To all my fellow TTCers, do you ever feel like you’re leading a secret life?
A life you don’t really talk about, or post statuses about on social media. A life that you know might make others uncomfortable or bring about feelings of guilt. A life no one really knows about except for the most-trusted people in your inner circle.
I feel like I’m pretty open about my struggles with infertility and PCOS. I have become an advocate for myself and I definitely don’t shy away from educating others on the subject, but every once in awhile I can feel myself putting my guard up and retreating back into that secret life.
It happened yesterday in class. I’m a teacher if you didn’t already know, and I teach adults, so my students are pretty mature and could probably handle a discussion on infertility. It was the end of the day and one of my students was reading out statuses/updates from her Facebook feed. She read out a headline that went something like, “More women today are choosing dogs over babies.” A headline I had actually seen earlier in the day and had noted that it had kinda made me feel uneasy.
“That’s totally you!” she exclaimed looking right at me, non-maliciously and more in a joking tone, but it still stung.
It totally caught me off guard. I didn’t know how to respond, so I just laughed a little and nodded my head. But that was not the response I wanted to give. I didn’t want to laugh and nod my head. What I really wanted to do was shake my head and say “Actually, I would like to have a baby, but I can’t. I have been trying for a long time. Longer than you’ve had your baby, probably even longer than you wanted your baby.”
Alright. Maybe not that intense, but I definitely wanted to tell her that some women might be choosing dogs because they can’t have their own children. Maybe some women act like they don’t like children because being around them is incredibly painful. Maybe some women even go so far as to avoid children because being around them is a constant reminder that what they want is still so far out of reach. Maybe that’s why women are choosing dogs!
I wanted to say all of these things, but I didn’t. And it probably for the best. After all, how inappropriate would that have been?
I’ve had students in the past ask me if I wanted kids, or if I have children, or why I don’t want kids and my answer always varies. Sometimes I respond with a simple “one day” or “maybe” and once I even had the courage to say “let me just say, it’s not easy for everyone so I wouldn’t go around asking women that question.” I didn’t mean to sound harsh, but I also feel responsible to educate people on how insensitive their comments or questions might be.
My student’s comment got me thinking, “Is that how people see me? Do they see me as a woman who has chosen to not have children? A woman who maybe doesn’t like children?”
Do people see me that way?
If they do, that makes me so sad. I actually felt so sad thinking about her comment yesterday and I know that wasn’t her intention. She is a lovely girl. But I guess that might be the vibe I give off. And I probably do give off that vibe, but I think I do it to protect myself. To protect my secret life and to protect my own heart.
It’s a really strange position to be in, isn’t it? To have all of these really intense, vulnerable feelings that you can’t really express and that you might not always feel like sharing. And that’s part of it too. Even though I like talking about infertility and I find it very cathartic, sometimes, I don’t want to talk about it and sometimes I don’t like everyone knowing my business.
I feel like I’m still trying to find that happy medium, where I can advocate for myself and for the women who are struggling along with me, where I don’t feel like I am cutting myself open and spilling my guts out for all the world to see, and a place where I can protect myself and my feelings too. I thought I was there, but now I’m not so sure.
Is it a matter of circumstance? Place? Audience? Or is it a matter of how I feel in the moment? Do I feel like sharing that day? Do I just nod my head and smile and pretend like everything is okay? Or pretend like I’m not interested in kids at all?
I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer to this.
How incredibly frustrating.
I have just been thinking about this secret life lately and how it has impacted my relationships with friends, family, and the people I interact with every day.
I don’t mean to be secretive or withdrawn, but sometimes I need to be. I think women who have experienced infertility or loss will understand when I say we do it to protect ourselves.
What do you guys think?