Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Great Expectations

Infertility has made me feel a failure - as a woman, as a wife, but also as a daughter.

My father and, perhaps more particularly, my stepmother have for some years had a palpable longing for a grandchild. While many of their friends have gone on to become grandparents, they have been forced to sit back and watch helplessly. My two stepbrothers show absolutely no signs of settling down in stable relationships, let alone reproducing, and so all their hopes have been pinned on my rapidly ageing ovaries. Although they have been very supportive of our decision to undergo IVF, in all the time I was struggling with my own complex feelings of guilt and failure in relation to my inability to conceive and carry to term a child, I was also acutely aware of just how disappointed they too were.

Eventually, they befriended a French couple of around the same age as myself and Mr H whom they met on holiday. I met this couple for the first time over the summer - they are lovely people, who have clearly been to hell and back as far as infertility is concerned: after several failed cycles of IVF, they eventually adopted two little boys from Estonia, a process which took them over four years (the question as to why we too couldn't 'just adopt' has often seemed to hover, unspoken yet reproachfully, in the air). My father and stepmother absolutely dote on these two children: they go to visit them as often as possible, and have even talked about moving to France permanently in order to be close to them. Their house is filled with photographs of the French family, and every time I go to visit them I feel even more guilty for not being able to provide them with the one thing that they seem to want above all else.

Since we told them that we were expecting a baby, they have been absolutely beside themselves with excitement. While we have yet to buy a single piece of baby-related paraphernalia, their plans for the new arrival seem to be well under way: my stepmother has already knitted a small stash of hats and bootees, while my father has been leafing through back issues of 'Practical Woodworking' in search of something he can make for his first grandchild (we had tactfully to reject a rather wonky looking crib on health and safety grounds).

Yet somehow the sheer weight of their expectations continues to press heavily upon me. Even at 25 weeks, I find it difficult to believe unconditionally that there will be a baby at the end of this process. While everyone around me makes plans, I am still very much living from moment to moment of this pregnancy.

15 comments:

Shinejil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shinejil said...

Nothing's worse than having to deal with others' emotions clouding up your atmosphere like second-hand smoke. There's nothing you can do to clear the air, except perhaps avoidance.

Is it possible to distance yourself ever so slightly while you move through this process? Let them do their thing, while protecting yourself from the toxic burden their expectations place on you?

Lisa said...

I understand these emotions all too well. As I've written, all hope seems to be pinned on me and while nobody has put any pressure on me, it's always there, underlying everything else.

I'm sorry they have been so open about their attachment to these other children, to the point of talking about moving out of the country! That must be very, very hard and very, very painful. My sister has a couple of friends with kids who my mom has become somewhat close to and, everytime I hear my sister refer to my mother as Grandma Geri in reference to these other kids, it tears my heart out.

Lisa said...

I relate to feeling "less than" in the face of others' expectations about when, whether, and how perfectly (?) you might reproduce. Sucks!

25 weeks, Missy Heathen! You are doing great!!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I always felt that I was definitely the unfavoured d-i-l: we hadn't got married, we didn't have children (in my case through choice). When in-laws moved to the other side of the world to follow partner's bro, wife and kids that seemed to put the seal on it. I can only begin to imagine what such reactions feel like when you want to have children and are investing energy trying to conceive. Whatever happens do not feel that living up to their expectations and demands is part of what you have to do. Having grandchildren is a privelege and not a right for them, especially as it is something entirely out of their control. Love should be unconditional - it's a shame that it rarely is.

The secret diary of an infertile said...

I'll tell you a story about the unspoken pressure that my in-laws are putting on me (I say me because I am pretty sure that the DH doesn't notice it).

When I turned 30 I decided to run the London Marathan (it was something that I always wanted to do and I thought that it would be a good way to mark my birthday). The in-laws came over for dinner and DH said to me "have you told m & d your news?" to which his m turned to me with such a look of excitment on her face I just knew what she was thinking. I told them my "news" and the change in her facial expression said it all. She had thought that I was going to tell them that I was pregnant, it was obvious.

I hate the pressure that is on us. DH's brother does not want children so it is down to us. I'm sure that if we do succeed I will be feeling the same way that you are at the moment.

womb for improvement said...

I'm not surprised you are still cautious I never buy any of my pregnant friends presents until the baby is out. But at least you have a fall back plan (or clothes) should the baby arrive early.

luna said...

for a long time I felt burdened by the expectations and hopes and emotions of others. I've definitely had to back away because that's just not my responsibility, and I've had to deal with enough. but it's hard not to let it cut to your core when you feel it there yourself.

I'm sorry you've also been burdened by this, but it's also wonderful that they want to share this with you.

your little one will be here before too long, ms. h. just remember that!

TABI said...

Even though family's hopes and dreams can be supportive they do add pressure. Even without being pregnant and cycling I find that my family's hopes of it working make me feel worse even though I know they want the same thing I do. I think if someday I am pregnant (or rather my surrogate is) that I will also feel sort of hesitant to jump on the baby wagon and will cautiously watch it all happen. It will take time but your baby is on the way and even if you feel it may not be real yet I hope you are finding joyous moments through this- Congrats on 25 weeks!

annacyclopedia said...

Yes. I understand. The pressure of the expectations and the pain in watching my parents take so much pleasure in my nephews but also in the children of various friends and acquaintances - it weighs a ton. I often have to remind myself that my parents (specifically my mother) have their own emotions about my fertility situation, and that I can just give myself some space from all of their feelings and let them sort it out.

You are doing great, and moment to moment is really the best place to be, always. Shinejil really summed it up well - their stuff is like second hand smoke. Instead of asking them to smoke outside and causing a kerfluffle, can you quietly slip away to give yourself some fresh air? Seems like the easiest plan to me.

Malloryn said...

I'm sorry that you're feeling such pressure from them. That must be so difficult! I like Shinejil's suggestion of giving yourself as much space as you need. I hope each day helps you enjoy this a bit more... 25 weeks is a great accomplishment. :)

Pamela Jeanne said...

I can put myself in your shoes and approximate how you must feel. Hope it's getting easier day by day...

the Babychaser: said...

You know what? Until I read your post I didn't realize that I have totally stopped caring about disappointing our parents. It used to be about all them, but over the years I've managed to shave it down to just being about me, my hopes, my dreams, my needs.

This approach is easier. I strongly recommend it, if you can manage it.

Just keep living day-to-day. That's all anyone can ask.

womb for improvement said...

Hey, I've lost your email address. Just checking things are going OK. xx

loribeth said...

I've been reading, but realized I haven't commented in awhile. This post may have hit a little too close to home for me. My younger sister is adamantly childFREE, which left everything up to me in the grandchild department, & I've obviously failed them miserably. My mother dotes on my uncle's grandkids (& now great-grandkids!!) & those of her friends, & it's like a knife to my heart whenever I hear her tell someone that she doesn't have any grandchildren. :(