When I was caught up in the day-to-day struggle of infertility, I tended to avoid the company of those who were either pregnant or raising small children. Sometimes, it was simply too painful to be confronted with such a tangible reminder of what I myself could not have. At other times, I found myself bored by lengthy conversations about the intricacies of weaning or potty training - let's face it, other people's children's toileting habits just aren't that interesting. But what used to infuriate me the most was the ever so slightly smug, self-satisfied and patronising attitude that certain (though by no means all) women with children tend to adopt towards those without children. I can well remember having a (rather one-sided) conversation with a fellow PhD candidate who had recently given birth herself about the joys of motherhood. 'Of course,' she said to me confidentially, 'you'll only really understand what I'm talking about once you have children of your own.' I resent the underlying implication behind such statements: that those who remain childless - whether by choice or as a consequence of infertility - are somehow to be considered 'less womanly' than those who are mothers.
But I also found that my resistance to spending time with these women was often matched with a certain discomfort on their part. As we grow increasingly vociferous about our condition - whether as individuals or as a community - we force others to confront an uncomfortable truth: that infertility can happen to just anyone. We serve as visible reminders of the fact that it could just have easily have been them with their feet in the stirrups. To certain members of the 'mummy brigade', the realisation that pregnancy and motherhood are by no means a 'natural' or inevitable stage in every woman's life strikes deep at the very core of their identities.
Yet now I find that my pregnancy appears to have afforded me automatic entry into a club that had hitherto eluded me: other pregnant women catch my eye in the supermarket and smile conspiratorially; harassed mothers struggling to deal with tantrumming toddlers ruefully tell me that I 'have all this to look forward to.' For the past few weeks, I have been attending a weekly 'yoga for pregnancy' class. I'm finding it helpful not only to stre-e-e-e-e-tch, but also to pick up practical tips on how best to prepare for and cope with labour. But on another level, I find it difficult to accept that I really belong in this room full of pregnant women. I cannot escape the feeling that I still have a scarlet letter 'I' for Infertile emblazoned across my chest for all to see, and that, sooner or later, I will be found out and asked to leave.