How to Survive Working in a Child Related Field- While Battling Infertility- Cece Vandermarks

You know when someone says “if you love your job, it’s not really work”? Well I have the two most amazing jobs in the world! The first is working with children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and their families planning super fun, family outings. For my second “job” I run a small theatre school in my village – we offer summer camps, drama classes, workshops, dance classes etc. Both of these jobs mean that I spend a lot of time with amazing kids and their families. And I love it!

What’s not to love? Watching a child take their first steps on stage, listening to a boy with ASD speak with excitement about what he’s just seen at the museum, watching parents beam with pride as their child speaks their first line, cooks their first meal, bounces on a trampoline for the first time, and so many other reasons. I get to see children and their parents at their best, their happiest, their proudest. It’s a wonderful feeling to be included in these milestones, these magic moments.

And for the longest time I told myself that it was enough. It was enough to have this sideline view of family life. To be there for the tiny moments that feel huge. To be child adjacent.

When I started down this career path it was because I love kids, theatre and outings, and with both jobs being part time it was ideal! The thing I was not ready for however, was the loneliness it would bring out in me. The self doubt and the insecurity. As a theatre teacher or camp leader, who was I to tell a parent something about their child’s behaviour that day? I’m not a parent, what do I know? Sure I’d had classes on those topics and had been teaching for years, but somehow it sorta felt different now. When I was teaching English as a Second Language in my twenties I had all the self confidence that I needed to get along, what was different now? It all boiled down to that fact that in my twenties I wasn’t ready for kids. I knew I wanted them, but it was a “in the future” kind of thing. I was travelling the world, working exciting and all-consuming jobs, going to parties followed by brunches – you know, generally living in the moment. Also, when I was teaching in my twenties, I was much less likely to be asked about my own children. Now I’m at an age where most people assume I am a mother. Just this weekend an amazing father said to me “I thought you would bring your kids this time”. I made some feeble excuse and ushered him onto the waiting boat with his gorgeous family. Then I turned, took a deep breath and had a moment.

Just hearing that question… the one all people who struggle with infertility fear – “do you have kids?”. That one. Those four small, innocent words. The four words that can ruin my day. Figuring out how to answer that has been a struggle for me. I’m sure many people think I could easily just say no, but it really isn’t that easy. It depends on the day – am I coping that day? have I thought about having kids of my own at all? did something super cute just happen and I’m wistfully pining for my own kids in my head? A flurry of things go through my head before I can answer. And “no”, while it may seem like the simplest and easiest answer to many, is not easy for me to say.

So for awhile I started to answer with “No, I’m infertile.” But that was even worse. Seriously, the look on people’s faces – it was like I had wounded them. Like I was being mean, or hurting them. Which in turn made me kinda tetchy, afterall why were they wounded I’m the one who’s infertile! I knew it was concern and care, but it cut too deep; the empowerment I felt saying it was not enough to prepare me for the follow-up conversation.

Time to try another approach. I would answer “Not yet” or “Not right now”, I would pretend I had misheard or had to work on something else and couldn’t talk right then – basically I tried it all. And it all failed. Some worse than others. My hubby jokingly said that when people came up to me and asked “Which one’s yours?” at events, I should look slowly around the room and then answer in an odd voice “I haven’t decided yet”. His dark sense of humour made me laugh, but I can honestly say I never tried that approach!

In then end, I went with “No” or “No we don’t have kids” when most people ask. When I’m ready, or with people who I feel I can open up to, I answer “No, I’m infertile” and we talk, and it’s good.

I suppose as I come to terms with the fact that I will never be a parent, I am finding it easier to talk about. Easier to be honest about. Easier to be child adjacent – and loving every minute of it!

An Open Letter to the Trying To Conceive Sisterhood- Jessica Melcher

If you’re reading this because it’s addressed to you, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that even though you make it your mission to stay positive and grateful, you wake up every day with an ache in your heart that never seems to go away.

I’m sorry that people can be so unrelenting and naïve about your struggle with infertility.

“When are you having kids?”

“You just need to relax, and it’ll happen!”

“Have you tried tracking your cycle?”

“You should really just adopt.”

“Maybe your body is trying to tell you something.”

I’m sorry that when people are so unrelenting and naïve, you have to calm the lump in your throat before it turns into sobs, the anger in your heart before it turns into rage, and answer with dignity and grace when it feels like all you can muster is something far less becoming.

I’m sorry that you have to walk by that unfinished “guest room” every day and be reminded it was supposed to be a nursery a long time ago.

I’m sorry your relationship has been tested to the limits by everything you’ve had to endure together.

I’m sorry opening every baby shower invitation brings tears to your eyes when it should bring happiness to your heart.

I’m sorry you’ve been unable to make your parents grandparents when you know they’d be the best grandparents ever. I’m sorry you feel guilty because of it.

I’m sorry you have to watch the world go on around you when it feels like your whole world is falling apart.

I’m sorry that the emotional burden is not the only one you carry.

I’m sorry you have to put yourself into debt just to create the family you’ve always dreamed you’d have.

I’m sorry a diaper commercial can make you cry because you’ve held it together just long enough to get through the day without anyone knowing the sadness you carry.

I’m sorry you feel like your body has failed you.

I’m sorry you feel like you’re in this struggle alone.

But you’re not. I’m here with you.

The truth is, you don’t need me to tell you all the reasons why I’m sorry to be a part of this TTC sisterhood — you live it every day. You carry the same heartache and torment that I do. Right now, maybe what you need are all the reasons why I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry you have learned to love yourself for your strength and courage. This journey is not easy, but you still get up every morning and find your inner strength even when it feels like there is none left.

