Exuberantly feted at the salon—not okay with that

I know that the women at the hair salon had only the best intentions when they cooed and oohed and ahhed over my pregnancy this weekend, when I went in for a cut and dye. But I found myself glancing around, wondering if there were any patrons (or staff) who were currently struggling, or who had struggled in the past, with pregnancy loss and infertility. When I sat down to get my hair washed, I listened to the staff person beside me talk about her daughter, and the man in her chair talk about his three children. Their shared war stories, their pride, their love of their children, sent me flying back to the days when I had to listen to such conversations shortly after having had a miscarriage. Had to listen because there was nowhere for me to go, nowhere to hide, and jamming earplugs in my ears would have just been weird for everyone. Instead, I just blinked away the tears. Squeaked out the quiet word, “No,” when they turned to me and asked the dreaded, the inevitable, perky question: “Do you have kids?”

That pain. Words fail to describe. But it came back to me at the salon on Saturday.

My baby swell is quite large now, and I think I look about a month or two further along than I am, on certain days. On that day, I was huge. There was no mistaking it. My stylist’s eyes popped when she saw me and she threw her arms around me, congratulating me heartily. Soon, the women behind the front counter were cooing and congratulating. People were smiling at me as I entered the main room. I felt like royalty.

When I got a manicure as my dye was doing its thing, the manager came over to me and told me how beautiful I looked, and how awesome it was that I was showing off my bump. She told me all about her pregnancy, asked me about my symptoms. She loved reminiscing about her experience, and she was beaming and grinning as she spoke to me about mine. I kept having that feeling—what if someone behind me, beside me, is suffering right now, listening to this? Perhaps this was an exaggerated, irrational fear, but I kept my voice low. I did my best to keep my answers friendly yet brief. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was causing someone pain.

Maybe all along the only one I was causing pain was the ghost of myself. My former shell-shocked self. I feel such tenderness toward her. I want to wrap her up in a blanket and take care of her and tell her that everything is going to be all right.

I can’t believe all of that happened to me.

I can’t believe all of this is happening to many of you.

I’m so sorry for all of us. I want to put salve on all of our wounds. Rock us all gently. Sing sweet songs to drown out all of the painful noise.

I was able to enjoy many of my interactions, on a certain level, to be sure, and it did feel wonderful to dye my gray and see the curl return to my hair after my cut and new product regimen. But what I really wanted to say, that day, is that I deserved to be feted before I became pregnant successfully. I deserved to be cooed over, oohed and ahhed over, before I entered the royal halls of motherhood. And so do all of the women who have lost their babies or who have never conceived.

Our specialness doesn’t, shouldn’t, depend on pregnancy.

I celebrate you today, whether your belly is swollen or not. You are special and deserving of happy attention. You are needed, you are wanted, and you are a reason to grin and beam. I wish it were easier, but it’s not. I am holding your hand.

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33 Comments

  1. Love your awareness, but I also love how much you love your pregnancy! Enjoy it, bask in the royalty of it all! If I were to see you I would certainly be oooing and ahhhing over you! XOXO

    Reply
  2. jennifer

     /  May 19, 2014

    I’ve been following your story because it reminded my of my own – I also got pregnant with a singleton after a donor cycle (following 7 OE IVF failures). I’ve never commented before – but I wanted to say I loved this post. I too remember the crazy amount of attention I got while pregnant. The sensitivity and compassion you reveal in this post, even in the midst of your obvious and well-deserved joy, bodes well for your future as a counsellor to those still struggling with infertility.

    Reply
    • Thank you for that, that’s very confidence-inspiring…I think it will take some time (maybe a year or more) to work through my own experiences thoroughly enough to take on IF patients, but I so look forward to the day when I’m ready!

