Back when I was in the trenches, doubting that I'd ever have a child, an online friend who'd had multiple miscarriages posted a photo of herself and her infant on her blog, with a single word: Joy.
The look on her face was irresistible. I still sometimes go back and look at that photo and cry. It gave me hope then; now, I know what she was feeling when that picture was taken and I weep with gratitude.
After all the pain and disappointment that I went through before life sent Gabby my way, I want more than anything to offer hope to my friends who are still struggling and suffering, the way that others extended their hands to me.
Suffering, I think, has the potential to expand our vision -- it makes us able to see others in a different light, to see what they see. That, I guess, is the definition of empathy, and empathy is a quality I value highly. At its most basic level, it's what keeps us from killing each other; at its highest, it's what makes of us saints and poets.
That's why it's so difficult for me to contemplate that perhaps my joy has clouded my vision. Now that I have what I so dearly wanted for so long, I risk becoming smug, prescriptive, self-satisfied. I risk losing sight of the suffering that connects me to people who have not yet made it to Normalville. This loss of vision struck me twice recently in the form of difficult conversations with friends who are struggling to have children, both prompted by something I said that was decidedly NOT helpful.
One conversation involved my attempts to reassure a friend that she would eventually have a child. I remember hating it when I felt people were shining me on with empty promises, minimizing my pain and fears for the future. Why did I turn around and do the same thing?
The other incident was even worse. In response to a casual "how are you?" I glibly remarked that I couldn't be better -- I have a baby and I'm on maternity leave! Ouch. Talk about rubbing it in.
I could claim sleep deprivation, or the way that an infant monopolizes one's attention, or just my relief and joy at finally having a child as reasons/excuses, but I'm not sure that's the whole of it. I fear that there's a part of me that wants to reside permanently in Normalville and shake the dust of Heartbreak Town off my feet forever. Who, me? No, I've never felt like a barren hag, never! I'm a regular Fertile Myrtle, I am, yes, a bona fide member of the Cute Moms' Club. We discuss sleep and poops and the relative merits of Ergo carriers and ring slings, and oh my, I could never even imagine injecting myself with fertility drugs in a public restroom like some junkie - never!
Am I delighted beyond belief to be past the despair and worry and obsession with my estradiol levels and waking temperatures? Well, of course. But the fact is, I used to own real estate in Heartbreak Town, and I will forever be marked by that experience. The little heart we saw beating in January '06 will never beat again, and nothing will ever change that, not even our little miracle girl. That stuff happened, and damn it, if I cannot undo it, I can at least honor that experience by keeping my eyes open and not losing sight of the suffering of others.