Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Some Things That Bothered Me Lately

Occasionally, I come across something in a magazine, or a book, or a movie, or Faceb.ook posts, or memes, that irritate the bejeezus out of me.

These past couple weeks had a few, mostly internet-based, that I just had to write about so I could get it out and let it go.


Offhand Remark About Miscarriage
So, I was idly scrolling around Faceb.ook when I came across an article about Ali W.ong. If you haven't seen her special, Ba.by Cob.ra, and you like crass humor that's dry, she is the best. Of course, she's seven and a half months pregnant in the special, so that could be a deterrent for some, and she does a bit on how she needed some science to get pregnant, in the form of progesterone suppositories (and everything she says about those is SPOT ON and hilarious, except she must not have had the kind I did once that looked like a strawberry tart in a tin and had these red plastic caps that you could put on your fingertips like claws after and pretend to be a monster, and the cats really found them entertaining, to the point where I am STILL finding red plastic claw caps in random places under furniture when I do a deep clean). But the biggest warning is that she talks about her miscarriage, sort of as a joke, and that can be not so fun if your miscarriage wasn't seen as a blessing in disguise or a way to get things out of your husband. NOW. I know that she probably didn't actually do those things at the time. And in the article, which I read before I watched the special on Net.flix, she does say that she was depressed after her miscarriage, and I'm sure you don't include that part of the experience in your special because it's not ha-ha funny, but you have to dramatize things to make it laughable or provocative.

The thing that really pissed me off was that then she said that another comic and mom friend advised her "that people need to know that you're O.K. in order to laugh at your tragedy. I was able to get pregnant again, so people knew that I was O.K." So, instead of the "thank god I'm not having twins" way that she describes it in her special, she does say that it was a tragedy. But the part I took exception with was, I was able to get pregnant again, so people knew that I was O.K. Um, not to get all serious, but are you not O.K. if you can't get pregnant again? If you join the hordes of women who have a miscarriage (or multiple) and then CANNOT get pregnant again, are you not okay? Am I not okay because I never got pregnant again? I realize I personalize it a bit, but I felt that was a horrible message, that you're not okay if you don't get pregnant again. Because I can certainly joke about how my mothership is a ghostly death ship, but I consider myself okay, even though I never got pregnant again after my miscarriage. You can totally be okay even if you don't get pregnant and show the world you did it. Instead, you can show the world you're okay because you didn't succeed but you survived it.

I was so mad reading the article, but then I had to watch the special before passing judgment, because even though it was an interview and in her words, interviews can get skewed. I needed the source. And I loved the special, I really did--it was super funny and she is SMART and funny, but the miscarriage bit made me upset. The only good thing was that she did say she was talking about her miscarriage because she wanted people to talk about it, that as a society people keep that information close, and then you're left feeling alone when it happens to you. That part I appreciated. So, I forgive you, Ali W.ong, for saying something I felt was insensitive, because you are seriously funny and you had messages that weren't hideous, too.

A Very Tricky Meme
A friend of mine is battling a rare disease. It's been a long battle, and she conceived through IVF because she needed to get pregnant ASAP so she could be off her lifesaving meds for the smallest amount of time. This is a hard situation to be in, to weigh the impact on your health and life against having babies. She has two children, but continues fighting her diagnosis.

She posted a meme up on facebook that read:

Giving up is not an option when someone calls you mommy.

It was hard, because I wanted to be supportive of her, and like it to show my support for her, but the message of that meme was really hard to swallow. I get that your children depend on you when you're a mommy, but I can't help but see the inverse of that statement, that it's somehow easier to give up if you don't have children. That your life is somehow more valuable if you're a mom. It follows a lot of the other things out there where moms are touted as better than non-moms, capable of deeper, stronger love, with inhuman strength to hold families together, yada yada yada. I am not denigrating motherlove here. But I hate memes like that because it makes it seem like some lives are more valuable than others. When there is a tragic death, somehow it is more sympathetic if it's like "young mom of two" or "mother of three" than if it was "single woman" or "childless woman." And I know, moms do have people dependent on them, but don't I, too? Don't I have a husband who would miss me very much, and cats who might not get their litter boxes cleaned as frequently, and a mass of family and friends who would hate to see me go? Wouldn't it be sad to think of the teaching I wouldn't get to do, the accomplishments I'd never achieve, outside of motherhood?

Facing a difficult diagnosis or illness is difficult, but it should be hard to give up on the fight regardless if you have children or not. The message shouldn't be that simply by having children your life is more valuable and more worth fighting for. I applaud my friend's fight to survive, and I don't think that she meant ill will by posting that meme. However, I would support fighting a life-threatening situation whether she was a mom or not.

