Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How you remind me

I've often thought it might be interesting to try to observe just how many reminders I, as a childless/free (not by choice) woman encounter in one day related to motherhood, pregnancy and family life -- themes that saturate our culture, that the majority of people take for granted as theirs (or theirs to be, someday) but do not necessarily relate to my own life.

I decided, on the spur of the moment, that today would be the day. Here are some of the things I noticed from the time I got up at 5 until I posted this:
  • Around 6 a.m., while eating breakfast & listening to the radio: Annoying ad for local French schools, beginning with a little boy singing "Frere Jacques" and piping up at the end, "Daddy, I'll teach you my song!" (There may have been more such ads -- there often are -- but I hadn't decided yet that today would be the day, so I didn't take note, lol.)
  • Driving past the local high school, with a reminder still on the sign outside about exams.
  • Listening in the car to a morning show radio hosts' chatter about kids & school.
  • News headline, in the sports section of all places: I don't think the print version was exactly the same, but you'll get the idea from the online header: "Canadian hurdler Priscilla Lopes Schliep ready to roll after pregnant pause." (She had a baby five months ago but is back training for London this summer.)
  • Article towards the back of the front section about a breastfeed-in at local Facebook headquarters, protesting their removal of photos of mothers breastfeeding babies.
  • Other child-related topics in the paper, mostly in the "Life" section.
  • Walk past a toy store in the concourse en route to work.
  • Posters in the concourse of our office tower for a new ad campaign, based on various (not necessarily monetary) definitions of "ri.ch.ness." The first ad featured (what else??) a closeup photo of a sleeping newborn baby. (Two others on display feature various family groupings.) "The mo.me.nt when ev.er.yth.ing ch.an.ges," the tagline reads. Um, yeah, right. Want to hear about MY life-changing moment?
  • 9:15ish: Team meeting (not mine) in the senior manager's cubicle opposite mine -- which begins (of course) with the daily update on her new granddaughter, how breastfeeding is going, etc. Followed by numerous calls throughout the day to & from the new mom, as well as friends & relatives seeking status updates. All within easy earshot.
  • Mid-morning coffee break: two pregnant women in the lineup at Tim's (one behind the other), and another working behind the counter.
  • Lunchtime: I go for a 20-minute stroll before picking up some food to take back to my desk... 20 minutes in which I take note of five conspicuously pregnant women. And pass by a hockey display downstairs, with a poster illustrated by a drawing of a peewee hockey player.
  • Afternoon coffee break: no pregnant women spotted, but passed by the magazine stand, where the covers of People, US & the like each contain at least one reference to pregnancy, babies or celebrity offspring.
  • Two more pregnant women spotted on the late afternoon walk to the train station.
  • Commuter train en route home, and walking to the car when we reach out stop: overhearing snatches of conversations between moms, talking about their kids.
And I wouldn't say this was a particularly difficult day -- there are days when I think the reminders have been much more numerous, and (sometimes) painful. (It might be worth repeating this experiment sometime & seeing if I come up with different results. Or -- I would love to hear if any of you try this!) I haven't even really watched much TV yet tonight -- commercials are always ripe with references to babies these days, it seems...

And this is 14 years out from my pregnancy. It would have hurt a heck of a lot more in those early days, post-stillbirth, during & post-IF treatment.

But I still can't help but notice now, sometimes.

*** *** ***

Since this is a post all about the daily reminders of what I don't have in my life, "How you remind me" popped into my head when I was trying to think of a title. Now don't laugh -- I'm not a big Nickelback fan (some of their stuff is pretty misogynistic) -- but some of their stuff is pretty catchy, and I do like this song (although I got kind of tired of it when it first came out & was hugely overplayed).

Just for fun I looked up the lyrics -- & while I very much doubt these guys have ever thought about infertility (!) & not all the lyrics apply, here are a few excerpts:

This is how you remind me of what I really am
It's not like you to say sorry
I was waiting on a different story

these five words in my head scream
are we having fun yet?"
yet, yet, yet, no, no...

"This is how you remind me of who I really am... I was waiting on a different story."

What I am is a childless woman in a world that worships pregnancies, babies, mommyhood and family (the idea if not the reality). And some days, that's a hard thing to be.

Sometimes, yes, we ARE having fun. ; )

Sometimes, it just sucks. :p

*** *** ***

Tomorrow, Feb. 8th, was my LMP date in 1998 -- day one of the cycle that, by some miracle, resulted in our Katie -- my one & only, albeit all too brief, pregnancy. And, as luck would have it, Aunt Flo is due for a visit any day now, too. Maybe that's why I'm in "a mood." :p

Hit it, boys. ; )


  1. Sorry you have to bear all of societies painful reminders...I can't imagine how exhausting it must be...yet you do it with so much grace.

