I’m not really known for my humility when it comes to the realm of my book smarts and academic achievements. Socially awkward? Check. Uncomfortable with tense family situations? Indubitably. Not very awesome with workplace politics? Indeedy-do. But, I’m totally confident in my intellectual prowess. This tends to mean that if I’ve read enough books, done enough research, written enough articles, and compiled enough footnotes on any item capable of being researched, I feel like an expert. It’s my thing.
So, after 3.5 years sitting on the sidelines, battling infertility, longing to be pregnant, waiting to be a parent, I get a little miffed that I’ve done years and years of homework for nothing. Seriously, I know more about human reproduction, pregnancy complications, birth plans, and breastfeeding than anyone with an empty womb ever should. Recently, this has led me to feel betrayed. I feel like a transfer student who’s just been told 4 years of college credit won’t transfer due to a technicality. Like a chemist that’s just been told that bismuth, not oxygen, is the most prevalent chemical element on earth. Like an author who situated her grand narrative in Weimar Germany, only to discover that the Kaiser never abdicated his throne. I’ve prepared thoroughly for a future that is no longer there.
That certainly stinks enough on it’s own, but then there’s the ever-present reminder that while my hard work merits nothing, others’ ignorance nets pure gold. At another interminably long meeting this morning with my boss (two teenage stepsons) and colleague (two young children), I was smacked in the face by this inequity. As so often (and, I’ll admit, so understandably) tends to happen, the topic of conversation shifted from work to children. Said mother to two young ones told of her latest tale of toddler woe. You know, the who swallowed what, what was broken how, and what was said to the preschool teacher stories. At the end, this colleague started rambling, “You know, no one tells you to expect this. No one prepares you for this. I just can’t believe that you have to watch them all. the. time. Seriously, it’s unbelievable! I’m glad no one told me, though, cause I would have never gotten pregnant. I guess we all have to be clueless to ensure the future of the race!”
Wait, shut the front door, no one told you being a parent was hard? Had you known it was hard, you wouldn’t have done it? You were totally caught off guard with the fact that you can’t just give the kid a brandy and cigar and call it a day? What bubble did you grow up in?
I, perhaps more than anyone, know I have no right to critique or judge anyone’s parenting style. It’s that whole “until you walk a mile in my shoes” thing. But, I do get to judge you for believing that there was a God damned global misinformation campaign and conspiracy levied against you to coerce you into procreating. You didn’t know this would be hard?
You know what I know? I can’t put to paper all that I know. I’ve taught pharmacists how to pronounce countless medications; I’ve explained to women with multiple children what it means to ovulate, how to check cervical mucus, and the importance of progesterone in the luteal phase; I’ve sent medical journal articles to my doctors to explain the risks of Hashimoto’s related miscarriage to my OB/GYN, immunological implantation issues to my RE, and the impact of fertility medications on TSH to my endocrinologist; and I’ve guided friends and family through the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune disorders. I know my shit. Really, I do. And that knowledge stems from hard work, long hours, and never accepting that I’ve learned my last lesson. My second full-time job is as an infertility researcher, advocate, support system, and spokesperson.
I’ve paid a very high price for admission, yet I’m continually turned away from the front door by that bastard bouncer called “life.” At the same time, I’m surrounded by those who’ve paid nothing – no money, no time, no heartache, no health – and were nevertheless welcomed into the club with outstretched arms. Only in infertility do you turn in an A effort, and leave with an incomplete.