Fear of the Known, Fear of the Unknown (The Belly Dispatches)

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So, I am an infertile woman who’s fought tooth and nail for nearly seven years to have a baby. And tomorrow, I will begin the 29th week of my pregnancy. Yes, even reaching the 3rd trimester has not deterred me from identifying myself as an infertile woman. Infertility will mostly likely be a part of my identity for the rest of my life. Strange? Maybe. But, it’s the truth.

As an infertile, I know only too well how fragile conceptions, pregnancies and births can be. One meets other women in similarly heartbreaking situations — through social networking, support groups and other routes–and one hears about their gut-wrenching journeys . The longer it takes and as the number of failed treatments, unsuccessful cycles and miscarriages increase, the more one learns and the more one realizes how utterly arbitrary, random and illogical procreation truly is. And the more one learns, the more one gets a clue as to just how many ways there are for things to go wrong. One cannot help it. And, once one hears others’ stories, one cannot unlearn the facts.  Fear enters every cell and worry finds a home in every dark corner of the mind. Sad? Yes. But, it’s the truth.

I have never sugar coated my particular situation. Basically, my husband and I were looking at the end of the road when we saw this tiny beating dot on a scratchy ultrasound screen one late summer day last year. It was a microscopic ember of hope. But, we had seen an ember like this before, and that fire never came to be. So fear, anxiety and worry become our constant companions. For weeks, we watched this little beating heart grow, take shape and change, too afraid to truly trust and accept that everything would be fine. But, along with the fear, anxiety and worry, there was hope, wish, promise and so much love. I believed in this little growing being with all my heart, right along side the untamable fear that came from knowing all the ways things could go wrong. Two completely contradicting feelings, thoughts and states resided inside me week after week.

There’s an apt Persian expression that goes something like this: the snake-beaten is afraid of a black and white rope. YES!! Exactly. We, the snake-beaten infertitles who have struggled year after year and who have experienced losses, setbacks, heartaches and failures over and over cannot help but be afraid of every single black and white rope that lays on our way to parenthood. It goes against all of society’s pathological push for positivity and optimism in this day and age. But, with a little logic and empathy, anyone can see that we cannot feel any other way. We have a natural fear of what is known to us.

As weeks went by and as the belly grew, I found my brain slowly shifting from the worries of this pregnancy not going well, to accepting that maybe this time is indeed different and maybe this time is finally our time. Then I noticed my heart creeping along, also following my brain little by little. This transition is not by any means overnight or quick. Instead the brain and the heart move at a glacial pace, at times completely stalling for days or weeks. Hearing the heartbeat is a novel epiphany each and every single time. It really is. Every single time we hear our baby’s heartbeat, it feels as though we just received proof of life. Relief washes all over us, and so do tears. And with every epiphany, the brain and the heart soften a little more and relax into believing a bit more strongly. At almost 30 weeks, I am here to admit that the transition is still not complete, but on-going and evolving. Crazy? Maybe. But, it’s the truth.

Once the baby’s movements became detectable to me, I began to get multiple proofs of life on daily basis. It took me longer to feel her (yes, she’s a girl) than most others because of my anatomy and the position of the placenta. So, of course reading articles that said I was supposed to be feelings kicks when I wasn’t feeling anything brought all the black and white ropes out of the emotional closets and laid them at my feet all over again. But, for the last couple of weeks, I clearly feel her kick, jab, swoosh and flick and I thank her for having slayed all my imaginary snakes for me. She has already saved her mommy’s sanity and life without even being here yet.

So, armed with a new reality sans black and white ropes, I began to do the tasks that an expected mom does: dreaming of what my baby will look like, imagining the day I finally get to meet this illusive being I have pursued for nearly a decade, picking items for the registry, thinking about her room and how I’d decorate it, and reading books on child rearing and child birth. I am coasting along and, for a few days, feeling very little fear. No snakes and no ropes in sight.

Then, I begin to have conversations about the birth. And it strikes me for the first time in a long time that I am afraid of giving birth! Wait! What? You’d think that a person who’s been to hell and back several times, endured painful procedures, and subjected her body to all manners of infertility treatments would have made peace with birthing. I mean, isn’t that what the last seven years have been all about?

The short answer is no!

Realize this: when one falls down the rabbit hole of infertility, all one sees in the dark is the next step. All I have been focused on has been getting through the step immediately ahead of me. I’ve always just had enough strength and bravery to get through the task at hand at the moment. “Let’s just get through the retrieval.” “Let’s just see how many good embryos there are.” “Let this ultrasound show a heartbeat.” There’s no room or capacity for giant and holistic assimilations or adjustments.

So, I’m here now: feeling like I might finally be able to maybe trust that this kicking, swooshing little fish inside my belly will turn into a real life baby whose mom I will be. But, I have found a whole new stash of unknown black and white ropes to fear! “Can I do this?” “How can I do this?” “What will THIS be like?”

Welcome to the portion of the program entitled The Fear of the Unknown. And, to be honest, the rhetoric from the new and old moms I know, the current magazines I read and the society in general doesn’t help at all. Aside from every Jill, Jane and Mary feeling the need to tell me their labor horror stories while laughing at the novice little me, I am bombarded with daily messages about motherhood: it’s the end of your life as you know it; you’ll never bathe or sleep again; you’ll never be the same again; just wait until X, Y, Z happen to you. I am amazed that a society that pays so much lip service to the magic of motherhood also tries to scare the crap out of every mom-to-be, even before there’s a baby to care for.

I have never been one to follow the masses. I don’t give much care to peer pressure and the fastest way to get me to not do something is to tell me that “it’s the way things are done”. So, I believe with my whole heart that I will not feel like motherhood is the end of anything other than my childlessness. But, I am not immune to being vibed or scared by the immense amount of negative messaging that flows my way. And I have developed an emotional muscle for baby-related fearfulness. So, I find myself with a whole bunch of new black and white ropes that I haven’t even earned fearing yet.