The Endless "Put the Swimsuit On" Mommy Posts
I love body positivity. I am trying super hard to be consistently body positive myself, even though I am constantly tested by things like hives and crappy knees and needing old lady orthotics to prevent foot pain and asthma that tries to kill me when I get the flu and all that. I do the best with what I've got, and what I've got is PCOS and a genetic predisposition to not be thin, despite the fact that I regularly walk 5 miles or more every day and enjoy hiking and do some kind of yoga/pilates blend 3 times a week or so (more and my joints are like WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO DO, CRAZY LADY?). I like pilates quite a bit. I also like pie. And so, my body is never going to be anything resembling athletic. I will be a size 12 forever (I'm trying really hard not to creep up in size). I can improve my endurance, and my strength, but my tummy is pretty damn resistant to shrinkage now that I'm 40 (and all through my thirties, and pretty much life). Plus, you know, I went through a shitload of infertility treatments that messed with my hormones and seemed to have reset my body's comfort level, the weight it likes to revert to. I am trying to accept that as long as I do all the healthy things, that my body is as good as it gets.

But this time of year, there are all these articles that come out on how you can't miss out on being out there with your children, on being in pictures with your children, because you hate how your body looks in a swimsuit. That in itself is a great message, and I love it very much. Where it starts making me feel a pit of distaste deep in my chubby belly is when they start going on and on about how AMAZING women's bodies are, how you have cellulite and stretch marks and a pooch because your body can MAKE LIFE and how great is that? You go, mama, because every roll and ripple and saggy boob sustained your children at the most vital time, and so BE PROUD of your body because it is a MIRACLE MANUFACTURER!

This is fantastic and empowering if your body creates miracles instead of tiny deaths and attritions. When your rolls are in part due to an endocrine disorder that has helped rob you of fertility as well as the result of occasionally eating your feelings, it has a different tone. My body is USELESS when it comes to creating humans. And when I read all about how amazing it is to be body positive because of the life-giving properties of women's bodies and mom bodies in particular, it makes me feel super deficient. I will never breast feed someone from my boobs (yes, yes, I know about induced lactation, please go here if you'd like my analysis of why that won't work for me physically or more importantly, emotionally). They do have a pattern of lovely green veins that appeared one time I was pregnant and never went away, so I guess I do have a battle scar from that... as well as scars on my lower belly from the laparoscopy that saved my life from the ectopic and removed one of my tubes along with the baby-shaped tumor that was threatening my existence and future fertility (HA, future fertility). I know that my body is amazing because it can (sort of) bounce back from having ovaries the size of large navel oranges and that I can be a human pincushion for the chance of having a baby, but I don't think the articles care about that. I am not their target audience.

Maybe when I go to the beach I should borrow other people's children so that people can be like, "what a brave woman, out in her swimsuit, rocking that body that made LIVES!"

Or I can go and not care about the body I have, that I take decently good care of, that is capable of climbing mountains and walking all day and doing squats and stuff even though my knees creak through all of those activities. I can be proud of my body that sustains me daily even though it never sustained anybody else, and know that this is a body that survived infertility.


There. I feel much better having gotten all that out. Call me bitter if you'd like, but as an infertility survivor (if not a success story), it's amazing where these feelings can come from. The smallest thing can trigger righteous indignation at implications that not-mother, not-pregnant, is not nearly as good or as valuable or as brave as Mother is.

12 comments:

  1. I cringed multiple times reading this. Cringing at all the places you took issue with.

    I'm not a fan of the "your a mother" arguments. Both because it puts focus on only one population but also because it excludes where there doesn't need to be exclusion. I know plenty of people who have fought life-altering diseases who are brave and amazing regardless of whether they are parenting. All body types should be celebrated because there are so many beautiful body types. And having kids after miscarriage/still birth does not mean a woman will automatically be okay. Being okay requires an active process of healing. You've been healing because you've been addressing it. I know women who haven't healed even though they are now parenting.

    Though it is a good thing we celebrate motherhood (we need to as there are those who would otherwise abandon their families), I agree that it's overhyped. Motherhood doesn't make you stronger, more loving, more compassionate, etc. than someone who isn't parenting. It does change people, but so do all life transitions. Surviving infertility included.

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  2. I agree, it is a good thing to celebrate motherhood -- and I hope to become one myself although not through my body anymore. I hope that when I do I don't become an amnesiac though and forget what it was like before that happened, and that the words "As a mother" never leave my lips... I love what you said about excluding where there doesn't need to be exclusion. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

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  3. This makes me sad. What a person says or posts on facebook is not about you, nor does it need it to be all inclusive for everyone on earth. Don't let comparison be the thief of joy. I wish you the best (your own best).

