Monday, September 16, 2013

On Infertility and Longing and I Still Don't Want a Baby

Baby Shoes
Photo credit: Playingwithbrushes
In the past, I've ripped into 30 Rock for doing such a crap job of portraying adoption. Yes, it's a workplace comedy and Liz Lemon's personal life not being the focus was kinda the whole point. But Tina Fey's general awesomeness means that she gets held to a higher standard than everyone else. Which is also one of the things that sucks about being a woman. 

Around the same time, How I Met Your Mother did an episode that did an amazing job of addressing infertility. For some reason, I didn't write about it at the time. I've decided to change that because Entertainment Weekly recently named it the best HIMYM season 7 episode (though I'd argue it's the best, period). Also His Awesomeness and I watched it this weekend and even though it was the, let's say fourth time I've seen it, I bawled my eyes out. Again.

I'm talking about Symphony of Illumination, available on Netflix streaming. Instead of Future Ted narrating the episode, we get Future Robin narrating to her future kids. Robin has a pregnancy scare and celebrates like crazy when she finds out she's not pregnant. Then she gets called back into the doctor's office. It turns out that she can't get pregnant. Ever. 

She never wanted kids, but she's still upset. It's one thing to never want something, but it's another to be told you can never have it if you change your mind. And she can't tell her friends because she knows them well enough to know that they won't react in any way that will help her. And Lily is pregnant, so of course they have to go to a baby store to help her register for the baby shower. Twice.   

In the end, we discover that the kids Robin was talking to are imaginary and it's hasn't been Future Robin narrating, but Robin Robin sitting alone in the park working through this.

For some reason, I also cry my eyes out at the end, when Robin returns home to find Ted who's determined to comfort her even though she refuses to tell him what's wrong. He's decorated the apartment with Christmas lights programmed to flash in time with AC/DC's Highway to Hell, which makes perfect sense with the B plot.

And Robin finally cries.

The best thing about all of this? Several episodes later, Robin tells her boyfriend about her infertility and he figures that adoption is still an option. But no, even after discovering how much it hurts to lose the possibility of something she didn't want, Robin still doesn't want it. She hasn't changed her mind - she still doesn't want kids. And so they break up.

I love that they let her have complicated feelings about the issue without changing her mind. She can look at babies and think they're cute as fuck, but still not ultimately want one of her own.

And I'm right there with her. I wasn't never that hung up on the idea of gestating my own young. So when I couldn't get pregnant and we turned to older child adoption, I rolled with it. And then the attempted adoption went all to hell. Now the sight of a pregnant woman annoys the hell out of me. Hearing that a hopelessly infertile blogger I follow is now knocked up makes me want to smack her with jealous rage. I can cry my eyes out because a sitcom character is infertile too. 

But once my tantrum is over, I don't want a baby. My life choices haven't changed just because I experience griefquakes (TM OV Hawkins)  over the twin losses of the child I couldn't conceive and the child I tried to adopt. The Kid's rages and compulsion to fight me every single second of the day make me long for a baby because kids you raise from birth will not try to run away several times a week, heading for the fire escape when you have the front door blocked and what the hell are you supposed to do if you have more exits than adults to block them? 

But the truth is that there are children in the foster system who have experienced less trauma than The Kid and are therefore easier to parent. Because ultimately, The Kid didn't want to be part of a family. It was too painful and upsetting for her. As soon as she let herself get comfortable, she exploded.

I'm glad that we've had to delay starting the process again until after the one-year anniversary of The Kid leaving us. So much still reminds me of her. There was an annual street fair near our apartment yesterday, so of course I remembered last year's fair, when The Kid was with us and not the other years.

I hope that once we pass the anniversary of her last, horrible night with us, something in me will be exorcised. I hope that something will be gone. So that I can be some other kid's mother without constantly bracing myself for a violent tantrum. Intellectually, I know that we're not going to repeat our experience with The Kid. But I don't feel it in my bones yet.

So when I feel baby jealousy or baby longing, I haven't changed my mind about dirty diapers or lugging a stroller on the subway. It's just my desire for a non-disastrous parenting experience. 


  1. This was a wonderful post and, I agree, that episode of How I Met Your Mother was very profound. Last week, I wrote a blog about how I am apathetic towards having children. I'm probably considered young to be making that decision, but I don't really feel a need to have kids. Sometimes I feel bad because I know people who experience a lot of emotional pain over their inability to conceive and here I am choosing not to conceive.

    That said, I haven't had a kid yet. If in the future I found I was physically incapable of having a child, I don't know how I'd react. I think there is an emotional difference between making a choice about having children and having that choice stripped away.

    1. Don't feel bad about your choice. Just because my ovaries aren't functioning properly, that's no reason for you to risk your health and life to carry a pregnancy to term. And then spend the rest of your life raising and supporting another human being.

      Now, if the human species were at risk of dying out, that might be a different matter. But there are more than enough humans, so you're good.

  2. This was beautifully written. I totally understand the feeling of not necessarily wanting something, but having the decision taken away from you. It's a grief that totally stands alone, because so few people understand it.

  3. Amazing post. You are braver than I am--I couldn't watch the SHYMYM episode. After dealing with secondary infertility, I still fear the "greifquakes" even though it was five years ago and I don't WANT another kid now and realize my life if fine-- dare I say better--without one.(And I totally LOVE that word.) I'm sorry you had such a rough time with The Kid, and I wish you all the luck in the world finding the right one. It will happen.

  4. That episode was so powerful because it did let Robin's feeling be complicated and not all neatly solved- b/c that's how life is, too. xo

  5. Thank you for your openness and honesty. I remember that episode and I cried, despite having had a healthy pregnancy and a now almost 7yo. I don't know all of your history, so I can't fully comment, but I thank you anyway and I Hope you can reach the point where you're past the bad memories and moments and on your way to whatever it is you want for you.

  6. Wow. This is an amazing post. I don't watch HIMYM (I know! I've heard such great things!) but that sounds like an incredible episode and I'm really glad that they didn't gloss over all those complicated feelings because it is complicated. I do hope that once the anniversary passes that you are able to find a bit more peace


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