      Reply
  3. I understand your feeling uneasy (replace with word of your choosing if uneasy isn’t right). And I appreciate your sensitivity to the rest of us who are not pregnant. But when I am asked those painful questions (now “will you have anymore?” Instead of “do you have any?”) I try to honour my former and current shell-shocked self and my sisters in the IF struggle by speaking about my struggle and our many losses. Some people are uncomfortable. Too bad I say. Some come out and share their stories. Bless them I say. And bless you for trying to stay real in this very surreal place you now occupy (and forever will). Hugs.

    Reply
    • It’s great that you have the energy and wherewithal to always speak out…I certainly don’t, nor do I expect anyone else to who has been through IF or recurrent pregnancy loss. Sometimes I just want to get my hair done, not go into my personal life with strangers. I have shared my story often with people close to me and with acquaintances and strangers, but I don’t feel it is my duty to always put it all out there in any given situation. Sometimes I just feel quiet and fatigued and reflective, and that’s also a valid way of honoring myself and others who’ve been through the same…

      I mention this because it’s important to me to say that there is no one right way to deal with this situation. Some women choose to not speak out at all, to anyone, ever, and I totally respect that. Some women put out full-on Facebook campaigns against IF stigma, and I respect that, too.

      Anyway, you’re right, it’s a surreal space! Bless you back for your own staying real.

      Reply
      • Um. Ouch. I wasn’t trying to say there was a right way. Anyway good luck with the rest of your pregnancy.

        Reply
        • I also meant to say that of course I don’t “always” or with everyone have it in me to speak up. And you’re right no one should feel a duty to do so. I was only speaking for myself as I assume we all do. So long friend.

          Reply
  4. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad that you were made to feel special. I also touched because you felt the need to be so aware. It’s like infertility has left it’s stamp on us all, made us different. Not better, not worse, just different, more aware, and definitely stronger. I hope for many more days of happy for you. xoxo

    Reply
    • Yeah it’s strange because it seems like the further along I get, the more I’m aware of that indelible stamp. Thank you for your kind words. Xo

      Reply
  5. I have not told anyone in real life about being pregnant yet but was very uncomfortable with the attention I got at various doctors appts (some appts not for the baby but I had to mention it). I also look around to wonder if someone nearby is cringing at the mention of pregnancy or babies. I can’t forget what that felt like. I found myself telling people at the doctors’ offices how these are miracle babies– like I, somehow, have to clarify that we’ve visited hell to get this chance.

    Reply
    • Hell—it really is. Contemplating a life of childlessness, knowing it is a real possibility that you might never get to participate in those conversations about motherhood, about watching your child grow, about mother-love, bearing up while a trapped witness to celebration you might never be part of—oh! It’s hard. Also–it sounds like I am showing more than you, if you can still keep it a secret…good lord and you have twins and me one….am I gonna turn into a giantess that needs to be rolled?

      Reply
      • No, I’m not showing yet. I’m just pudgy starting out so I’m sure that’s part of it. I’ve also lost some weight since ET so I am still wearing my regular clothes. But as it gets warmer, it will be a little harder as I doubt I can wear my shorts from last year beyond June!

        Reply
  6. I stumbled accross your blog just as you were having your two embryo’s transfered… just before you became pregnant. At first, one part of me throught ‘great, another woman that is pregnant and not me’, but something kept me reading your stories. It’s the compassion Ithat we all share for each other. Whether pregnant or not. Even when I am pregnant, it won’t be a normal pregnancy. It will be a pregnancy that will be filled with the fears only another woman who has suffered infertility could understand. So it’s still nice to have a place where that need can be supported. So far, I have only read your stories, but today I wanted to be that woman who is here to support you.

    Reply
    • Wow. Thank you. It means so much to me that you kept reading. Your voice is strong and honest. There are so many stories I almost stopped following because I couldn’t take it, and then tapped into that compassion you are talking about…all of us are growing so much through these experiences and this community. I wish you all the best and hope you reach your child soon.

