Sunday, November 15, 2009

One of these Things is Not Like the Others

Sometimes we IFers stick out like a sore thumb. It can feel so obvious to us that we are different then the other people we interact with because of our IF.

Take a visit to the doctor's office. First off, the nurse pulls my file and it is 2-3 inches thick. And that is not because I have been a patient there for years or because I have had several pregnancies with this practice. No, I have been with the office for less than one year and have had no births. Then we go into the waiting area. Everyone else in the room is pregnant. They are happily thumbing through their pregnancy and parenting magazines and dutifully carrying their bottles of water. Then I walk in. Instead of carrying a magazine, I am carrying a thick black binder with all of my medical records and select research articles. I pull out something from work that I can proofread – no time for leisure reading – I am a career woman (ha ha!).

Or how about the last baptism I attended? While everyone else was smiling and sending warm thoughts during the blessing of the mother I was trying to hold back tears and wondering how I was going to look and act normal when this thing is over and we have to socialize. At the reception all the other women my age are quietly breastfeeding their babies or chasing around little ones. They barely have a chance to hold an adult conversation. Pan across the room and there I am, saddled up next to the bar and hanging out with all the guys in the room. (Yes, thankfully this baptism reception included an open bar!)

Then there is church. We are very blessed to go to an awesome church with faithful priests and laypeople. Our priests often preach about the good of family and having babies. On one hand it is great because you don't hear sermons like that in many churches these days. But I always feel a little awkward. When the priests talk about what a blessing children are and how couples should be open to it, I feel like everyone is staring at my husband and I and thinking, "I'm glad they're here to listen to this sermon." It's not that anyone in church ever says anything. They probably aren't thinking about us at all, but as I sit alone with my husband year after year, looking at all the families around me, I feel like we are sticking out like a sore thumb during those sermons.

Walking in Catholic circles, sometimes I feel like I want to wear a sign that proclaims, "I am not contracepting, I am infertile." We may feel like our lack of fertility makes us stand out from others, but I don't think people dwell on it as much as we think they do. A lot of our self-consciousness and feelings of not belonging are self-inflicted. Acquaintances are not necessarily judging us for being childless, just as we are not always judging them for the cars they drive, clothes they wear, jobs they have, or number of kids they've had. If we feel isolated from our old friends, we have to ask ourselves whether it is our friends isolating us, or if we are doing it to ourselves. Sure, there are certain things our friends are doing that we can't – like going to play groups or getting together in the middle of the day when we are working. And they may not be as good about keeping in contact with us as they used to be. But am I isolating myself from them as well? Am I still trying to keep in touch with my friends and planning get togethers at times that work for both our schedules? I know that I have lost contact with some of my friends because after they had kids, they stopped initiating contact and I felt like I was always the one having to reach out. Although our lives may be vastly different now, we still share a friendship.

Sometimes it is hard to be the one who is different, but everyone has something that they feel keeps them from fitting in. Maybe this experience is meant to teach us to reach out to others when they may feel uncomfortable or like they don't fit in. Hopefully that is not the only thing we going through this for, but at least maybe that is a small part of what we are supposed to be learning. J

Reflection Questions

  1. How do I deal with feeling different from my friends and acquaintances?
  2. Do I isolate myself from friends and family who have children?
  3. How have friends and family shown their support for me during times of suffering?

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord." Isaiah 55:8

"Thus says the Lord, cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward, says the Lord. There is hope for your future, says the Lord." Jeremiah 31:16-17

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4