The Tragic Optimist

Last thoughts on that bitterness post

I wanted to clarify on the story in my post about the bitterness seeping back in. The friend who called her midwife before conceiving is a dear friend, and one of the most down-to-earth people I know. I hope that it didn’t come across as bitterness towards her so much as it is envy towards her and bitterness towards the stupidity that is infertility and the fact that even when I’m not actively trying, infertility can still rear its ugly head and dampen my excitement for my friends. I’m well aware that the envy is a funny thing and I know that there are many parts of my life that someone else may find themselves envying. I don’t want to come across as someone who thinks her particular problem is so much worse than everyone else’s.

One of the comments mentioned that people like telling conception / birth stories, and I think it’s the conception stories that really bring out the green-eyed jealous monster in me. I know they’re generally offered as being part of a family’s story and not (usually) as bragging, but I’m still envious. I want to have a conception story that I can tell with a bit of a wink: that it was a result of making up from a big fight, or happened between church services on Christmas Eve, or even that it was just from good old reliable missionary position sex. When people say “I know what you were doing 9 months before your daughter was born” I want them to be right. But Zoe’s conception happened when Chris went in to the clinic one morning and then I followed about an hour and a half later, and laid down on the doctor’s table, and the nice nurse used a catheter to work the magic. The result of that magic? Wonderful, beautiful, sweet, and recently, pretty silly. I wouldn’t trade her for the best conception story in the world. I just wish I was more at peace with our story. It’s funny too, in some ways I’m very proud of Zoe’s conception – proud that we persevered and that infertility didn’t break me. Because sometimes it felt like it would. But that pride hasn’t lent me comfort with the story yet – I haven’t found the right way to tell the story.



  1. womantowomancbe

    I really feel for you. Even though I’ve not had problems with infertility, I know what it’s like to want something and not get it, and not know if you’ll ever get it. Then there’s the knowing you will not get what you want, because it’s impossible (my father died a few years before I got married, so I knew that he would never walk me down the aisle; but it still hurt to see other girls on their father’s arms–one of my friends even had both her dad and step-dad escorting her–she had two and I had none!). So I can understand the grief and pain that comes with being….human, I guess–nobody ever gets everything they want. 🙂

    After reading this post, I read your previous “bitterness” post, and had to laugh about “timing your baby’s birth to correspond nine months after the fertility treatments worked”–that’s priceless! One thing I noticed in the previous post was what you said about “that familiar pasted-on smile”. I wonder (rhetorically speaking) if that false smile is more habit from previous years of needing it to cover your tears and real feelings, or if it is current? (I’m not criticizing you, by any means! You are perfectly welcome to your feelings on this or any other subject. I’m just kinda on the outside looking in and wondering if I can help you see a different angle.) I know that when going through something like infertility, watching other people get (so effortlessly sometimes) what you want so badly, that you can get good at concealing, that even if you don’t need it any more, you fall back into the habit pattern when the same thing happens again later. Like riding a bicycle–you don’t really forget. If that may be the case, then perhaps you can look at it in this way: it was a learned behavior, and now you can learn a different behavior. Maybe? And perhaps this discomfort with the story of your daughter’s conception is due to the bitterness you’ve undoubtedly felt in your long journey into motherhood; and if you can let go of the pain, bitterness and grief surrounding your previous struggles with infertility (just as I have had to let go of the grief surrounding my father’s death in order to find joy again in talking about his life), then you can embrace her story as you truly wish to.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your postsg–you’ve got a way with words to tell your story.


  2. Ann

    Thanks Kathy. I’m so sorry about your father. Your question about whether my reaction was current or habit has been bugging me since I read it. I’m a big believer in the power of learned behaviors, so that idea really resonates with me. And I love how you say you had to let go of the grief to find joy in talking about your father’s life.

  3. Thanks for writing this, Ann. I understand a lot better now.


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