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    1. I'm sorry you're sad. But this post is about my personal feelings stirred up by what I see, and very little of it has to do with the thievery of joy. More the way infertility or motherhood or body image is discussed in society at large (and through shared articles and memes) than about any one person's experience. The only truly personal thing here is my feelings, which is kind of the basis for this blog...how my perceptions and experiences and feelings are all affected by my journey of infertility, loss, donor gametes, embryo adoption, and domestic adoption. This post is also not meant to be all inclusive or for everyone on earth, so if it is not for you that's okay. I appreciate your best wishes and hope you feel less sad about the way I process the world.

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  4. I think it's great you can analyze and unpack exactly what is bothersome about those messages. Kind of reminds me of Mr Turtle's advice for watching commercials: instead of tuning them out, ask yourself "what is this telling me about myself?" (Usually something like: you have bad self esteem so you need a car, your eyelashes are crap you need make up, or what ever). These sort of messages will be around forever, I'm sure, and the ones about mothers being more worthy, bodies being ok if they can get pregnant, etc. but nobody has to simply accept them. Also, good on you for actually viewing the Wong special vs using only the review to make your judgement.

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    1. Thank you! I love that, "analyze and unpack." Exactly the point, and very teacherly of you to phrase it that way! :) I feel like what Mr. Turtle says is what I try to instill in my students -- Question Everything -- think about what the message (or news event or literature) means to you, to your experience, to your particular lens. The Wong special was worth the look-see, as a primary source of sorts but also because it truly was hysterical. I try really hard to be a good investigator on those things, because articles can be biased one way or another or edited where her actual quote wasn't quite what was printed. Thank you for your thoughts, and for Mr. Turtle's sage advice!

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  5. Oooh, I don't like the idea of feeling you have to be able to pretend you can laugh at a miscarriage. Maybe you can laugh at some of the things that happen around it - I can laugh at some events around my ectopic pregnancies, even when I was still in hospital, but not at the fact they happened. I also don't like the idea that you have to be okay after a miscarriage. The truth is that you don't have to be okay, and many women are not okay. I understand why you were annoyed!

    As for the memes and themes on FB. I totally agree. Especially the "our bodies are amazing" thing. Ugh. The truth is, our bodies are amazing. They bleed and heal, they keep us breathing, make us laugh and cry, allow us to love and nurture, to jump and run and sleep and cook and dance and eat and drink and smile - most of all, smile.

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    1. Great additions to the miscarriage piece! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is true, the body is amazing, no matter what it does. Everyone's body is amazing, well beyond its reproductive capacity. :) Thank you for your thoughts!

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  6. I watched the Ali Wong comedy show too and even though I liked most of it, I also found her comments about her miscarriage bothered me. She basically just talked about the physical side and not the emotional side which is the hardest part I think.

    Also I totally agree that when people go on about how great their bodies are because they created life etc, it bothers me and makes me sad that my body doesn't seem to be able to create or sustain life (so far anyway). And comments about women's bodies doing what they were "made to do" when talking about pregnancy and childbirth also just make it harder when your body doesn't do those things naturally.

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    1. Thank you for understanding. It is hard not to have those feelings about the bodies creating life, because it makes the betrayal smart all the more. A friend of mine commented once "it just seems that your body isn't meant to do this," and while it was a comment made out of compassion, it made me so sad and I just felt like, WHY??? Why are so many other bodies "meant" to have 2 or 3 or 4 babies and mine can't handle 1? So those articles really strike a chord with me. I do love the message they give for moms who feel too self-conscious to get out there and be photographed or frolic in the pool or beach, but it's important to also think about how they might make people feel who had uncooperative bodies, too. Yeah, I wish Ali Wong had handled that a little differently, like you said -- touched on the emotional side if even briefly, even if it wasn't so funny. Thank you for your thoughts!

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  7. That miscarriage piece makes me mad because when I got pregnant the second time, people expected me to forget about the first miscarriage. And now, people keep talking about this cycle as if it if works my second miscarriage won't matter. The fetus I held in my hand just won't matter anymore. This is the mentality that has caused people to rush me through the grieving process. There have absolutely been funny moments through this...not exactly haha funny but...darkly funny. But honestly, besides my husband, I'm not really concerned with anyone needing to feel that I'm okay. It's none of their business, and a lot of days I'm still not okay. This is MY tragedy. I don't need to be comforting everyone else. They sure as hell stopped comforting me after a couple weeks.

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    1. Oh, Amy, I am so sorry. Another pregnancy doesn't negate a miscarriage. And I'm sorry people stopped comforting you. I'm glad you don't feel a responsibility to make other people feel comfortable about your loss, that was always the part the got me the most. People not talking about it because it made them uncomfortable...oh so sorry MY pain makes YOU uncomfortable. For me it was interesting to see the difference in the comfort and sympathy we received for the ectopic (surgical) versus the early miscarriage (messy, vaginal, less defined). Thank you for sharing your thoughts on that one, and I completely respect your pain and your anger when people make light of miscarriage.

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