Thursday, August 30, 2012

missing my cape

Nothing prepares you for the diagnosis of infertility. Most of us don't expect a doctor to sit in front of you and tell you that you may never have kids.

There's nothing that exactly prepares you for parenting after infertility, either. Sure you can read blogs and books about what it's like to raise a child after treatments or adoption. But it doesn't compare to living it. And after only two months, I can tell you that it's not easy. I was defined for four years by my label as "childless," and I still find it hard to believe that I'm no longer that person. I spent those years avoiding everything that could cause me pain - baby showers, the baby aisles at the grocery store and Target, baby pictures on Facebook. And now I am that person who is posting her baby's pictures on Facebook and shopping in those very same aisles I spent years dodging.

So it's no surprise that I feel guilt over this. I'm finally a parent, but that doesn't mean I can forget about all that I've been through and all that other close friends and family members continue to struggle with. Infertility felt like being trapped in a dark room with no escape. Now the lights are on, and I feel like walking through the door is betraying something - or someone. Maybe even part of me.

But it's not just the resolution of my infertility that makes me feel guilt. It's also the struggles that come with parenting. I knew that taking care of a child would be difficult, but I had unrealistic expectations of myself and my own behavior. This sounds silly, but I expected to always be happy. I expected to feel constant joy, even through the rough moments. And while I'll always be grateful (believe me), I'll admit that I've experienced moments of complete frustration. I've cried, more than once, and there were even a couple of moments where I simply had to walk away.

I'm not only learning about how to care for my child, but I'm also learning that I can't be supermom. That it's okay for me to be upset. That it's okay to have moments where I'm frazzled. This has perhaps been the hardest part. And while I know that every mother goes through this, I also know that going through infertility brings with it extra feelings of guilt and confusion. The wonder of "Am I a bad mom if I need a break?" is compounded with "But I've waited so long for this. I should always be happy."

And I am happy. But I'm also human. I'm not a robot. Admitting that I feel exhausted sometimes is okay. It doesn't mean that I don't love K, or motherhood, any less. This is what I'm slowly grasping. Maybe I would have gotten this sooner had I truly listened to what infertility "graduates" before me were experiencing. But who wants to think about the rough moments of parenthood when all you want is to BE a parent?

I'm thankful for K every single day, for all of the shitty circumstances that brought her into our lives. And while I'm not sure when the guilt I feel over resolving our infertility will fade, I'm working every day to chip away at the unrealistic expectations I had of myself as a mother. Instead of wanting to be supermom, I'm focusing on trying my best. My best may never be perfect, but it will always come - whether through tears of joy or frustration - with gratitude toward my daughter and toward her birth mother for choosing us to be her parents.

23 comments:

KRISTI said...

Well stated!!! Oh so true. I'm still not over it and it's been almost 7 years since we became parents!

Sushigirl said...

Well put. I know exactly what you mean. My son had a growth spurt the other day and fed every couple of hours during the night, then needed loads of attention during the day. By the end of it I was barely functioning with him and in tears, feeling really bad that I wasn't a) up to playing with him and b) that I wasn't happy at that precise moment. And I think finding a parenting-after identity, a way that balances the guilt and the joy, is quite a difficult thing. Still beats primary infertility though!

Glass Case of Emotion said...

I think the "resolution of infertility" is not bringing a child into our homes. That's the resolution to childlessness. Infertility is another beast all together, and I don't think it's one that we will ever 100% lose. And I went through a spot like you went through, and I promise it does get easier, I think I needed to settle into it and it took awhile. I guess pregnant women have 9 months to settle into it and we have signficantly less time. But good for you, you need to take breaks! And now, I do feel some guilt when ever I complain about being tired or whatever, but I never do it a way to make others feel bad. It is exhausting (particularly going back to work) and harder at times than I could have guessed. But yes, so worth it.

triedandtrying said...

Sometimes I think that when you're infertile, you have to imagine that being a mom is going to be so amazingly fantastic 100% of the time, just to keep going. No one wants to think about the hard parts when they're going through treatments or navigating adoption. I have two good friends who had babies within the last month, and seeing them actually makes it a little harder to go forward with our IVF cycle...not because we don't want to be parents, but because the reality of the difficulties that come with parenting are so apparent right now. My one friend has a difficult baby and has barely left the house in well over a month.

I hope things get a little easier for you!

someday-soon said...

I can so relate to this! You spend so many years just wanting a baby so bad and while you know raising kids isn't easy you have expectations. And those expectations aren't always reality. Take one day at a time and love her the best you can...it's all any parent can do!

Elizabeth said...

Oh my goodness!! SOOO true! All of it! I really do struggle with guilt putting pictures of our boy on facebook, and whenever I get frustrated and exhausted. This post hits the nail on the head. I love this part that you wrote,
"I also know that going through infertility brings with it extra feelings of guilt and confusion. The wonder of "Am I a bad mom if I need a break?" is compounded with "But I've waited so long for this. I should always be happy." "
It's SO hard to not feel guilt about a million different things! Do know you're doing a great job! :-)

S said...

Be kind to yourself. You have jumped into motherhood with less time to mentally prepare for the reality of it than you would've had during your own pregnancy, and your little girl has had some health challenges. That is a lot to handle, and it would be surprising if you were happy 100% of the time. (I haven't known any mom who was, whether she waited years and went through hell or conceived on her first month trying.)

Becky said...

