I wrote on Monday about how wonderful last weekend at the Edel Gathering was. And it was. It really was.
But what I didn’t write about was the parts of it that were hard. I mean, I wrote about how it was kind of hard to talk to other people because of being an introvert. But that was just uncomfortable hard. There were a few other parts that were more like painful hard.
I didn’t write about those parts because: 1) I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer about something that was so great. And 2) because I was trying to keep my painful stuff private. And 3) because I didn’t quite even know how the story I had to tell was going to end yet.
Then I realized, through reading this post and the comments after it, that 1) lots of other women had similar experiences of Edel: GREAT, but kind of painful, and that some women even decided against attending Edel in order to avoid the painful part, so maybe it would be good to write about it. And 2) I thought about how keeping painful stuff private can be fine, but it never really seems to help me in any way to do so. And sometimes keeping painful stuff private just contributes to the idea that those things should be unseen and never talked about and taboo, which makes them harder in some ways. And then 3) Wednesday, I learned how this story would end, at least for now. So I decided I wanted to write about this other part of my experience at Edel.
I realize that most readers have no idea what I’m rambling about here, so I’ll back up. If you’ve read much here you know that for about a year and a half we have been struggling with secondary infertility (you can read about it here if you’re so inclined). In early June, I learned that finally, I was pregnant again, with a due date in late February. Naturally, I was ecstatic.
I was nervous because of my first miscarriage, but I was hopeful and absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t wait to see my baby (or possibly babies since I took fertility medications) on ultrasound. Each night when my kids prayed for “Mama to have another baby,” my husband and I secretly smiled together, eagerly anticipating the day when we could tell them our news.
I’m sure you can guess that the pregnancy didn’t turn out as we had hoped. About three weeks ago I had my first ultrasound, and the doctor said the pregnancy wasn’t viable. I won’t get into all the details, but for various reasons my husband and I were still hopeful that maybe there was a mistake, maybe everything would be okay, maybe we would experience a miracle. I had another ultrasound a week before Edel, and my final ultrasound was Wednesday. We now know definitively that the pregnancy is not viable. There’s actually no baby, just a “blighted ovum.”
In the midst of this process of waiting and ultrasounds, I went to Edel. It was a lovely break. In some ways it helped to take my mind off my concerns. But in some ways it kept my problems front and center in my mind. There were babies and pregnant ladies everywhere. Which was just awesome. But it was also hard. It was hard to be, at times, assumed to be one of the pregnant ladies.
I still have high enough levels of pregnancy hormones that I feel pregnant. And I look pregnant. And so lots of people seem to assume that I am pregnant. A few people have asked me directly. Many have just made comments suggestive of their assumption. I can’t blame them. Here’s what I looked like at the big Edel party last Saturday night (what I still look like): That’s me in the white shirt, in case you’re not sure. Super Friend (in the purple) actually is pregnant, and obviously so (to my knowledge, Jennifer Fulwiler is not pregnant, nor does she appear to be). Super Friend and I got quite a few pregnancy-related comments and questions directed at both of us. It was kind of fortunate actually that she was with me, because then she could just answer the question, and I’d look away or down or something and avoid answering myself. I heard a few comments about “is this space just for pregnant ladies?” when standing in a group of other women who were pregnant. A homeless man even catcalled at us regarding our bellies when we were walking to Starbucks, “Congratulations ladies!!! Pregnant women are so beautiful!”
It was such a strange situation to be in. Technically I was (and am) pregnant, but not in the most important sense of the word. I’m not going to be holding a baby in eight months.
It’s hard to admit, because I feel selfish to do it, but it was painful in many ways to be around so many pregnant women during the weekend. To repeatedly answer the question, “How many kids do you have?” To hear about so many other big wonderful families with five or six or eight or even 10 kids! These were all practicing Catholic ladies, after all. It was hard to feel like I’ll probably never be part of that big-family club. It was so bittersweet to hear Haley describe the moment when she first took a pregnancy test, and how she suddenly realized that, more than anything, she wanted it to be positive. She was talking about an unexpected pregnancy in a totally different type of situation than mine. But still. I know that feeling. Every month for a year and a half, I know that feeling.
Don’t get me wrong. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Edel Conference. The conference was perfect. It was me that was not quite right. My heart is just hyper-sensitive to pregnancy talk and pregnant people and tiny babies and feeling pregnant when I’m actually not.
I think the reason I’m writing this is that, after reading Cari’s post and the comments in the Combox, I couldn’t help but feel that so many people are struggling with infertility, or sub fertility and/or miscarriage without ever talking about it. It’s a big taboo. I know that I didn’t talk to anyone about it at Edel, except for Super Friend. I don’t talk to my friends here about it. I don’t talk to most of my family about it, except my Mom a little bit and of course my husband. And by not talking about it, I feel alone in it. I read Cari’s post and the comments and I thought, “I wish I had met these ladies over the weekend. I wish I could have talked to them and given them hugs.” I think it would have been so refreshing to share these types of feelings and experiences with others going through similar struggles.
Because other people might look at you like you’re a big jerk if you say, “Geez, it’s kind of hard to be around all these pregnant ladies sometimes.” Or even if they don’t, I’d feel like a jerk if I said something like that. And in that room, so much of the talk was centered around due dates and how many children a mom has and it just got to feel overwhelming at times. I was worrying about when the direct question was going to come without Super Friend there to deflect it. I felt a little bit of jarring sadness every time someone addressed me inclusively with the pregnant crowd. “I wish.”
To be clear, not one time did I experience a single woman at Edel being mean or catty or gossipy. No one said anything hurtful to me. No one said, “Oh, only three kids?? When are you going to get going on the next one??” or anything insensitive like that. It wasn’t that kind of group. Everyone was so kind and supportive and accepting. It was just me, and no one had any idea. No one else had any reason to know that I felt like there was a big pink elephant in the room and it was my ambiguously pregnant belly with no baby in it. And even when I don’t have the belly, it still feels like there’s this huge part of my life that I’m not allowed to talk about. It’s a little bit like I’m walking around as an open wound, but no one can see it.
So that’s why I wanted to write this. So maybe the next time I’m in a group of moms, whether it’s the next Edel or something on a smaller scale, if a mom is struggling with infertility or sub fertility or miscarriage or whatever else, she will feel like she can talk about it if she wants to. Maybe writing about it will allow me to feel like I can talk about it sometimes if I want to, too.