I wish I was the kind of infertile woman who is super happy for you when you get pregnant, who thinks all your maternity clothes are just adorable, who can’t wait to see the newborn and who looks forward to your shower. But I’m not. I’m the other kind of infertile woman.
I made a decision last month to not attend any more baby showers. It was mostly out of self-preservation, but there was an element of concern for others as I accepted MJ’s reasoning that since I am allegedly incapable of hiding my emotions, going to someone’s shower and being a crying, whiny brat is not very nice to them, or anyone else. I didn’t actually agree with MJ, mind you. I still think I am something of a mystery-savant who can hide every single thought and emotion and have completely perfected both blank-face and the art of invisibility, but I suppose he had a point.
So last month I declined the shower of my co-worker, and have every intention of declining the shower of the other co-worker, once invitations actually go out. I’m not completely tactless though. I bought a gift (early), sent it along to the shower, and spoke with her personally, explaining and apologizing for my lack of attendance. Overall, I felt I handled it well and was glad to have it behind me. And then my work email happened.
I like that I work in an office where, for the most part, we all get along. Where we share things with each other and invite each other to parties and get-togethers outside of the office. But when I got that mass email that we, the office, had decided to hold a second office-only baby shower, well, I did not like that. Not that you would have been able to tell mind you, cause I kept my cryptic “what is she thinking?” cool.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. It might be more accurate to say that I kind of lost my shit, but at least I did it mostly in my head, and though my first impulse was to take the smart phone I had been checking my email on while waiting for a hearing and chuck it as hard as I could across the conference room, I did not. And only a small percent of that restraint was because of the Deputy Sheriff sitting next to me. The rest of it mostly came from that heavy feeling of utter defeat that leaves you without even the energy to put the phone away.
All day I felt this anger inside me, the kind that you know is irrational and that if you explore too much will only make you sad, and yet you just can’t seem to shake it. I was angry at the person who sent the email. I was angry at the recipient of the shower. I was angry at everyone who wanted to go along with it. Mostly I was angry to not be able to escape the shower after all.
I don’t like being an angry person, in fact, it actually upsets me greatly. Of all the frustrating side-effects of having clinical depression, it’s the irritability that I have the hardest time with. I can hear this voice in my head telling me to calm down, that I’m being ridiculous, that this is nothing to get upset about, and I agree with her, she’s right, but I can’t seem to make myself stop. The anger I feel about this shower is the same. It won’t go away, and the more I feel it, the angrier I get at myself.
When I try to talk to MJ about it he makes a face and I instantly shut down. Maybe his face means nothing, maybe he is not even aware he made it, but mostly what his face says to me is “this is stupid,” and “why does it matter?” and I am crushed because it matters to me, because it’s not stupid to me, and because I don’t mean to be so upset, but I am, and I just really want someone to tell me it’s okay, to say that it is hard but I’ll get through it. I bring it up another time only to see if he wants me to make something to bring to the now potluck affair on his behalf (I’ve already decided to not be there), but even then I am hesitant and don’t express how I am feeling. Which is a conflicting combination of hurt and angry, sad and disappointed in myself.
I decide to stick to my original decision to not attend any more baby showers, but it is hard to avoid it at work and I feel ashamed when I decline to sign up for the potluck list. I shouldn’t. I already bought a gift, and addressed the shower. I know that much of the impetus for this office shower is because some of my co-worker’s didn’t remember to buy a gift or RSVP, which angers my etiquette-obsessed self, and yet still I feel guilty. For a minute I decide to make cupcakes, but then the minute passes and the war in my head between the side that believes I shouldn’t feel guilty and the side that feels I should starts up again. What the latter side keeps bringing up, and which is hard to ignore, is that I’d want them to come to my shower. You can’t be rude to someone else and then expect them to be happy for you.
In my mind I feel like there is some difference here, but I can’t suss it out. There is something so difficult to me about a baby shower in a way no other celebration – birthday party, engagement party, wedding shower, etc. has affected me. There is something about the shower that is so hard for me to handle, so upsetting to my infertile self that the mere thought of one being held around the corner from my own office fills me with dread and anger and immense sadness. I don’t just not want to attend the office shower, I do not even want to come to work that day for fear of encountering balloons and diapers and stork cookies.
I feel as if the shower is some invasion to my space. Though I can find no reasoning for it, my head keeps thinking, “but this is my office, it’s my office too.” I can’t explain this either, this sense that my office should be a safe-space, when it is in reality an office, a place I go to work where other people are; other people with their own lives, their own problems, and their own happy events. But still the whole day after getting that email I find myself anxious to the point of tears to get home, to get somewhere I feel safe and not confronted by someone else’s successful fertility.
I have to be honest, I want to give myself a lot of leeway to feel upset about my infertility, to mourn what may be a permanent loss, to get angry when my period comes and to cry when test results come back negative. But I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to be so angry and jealous and resentful. And I don’t want to miss out on the happy moments in others lives just because I don’t have the same happy moments. I just don’t know how to do that, and I guess, though I still do not admit MJ is right, I just don’t know how to control or hide those emotions.
I still decide not to go to the shower. I make plans instead go to lunch with my friend, LB, who does not think I am a bad person for avoiding this second shower, and instead thinks we should go to the nearby diner and order lots of bacon. I find the plan appealing, and though a part of me feels small and selfish for sneaking out during the party, there is still another part of me that is large and overprotective and she puts a warm arm around me while I cry and promises that I will get through it. I want to believe her.