‘Tis The Season to Be…Scrutinized By Family Members About Your Pregnancy Status.
Ah, Christmas time. Snow, twinkle lights, and nosy relatives asking about your uterus: cheer laced with dread. Holiday parties used to be rich in delicious food and even more delectable distant-relative gossip, but the second my husband slid a ring onto my finger – everyone’s eyes slid down to my belly. Some deeply ingrained instinct awoke inside my family members and they developed an obsession with The Questions. “Must. Ask. About. Procreation.” As if I’m the last in my bloodline. I call it the Pre-Pregnancy Phenomena: the moment when people reject all social normalities in pursuit of reproductive knowledge. Curiosities aside, I can’t grasp the burning desire relatives have to know if I’m pregnant or trying to conceive. Just because we’re in the same gene pool, does not mean I owe you an update on my body.
The accusations started last Christmas. (You know, our final pre-TTC holiday where I unabashedly made comments like, “This could be the last Christmas with just the two of us!” *Enter year-long struggle*) I was caught drinking water at our holiday party (that’ll teach me to drink non-alcoholic beverages in public!), ergo I could be doing nothing else besides hosting a fetus. I was able to laugh it off at the time and figured it said more about me being a wino than it did about me being watched like a hawk. The truth is though: I was being watched, and I’ve been disappointing my audience. I learned my lesson and have implemented a strict wine-in-hand at all times policy this Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love drinking my moscato, but much like trying to conceive: it kind of loses its fun when you feel forced to do it.
“Well they don’t know not to ask you about it.” – I’m picturing my Mom saying that, but since the majority of you have never met my Mother, just imagine Catholic Guilt in voice form – that’s her. It’s a vicious cycle of no one knows not to say anything unless I say something, but if I say something then everyone will talk to me about how their friend’s sister’s neighbor’s daughter took fourteen months to conceive – and whaddya know, it happened when she “stopped trying” too. Swapping my secret in exchange for avoiding constant questions about pregnancy doesn’t seem like a fair trade. Here’s a piece of myself – oh, now you’re going to look at me with pity and whisper about me at family parties? Why it IS the most wonderful time of the year! Please be sure to leave all events muttering about how I’m definitely pregnant this time!
People either want to hear that AHA you’re pregnant and they’re so incredibly amazing because they spotted it first! Or that you have zero interest in reproducing at the moment, so they can back off for the time being. No one wants to hear the in-between. “Have we talked about having kids? Why yes, actually we’ve been having copious amounts of perfectly timed sex for almost a year, but I guess his wonky sperm don’t want to meet with my finicky eggs. Did I tell you about the time I actually got pregnant, but it implanted in my fallopian tube, just to really test the depths of my sanity? Now THAT was a crazy month!” To avoid the truth, I have to come armed with excuses and wine. “As you can see, I am drinking this boozy beverage, but I am so not interested in having a baby right now anyway. I want to be one of those cool, old moms!” People aren’t quite buying the, “We still have to get to know each other better before we have kids!” after twelve years of being together. (But when do you ever REALLY know someone?!) Instead I’m left with, “We don’t think it’s fair that the male seahorses carry the babies, so until we can get in on that deal, we’re not procreating!” or, “There’s enough things wrong with me, I wouldn’t be a good host at the moment.” Which is the most truth-laced lie I’ve ever told.
I’d like to imagine that sharing my struggle with others will feel like shedding my skin – starting fresh with new insight and hopeful words. Instead, it leaves me feeling exposed and alone, like a one night stand. Sharing reverse-burdens me. There’s more weight added onto my shoulders with the knowledge that someone else out there is going to be eying my drinks and who will know that every month I’m clearly not pregnant – that I’ve failed. What’s more is that I assume if you’re asking me The Questions, that you’re already telling me you don’t understand this experience, and I don’t want to bring you into my month-to-month world.
Beyond The Questions (and as a result of them – The Excuses), there are other holiday events that have been bringing out my inner Grinch this year.
The Gifts. As if my injuries needed insults, my parents requested only “family gifts” this year. For my siblings with children, that entails creating photo albums that cover the last year of their existence and buying signs off Etsy that proclaim my parents are, in fact, the WORLD’S greatest grandparents. For my husband and I, this means gifting them with an ornament that says our names and “Still Just Married” underneath clay figurines. Even when I was gift hunting for my husband this year I had a black cloud looming over me, whispering how I’d much rather buy baby onesies than adult ones (because THAT’S his number one gift request this year….) Secret Santa’s cause anxiety to roll through my stomach – because if I got assigned my pregnant sister-in-law or my baby niece, you can bet their toys and clothes would come with a sidecar of tears. I already know that Santa didn’t give me what I wanted this year because 1 – I have no baby (I’ll let that slide this one time…) and 2 – I wasn’t able to ask for what I really wanted:
An Ava Bracelet!!!
ALL OF THE EARLY DETECTION PREGNANCY TESTS!
My husband has cracked down on the expansion of my TTC stash because he “hopes we won’t need them after this month.” Cute, I know, but this would’ve been an opportune moment for me to amp up my OPK numbers from outside sources.
The Holiday Cards. I think these are wasteful to begin with (that may be due to the fact that I still have a stack of Save The Dates for May 2016 in my closet), but also because I pretend to be environmentally friendly (my building doesn’t recycle, but I would if I could, ya know?) and I know that most of the cards you send end up in the trash. Not to mention I don’t have a magnetic refrigerator so I’m confused about where to put them. Do I like…tape them to my wall? I think it’s time for us to embrace technology and send our cards the way the millennials intended: via Social Media and Email. When/if/however we have children, our annual holiday picture will be sent via email with the subject line “This Is What We Look Like This Year” and an unsubscribe option for those struggling to conceive, or who just don’t want to see our glamour shots. I didn’t develop a personal vendetta against holiday cards until this year when it started to feel like people were rubbing their families in my face “we have something you can’t have!” and trying to take personal jabs at my ovaries. Even when a newly married friend asked for my address “just to make sure she has the correct one” warning bells went off – there’s no way they’re just sending holiday cards with the two of them, otherwise why wouldn’t she just say that?! Oh, God, it’s going to be a pregnancy announcement isn’t it?! It wasn’t, but I’m thinking next year I’d like to opt out of the holiday cards if we still haven’t had any good news on our end.
The Pregnancy Announcements. The evil stepsister to Holiday Cards.
“Santa’s bringing us a baby this year!”
“We tried to hide it, but our Christmas gift is starting to show!”
“Coming soon…” *insert picture of baby stocking next to big people stockings*
Don’t get me wrong, I find those announcements positively adorable when I’m looking for ideas: I wanted to be them! But now that I can’t, I don’t want to see it – I can’t get farther away from them. Bah Humbug and all that.
My own dream announcement was hijacked this year. The day we got our Christmas tree and decorated our apartment was utterly ruined because a friend of a friend posted her announcement and it was the exact same thing I was going to do; which I suppose means that in reality I’m not an original person at all, but in my mind I’m accusing her of hacking into my private baby Pinterest account. Everyone deserves the family of their dreams, social media announcement and all. I just wish there was a way to make it feel like sandpaper wasn’t rubbing along the edges of my heart every time an announcement comes my way.
I wish I could say with utter confidence that this is actually going to be the last Christmas with just the two of us. That next year there will be a baby, or a bump, and I’ll find joy in the holidays again. Maybe I won’t ever open my box of Christmas decorations to find my announcement onesie tucked into the side again – a reminder of my current near year-long failure, wrapped in pink tissue paper. Unless this Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future though, there’s no way to know what’s in store for me.