Most of the time gratitude is my companion and sometimes it is my gentle reminder.  When being a mother is hard, I think of how hard it was not being a mother.  The hardest part, well, who knows what was the hardest part?  But it was often hard not knowing if I would ever get there.

I have a friend who used to say, when we were both single, that she wished she could just get a postcard saying “He’s not coming.”  So she could adjust her life accordingly and stop wondering when she would meet The Guy She Was Going to Marry.

Infertility felt like that.  The waiting would have been easier had I known it was just the waiting, as opposed to the first years of It’s Never Going to Happen.  Obviously It did happen, twice; I am married and a mother.

I have walled myself in with gratitude, which I have always thought was a healthy thing to do, maybe a form of emotional hygiene or good discipline or something.  I want to complain? Can’t go there.  I have to remember to be grateful.  I want to be sad and fearful that I won’t be able to have another?  I can’t go there either.  I have one, after all, and many do not.   Just not being able to “go there” can be helpful sometimes.  Today it is biting me in the ass.

I’m on a trip that I stupidly thought would be fun, accompanying my husband to his college reunion.  His friends are lovely.  The town where his college is, his hometown, is grim, to me; but I’ve been here many times.  I was stupid to think this would be fun because my husband is busy and I have care of our toddler a lot.  I also didn’t anticipate that our son would be less of a good traveler this trip than others.  So after a day of him screaming and refusing to nap, then screaming and refusing to go to bed, he’s up screaming at 4:45.

When I am this tired and frustrated, I have so much rage in me that it’s scary.  Sometimes a child grows and suddenly can put his own coat on, or say “all done” or walk across the parking lot and the change is wonderful.  But when he suddenly can’t go to sleep like he usually does, I am driven crazy.  We’re going in the wrong direction.   I am so close to the boiling point right now.  The bargains I have made – that I would be as good a wife as I could, and cheerfully make this reunion possible for my husband, that I will understand that he needs 9-11 hours of sleep a night even if I never get that… that I will stay calm and loving to my child no matter what … seem ridiculous and unfair.

But gratitude says I can never complain about having a child, because when I was infertile it was unbearable, and, I thought, selfish.  Yeah, sweetie, you’re tired. You never have any time to yourself. How’d you like to have, oh, your whole life to yourself, with no kids at all, ever?  And that’s all valid, and hopefully it has kept me from complaining, and being the gasoline poured into somebody’s gaping wound.

But oh fuck, I am so frustrated and tired.  Having to keep him quiet is just the last straw.  Suddenly gratitude is just a bitch snarling at me to keep it buttoned up and that’s not helping.

It gets better.  I spent yesterday afternoon with cousins and family members.  When I was almost asleep last night my husband started talking about how Z’s husband just knew it was going to be a girl and I realized that Z is pregnant and I hadn’t been told.  This is no big deal; my husband rarely knows anything that I don’t know, so it doesn’t occur to him to tell me.  And Z was probably keeping things discreet since X was there, and X has recently lost a baby.  And my husband’s mother is a deaf as a post.  So communication is not exactly happening.

But oh, that was a blast from the past.  Even though finding out someone was pregnant used to hurt like crazy, finding out when someone was pregnant after everybody else knew was worse.  For me, this is because not being able to get pregnant felt like I didn’t belong.  And not being able to manufacture even fake joy when someone else was pregnant made it clear that I didn’t belong.  And not being told at all, whether on purpose or by accident, really shoves me outside the circle and nails the door shut.  Whether any of it is true or not, that is how it feels.

I hate that.  I am perfectly happy for my relative.  She wants kids, she is pregnant, that is all good.  My “secondary infertility” is well underway, of course.  I want another baby and when someone else is having a baby, particularly a second baby, I feel the pang.  But it’s not, nor should it be, a big feeling.  We have just started working on #2, and while “working on” a baby is obviously a big long project for us when it isn’t for lots of people, and I have gotten used to what our “working on” looks like.  There are advantages to our kind of work.  “oooohooooo…. this woman’s work…”

But then the pretzel kicks in, and it’s painful.  The pretzel is all the ways I have decided I must and must not feel, by virtue of being ever grateful, and not being annoying like other fertile people were when I had no kids and no hope.  These are the rules of the pretzel.

1) never complain about how hard it is, because someone (in my head) will say, rightly, “well you wanted kids, nobody told you it was going to be easy” or “why’d you go to so much trouble to get them if you can’t cut it?”  Never complain because those who have no kids and want them will hate you for it.

2) never complain about how hard it is, because someone in my head will say “well what do you expect?  you’re 47 and you’ll be ___ when you get pregnant and you’ll be ___ when the baby is born and you’ll be ___ when the baby is ___ and by the way your husband is so old he’ll probably die at the worst possible time leaving you to do it ALLLLL ALLOOOOONE………..”  I don’t know who this bitch in my head is, but she hates me.  Actually, I do know who she is, and couldn’t you just cry?  She is me.

3) and that means why should I want a second?  I clearly can’t handle even one.

4) never complain about wanting a second because I should be glad I have one, and many can’t even try for another.

The pretzel, obviously, denies logic.  Which is it?  Am I scared to have another, or am I sad that I can’t?  How can I be scared of something I may never get?  how can I be sad about the lack of something I am scared of?  Obviously the answer is “yes.”

Yes to everything.  Yes I’m scared, yes I want, yes I don’t have, yes she does.  Yes I’m better off, yes I’m worse off.  Yes I feel it all, the ugly all of it, and Ican’t pretzel myself. I’m a big lump of dough going in every direction. Yes.

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I am not the blogger who has written some stuff about breastfeeding lately.   If I were that person, it would be hilarious, since I was not what you’d call successful at it, at all, at breastfeeding.  No, you can feed your baby any old way you want and I will be supportive.

There is another blog called The Other Shoe, and if you’re looking for a big old breastfeeding controversy, go over there.

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