Mr. Jaguar and I went to a 30th birthday party for a friend this past weekend. Besides the couple hosting the party, we weren't good friends with anybody there. It didn't really matter though, we had a nice time just the same.
But here's the thing. I was one of three visibly pregnant women there. Instead of being the infertile, unpregnant woman surrounded by bellies, I was one of the bellies. And the truth is, I felt like a fraud. It was like I was waiting for someone to come over and pull the pillow out from under my shirt and wave it around in the air all while shouting, "She's a fraud! The belly's a fake! She's an imposter! She's really infertile!" It amazes me how I can simultaneously feel so pregnant and unpregnant so often. It's been 26 weeks, I'm making all the preparations for our son to arrive and half the time I still can't believe there's a real, living baby inside me.
As I sat around chatting at the party, I found myself rewinding back in my head, recalling snippets of conversation from each woman throughout the evening in an attempt to be sure I wasn't in the room with another infertile, unintentionally but inevitably hurting her with my big bump. I was pretty sure that I was the only infertile gal at the shindig, but I couldn't shake the nagging worry that someone in the room was aching over three, joyful bellies. As the night wore on and pregnancies were discussed, I openly spoke about our infertility treatments, both for myself and for any shadow infertiles who may have been in the vicinity. I speak for myself for selfish reasons of alleviating self-imposed guilt but also to help lessen the stigma so many in our society place on infertility. I speak for others who, for whatever reasons of their own, haven't found or don't feel comfortable to use their voice and so that they know they're not alone in their quest for motherhood.
The whole night got me thinking about my niche as an infertile but pregnant woman. In counseling months ago, my therapist told me that I'm no longer infertile because I'm pregnant now. Infertile is simply a state of being. To be pregnant means that I'm therefore no longer infertile. You can't be both. I corrected her, informing her that my infertility is a huge part of me and it will remain that way regardless of the state of my uterus. And honestly, I wouldn't want to drop my infertility by the side of the road and just drive off. My infertility has been a journey with many lessons, both painful and rewarding.
About a year and a half ago, I participated in the Breast Cancer 3-Day. For those of you not familiar with it, it's a 60 mile walk over 3 days. Each walker is required to raise at least $2,900 to even show up. Just getting there is a project and, well, actually finishing all 60 miles is a major feat. Past walkers had explained to me what the weekend would be like beforehand, but there's no way to do it justice. It's one of those things that you just have to do for yourself to really "get it". Over the 3 days, I couldn't believe the support that everyone provided one another. The socks and bandaids that were passed around, the ice that was split up among water bottles when it briefly ran short in the 90 degree heat, the words of encouragement and the complete strangers that showed up along the course with signs cheering us on and giving out treats. I cried like a baby over those 3 days, sometimes from pain and exhaustion but often from being so overwhelmed by others' support.
At the end of the walk, we all meet in this large field. And then we wait. And we wait. And we wait. And that's fine because we're completely exhausted anyway so we're content with the idea of sitting for a while and most of us are probably just relieved we don't have to walk anywhere else. But why are we all waiting? Because closing ceremonies don't start until everybody gets there. So we wait by the finish line and we cheer for each walker as they cross over. Then we wait even longer. Why? Because we're waiting for the very last walker to finish. There are frequent announcements about how far away the final walker is from the finish line. Nobody's in a rush, nobody's frustrated. We just wait patiently.
And then she turns the corner and you can see her in the distance approaching. She's not walking alone though. Because every safety volunteer that has monitored the course for the last three days, greeting us with warm smiles and encouraging us, is there with her, forming a protective semi-circle around her as she takes her final steps. The crowd all gathers closer at the finish line as whispers that, "She's here," spread through the throngs of people.
The crowd goes wild for her. And, as I look around, I'm surrounded by a sea of tears and cheers as we welcome the last woman over the finish line. Complete strangers line up to hug her and congratulate her on getting there.
Pregnant and infertile can be mucky territory. We have a huge, bumpy barrier that now, in many ways, separates us from our other, infertile sisters. This issue comes up often on the Nest as women move from the infertility boards to "Success After Infertility" board. We want to remain active on the infertility boards. We've forged many friendships there and want to offer the same support that others have given us along the way. But at the same time, we know that some days the pregnancy tickers in our posts are the last thing someone needs to see. Our u/s pic might be too much for another infertile woman on a good day, let alone a bad one. Sometimes our words of hope, no matter how heartfelt, sting a bit. And that's just the way it is. And we understand. Because we were there, too.
But know one thing. Infertility is a lot like the 3 Day. As each infertile woman crosses over the finish line, the infertile sisters who have crossed before her are right there. Waiting, with open arms, cheering and shedding tears of joy for each woman to cross the finish line. And this is where we will remain, until our very last sister crosses over.