From HDYDI author Elizabeth.
It’s Fat Tuesday, 2005. I’m sitting in the teachers’ lounge of the elementary school where I teach. Not in the mood to talk, I’m grading papers as I eat. It’s common knowledge among the staff that I’ve recently had two miscarriages and that I’m still feeling fragile. From the other end of the table I hear my name called and look up to see the tiny gold baby from the king cake being slid to me. “Here, Elizabeth! It’s a baby. Now you can be happy!” Everyone at the table claps and laughs. I plaster on a fake smile, pick up my prize, say thank you and spend the next several minutes trying not to cry. Eventually the room clears and it’s only my principal and I at the table. She grabs my hand and softly says, “They don’t know.” We sit in silence until it’s time for us to leave.
At the time her statement made me angry. I knew she had suffered from secondary infertility. She often told me that she was praying for me and offered words of encouragement and hope. I trusted her and looked up to her. I knew she understood my broken heart and her words left me feeling betrayed. In my mind there was no excuse for the teasing I’d experienced. Their words and laughter were insensitive. They should know better, and she shouldn’t make excuses for them. I added her comment and the tiny baby to my ever growing list of things that hurt and offended me.
My list was long and varied. All pregnant women, all women who had been pregnant or thought about being pregnant, ads for baby items, ads including babies, strollers, car seats, cars with strollers and/or car seats were all on my list. Also included were baby showers, first birthday parties, the colors pink and blue, the word bump, and comments such as : “I’m a mom.” and “I have kids“. Everywhere I looked I saw babies, families, and pregnant women. It seemed that every conversation centered around babies, and stories of labor and delivery. I felt left out and slighted. Every comment was a slap. I took it all to heart and every bit of it personally.
Five kids and eight years later I have the gift of perspective. It’s obvious to me now that my broken heart colored things. My sweet friend was right; unless you have encountered infertility or loss you can’t know. It’s an experience that requires grace in order to survive. You must give it to yourself and extend it to others.
Be gentle with yourself. It doesn’t matter how long you grieve or how angry you get. You feel how you feel. Embrace it. It’s ok to skip the baby shower and to look away from the pregnant women you see. Just as important is making the decision to believe that people mean well. For the most part people care and really don’t intend to be hurtful. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
While I still dislike king cake, I’ve made peace with the little gold baby living in my jewelry box and the people who gave him to me. Unlike the truly insensitive colleagues that planned another teacher’s baby shower in front of me, I know the “king cake crew” was just trying to make me laugh. I wish I could have saved my tears for the times that truly warranted them. I know that my journey would have felt a lot less lonely.
This post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.