Short version: finding secret sisters in infertility.

Sometimes the things people say make you wonder. At a party, several months ago, a woman noticed I wasn't drinking. "You don't drink?" she asked, by way of polite smalltalk.

"Usually, but at the moment I'm pregnant so I'm not drinking," I replied.

She smiled broadly. "That's really great!" she enthused.

"Thanks, yes, we're pleased."

But she wasn't finished. "It's just really wonderful news. I'm so happy for you. I just think every child is such a blessing, really," I nodded, accepting her kind words whilst thinking uneasily of all those who wouldn't agree so far. Then she said it: "You're really lucky to have the chance to fall pregnant and to carry a child like that."

It makes you wonder. Sometimes it makes you follow up, but only if you can work out how. In another situation, as background for a particular anecdote, somebody described this couple they knew whose eldest child was adopted, and whose youngest was conceived the old fashioned way, long after they'd given up on that possibility. "That happens so often," said someone else. "People conceive naturally after they've adopted because they stop stressing about it." And that was the last thing the second woman said, because the first woman corrected her at some length, quoting statistics from several studies on the incidence of spontaneous conception in infertile couples, both in the presence and absence of adoption, as well as on the role of stress in infertility.

Wait! I forgot. That first woman was me.

Later that day, a different colleague stated that I must be feeling tired and heavy now that I've hit the third trimester. "Not that I'd know from personal experience," she added. "Never having been through the third trimester of pregnancy." She looked at me keenly and continued. "First trimester I've experienced four times, and even bits of the second on one occasion."

"Oh. Gosh."

She looked down. "It was ages ago. I'm over it now."

"It must have been horrible."

"At the time, but I'm over it now. It was ages and ages ago. I decided I just wasn't meant to have children."

"Still, an awful..."

"It was ages ago," she said brightly, looking back up. "I'm over it now. You must be starting to feel tired and heavy, though."

Like a secret handshake. Sometimes, I'm not quite sure how to return it. I'm always glad for those who are.


Lut C. said...

I was in a situation where a guy said how envious he was of me, good job, a child, ...
I blundered - asking if he had kids - no he didn't - then I asked if it was by choice. No, it wasn't.
It would have been ok, except it wasn't the time or the place to ask such questions. I apologized later for being so intrusive, explaining we had a tough time becoming parents, which makes you pick up certain clues.

Don't know what I would do next time.

SassyMama said...

To me there is something really great about serendipitously finding another person who has also struggled to have children (or struggled and been unable to have children). Someone who can relate to the heartache, lack of privacy, multiple medical procedures and struggles to be gracious. I find that connection, however fleeting, to be rewarding. Sad, but rewarding.

Nearlydawn said...

I ended up turning my comment into a post about the very same topic... I've been mulling it over for days in my head. Thanks for the inspiration to finally write it down.

Ellen K said...

"A secret handshake" -- that's a very good way to describe it. I've had some such moments as a parent after IF. Most have been related to a death of a twin, but at D.'s 20-yr reunion last month, one of the organizers listed her children and mentioned that the first had died before age 2. And the guy to whom she was speaking said there was a big age gap between their kids due to infertility. I wanted to say something but didn't -- they weren't my classmates, and D. wasn't with me at the time.

Mamá Gringa said...

I think as we become more open with the difficulties that many of us face in becoming pregnant or through adoption, we have the opportunity to share secret handshakes with others. I know from the day we first started telling people about our long road to adoption, friends and strangers alike would tell us about their sisters, cousins or neighbours who were going through the same experiences as us. It certainly made us feel not so alone.

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