I’m not sorry you have learned to be vulnerable with those whom you love. Sharing a private struggle like infertility can be terrifying, but vulnerability is not a weakness; it is heroic.

I’m not sorry this struggle will make you an even better mom someday. You have learned patience and compassion and gained a gentleness that can only be created through a heartache like this one.

I’m not sorry that your pain has helped you to find a voice to help others when they feel alone.

I’m not sorry that you’ve found the real meaning of friendship by learning to let some relationships go while growing others that are more fulfilling.

I’m not sorry you have learned how to really be there for your partner when they need you. I’m not sorry you’ve learned to let this heartache bring you closer instead of letting it tear you apart.

I’m not sorry you have had to learn how to put yourself first, placing your own needs before the needs of others.

I’m not sorry you have had to learn how to put all of your faith into something that carries no certainty, no guarantees but have learned to appreciate that there’s always a chance — always.

I’m not sorry that your infertility struggle has forced you to be grateful for all you do have in this life, and I’m not sorry that it’s taught you to appreciate the small things.

I’m not sorry that we’re all in this together.

Hundreds or even thousands of miles apart, we are all living the same story. So even if it’s just for today or even just in this moment, try not to be sorry you are a part of our sisterhood. We are some of the strongest women I know, and we’re all in this together.

Mind Your Own Womb- Nadirah Angail

Somewhere there is a woman: 30, no children. People ask her, “Still no kids?” Her response varies from day to day, but it usually includes forced smiles and restraint.

“Nope, not yet,” she says with a chuckle, muffling her frustration.

“Well, don’t wait forever. That clock is ticking, ya know,” the sage says before departing, happy with herself for imparting such erudite wisdom. The sage leaves. The woman holds her smile. Alone, she cries…

Cries because she’s been pregnant 4 times and miscarried every one. Cries because she started trying for a baby on her wedding night, and that was 5 years ago. Cries because her husband has an ex-wife and she has given him children. Cries because she wants desperately to try in vitro but can’t even afford the deposit. Cries because she’s done in vitro (multiple rounds) and still has no children. Cries because her best friend wouldn’t be a surrogate. “It would be too weird,” she said. Cries because her medication prevents pregnancy. Cries because this issue causes friction in her marriage. Cries because the doctor said she’s fine, but deep inside she knows it’s her. Cries because her husband blames himself, and that guilt makes him a hard person to live with. Cries because all her sisters have children. Cries because one of her sisters didn’t even want children. Cries because her best friend is pregnant. Cries because she got invited to another baby shower. Cries because her mother keeps asking, “Girl, what are you waiting on?” Cries because her in-laws want to be grandparents. Cries because her neighbor has twins and treats them like shit. Cries because 16-year-olds get pregnant without trying. Cries because she’s an amazing aunt. Cries because she’s already picked out names. Cries because there’s an empty room in her house. Cries because there is an empty space in her body. Cries because she has so much to offer. Cries because he’d be a great dad. Cries because she’d be a great mother, but isn’t.

Somewhere else is another woman: 34, five children. People say to her, “Five? Good lord, I hope you’re done!” And then they laugh… because those types of comments are funny. The woman laughs too, but not in earnest. She changes the subject, as she always does, and gives the disrespect a pass. Just another day. Alone, she cries…

Cries because she’s pregnant with another and feels like she has to hide the joy. Cries because she always wanted a big family and doesn’t see why people seem so disturbed by it. Cries because she has no siblings and felt profoundly lonely as a child. Cries because her Granny had 12 and she’d love to be just like her. Cries because she couldn’t imagine life without her children, but people treat her like they’re a punishment. Cries because she doesn’t want to be pitied. Cries because people assume this isn’t what she wanted. Cries because they assume she’s just irresponsible. Cries because they believe she has no say. Cries because she feels misunderstood. Cries because she’s tired of defending her private choices. Cries because she and her husband are perfectly capable of supporting their family but that doesn’t seem to matter. Cries because she’s tired of the “funny” comments. Cries because she minds her own business. Cries because she wishes others would mind theirs. Cries because sometimes she doubts herself and wonders if she should have stopped two kids ago. Cries because others are quick to offer criticism and slow to offer help. Cries because she’s sick of the scrutiny. Cries because she’s not a side show. Cries because people are rude. Cries because so many people seem to have opinions on her private life. Cries because all she wants to do is live in peace.

Another woman: 40, one child. People say to her, “Only one? You never wanted any more?”

“I’m happy with my one,” she says calmly, a rehearsed response she’s given more times than she can count. Quite believable. No one would ever suspect that alone, she cries…

Cries because her one pregnancy was a miracle. Cries because her son still asks for a brother or sister. Cries because she always wanted at least three. Cries because her second pregnancy had to be terminated to save her life. Cries because her doctor says it would be “high-risk.” Cries because she’s struggling to care for the one she has. Cries because sometimes one feels like two. Cries because her husband won’t even entertain the thought of another. Cries because her husband died and she hasn’t found love again. Cries because her family thinks one is enough. Cries because she’s deep into her career and can’t step away. Cries because she feels selfish. Cries because she still hasn’t lost the weight from her from her first pregnancy. Cries because her postpartum depression was so intense. Cries because she can’t imagine going through that again. Cries because she has body issues and pregnancy only exacerbates it. Cries because she still battles bulimia. Cries because she had to have a hysterectomy. Cries because she wants another baby, but can’t have it.

These women are everywhere. They are our neighbors, our friends, our sisters, our co-workers, our cousins. They have no use for our advice or opinions. Their wombs are their own. Let’s respect that.