Before my now 6yo was born and pdlaced with us, I, too, expected to feel happy all the time. There waas nothing in the world I'd wanted more than him. And then the reality of parenthood seet in. And it was HARD. I was still beyond grateful, but I was also exhausted, stretched to the max, and at times completely overwhelmed. I felt horribly guilty and that, I think, let to post-adoption depression. It's so important for those of us who are parenting post-IF talk about the reality. Because, hopefully, it will be good support for those who are also right in the middle of it. Thank you for being so strong as to share the hard parts.

Dawn said...

This is 100% true! I though life would be so blissful, but being a parent was much harder than I ever thought it would be. But the feeling of being grateful got me through many rough patches too.

It does get better (some days!).

rebeccateaff said...

Great post! I can identify with so much. Thank you for putting into words what is so hard to articulate.

Alex said...

Such a true and perfectly worded post. Becoming a mother is hard - so freaking hard. There are some awful moments, and those of us that have tried for so long, it's so easy to feel guilty if things aren't all roses and sunshine. I'm giving you permission (not that you need it) to complain, and recognize that everything is not perfect - and that's ok. Thinking of you...

Reagan and Trevor's Mommy said...

So many of us know precisely what you mean! It has caused me to create a bit of a mantra. Infertility robs us of so much...don't let it also rob us of our right to complain about parenthood just like the fertiles do! Tired is tired. Frustrated is frustrated. etc. And a very fertile friend of mine once said to me that no one, not even fertiles, have any possible clue just how hard parenthood (especially the sleep deprived beginning) is until it actually happens so in that respect we are all the same and therefore entitled to the same gripes and whines and yes even tantrums!

AnotherDreamer said...

Be kind to yourself. It does get frustrating, and I've had my fair share of crying and asking my husband to take the baby for a bit while I recollect myself, but at the end of the day I still look at him and think, "I am so lucky." Having a hard time, and not being overfilled with happiness all the time, does not mean you're not happy or grateful- it just means you're human.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous post. Everyone should read this. Because this is the reality of the parenting (especially after IF), the un-Pinterest board of parenting. Because it is hard, you can never really prepare yourself for it, and it just gets harder and messier along the way (but also more wonderful too). Thank you for writing this.

J o s e y said...

It is so fun to read a post like this from you, Katie! It's exactly the reason I have found PAIL to be so helpful in my life now days. I know that these past four years have been incredibly difficult for you, especially this past year (it seems, anyway, from your writing), and I am so glad that you are on this blessed, difficult, amazing 'other side,' even though it's incredibly difficult to be finding a new sense of self when you have identified with the moniker "childless" for so long. You are so correct that parenthood is HARD, and you will not always be happy. You will feel love, but you will also feel frustration, and that's okay. :) Awesome post!

metholicblog.com said...

Wow. Yes, this post is spot on. I am now mom to a 2 month old, after 3 years of ttc and we were foster parents to 2 newborns as well. With each baby I had these moments of crying and needing a break, and then afterward being swamped with guilt and questioning myself -like maybe I didnt deserve to be a mom even-(and maybe that's my own neurosis and not yours)
I hope you know you are not alone and it is normal to feel this way! Best of luck!

metholicblog.com said...

Wow. Spot on. We are parents to a 2 month old after 3 years ttc. And we've been foster parents to 2 infants. With each kiddo I've had these exact moments of needing a break and then being racked with guilt, and for me, then feeling like maybe I didn't deserve to be a mom even. I hope you know you are not alone, thanks for writing this! Hugs!

Gurlee said...

Well said.

If I was an eloquent writer I could have written this post myself. Parenting is hard! Coupled with the guilt of IF and the unrealistic pressures we put on ourselves to enjoy every moment, one can feel crazy!!!

Jennifer said...

You're my hero in so many ways. I'm sure you're feeling exactly what's expected. Hugs.

missohkay said...

This is what I wanted to post when Miss E came home but couldn't find the words. Parenting is hard and frustrating and I've cried many times and taken breaks and once I even ran 3 miles (unheard of for me) just because I needed time away - even though I am head-over-heels for Miss E and super super duper grateful. Thanks for a realistic view of motherhood after IF.

It Is What It Is said...

I felt the same way about pregnancy, that no one ever talks about the blisters and warts of what being pregnant is really like, or what recovery is like, or what breast feeding is really like, of what sleep deprivation really feels like and how it intensely magnifies all other emotions. I was WHOLLY unprepared after the birth of my son 5 1/2 years ago and I blamed my close mom friends for not speaking the truth.

I think, especially after IF, the tendency is to feel that we must live and breath gratitude and unicorns and stuff any negative feelings lest anyone think we are complaining.

But, the absolute truth is that parenting is HARD, harder than anything I ever did as an executive dealing with adults. There is so much responsibility to raising a child and a certain monotony to it, too.

The struggle in parenting post-IF is akin to the struggle with IF itself. We don't ever forget where we came from and our hard fought struggle makes us feel guilty for being challenged in learning to parent.

Toni said...

I worry about this too, that one day if I do become a mother I will feel really guilty about it. Im also scared I will suck at it. I think the fact that we have to wait so long for it and we want it so bad we put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We also have a lot more time to over think it while we are waiting for it to happen. Most women have 9 months to ponder motherhood, give or take a few months to conceive so I think they roll with the punches a bit more. We have years and years thinking about every single minute detail. Good on you for not being so hard on yourself and realising everything that you're experiencing is OK.

Geochick said...

Absolutely true.