We were walking through a park in Manhattan when a woman pushing a stroller tried to push past us and basically ran directly into Sharon. Instead of apologizing, she looked at Sharon with exasperation, sighed and said, “No, really… you go ahead.” Sharon moved out of the way and the stroller lady pulled out in front of us.
Now, because I have my period, because I’ve been trying to get pregnant for over two years, because I’m preparing for my third in vitro, because I’m worried about how much all of its going to cost, because I’m not relishing shooting progesterone oil in my ass, because I’m a bitter sourpuss about all of the above and because I truly am protective of my friends, I turned to Sharon and said the following snarky statement: “Just because you have wheels doesn’t mean you automatically have the right of way!” This was intended for Sharon’s ears only and was an attempt at a joke regarding her almost being mowed down but unfortunately, the stroller woman heard it and did not appreciate it.
The stroller woman yelled something at me at first that I didn’t quite make out and then even better, her friend who was also pushing a stroller came up from behind us and must have asked stroller woman #1 what happened. Quickly, the second stroller woman turned and yelled at Sharon, “Do you think it’s easy for us to push a stroller with babies in it? You obviously don’t have any clue!”
I immediately stopped the woman and said, “Hey wait! I’m the asshole without kids so go ahead and yell at me.” I motioned to Sharon and said, “She has twins at home so don’t yell at her.” I then turned to the first stroller woman and said, “Look, I’m sorry. Ok? Let’s drop it.”
The second stroller woman seemed taken aback for a second that she was yelling at woman with twins. She thought for a moment before yelling at me, “Um, ok but she’s the one laughing!” while pointing angrily at Sharon.
Sharon and I, without discussing it, mutually decided to just walk away from the women. I mean, I had already called myself an asshole and said I was sorry, so other than handing them my currently used maxi pad while explaining that I sincerely DON’T know what it’s like to be pushing a stroller and I might never know what it’s like, there wasn’t much else to say.
As we walked away though, the second stroller woman shouted after us, “Fine! Walk away but you should show mothers more respect!”
I wanted to yell back, “And you should show infertiles more respect!” but I kept my mouth shut since it had already gotten me into enough trouble today and let's be honest, I did act like an asshole and didn't have much of a leg to stand on at this point.
Next week is National Infertility Awareness Week®. Well, actually, for me, Infertility week is every f*cking week but for the rest of the fertile world, it’s just from April 24th – April 30th. It has been described as a week to bust myths and clear up misconceptions about the disease of infertility. As I returned to my desk after this altercation though, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “How can I bust myths and create understanding of infertility with the fertile community at large when I can’t even bust myths and understand infertility with myself!”
I try and fight the good fight and not play the victim to my situation. During most hours of the day, one could even describe my attitude as realistically positive. I also manage to maintain a sense of humor throughout all the painful procedures, disappointments, friends and families baby announcements and financial losses. Sure, I have my good days and I have my bad days but I do try, not always successfully, to be hopeful and humorous. However, all of my best efforts obviously failed me today when confronted with the “stroller women” (or as Sharon now calls them, “The Stroller Nazi’s”).
The Stroller Nazi’s (TSN’s for short) did not appear to be women who had a job. It was a sunny day that they could enjoy, not on their lunch hour, but all day long if they wanted to. They had their super duper high tech strollers, striking tans, beautiful blonde highlighted hair, top of the line warm up-suits and they were wearing fancy shmancy sunglasses. They also had babies. They represented everything I want but can’t have.
I need to work. I also look fat in warm up suits, my sunglasses are from Walgreens, I burn in the sun easily, blonde highlights would look more like stripes on me and I can’t seem to have a baby let alone a stroller to put them in or run people over with. In moments like that, when I’m confronted with just how very infertile and inadequate I am, I lash out. Why? Because in that instant, everything feels like it’s my fault. I am the failure while they are the successes. I can’t do the simplest thing like get pregnant like a normal person. I suck. Why do I even bother coming down from the bell tower and mingling with common folk? I should hide in the shadows with my hump and bay at the moon.
I swear - if I heard someone saying some of the things I say to myself, I’d be outraged. If I wouldn’t let someone treat a friend that way, why do I allow myself to treat me that way? I am the Ike Turner in the Tina Turner/Ike Turner relationship but with myself.
And really, how many times have we all done that? Said to ourselves that we are failures? That we are losers? That we’re ashamed? That we can’t do anything right? When are we going to forgive ourselves despite the obvious fact that we haven’t actually done anything wrong in the first place?!?!
More importantly, how can we expect others to show us respect when we can’t show ourselves the respect we so deserve?
We are amazing, strong, resilient, supportive women. We subject ourselves to physical and financial strain without any guarantees. We are expected to rejoice for everyone pregnancies without question when so few people go out of their way to support our losses… but we do it. Often. We smile. We buy presents and we hide our pain. We willingly go through hell at the mere promise that we may have a child of our own. We wake up every day, get dressed, function in society no matter what hormones we’re taking, how we’re feeling or what bad news we’ve just been delivered. And yes, we occasionally yell at women pushing strollers but that just means we’re human. We get jealous and resentful but we pick ourselves up over and over and over again and keep going. We are unsung heros who even in our weaker moments show more strength and courage in one cycle than most people do in an entire lifetime.
Whether your friends and family know you struggle or have struggled with infertility, whether you make a scene about it or not, can we all agree that we are worthy of acknowledgement and respect even if it’s just the acknowledgement and respect we should give ourselves?
So, during National Infertility Awareness Week®, there are many different events you can attend if you choose to and are able to. For me though, I think I’m going to make it a week where I finally, for the love of god, let myself off the hook. After all, I may be an asshole but I still believe I'm an asshole with a good heart.