It’s Sunday morning and I just woke up from a nightmare. One of those terrible ones that take hours to fade and affect your whole mood. It seemed so real that I cleared my throat when I woke up, checking to see if it felt raw from screaming. Because I did a lot of screaming in this dream.
Buried inside a cast of thousands that included a pregnant woman (who was frustratingly ambivilant about her pregnancy and was swinging on a swing in the park–practically a child herself) and her fiance who informed me that he was sterile (yet the pregnant woman claimed that she became pregnant on their first try–strange) was an exchange between myself and a close friend. She flippantly told me that she was now pregnant again and that I was selfish. I should just be happy for her. And it wasn’t about me. And that I let infertility rule my life.
And it was so maddening because she negated all of my feelings while speaking kernals of truth–I know that it’s upsetting how I can’t be happy sometimes for others (recall my sliding scale and poor Katie Holmes who is living in bitchland for me?), but at the end of the day, I truly don’t believe that we have such control over our emotions that we can discard the pain we feel over whatever triggers it–the sight of a pregnant belly, the story of someone else’s child, a pregnancy announcement.
If we had this control, wouldn’t we use it in all facets of life? Why would I mourn a loss if I could just close that chapter and walk away? Why would I ever get angry at anyone–it’s a waste of emotional energy? I was so frustrated in the dream because essentially the friend was pointing out one more flaw. I’m not just infertile; I’m not just a lesser woman: I’m also a selfish person who has little control over her emotions.
And I know that it has to be frustrating for others–when you’re happy, it’s sometimes hard to remember that everyone may not be simultaneously happy with you. There was a great comment on the sliding scale post from Zee who said, “I don’t think you should be morally obligated to be happy for people who get what YOU want easily (or accidentally!) when you’re working so hard for it and still getting nothing. You should never wish them ill, but you have no obligation to celebrate their good fortune.”
And perhaps that’s it. Never wishing them ill, but being understanding that there is no obligation to be happy for the person. Or is that too small when it comes to a close friendship or family member? Where do our obligations fall on this topic? (bold because I really do want an answer). And there are three levels: friends, close friends, and family members. Does this work for all three? Does it work for only friends (those people who fall outside your inner circle, but are still important to you)? And does it make me a small person if I abide by this rule when it comes to someone who is ranked a close friend? Does friendship buy you a different level of interaction–one that rises above your own hurt to be happy for another?
My sister was separating from her husband around the time of my wedding. And I had no clue. She waited until we were back from the honeymoon to tell us because she didn’t want her situation to influence our own thoughts on marriage. I was very touched that she put our feelings above her own when she was the one going through the difficult time. The closest I have come to this level of putting my feelings aside are all the times I rolled on the floor with her daughter and babysat when my heart was breaking. I love my neice–I love her so completely with all my heart and she resides in a space that holds my own children. But it’s hard. It’s hard to love someone’s baby when you want one yourself. When you’re taking extreme measures to have one. But I never missed a trip or missed an opportunity to be with her. But is that the same level as celebrating a wedding when your own marriage is ending?
And where does this question of obligations fall when considered in this light–the ability to put your own feelings aside for a family member in order to celebrate with them? Is my sister superhuman or am I just truly that small? Or is it apples and oranges–divorce and infertility? This is all slippery ground that I can’t wrap my mind around. Or perhaps it’s just that post-dream haze.
In the dream, when my friend told me about her pregnancy, I started screaming. All-out-Prometrium-rage screaming. Tearing my hair out words: I hate you, I hate your children, I want you out of my life, never talk to me again, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.
The good news (at least for the non-infertiles of this world) is that I woke up feeling terrible about myself. I didn’t think this behaviour was acceptable. But isn’t that just the theme of infertility? I’m angry at MYSELF at the way I manage my relationships. And I’m angry at MYSELF for my inability to naturally get pregnant. And I’m angry at MYSELF for not being able to make my husband a father easily. And I’m angry at MYSELF, at MYSELF, and…once again…at MYSELF. I’m not sure how many people not going through infertility understand how much of the anger is turned inward versus how much anger is turned outward. I would wager a bet that I’m not the only person who has more bile flowing towards herself than to others–though most people are only privvy to the bile flowing towards them. I mean, who sits around telling their friends how much they hate themselves? Husbands, therapists, perhaps a few family members. But when I talk about the emotions of infertility, it’s all about the sadness rather than the anger. I rarely talk about the journal entries where I talk about how angry I am with myself. Even when the rational me knows that so much of what happens with my body is out of my control.
I’d be curious to know how many people with other medical conditions turn that anger inward. Is it because there’s no question to the validity of other medical conditions? If you have cancer, you have cancer. But if you’re infertile, there are always the stories of someone who got pregnant via a miracle–8 years of fertility treatments and they got pregnant on the one month they weren’t trying. So people grasp onto that idea and start writing off infertility not as a dire medical condition but as a problem that is best addressed by not addressing it. Other people say it to you, but the inward anger reflects how there is a part of you that imagines it might be true too.
I think the anger accompanying other medical conditions stems from regret: I wish I had done this or I wish I hadn’t done this. But at the core, the anger is more at the situation than the self. And with infertility, I’m not just angry at infertility. I’m angry at myself for no good reason. Perhaps because there is such a lack of understanding–a pick-yourself-up-by-the-boot-straps-just-be-patient-it-will-happen-for-you-if-you-want-it-badly-enough attitude surrounding it that you start turning that inward and believing it (however slightly) yourself.
No one tells someone with cancer to not treat their disease because they’ve heard a story about someone who was healed by relaxing (even if you have heard this type of story). No, you direct them towards an agressive treatment. Because it’s life threatening. And people don’t consider infertility life threatening. It takes on the same status as mental illness–another condition that lacks the respect it deserves. It becomes a problem rather than a medical condition. A problem that should be set aside when someone tells you their good news so you can celebrate with them.
What to do, what to do, what to do? I’m truly asking because of the unrest I felt after this dream. How does one become that bigger person? How does one not dig these chasms between themselves and others (because none of us want to dig these chasms)? Or is that just it–I truly am that small and it’s my problem and no one else’s? Aaah…must go. I have an appointment with a little self-anger this mor
ning. So much navel gazing lately.