Now, some believe that knowledge is power. I usually agree with that. But, is it really constructive to discuss with me the possibility of a three-day labor during an informational interview, as one prospective doula just did a few days ago? For me, it’s not. I, of all people, understand that complications happen and that most often life doesn’t go how we plan for it to go. But, is it necessary to constantly try to scare the pants off me while knowing what I’ve been through to get here? I may be naïve, but I really don’t think so.

So, I’m just going to put my feet up and read uplifting, positive things about how I would like to raise this little one. I am going to avoid the “peanut gallery” and all its unsolicited wisdom. I am going to focus on the belly and all the kicking, jabbing, swooshing and flicking I feel and I’ll be thinking about the day I finally get to meet this illusive being I have nearly killed myself to be the mother of, no matter how that day will end up being. All else will have to work itself out somehow. Is this unrealistic? Maybe. But, it’s the truth—my truth. So, take your “you will never go to the bathroom alone again” stories and all the black and white ropes you’ve brought with you and stuff them. I am not interested.

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About Atilovesparis

I am one with many faces, states and moods. I am a liberal progressive and an old fashion romantic. I am an aspiring writer and a mother-in-waiting. I am a Francophile. I am not defined by what I do for a living, but by my goals, thoughts, ideas, hopes, views, experiences and accomplishments. I am simple and complicated. I am me...
This entry was posted in Baby, Birth, Create Yourself, IF, Kids, Life Lessons, Pregnancy, Social Network, TTC and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Fear of the Known, Fear of the Unknown (The Belly Dispatches)

  1. Nessa Lomiva says:

    Dear friend, as a fellow infertile who gave birth exactly four weeks ago these fears are all too familiar to me. I tried not to dwell on them but there were moments when I gave in and cried my eyes out. The journey of pregnancy is definitely different for us who have struggled to get on that path.

    Fears and anxieties continued for me after the birth of my son. There are so many things that worry me and lack of sleep coupled with hormones is what is getting in the way of me coping with these feelings. Of course, I’m working on becoming normal again. Motherhood definitely requires some getting used to. No matter how prepared you think you are, you can never be ready for how your life is going to change.

    As for the births itself, I was scared of it too. But I went to birthing classes and educated myself on what to expect in terms of procedures at the hospital where I was going to have my baby. All this led to me going into the delivery room with a smile on my face. I wasn’t afraid. Not even when I had to have the emergency c section. So just continue believing that everything is going to be alright, and I’m sure it will. xoxo

    • Yay! Happy 4 weeks! 🙂 Thank you for writing and thank you for sharing some of your journey with me.
      I have no doubts about the fact that having baby is difficult, challenging and life alerting. I get that, as much as I can without having experienced it personally at this point. What I am talking about is the constant rhetoric about motherhood being the end of one life and the beginning of another. That it’s the end of self. It’s all that if you allow it to be. I just finished reading Bringing up Bébé and in it the author talks about how important it is to French moms to go back to being their pre pregnancy selves, that it’s their view that a baby is capable to adjusting to the family and that patents see their jobs as people who set the tone and rules of the family. All that is the opposite of the stereotypical American parenting style. The book really resonated with me. Because I just don’t see having a, baby as an end of anything, but the beginning of many glorious things.
      As for the birth, I admire your attitude and I’m gonna try to be inspired by you from now on. I’m also looking to hire a doula to help during labor and give me support. I am fine with however this baby comes into the world. What I question is attempt to scare the wits out of me. Why do I have to hear horror stories of multiple days long labor and all the other stuff people seem only too fond to share with me with glee? Does it really help me prepare any better? I just don’t see it. I find that people who vibe you are usually working some angle or dealing with their own demons. And I don’t like being a tool as they work on their own complexes.
      Anyway! I hope things begin to get more normalized and you get to get used to this, new status! I send you a big hug and am so happy to know that you have reached motherhood after IF.

      • Nessa Lomiva says:

        I agree with you that hearing horror stories isn’t helpful. On the contrary. IDK why people are trying to scare you. Perhaps they’re jealous that you’re in the process of fulfilling one of your dreams. Who knows?! People are strange. 😉 Try not to pay attention to them, and just forget about those stories. I tried my best not to think about all the horrible things I knew could go wrong. I simply acknowledged the fact that something bad could happen, but I never let those fears take over my life.

        Things are a bit different now that I’m a mother. Once the initial euphoria has passed, I started freaking out over every little thing. I need to work on that, because there is no such a thing as perfect. I would love to get my old life routine back soon, I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Not while I’m breastfeeding anyway. However, the weather will soon be nicer and warmer and we will start going for walks – which is something I simply cannot wait for. 🙂

        Every woman should think of birth as something beautiful. I have to tell you that I was laying in hospital, all I thought about was how I was experiencing something amazing. Here, in Serbia, no one is allowed to accompany a woman during birth, so we all go through it alone. My family and husband were so worried when they heard that I had to have a section, because they didn’t realize just how incredible I felt during the whole experience. Now that I write this, I realize that I must get this attitude back, asap. 🙂

        Thank you for all the kind words. You’ve been an inspiration yourself, but you know that already. 😀

  2. Lori says:

    Thank you Ati for giving voice to so many of the emotions I’ve had over the last 2 years. We are still IF and still working our way through the next steps. I love having your posts to read and seeing your joy and beautiful belly always lifts me higher!!!

    • Dear Lori, thank you for taking time to read my writing and for writing back. I wish you all the luck and baby dust in the world. I hope to soon have a message from you that you’re on your way to parenthood. You have my well wishes and gratitude.

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