us is that we can’t even imagine doing that because we know we might well eat those words/images/announcements one day while swallowed up by grief. And then I grieve that loss. It’s such a mind game. I’m so sad that you know it so well too. Thank you for your kindness and support. I hope you always know it is reciprocated one hundred fold.

  11. MT is a beautiful soul.
    I think it’s important to view the fertility struggles you’ve endured in the same light as one would view any other health struggle. Anyone would cringe if their friend, say, a cancer patient, felt shame for his/her experiences,unmet desires and longings resulting from medical trauma. To be sure, the repeated loss of babies is more than the sum of its clinical parts with boatloads of grief for children that never lived. But you already have a *really* difficult decision to make, both physically and emotionally. Full disclosure: I tend to view shame and guilt as a scourge. I am not saying that I don’t succumb to either of them, but when I catch myself falling into them I swim like mad to get away. I can’t control anything in the fertility hand I’ve been whacked with, but I can fight like hell to whack off the two most unproductive and self-harming feelings a person can experience. In your case, honestly, adding a self-imposed layer of shame to your very natural feelings of wanting a baby will only detract from the pro/con analysis, and might even skew the real result of that analysis.

  12. I’ve had so many of these same thoughts/feelings lately. I have one healthy child, and another on the way, why do I still cry when I hear others are pregnant? Maybe I’m jealous… of it being easy. But then I think, but we got pregnant on our own this time, I should be happy. Why am I not happy? I guess mostly because I’m down right terrified of having another baby early. You feel how you feel. I know this is so much easier said than done, but don’t be so hard on yourself. You have been through so much, so much, you have every right to feel how you do.

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