  2. Interesting idea, I have never written down a day like that. I usually try to shut that stuff out. It would probably surprise me, but it might be a funny task. I could sit and scribble away in my notebook all day while everyone goes on about their children at work!

  3. Thinking of you today Loribeth.

    Yes, the reminders are everywhere. I'm writing to you on a deck chair, sitting under a palm tree metres away from the Andaman Sea, and in front of me is a family, with a young baby asleep in its stroller. And there were mums with toddlers out on the beach. Or in the sea, a mum snorkelling with her son. And it's not even school holidays, so the resort is actually very peaceful with very few children. Still, this is very easy to handle. (and yes, you're right, alcohol helps!)Personally, I think I would be overwhelmed wit resentment and anger at the daily grand-child reminders you are having to tolerate, and don't know how you do it.

  4. My thoughts are with you on your sad anniversary. I'm sorry for your loss. And yes...the world really is full of children and parents and pregnant women. I didn't realize how many pregnant women there were in the world until I started trying to get pregnant myself. And during my miscarriage? It seemed like more women were pregnant than not!

  5. It's funny, I've found myself counting the number of commercials that include refences to babies, children or families that include children (I say this because I consider my husband and me a family even if others don't). I thought I was the only one who thought of this stuff. Thanks for letting me know I'm not crazy.

  6. Thinking of you on this anniversary. So many bittersweet reminders of the girl you loved and lost. I'm sorry your co-worker can't shut up about her grandbaby. I have to say that working in academia, people are much less interested/celebratory about family life. Talking about babies too much would be sort of gauche and embarrassing--like you're not serious about work. It's a holdover from the days when the "ivory tower" had no room for women, but honestly, talking shop (and only shop) is also a relief.

    Also, I hate life insurance and car insurance commercials.

  7. Thanks, everyone! A couple of things:

    * I should mention that (if I remember correctly from older stories), Priscilla had an ovary removed & had concerns about being able to conceive at all.

    * AF had the audacity to show up, today of all days. :p I'm also having a mammogram today. The fun never ends... :p ; )

    * Grandma Coworker is off for the next three days to be with her daughter & new granddaughter. Silence! ; )

  8. I hear you, at this point I am struggling that all of my friends in my community who got married after me either have newborns, or at their due date. It's hard at this point. I live thousands of miles away from my family and am visiting them in a few days. I just want to say your post about the holidays gave me strength, I know the question I'm going to be hearing is when we're going to start, and I'm just not in a good place to hear that right now when I break down crying (when I'm alone) every time one of my dear friends says they're praying for me. Sorry this is so long.

  9. Holy...wow. You are so strong and I hope you know how much strength so many of us draw from you. Seriously.

  10. Hi there :) Found your blog about a month ago, and have been lurking ever since. This post however, seems almost like I wrote it myself (except that I'm not a good writer like you, ack) so here I am, delurking for the first time :)

    Like you, I am childfree not by choice. I work in academia, with a lot of female coworkers who cannot shut up about babies. They remind me EVERYDAY that I am childless. I have been pressed many times to confess that (a) I am infertile/dh is infertile/ and that I am sorry for it, or: (b)I am a ruthless, vicious woman for not wanting kids because I am selfish like that.

    The truth is, I don't want to share that slice of my life with them and there are times when their talks about babies are so unbearable.

    Anyway, thank you for this post, for all your posts actually. I hope your newgrandma-colleague will retire soon. Sending you hugs to get thru February and the sad anniversary.

  11. Powerful post. Do you think that our culture is more child-focused now, or was it the same or worse 10 years ago?

  12. @Jjiraffe: Good question. I definitely wouldn't say it's any LESS child-focused. :p

  13. Sorry to be so late - again! - in commenting. I've thought about doing this, but haven't had the chance.

    Yesterday, however, speaking with someone in one of my work settings (there are several, just one of the many reasons I am so far behind on blog reading...), she referred to "a few years from now, you know, I'll have a kid." And I thought 'Um, you really can't KNOW that. You can HOPE that, if that is what you want, but you cannot know how it will all turn out.'

    That would have been me at her age. She's 22 or 23 - just graduated from college last year - planning to marry her long-time boyfriend - and seeing the road ahead paved with rainbows and filled with happiness. So I didn't rain on her parade, just swallowed the thought.

    Thinking of you - even if I'm not 'around'.