Welcome to Day 2 of our open salon, hosted by yours truly and Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, author of Silent Sorority. We created this dialogue to discuss both sides of the motherhood debate from our unique perspectives. Why? We seek to parse out the concerns and vulnerabilities of transition within the ALI community without tripping over political correctness and delicate sensibilities.
We hope you’ll join us every day this week and will be inspired to add your own responses in the comments here and at Pamela’s blog and even by writing your own blog posts about this salon too!
Today is role play day, and we all get to play! Those of you visiting this blog who are now mothers after infertility have to imagine yourselves as non-moms. Those of us non-moms after infertility get to assume the mom persona. Those in between have the option to choose whichever feels the most opposite of where you are today.
Beta day was seriously the longest wait of my life. I got up at the ass crack of dawn so I could be there when my clinic opened. I never get there that early. But there I was, at 6:35 in the morning, shivering as I walked into my RE’s office because there was no denying that October was here.
When we got the news, we were overjoyed, naturally. We planned a lovely night out to celebrate. We welcomed this new dynamic in our marriage and what would ultimately, be a new dynamic for the rest of our lives.
And yet, even amongst all the undeniable joy, as we walked up to the restaurant that night, I said this to Larry:
“Yanno, in another Universe tonight, it’s a very sad night for us. The Other Team Zoll got very bad news today.”
And this wasn’t a spontaneous thought in the moment, either; in truth, a few hours after the news had sunk in, my mind was already calculating this imaginary alternate Universe where no amount of hugs, booze or tears could comfort my pain.
It reminded me so much of the day I was diagnosed, as I watched movie reels of the way I had hoped to build our family vanish, like Marty McFly from his own pictures.
I like to use both the cancer patient and paraplegic analogies as comparable examples of the infertility experience. Our desire to parent is as real, valid and instinctual as the desire to live or to walk. And, like the cancer patient or the paraplegic: not everyone does. Sometimes, the cancer patient dies. Sometimes it’s just not possible for paraplegic to walk again. And sometimes: not everyone who desires to parent, infertile or otherwise – get to parent.
Pamela’s book, Silent Sorority, explores this path of resolution in more detail. It’s a path that, when I tried to review the book last summer: I couldn’t. I had panic attacks as I got further and further into her book, because, at that point in time, the idea of resolving without parenting wasn’t something that I couldn’t wrap my brain around.
Even still, it seems like this incredibly foreign and strange idea, counter not only to my own hopes and dreams, but to societal expectations as well. I think that’s what makes infertility as difficult as it can be, because our disease puts us at odds with cultural norms. Resolving without parenting then, only puts us further at odds.
To be a non-mom in the age of The Mom with a capital M is a feat of strength and both simultaneous acceptance and defiance: Acceptance of both one’s one situation and the cultural context of which you live and at the same time, a defiance of those norms by continuing to find fulfillment, abundance and joy despite those norms and societal expectations.
Because even though you may NOT parent, it doesn’t mean your life is over. Like the paraplegic, you may not walk, but you adapt. You relearn, you rethink, you readjust and course correct. And, as counter-intuitive as this may seem, a life without parenting doesn’t have to be a life without nurturing, a life without hope, purpose and abundance.
I’ve talked before some about savoring our temporary childlessness. This is a state of being I’m coming to appreciate more and more with each passing day. Even now, I’m writing this post from a hotel in Brunswick, Maine, as Larry and I took a last-minute mini vacation yesterday and today since we know opportunities like this may be few and far between a year from now.
I think of some of our friends who have decided not to have children and friends of my parents who never had children. I think of the lives they lead and I’m not envious: I’m impressed. And I’m happy for them because I know they are happy too. They aren’t living lives of doom and gloom and sadness. I’m sure those moments are there, behind the closed doors like any marriage. But outwardly, I see such richness of spirit.
It is from these friends I learn the truest embodiment of living in the moment.
Thank you for role-playing with me today. Head over to Pamela’s blog to read her take on what mothering and nurturing can look like for the non-mom. And don’t forget to join us Friday at 12:30PM EDT for the #ALIMomSalon Twitter chat.
Tune in tomorrow when Pamela and I sound off on Mommy Phenomenon, or, as I like to call it, the Queendom of Mommyhood. Written a post inspired by this salon? Link up below.