At one of my appointments at my fertility clinic, I came out of the bathroom and ran into an old friend from an acting class. She and I hugged and did that sort of head side-tilt look at one another, that look that says “I’m so sorry to see you’re also going through this.” At this particular appointment, I’d already taken a couple of painkillers for that day’s procedure, so I was feeling wonderfully loopy, and way happier than usual.
My husband and I ended up schmoozing with my friend for a bit in the waiting room. It’s funny, because even though we know that MANY people use fertility treatments, it always feels like a surprise when you learn about someone else going through the process, especially since all we show are the happy moments on social media. Needless to say, in that moment, we knew deep down that we had some heartbreak in common. When we parted, she said she’d be in touch so that we could commiserate and share our fertility warrior stories.
Well, we never did end up reconnecting, and I don’t remember how much time passed, but one day I opened Facebook and was pretty shocked by what I saw. That friend had posted a pregnancy announcement. And it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill announcement, like an ultrasound photo, but instead an intricately designed movie poster featuring her, quite pregnant, wearing an astronaut uniform and sitting on a spaceship, waving. She held her helmet in front of her very pregnant belly, and the text read Our greatest production coming in May! Her husband was listed as executive producer (is it wrong that I thought it should be her doctor?), and several friends and family members were listed as movie cast and crew.
I felt something when I saw this announcement. It’s hard to put into words exactly what it was, but it was a feeling I recognized as one I’d had before. The announcement was beyond over the top for any person, but, especially, I thought, for someone who had suffered, someone who had journeyed down a challenging road, someone who’d shed tears and come out the other side. What I felt, I suppose, was a sense of betrayal. Maybe that sounds odd to say, but hadn’t she herself once been in a position of seeing all those announcements on social media and feeling the heartbreak that we #infertilitywarriors all felt on a regular basis?
Throughout my years of infertility, I was used to seeing these kinds of announcements on social and feeling a stew of jealousy and hurt. But I like to think that over time, these deeply uncomfortable feelings made me — and all of us women struggling to become mothers — compassionate. So I guess it struck me as braggadocious to make this movie poster and post it with no acknowledgement of the heartache and struggle that led there. I realize this may not be fair, but to me it just felt wrong.
Everyone is entitled to share their joy — pregnancy-related or otherwise — in whichever way makes them happiest. However, I do feel that announcements like the one my friend posted contribute to the overall BS of social media. When we’d bonded in the waiting room, it felt like we were members of a club — albeit a club none of us want to be in — of women who’ve endured more than they should to bear children. At the end of the day, I felt her post papered over a whole chapter of her life and hid all of our reality.
A few months later, when it came time for me to make my own long-awaited pregnancy announcement, I didn’t say a peep. Not a word, not a photo, not a clue. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I was terrified throughout most of my pregnancy and didn’t even believe it was real until my twin babies made their physical appearance into this world. (Sometimes I still don’t believe it.) During my pregnancy, I would run into people on the street, my pregnant belly in full swing, and they’d say “Woah! We didn’t see this on Facebook!” I’d laugh and explain that mum was the word because of our past, because we’d had multiple miscarriages, because we were scared… and also because it’s funny that social media is how we share life news nowadays. If it isn’t posted, did it even happen?
I’m not saying that my way is the only or best way. All I ask is that we have a little heart. Let’s take care of each other. I remember when Anne Hathaway announced her second pregnancy in an Instagram post; it was elegant, classy, and projected solidarity. It went something like: For those of you struggling to have children, know that our line to both pregnancies wasn’t straight. YES. Heart burst. She is IN IT with us. Reading that one small line, I felt a sense of unity. I saw another pregnancy announcement recently from a friend of a friend. She shared a beautiful photo of her toddler holding her pregnant belly and wrote something like Feeling grateful for how far we have come. Also, for those going through loss or the tiring road of infertility, or anyone triggered by a pregnancy post, I send my love out to all of you. YES. These announcements are acknowledgements: feelings of sisterhood, shared struggle, shared grief. To me, that’s what it feels like to take care of each other.
As we continue to work to de-stigmatize shame around miscarriage and infertility, let’s not pretend. Let’s be real. There’s enough fake stuff to go around elsewhere.