The day after Ava was born, my family in Cape Town threw a baby shower for me and at that shower, something I, along with all my infertile friends, had always believed was confirmed for me. There is such a thing as the “mommy club”, something my mommy friends had denied existed while I was struggling through an almost decade long struggle to become a mother.
I remember all my female friends and family were gathered at my Mom’s house, Ava was a day old, everyone was ooh’ing and aah’ing over her and after we’d all been given a glass of champagne, a toast was made celebrating Ava’s long awaited arrival in our family.
The toast went like this:
“Congratulations Sharon and welcome to THE CLUB!”
In that moment I knew that what I had always been excluded from despite the denials by some that it even existed, really did exist.
What I was not prepared for was how I’d feel about That club 2 years down the line. I don’t fit completely into that club, I probably never will. And that’s ok. I’ve not fitted into society’s norms for many years already, I was not fertile, initially while I could fall pregnant, I couldn’t stay pregnant and then even my ability to fall pregnant was lost. I was not a “normal” woman. My body could not do what most other women’s bodies could do, no matter how much I willed it to, no matter how much I begged, pleaded and prayed for it to do what so many took fore granted. I was not “normal”. Even within the infertility club, I didn’t really have a place I fitted, for a number of reasons, firstly because I could fall pregnant, some people felt that I didn’t have the right to mourn my 7 miscarriages in the way that I did because I always miscarried before there was a chance to see a heartbeat, apparently that makes the loss less, later on I didn’t completely fit because even IVF didn’t work for us 5 times, I didn’t fit because I knew what it was like to get a positive pregnancy test, and apparently that was some how supposed to make me feel better, I was considered lucky?!
I had thought that when I became a mother that would change, but it hasn’t. I still don’t fit into the neat little box that society has created as it’s definition of a mother. Some of these definitions I’ve taken on board, internalized and allowed to define how I see myself as a mother, with all of my short comings.
For example, the whole breast is best debate. While of course on an intellectual level I get that sentiment, it does aggravate my internal mothers guilt. I didn’t breast feed. I couldn’t breast feed. Even if I had taken Eglynol and followed the regimen to bring on breast milk in order to be able to breast feed my baby, it would have taken 6 weeks, I was given 6 days notice of Ava’s unexpected arrival in our lives. There was no time for me. I did still look into it as an option as I thought I could perhaps start on bottle feed and switch to breast feeding when my milk came down. But, after consulting with my GP and with my gynae, both of them concurred that the quality of my breast milk would not be good enough to sustain a baby exclusively as my body would not have the hormonal support that that of a pregnant and then breast feeding mother would have. So while I get this notion of breast is best, when I read/see debates on this issue, I can’t help feeling somehow judged and guilty because I didn’t give my baby THE best.
Mothers include their birth experience in part of what makes them a mother and while I did have a birth story, you can read it here: The Day The Universe Changed, and a very real, very raw and very beautiful experience to me, I do not know what it feels like to give birth.
There are a number of other things that make me feel different to most women in the “mommy club”. Comments, often made in a joking way but not directed at me, about genetics and the love a parent has for their child, sting. Some of the comments made, not intended to hurt me, do as I’ve often left feeling that some mom’s/parents feel that because their child is genetically their own they love their children more than I love Ava. I know most people will deny this, but there are subtle suggestions to the contrary that are often made by parents. It’s not easy for me to hear people make statements about how they could never adopt because they could never love someone elses child the way they love their own.
I’m also often left feeling out when it comes to mom’s seeking advice on something I’ve experienced as I do sometimes feel that the advice or experience I share is ignored. I do sometimes feel like a message is sent to me, in a non verbal way, that I’m not as much of a mother as women who have given birth to their own off spring.
I know that all of these issues are mine and mine alone. A lot of what I feel is based on what society defines as a mother, that I’ve internalized and allowed myself to feel, despite on an intellectual level not buying into. I don’t want people to tip toe around me and always have to be careful of what they say because these are my issues and this posting is by no means a finger pointing, poor me, exercise. We all have our crosses to bare, so to speak and this is mine to bare. Just like a mother raising a disabled child, or parenting post loss of a child or parenting a child with an illness. We just don’t quite fit into societies norm and as a result there will be things said and done that sting a little.
I have reached a place of acceptance. This is my journey to live and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I can’t imagine my life any other way, I can’t imagine my life without Ava in it. I can’t imagine a love any greater than that that I feel for her.
At our top up assessment for our second adoption application, our SW said something that really has stuck with me. She feels that all parents should get to experience both scenario’s, a pregnancy and a birth, to know the magic that that entails and an adoption to know the magic and love and extraordinary people involved in adoption.
So while some of the things I’ve discussed above do sting a little, I do feel very blessed to have been chosen for a path less traveled, to experience something so magical and so different that few will know the power of the emotions behind it and that’s what makes it ok to not feel fully part of the mommy club.