There have been so many moments lately where I've stopped and marveled at how far I've come.
- A couple of Fridays ago as my co-worker was leaving work for the weekend, I said, "Enjoy your family!" Like, it just rolled off my tongue and that's what came out of my mouth. His family. The thing that I always wanted. He's married with 3 young kids and I genuinely wished him a great weekend with his family without a second thought.
- Recently at work, I've done several of pediatric patient evaluations with nearly the whole dang family present in the treatment room. But what's a stay-at-home parent supposed to do? One kid has an appointment, so all of the kids go. It made me laugh inside my head each time. There I am, in the treatment room with a parent, patient, and 2 - 3 siblings (so at least 3 young children at once). The parent is looking to me for help. The patient is looking at me wondering who I am. The siblings are intrigued by me and each one of them wants to tell/show me something. I'm fielding it all, giving everyone attention while conducting the evaluation, and thinking to myself, "Now who is the childless one here?" Hahaha. But it's all good. It makes me happy to help families. A clinical instructor told me one time that any time you help the family, you are also helping the patient.
- The biggest marker of my healing happened just a week or two ago. One of my close friends from graduate school had her second baby. She texted me a pic of her and her newborn and... IT DIDN'T MAKE ME SAD. This is a Big Deal. I *hate* newborn-and-mom-in-the-hospital pics. I still do. Maybe I always will. But my friend texted me one of her and her baby (which was pretty uncharacteristic of her because she usually asks first before sending any pics but I didn't mind) and all I felt was happiness for her. The picture didn't bother me. It's a freaking miracle, reserved for only the most special people in my life.
So, I'm feeling pretty good, right? I'm working with kids, I'm helping families, and I'm genuinely supportive of my friends and co-workers, none of which causes me pain or drains my energy.
Then I attended a two-day virtual conference this past weekend. It was awesome and it was awful. The content was the awesome part. I learned so much. But, O. M. G., were the awful parts awful... I'll spare you every detail but the very mommy-centric vibe reared its ugly head early on and only grew over time. I actually left a couple of sessions early because the content wasn't worth sitting through the delivery.
Did you know that moms are the only busy people on the planet??
It was a lot of those kinds of judgments combined with the assumption that everyone has or will have children. I wondered how many people were viscerally turned off like I was. There were over 200 attendees. Mostly women. I couldn't be the only childless woman in attendance.
Even my boyfriend noticed. As he came through the kitchen to occasionally snack, he could hear my conference in the living room and he commented on the amount of "mom comments" he heard. He said that doesn't happen in his experience with conferences. He thought it was weird. And annoying.
It was annoying, but it was also hurtful. Hearing one or two comments is one thing. To be expected. But hearing pronatalist comments all day and managing my energy with regard to them completely exhausted me. I got off my computer after the first day and just cried.
It helps that I like the life I've created for myself. That's how I get through the tough moments now. Living my life after infertility without my children is still hard sometimes, but I also wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's. I worked my ass off and I truly love where I am now (metaphorically but also geographically).
It's good I'm so secure with myself. (Hey, old self from my teens and twenties, it really does get better!!) It's good I'm so secure with who I am and the decisions I've made.
Because that's not all. There was one zinger of a moment during the 2nd day of the virtual conference that left me stunned. And angry. What I heard online at this conference was one of the most hurtful things I've ever heard regarding childlessness. (Prepare yourself.) The speaker referenced when she was younger in her career, childless, worked in pediatrics, and felt like she knew what she was doing. She said she was often asked if she had kids and she said she never understood the relevance of the question. (Do you see where this is going? Brace yourself...) But, now that she has kids, TA-DAA, she knows she didn't know what she was talking about before.
The presenter implied (almost explicitly stated) that you can't know children until you have them!
And my short retort (that I shared only with my boyfriend, lol) went as follows:
"Yeah lady, sure, whatever. Let me tell you, being childless at 25 is not the same thing as being childless in your 40s. Sure, I'm not a parent. But while you were "busy" with your own three kids the last several years, I have spent the last TWENTY-FIVE YEARS working with literally THOUSANDS of youth. You may be experienced with your children, but I am experienced with the wide range of the preK to young adult population as a whole."
I logged off for that session, returned for the next one, and then I was done. I immediately fell asleep for two hours. I learned a ton due to a lot of other women's generosity with their knowledge, time, and sharing their experiences, but the mom-ness of the virtual conference Wore. Me. Out.
So that's where I am. Noticing how I've changed, noticing what still hurts. Proud of my progress in recovery from infertility. Still managing related emotions as they occur. The journey forward is full of progression and aggravation.
And that's how healing goes. 💜