Beth Katz, author of The Hopeful Gal’s Guide to IVF, shares a personal story of her experience as a single, infertile mother in this guest blog post.
My toddler went to a birthday party the other day. His name was Bobby and he was turning three. There were tons of balloons and Fritos and for those of us on perpetual diets, there was a tray of celery and carrots under an umbrella. The fathers were tossing footballs and drinking beer.
My little girl was so excited to attend because Bobby was her best friend at school and I was excited to attend because it meant I could enjoy her innocent enjoyment with the other children. And it meant I didn’t have to cook lunch.
We dropped off our cowboy themed gift at a wobbly table and dove in the festivities as loud introductions were made and kids ran up and welcomed my daughter. She ran off with Bobby and some of his friends from down the road. As I peered over heads and shoulders to eyeball the where’s and who’s and whether or not rocks or water or snakes were an impending threat, I realized I had a difficult time relaxing. It made sense. I was a single mother at a party at a home I have never been to before. And there were many adults I did not know with children I did not know. Yet, I tried to blend and appear breezy and stood by the barbecue, where I chatted with Bobby’s dad.
For the following hour, the children were playing and running about. My daughter was having the time of her life. I was relaxing finally but then something happened. One of the children ran in to the driveway and on to the main street. The other parents were not paying attention, it seemed. But it was a no-brainer. I ran out there and got him. Thankfully, no cars were in sight but it was a street nonetheless. The child could not have been more than two-years-old and he was kicking and punching me as I brought him back to the yard. I looked for my daughter’s red and yellow outfit and she was playing tag. She was just fine. I felt such guilt losing thirty seconds of concentration on her because the same time frame was how long it took for someone else’s child to run in to harm’s way.
The runner’s parents were inside. They were watching a ball game on tv. (There were a lot of parents in there, in fact.) I had a clear view of the backyard from a window. Red. Yellow. Daughter. Safe.
“Go outside, Tyler.”
That was what they said to him.
I explained that Tyler was on the main road and that he was okay but thought maybe he would do it again so it might be best to watch him a little longer.
“He does this *&^% all the time. He’ll be fine.”
I had nothing to say except, “I’ll watch him. My daughter’s out there and I’ll bring him to the others so I can watch.”
Nothing. No response. I left with Tyler and went to the backyard and wondered if anyone in the room even knew they could watch their children peripherally from that window in there.
I spent the remaining time acting as baby-sitter, which was fine. Perhaps I was more mindful because I was an older mom? Perhaps I was more mindful because I am more uptight? Perhaps I am out-of –line? I had questioned my own convictions as a parent and as a woman and it resonated until that night, as I replayed the event in my mind as I went to sleep.
Why was I so protective?
I think it was not so much my parenting style that set me apart from a group of parents, sitting on couches and folding chairs and watching a ball game. It was not the way I parented.
It was the way I DIDN’T parent.
Infertility does something for so many of us. It creates this orb in our hearts and minds and spirit and that orb is with us forever.
We are hurt by infertility but more often, feel angry by it.
We notice bad parenting in others with more sensitivity. We think, “How was it so easy for so many of you and yet, you are not taking this job description seriously?”
We dream of birthday parties and soccer games and art projects even before we are parents. We dream a lot.
We have the ability to bounce back from disappointment not only because we expect it so readily but because we know the routine of moving forward.
It is a routine after so many years.
Infertility is a bad, bad relationship. It’s abusive emotionally and it batters our souls. We are prisoners and we are chronically told we are not good enough. All we can do with infertility is dream harder about those parties and soccer games and imagine a life without it. Dream harder and dream stronger.
I was so lucky that through the medical profession, my daughter came in to my life. So, so lucky. However, to date, I am an infertile woman who had been fortunate. I can not help but think that some people are bad parents because they are ungrateful and unappreciative. I can’t help but wince at others when they ask childless parents, “Why don’t you have you kids?”
I layed in bed that night and retraced the day. I did that for quite awhile and although I was struggling with my disappointment in other parents, I realized that I did not know their personal stories just as they had not known mine. Perhaps they had struggles, too. I had no way of knowing because infertility is a quiet albeit ailment. No one actually introduces his or her child as, “This is Tyler and we had him through IUI. You?”
Imagine if parents did that?
Infertility is a bad, bad relationship though, right? And it resonates. In my experience at the party, I was resentful of others for it and realized I was being unfair and not reasonable. As a mother, I had to break the anger cycle and re-evaluate the circumstances.
As a mother, I had to be patient with others just as I was patient with my daughter.
As a mother, I had to keep my daughter safe even when she didn’t think I was observing so as to allow her to grow independently.
As a mother, I had to understand that some people don’t define themselves as parents but instead, as something else altogether. Not everyone was like me.
As a mother, I had to consider that some parents are just really terrible at it. It is shocking but some people are just really terrible at it. That does not make them less deserving of having a child of their own. It makes them less deserving of respect by others and sadly, in time by their own children.
As a mother, I had to learn to embrace my past and present and future as an infertile lady. It’s not who I am 100% but it is always a part of me. Someday, I may tell my daughter that she came in to my life because she was the dream I refused to give up on. I refused. And in refusing, perhaps my daughter will have dreams of her own and dreams she too, will refuse to quit on.
As an infertile mother, I am growing-up every day and looking forward to another birthday party to attend.
Beth Katz has been a freelance writer for both corporate accounts and small businesses. She is an infertile mother of one beautiful and sassy daughter. She currently resides in upstate New York and is proud of publishing her recent book on traversing through the fascinating process of IVF. THE HOPEFUL GAL’S GUIDE TO IVF is available on Amazon.com. You can also win her ebook on Your Fertility Deals.