So, the day arrived, and although I was very tired and had a long weekend ahead of me, I made the drive, looking forward to seeing family I don't often see. My parents were there, my mom's other brother and his wife were there, another cousin of mine was there with her kids, and then there was me. It was a small gathering, but it was nice for visiting.
I'm not yet used to this whole "being pregnant" thing, and I'll be honest, I'm not as big a fan of the attention I get now because of the pregnancy as many people tend to be. I'm not sure if it's because I don't really feel pregnant, if it's some latent feeling of being undeserving of such attention, or if it's because my husband isn't here with me to enjoy it and be a part of it. All I know is it's a strange thing to be the center and focus of pregnancy talk after so many years of standing on the outskirts of conversations about pregnancy.
Usually what's on my mind when I'm at a family gathering is: 1) What food is there here that I can eat without making the hostess feel the need to prepare something special, and 2) How can I keep from reliving awkward memories from the past and/or making new ones for the future. Since I hadn't eaten in several hours, my mind was mostly on the food.
As I was standing in the kitchen, the cousin who was hosting was setting things out in preparation to eat, and one of my aunts and my other cousin came over to me to talk about the pregnancy. I didn't think much of it. It was nice to actually have something to talk about besides my food restrictions and the fact that I don't work or have children. So I shared my observations about pregnancy, and had a great conversation with my aunt and cousin. I didn't even feel awkward talking about being pregnant.
And then I looked up and saw my cousin, the hostess, standing on the outskirts of the conversation, listening but not participating, and I was immediately in her shoes in my mind.
I tried to convince myself that the conversation probably didn't bother her since she and her husband had decided to adopt rather than attempting to pursue any medical intervention. I tried to believe that she probably wasn't feeling pain because her 9 year old son was running through the house, playing with his cousins. I even tried to convince myself that maybe she didn't even hear what was being said because she's hard of hearing and with all the background noise her hearing aids might have missed the conversation.
But this is the same cousin that had once told me that even after adoption, the longing is still there...the hope still comes with every cycle and the disappointment on calendar day one.
I was torn. I didn't want to be rude and abruptly end the conversation, but I didn't want to be insensitive and continue it, either. I tried, and eventually succeeded, to change the subject to that of dietary needs and restrictions, but the damage had been done.
I, an infertile pregnant woman, had stood in the kitchen of another infertile woman and had a long conversation in front of her with other people about the joys of my own pregnancy. I was "That Girl." The one that didn't recognize the need for sensitivity. The one that didn't shut up, but rather gushed on and on about the experience of being pregnant. I caused a fellow infertile woman to be keenly reminded of her infertility, IN HER OWN HOME!
I immediately wished I hadn't come and even wondered why I had. What did I really think I had to offer my uncle by being there? His brothers and sisters, daughter and grandson were there, and that's really all he needed on his birthday. I had come simply out of a felt need to show my cousin that she was important to me. Then I went and did the very opposite thing by completely forgetting about her and running off at the mouth.
I approached her tentatively and apologized to her. She was very gracious and responded that that's just the way things are at family gatherings when someone's pregnant and she's grown to expect it. That did not make me feel any better, and it didn't convince me that she wasn't wounded. But the damage had been done and there was nothing I could do to take it back. Had my other pregnant sister been there, it might have been a bit different scenario, but she wasn't there. I was the only walking reminder of my cousin's infertility.
I wish I could say that that incident is my one and only cringeworthy moment. But I can't. I can't even say that it was my first.
Two weeks prior to that family gathering, I was shopping at a local Natural Grocer's when an acquaintance I hadn't seen in years, who happens to work at that store, recognized me and asked how my husband and I have been.
I was groggy from having had very little sleep and wasn't prepared for a conversation. I told her we were fine and that my DH was deployed but should be returning early. When there was an awkward pause, I thought, "What else is new with us that she'd want to know about?" and then I realized most people share news about their pregnancies, so I did.
Technically, there's nothing wrong with sharing that news with people when I haven't seen them in years, but there was something that flitted across her face in a fraction of a second. But I was tired and wasn't sure I had really seen it. We parted ways, I finished shopping, paid for the groceries and left the store. As I drove away, a number of observations flooded my mind and I wondered if those observations were enough confirmation that perhaps she too was infertile.
I was kicking myself by the time I made it home, and praying that I had not wounded her or made her day difficult. I called her at the store to ask for her e-mail address, and then sent her a long rambling apology e-mail asking her to forgive me if I had caused her pain, not knowing for sure she was even infertile.
She replied several days later, assuring me that all was well and that I hadn't wounded her.
But the fact that I had so easily spouted out the news of my pregnancy without even thinking weighed heavily on my heart. And then to have followed that incident with the one I described at my cousin's house...I truly never thought that I would be "That Girl."
I have loathed and despised others who have filled that role, wondering how it was possible for someone to be so completely unaware and insensitive, vowing that I would NEVER be that way, if I were ever blessed with a pregnancy. And yet, here I am.
I pray that God will grant me the grace and discernment to avoid filling that role again. I pray that He will prevent me from causing others pain as they walk through this journey of infertility. I pray that I will always be mindful of the pain others may be experiencing that I know all too well. And may God keep me from ever being "That Girl" again.