he weirdest thing happened last week when my friend confided in me that she was pregnant: I tensed up and let my uterus generate tremendous envy. I guess old habits die hard. Once my mind acknowledged the current state of reality, that primordial envy dissipated entirely. Still, the feeling was visceral enough to take me back to how shitty I felt minute after every bleeding damn minute for the sum of nearly four years and now, with Mother’s Day so close by, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much it sucks to endure this day when you’re not, reproductively speaking, where you hoped you would be.
I have received an overwhelming number of emails from friends and brands acknowledging my new status as a mother in conjunction with the imminence of Mother’s Day. These notes are written in a tone that suggests great relief — as if a plague has been lifted from the surface of my skin. Like I’m now part of Motherhood, a club that I was not good enough to be in last year. But it hasn’t even been a full year since I was Trying to Conceive, and similarly to the way my uterus generated tremendous envy at the news of my friend’s pregnancy, it is also still inclined to tense up bitterly at the thought of Mother’s Day. So here are six things I wish someone had told me when I was trying to will the day away, in case it’s where you’re at today.
1. You can give yourself permission, even if it seems like you can’t, to make this day go away.
Last year I didn’t even call my mom, which was selfish and shitty, but she understood that I kind of couldn’t help it. I was so wrapped up in my own vanity and upset that it barely occurred to me I was hurting my mother. My in-laws hosted a celebratory brunch, my parents hosted a dinner. I refused to attend either. Instead, I stayed home, watched Friends, ate ice cream and waited for the clock to strike five so I could open a bottle of wine for and by myself and call it happy hour. The irony of that happy hour is still not lost on me. What I could have used then, which I only see now, was a good friend to share that bottle with me. I’m sure you have one — call her.
2. You’re alone, but you’re not.
The experience of trying to conceive is severely isolating. It is lonely enough to make even the desert feel like an island. You think no one gets it, even if they’ve been there, but what I’ve found is that trying to get pregnant feels a lot like trying to get over a broken heart, which plenty of people can relate to. The experience of suffering is so specific and unique to its carrier that you can barely fathom the idea that anyone else, even a former version of you, has ever felt the same way, but perspective has shown me that suffering is suffering and a broken heart is broken — no matter the cause. This doesn’t make it better, but it does make assembling enough courage to open up and pursue empathy or compassion from your heart’s most trusted advisors a bit more palpable.
3. To that, though, if you don’t want to talk about it, don’t.
Maybe this is just a problem for self-identifying over-sharers, but in this age where it seems romantic to air out the laundry of your hardships, it also seems important to acknowledge that if you don’t want to talk about it, you really, really don’t have to. Particularly because…
4. It is overwhelming and stressful to attempt to absorb everyone’s recommendations.
This doctor, that acupuncturist, the naturopath on 31st street. Their intentions are great, and everyone is going to want to share with you the thing that helped them — I see myself doing the same damn thing sometimes — but when I was in it, what I needed was to chill the fuck out, to go a little easier on myself and understand that just because I didn’t want to catch every single recommendation thrown at me did not mean I wasn’t trying hard enough. I had to stop making appointments and stop growing more suspicious of the process every time another name, specialty or facility was added to the roster of people/things/places I “needed” to try. Just do what feels right, but more importantly, manageable. This is probably blanket advice I should continue to take.
5. Trust the process.
This is easier said than done, and I’m not exactly sure what will ultimately help you get to a place where you trust the three bests (that you’re doing the best you can, are in the best hands and that, frankly speaking, you are the best) — maybe it’s when you finally surrender — but for me, relinquishing control, telling myself that I did everything I could have and that now it’s up to my doctor and the universe to make this happen really allowed me to unclench my butt cheeks. Finally.
6. If you want it, you will get it.
This is the last thing I am going to say. The process of trying to conceive is bubble-wrapped with grief and despair and envy and all of these terrible feelings you want so badly to push away. But the harder you try to make them go away, the more forceful they seem to become. It’s nearly impossible to believe that one day you’ll be walking down the street pushing the stroller you are currently cursing at as you barrel down the sidewalk, much less that Mother’s Day will become your celebration, too. But please trust me, believe me, hold it against me if you have to!, when I say that it is 2018 and science is incredible. So is the generosity of the pockets of humanity who recognize that sometimes science can be very expensive. The kindness of women who are willing to allow their bodies to function as conduits for your pursuits can take your breath away, too, but perhaps most valuably, your natural resilience points towards a universal truth that is not just worth acknowledging but absolutely required to absorb: either you will get what you want or want what you get.
But I see you. I know that doesn’t make this very moment any better. It might even make it worse. So if you want to sit and sulk, I’m around all day. Let’s bitch in the comments and when the clock strikes 5, we’ll open a bottle of wine. Together!
Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.