      Reply
  7. You are so very incredibly sensitive, my dear, and that is such a gift! I love that you celebrate your pregnancy but don’t forget what it was like before (I mean, that’s not even really possible I bet). You do deserve to be celebrated, but I love your awareness of how that might make the 1 in 8 lurking about feel. I try to tune it out, because our society has baby and pregnancy worship (and it makes sense, because you know, it propagates our species) and there is not a place I can go where there is not a pregnant woman who is being congratulated in some way or just present. But that happiness is yours to take. I don’t know what could be celebrated about me, as my belly is round too but from the infertility flub, but I do agree that pregnancy shouldn’t be the only thing celebrated. It’s just so obviously apparent and I think people would feel rude NOT saying something. So anyway, long and rambling comment, as a trenches person whose heart you hold, I appreciate the sensitivity. I want you to have your moment too though! :)

    Reply
    • Off topic bit— would you rec Cincinnati as a place to settle down? :)

      Thank you for reminding me if that 1 in 8 stat. I once saw an image depicting that stat that made me see red…I’ll have to find it…

      You’re right of couse about the social norms of it—one woman yips with congrats and then everyone around does in part bc of politeness (and in part bc of that worship you mention).

      Wouldn’t it be amazing if when we walked into a room, everyone exploded with joy, saying, “You exist! You’re an awesome person! Congratulations!” I guess in my far- flung fantasy, that’s what I envision.

      Reply
    • Ps
      I want you to have your moment, too. Xxxooo

      Reply
  8. You are a wonderful soul. Thank you.

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  9. thank you xx

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  10. R

     /  May 20, 2014

    Amazing sensitivity and compassion! Thank you from all of us still in the trenches :)

    Reply
  11. T

     /  May 21, 2014

    Yes!!! To all of this! I was at a dinner party the other night and a friend from out of town was there… it was the first time she was seeing me since we got pregnant, so she was REALLY excited to talk about it and ask a million questions. But… she was seated across the table from me and she’s a pretty loud individual and I was so. freaking. uncomfortable and paranoid that our conversation was hurting someone else, silently. I tried to answer everything as vaguely and quickly as possible, to the point of being pretty socially awkward, but I just couldn’t stop worrying that someone else at the table might be hurt by the excited gushing that my friend wanted from me.
    I’m also sort of in denial about the fact that this is actually happening still, so I’m sure that was a factor. ;)
    Anyway, yes. I totally love and appreciate this post.

    Reply
    • Thank you honey! It’s odd isn’t it— to be honest it just never really occurred to me that I’d is be in such a situation, I was unprepared. It sound like you know *exactly * what I’m talking about!

      Reply
      • T

         /  May 21, 2014

        Oh man, 100%!! When we got the call from our RE office to say we’re pregnant I just stood there and my husband had to take over the conversation. I literally never thought this would happen. He’s over the moon about it every single day, and I’m still sloowwwwwllllly (but happily?) coming to terms with it as it slowwwwly sinks in. On the days when my bump is more prominent I even walk around with my arms covering it or find myself trying to suck it in like a crazy person, haha. Maybe someday it’ll feel real?

        Reply
  12. I am in awe of your passion for other women. There are tons of insensitive people in this world. Some intentionally try to hurt people, some just don’t care. I think that the most important thing is RESPECT. Respect for everyone, in general.

    Reply
    • Bravo to that!! I, too, am a trumpeter of respect. I sometimes think it is even more important than love—or rather is what leads to love.

      Reply
  13. I have been and still am the women with the non-swollen belly blinking back the tears. Knowing that pregnant women who have suffered through infertility still have us in their thoughts is wonderful. Good luck.

    Reply
  14. A bit delayed, but wanted to thank you for your lovely words. This meant a lot.

    Reply
  15. juice

     /  August 7, 2014

    I am currently 8 weeks preggo with a DE child. I cannot thank you enough for your openness and eloquence with your experiences and emotions. I too am hyper aware of people around me in public who are still struggling in their journeys. I am not showing yet but when I am and start to get “that” attention, I will feel and react exactly as you have. I haven’t and will never forget the suffering I’ve gone through to get to this point, and hope not to inflict those around me with that public pain.

    Reply

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