Last year when I got pregnant naturally and accidentally, I felt a sense of almost guilt about being such a cliché. Woman stops trying to get pregnant, gets pregnant, here’s the Hollywood ending (that I always secretly hated and resented when I heard it in others’ stories.)
But I think it was also a sense of survivors’ guilt. For so long I’d been on one side of the fence, and then there I was in the promised land at last (albeit fleetingly as it turned out). But also because I know there is one friend that I lost touch with a few years ago because I was at one of my lowest points in the whole infertility thing, and she was pregnant with twins, courtesy of the clinic I’d told her to go to. While most of the time I was pretty sanguine about other people getting pregnant – it’s not like pregnancies are rationed – and I was genuinely happy for them whilst wishing it had been me, I was normally able to mentally divorce from it, but in this particular case, I just couldn’t handle it.
And so I worry now about the friends with whom I used to trade stories of clinics, egg retrievals and unsuccessful IVF. I worry that for all that they are happy for me (and I really don’t doubt they are), if they’re not yet where I am, I know, I just KNOW that alongside that joy in someone else succeeding is jealousy, frustration, resentment – not of the other person, but of life, of the fact that it’s not happened for you. (Maybe I’m wrong, maybe all my friends are better people than me and all they feel is happiness but I wasn’t that person, however much I wanted to be.)
I also can’t stop thinking about something I heard Emma Barnett say on Elizabeth Day’s podcast about how a woman who has had a child can never truly comfort one who hasn’t and wants to. And although I’m not there yet, and – as discussed previously, I can’t ever assume I will be – merely being at this point in my pregnancy is, from that point of view, slightly discomforting. I can’t imagine I will ever wholly feel comfortable with it. It’s not something I take for granted, it’s not something I assume will be fine. But I think aside from that, it’s taken me so long to get to this point that I will never be able to shake the sense that, at heart, I’m still on the other side of the fence. It’s rather, I guess, what it feels like to have lost a lot of weight and suddenly be one of those skinny women, who gets treated differently because they have an enviable figure and so the outside world reacts to how you are now, but in your head, you’re still the person you were before.
And so in my head I have this cognitive dissonance which is that of being an infertile woman at the same time as being pregnant. And some of the time the pregnant bit triumphs over the infertile bit, like the time a few weeks ago when I found myself complaining that none of my clothes fit me. A friend (fortunately not one who is trying to get pregnant) gently pointed out that this must be bittersweet. For so long all I’ve wanted is for none of my clothes to fit me for exactly this reason. And she’s totally right because that is all I wanted and then the minute it’s happened I’m bitching about it. And I cringed. I felt like one of those single women who hates the fact that all her couple friends complain about how useless their other halves are and she just envies them having another half to whinge about and vows that when she meets someone she’ll never complain about them. But then she meets someone and, forgetting how annoying it is, starts to whinge about how useless he is…
But I definitely feel like I haven’t wholly crossed the rubicon. The other day, a well-meaning mother started waxing lyrical about how I was about to experience a love that I’d never known before. Someone else told me that I’d fall in love with B in an entirely different way when I saw him become a father. And when I hear these things I nod and I smile, but internally I grit my teeth. Because I have always hated that narrative, that idea that you never really know love, tiredness, or whatever emotion until you become a parent. That suggestion that, without a child, you are a fraction of the person you could be…
And I don’t know if I’ll always be like this. But there’s a part of me that kind of hopes I am. Because if once I’m a parent, I’m the sort of parent who remembers what it was like not to be a parent, and doesn’t insult or patronise people who aren’t parents, in the way that I’ve so often felt insulted or patronised, then I don’t think that would be such a bad thing.