Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Great reading today!

This article (which I've cut & pasted below) was in today's Globe & Mail. I've never been subsequently pregnant myself, but the essay rings very true from what I understand from friends & support group clients who have been through it, & I thought I'd share it with a broader audience.

Today is a great day for reading about infertility in the media: head on over to the New York Times' website, where Pamela Jeanne of Coming2Terms is featured in an article about childless living after infertility (at one point, she was front & centre on the home page!). PJ is also featured in a multimedia presentation (photos & voice clips) about infertility, highlighted in an entry on Tara Parker-Pope's Well blog. Go over there & read some of the comments, & maybe add one of your own. You may have to register on the Times website to access some of this content.

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Facts & Arguments: THE ESSAY

Hope in textile form I was growing by the day and needed maternity clothes. But after five miscarriages, how could I believe?


June 10, 2008

This was no ordinary trip to the mall. I was pregnant, yet again, and there was no way around it - I needed to buy stretchable, "I'm clearly pregnant," clothes.

What terrified me, though, was that I needed "I'm clearly pregnant but I might not be tomorrow" clothes.

Maternity clothes are all about celebrating; hope in a textile form. But what do you wear when you can't allow yourself to believe?

I suffered through five miscarriages and had a son in between losses. This was my seventh pregnancy and I was physically and emotionally exhausted. After so many false starts, how could I trust in what was happening this time?

I sat paralyzed in front of a cheerful maternity-wear display. I wanted nothing more than to escape from this moment of reckoning. The depth of my fear and doubt kept me rooted to a curved wooden bench, unable to move.

Stuck there, being warmed by the winter sunlight filtering through the large glass windows, I tried to summon the courage to stand up and walk into the store.

When I first found out I was pregnant against all odds, I blocked out my grief and allowed myself to feel hopeful. I held my breath, said a silent prayer of thanks (To whom, exactly? And for what, exactly? These were murky issues) and settled in to dealing with a hazy, sick first trimester.

I worked hard to keep my anxiety in check. I didn't mind the 24-hour a day "morning" sickness. My violent vomiting served as a bizarrely comforting reminder that I was still pregnant. Every day marked one step closer to making it safely through to the other side of my pregnancy, for me and my child.

People asked how I could keep trying for another baby, after all I had already lost. The answer was a complicated one. There were many reasons - I desperately wanted a sibling for my son; some part of me needed to believe that it could still happen - but mostly it boiled down to the fact that halting the process was too painful to reconcile.

Some deep, aching part of me needed to keep going. Faith? Maybe it was somewhere in there, in a convoluted way. But after so much pain and so many traumatic losses, I could make no sense of any of it.

I had thought I was already investing in this pregnancy, and to some extent that was true. I loved this baby fiercely, desperately. It wasn't this baby's fault things had gone so horribly wrong in my other pregnancies, and he or she deserved my full attention and positive, hopeful energy.

It was incredibly difficult, though, to invest completely. I'd grieved for so many losses that I often still felt raw and vulnerable.

I sat on the bench some more and watched shoppers coming and going in an easy flow through the doors. It was early in the day and the crowds hadn't yet taken over the space. I wondered what it would take to get me into the store.

Then, as I noticed a customer exchanging an item at the cash register, I realized that any clothes I bought would be returnable. A ridiculously petty insight, but it worked. Somehow, it helped push me out of my frozen fear into a mindset that allowed me to move forward.

I couldn't wait any longer for impossible guarantees of a safe pregnancy before investing - either in this baby or in the clothes I needed. Right there, right then, I was pregnant and getting bigger by the minute. Maybe I could learn to believe a bit at a time, inch by growing inch. And if my fragile faith was misplaced, well, at least I could be reimbursed.

With a deep breath I made it up off the bench, into the store and down the aisles to the maternity-wear section to browse through the possibilities hanging in neat rows. As I fingered the soft, blue corduroy pants with the requisite expandable elastic waist, I trembled.
"Well, baby," I thought, "here's my vote of pseudo-confidence." I piled items into my cart to try on in the dressing room.

I was willing to step up and focus on being pregnant. But I also needed to be gentle with myself. Surely, even the baby would understand that part of me still needed the comfort of an anticipatory coping plan (even if that plan was illusory in its perceived comfort). For now, the receipt for my purchases, folded neatly away in my wallet once I'd bought a few things, was the best I could do.

I left the store feeling mildly euphoric. My new maternity clothes were tangible proof of my determined hope. Maybe looking the part could help me see what I needed so badly to believe was possible. I wouldn't wait until Monday to wear my expandable cords to work, I decided. I would change into them as soon as I got home.

Catherine Stafford lives in Ottawa. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl six months later


  1. Thanks for the link on PJ's NY Times article!

  2. I actually should thank Lori at Weebles Wobblog for alerting me to the Times article!


  3. Hi Loribeth -

    Thanks for your post about the article featuring PJ - I also checked out Tara Parker-Pope's Well blog and was absolutely stunned at the heartlessness of some of the comments made there.

    In addition to several very nasty comments, including "they should just get over it,"they are selfish," and "they are so lucky not to have children" there were many "why don't you just adopt?" comments as well.

    I had to comment, and hopefully others will too.

    Clearly, there is a lot of ignorance out there!

  4. Great article from Globe and Mail. I never graduated to maternity wear, but the sense of wanting to celebrate but not celebrate a subsequent pregnancy were very eloquently discussed.

    I too saw all of the nasty comments that people wrote - it never ceases to amaze me what people will write when they think that they can't be identified. But, it also clearly shows the line between those who get it and those who don't. Unfortunately, those who don't are too ignorant to keep their mouths shut!