Parents are constantly shamed for their choices. From how we feed our children to how we educate them, everyone has an opinion on how to raise kids. The result? Moms and dads feel endlessly judged for the choices they make — even if they have no other options. This week, families around the country are sharing their inspiring, funny, honest, and heartbreaking stories with Yahoo Parenting in an effort to spark conversations, a little compassion, and change in the way we think about parenting forever. Share your story with us — #NoShameParenting
For the past six years, I’ve been writing in a diary to a child who doesn’t exist. This was supposed to be my child. Our child. My husband’s and mine. And I believed that with the help of two fertility doctors, the Secret, daily shots of blood-thinning Lovenox into my belly, progesterone supplements, new-moon rituals, two acupuncturists, and a fleet of psychics, numerologists, energy healers, and astrologers, writing to this being who had yet to incarnate would actually bring him or her to life. In fact, after reading one particular“Modern Love” installment, I very nearly booked a trip to Bhutan to climb my way to a faraway mountaintop temple that allegedly granted every unfulfilled wish for a baby that was brought there.
I was willing it to happen. In my words, in my actions, and in my dreams. And it didn’t work.
Over the past five years, I’ve had five miscarriages. Seven, if you include two “chemical pregnancies,” which is medical code for early miscarriage. Also, over the years, I’ve shared these experiences with various people; sometimes planned, sometimes not. The reactions have been mixed: Some are deeply sad for me, some are shocked, some simply nod in a sort of solemn understanding or, occasionally, share their own difficult story of reproductive loss. Almost unanimously, though, they all have offered a version of the same thing in responsive support: Don’t worry, you’ll have a child one day. You’d be a great mother.
I used to think so. All the time. But now, I’m not so sure.
Even though I’m in my mid-40s — a full decade past the threshold when the global medical community has ascertained women’s fertility begins to really rapidly plummet — I don’t believe my window has yet closed. Delusional, maybe. But I’m healthy, I have a lot of energy, and, not least of all, I have a terrific husband who, in true Lean In wisdom, would be a model example of a bona fide “equal partner.” From time to time, I still imagine myself holding a baby that is mine, feeling the warmth of this soft, tiny body against my own skin, looking into his/her eyes and having that “feeling” wash over me. This feeling is the one so many of my mother friends have told me is unmistakable, intoxicating, addictive: This person has chosen you. They are part of you. Everything is now different.
PHOTO: BRAND NEW IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES.
Picture this (because I do all the time): My tall, athletic, seemingly ageless husband, walking down the sidewalk in our quiet Brooklyn neighborhood, with a child. They stroll along, smiling, my husband often glancing down at this mini-person; the mini-person, continuously gazing up at my doting husband, in attachment, wonder, and love. And then, I literally want to crush a wine glass in my hand to punish myself for having robbed my husband of this reality — an idyllic scene that, in a parallel universe, with said younger, prettier, more fertile wife, is actually happening.
Here’s another scene that continues to haunt me from time to time. It was Fashion Week, several years ago, about a month following my first miscarriage. I was new to the whole “infertility” thing. I thought, like most hopeful yet hopelessly naive people who are newly pregnant, that surely a pregnancy will lead to a live baby. Right? It didn’t. And I had to sheepishly un-tell all the people I’d been sharing the news with.
I was still pretty shocked and saddened by it. And then, at a party during Fashion Week, I ran into a designer who had always been particularly lovely and kind to me over the years. We said hello, hugged, and clinked our respective complimentary cocktails. When she asked me how I was doing, I told her fine, but then inadvertently blurted out something along the lines of that I’d just had a miscarriage. I don’t remember exactly how I told her, only that I told her, and am still not entirely sure why. In hindsight, I think I wanted her interest, her acknowledgment that it was okay, because I respected her so much. Maybe I even wanted her sympathy; it’s so hard to say, given I was still making sense of this strange and unfamiliar void in my belly, like a presence almost, which is possibly the most ironic and cruel feeling to inevitably follow a miscarriage.