Sunday, March 9, 2008

Doppelgangers & the diverging road

Mel at Stirrup Queens was asking us on Friday about our Internet doppelgangers. I had a vague idea of what a doppelganger was, but wanted a precise definition. Interestingly, this is what Wikipedia had to say about doppelgangers:

A doppelgänger (pronunciation (help·info)) or fetch is the ghostly double of a living person, a sinister form of bilocation. In the vernacular, "Doppelgänger" has come to refer (as in German) to any double or look-alike of a person—most commonly an "evil twin". The literal translation of the German word is "doublewalker", meaning someone who is acting (e.g. walking) the same way as another person. The word is also used to describe the sensation of having glimpsed oneself in peripheral vision, in a position where there is no chance that it could have been a reflection. They are generally regarded as harbingers of bad luck. In some traditions, a doppelgänger seen by a person's friends or relatives portends illness or danger, while seeing one's own doppelgänger is an omen of death. In Norse mythology, a vardøger is a ghostly double who precedes a living person and is seen performing their actions in advance.

I don't think Mel meant the term in the evil twin/bad luck sense, & that certainly wasn't my vision either... more of a person who is so like you, in looks, personality, pathway in life, etc., that it's eerie sometimes.

I've met a few women on the Internet who have wound up living childless/free after infertility & loss, but none whose stories & personalities were so like mine that I felt like they were a long lost twin. However, I've known JuliaS of Life After Infertility & Loss in a previous Internet life (lol), & we have often joked that we must have been separated at birth, or cousins, or something, because so many of the same things have happened to us at the same time, and we share many of the same interests. I hadn't been in touch with her for quite awhile (my bad..!) & recently stumbled onto her blog while perusing someone else's blogroll. Turns out we both started blogs at roughly the same time, unbeknown to each other. And although we didn't "know" each other then, her Carena & my Katie share an angel date of August 7, 1998.

In "real life," I've encountered two couples that I always sort of thought of as "doppelgangers" for dh & me. Our paths have diverged in recent years, but I found it immensely comforting for awhile, knowing we were not alone, and immensely happy for them when their dreams finally came true, even when ours did not. And, coincidentally, we saw both couples today.

The first couple is one of dh's cousins & his wife (he has lots of cousins!). This cousin was an usher at our wedding, & is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He reminds/ed me so much of dh in the way that he loves kids & they love him. He met a very nice girl & they were married in 1996. A few years went by and then more years and still there were no kids. For many years, she & I were the only two childless adult women at family gatherings, & while our mutual situation was never discussed, she & I would chat about work, about travel, about home projects, etc., while everyone else around us talked non-stop about their kids. It was a relief for me and I suspect for her as well.

Several times over the years, dh's cousin would arrive at some of these family gatherings alone, saying his wife "wasn't feeling well." I can remember being at one of these events & some of the other women sniping, "Well, what's with her?? I guess she doesn't like us very much... she never comes to any of our parties any more." I didn't speak up (to my everlasting shame), but I wondered how they could be so clueless (not to mention unsympathetic). Perhaps she was legitimately ill (at least some of the time). But to me, it was so obvious that coming to these family gatherings, full of pregnant women and babies & women with kids, where the conversation revolved non-stop around kids, kids, kids, was likely very painful for someone who (like me) did not have children but wanted them, was likely trying desperately to have them, and not succeeding.

About a year & a half ago, we got the news that -- at age 42 -- she was pregnant! (Through IVF, we later found out through the family grapevine.) She & her husband were both 43 when she gave birth to their daughter. She did not want a baby shower (but eventually consented to having a small one with the family). Again, dh's cousins were incredulous: why on earth wouldn't she want a baby shower?? What was with this woman?? And again, to me, it was so obvious as to why she might be reluctant, particularly before the baby was safely here... What a divisive thing infertility can be. I can see so clearly what others cannot... and yet I don't wish this clarity of vision on anyone, knowing the price that one generally pays to gain it.

The baby did arrive safely, and we attended her first birthday party this afternoon. I tried to keep busy taking photos whenever the mommy talk got a little too stifling. Apparently the daddy talk can sometimes be just as bad. Dh told me that a bunch of the guys were talking -- many of them with teenaged daughters, & teasing the birthday girl's proud dad about all the trouble she will be causing him in about 12 years. The cousin/neighbour that I've written about previously then piped up & said, "Yeah, [dh] is smart..." and you know what he was going to say next -- i.e., smart because we don't have any kids (!) -- & dh said it was like he suddenly remembered, & realized what he had said as soon as he said it, & his voice trailed off & he shut up. He's not sure anyone else noticed, but he sure did.

The other couple we met through our pregnancy loss support group about five years ago. She is just a few years younger than me, he is just a few years younger than dh, & they have been together almost as long as we have. Her ethnic background is similar to mine, so we have similar cultural touchstones (we even look a little bit alike in some ways), & we share many similar interests (reading, scrapbooking). She's from the same town where I did my graduate degree, and in fact, we figured out that she, her dh & I were all attending school there at the same time. He works in the same industry as dh & me. Like us, they put off having a family for many years and when they finally decided it was time, she had two losses. They were exploring both adoption & childfree living before her third, final (successful) pregnancy when she was in her early 40s. She has always been very careful, especially when she's around me, not to talk too much about mommy stuff & to qualify many of her remarks by saying how very lucky she feels. I appreciated that enormously. And we both enjoyed their company tremendously.

They are moving this week, in order to be closer to her extended family -- something they felt was important for their son, given that he is going to be an only child. En route from the birthday party, we dropped by with a small gift & to say how much we're going to miss them. And we will. :(


  1. Aaah, I didn't mean twin in the evil sense. Just the ones who mirror your own life so closely--or an aspect of your life.

    It's funny how you don't hear much about the daddy talk. And I'm sure it exists. What a horrible verbal catch.

  2. What a great friend you are ... the descriptions of the clueless people you've encountered made me shake my head in the usual disbelief. Just astounding how out of it some people can be!

  3. yes, some people are just so unaware. I've become acutely aware of my hub's feelings at these events. I'm sorry your friends are moving away. and that "clarity of vision" thing you mention, yeah I still wouldn't wish it on anyone. but with experience comes wisdom. ~luna

  4. I wanted to leave another comment to thank you for yours. I am both happy and sorry that it resonates with you. ~luna

  5. I left a comment - but it must have gotten lost.

    Anyway - mostly I just said I was thrilled to be in such good company.


  6. I know what you mean about the obvious. I have found that in groups in women, what passes them by, I often am very aware of.

    As for daddy talk, that is interesting you mention it, because you don't hear much about it. I know my dh has been hurt at his family gatherings because there he has brothers with sons, who often get very excited about playing some game as a "father/son" game, where each dad makes a team with his son. Everytime this has occured, I can feel the heartbreak on my husband, though nothing is said.