It might be April, but you don't have to be a fool
April Fools' Day is one of those innocuous, made up holidays none of us should get too worked up about, right? It's not like Christmas, or even Easter, when it's all about the kiddos. It's a time when kids and adults alike have occasion to joke and prank one another. As I promised more laughter in my Better Infertile in 2014 post, I am all for laughs.
But, therein lies the problem. April Fools' Day isn't funny anymore.
Years ago, the phenomenon started out quietly enough. But, like all things on the Internet, it has grown. One "friend" posted about the impending arrival of her (next) bundle of joy... to everyone's shock. She sat silently by as hundreds of "friends" commented about the announcement, offering everything from shock to congratulations and everywhere in between. However, the next day, she logged on to let everyone know that.... hahahahaha... it was a joke. She wasn't pregnant. It was her idea of an April Fools' Day prank. It's harmless enough, right? No body gets hurt, right?
Fast forward a couple of years and a few hundred miles. On the other side of a computer screen, I was scrolling through recommendations for fertility specialists and composing my infertility "coming out" story for National Infertility Awareness month, when I decided to see what was going on with friends and family on FaceBook. I started to scroll through my newsfeed when I began to suspect I might be in a nightmare. It seemed like nearly every "friend" I had on Facebook was suddenly pregnant. I pinched myself to make sure I was awake, but there in black and white, it seemed like countless people were suddenly "preggers" or "prego" and shouting it to the world.
Here comes the part when you will probably judge me. See, pregnancy announcements are hard for me because I have gotten to the place where I realize there is a very real possibility that I will never make one. I'm not trying to be grim, but after spending so much time and money on the (in)fertility process, I realize heartache is the only guarantee at this point. So, every time a friend or family member announces a pregnancy, I start doing mental math. I think about how many more years I have been married than they have. I think about how much older I am. I think about how long I have absolutely wanted this. I grieve for myself and the child who exists only in my heart. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I pout, sometimes I yell or sob for my mommy. Lately I go to the gym to work out the frustration "positively". But always, I hurt. There's no need to feel the burn on those days at the gym. It's all inside.
It isn't that I don't feel joy for my friend. It's that I have to let go of the grief to make space for the love I feel for that friend and the ability to congratulate him or her in a sincere way. I realize I don't know everyone's story, so I know some of them may have endured the seemingly endless heartache of infertility. I want them to be happy and I want them to have the family of their dreams, regardless of the path they took to get there. I honestly wouldn't wish infertility on my worst enemy, heaven forbid someone I care about. But, every pregnancy announcement makes me realize just how empty that space in my heart still is and how alone I am in the over thirty, married and no baby club. I want my friend to have a baby. But, just like others like to tell me, and other "bitter infertiles" like me, the "baby game" isn't zero sum, so I just wonder why I can't have one.
So, when the real, genuine pregnancy announcements appear on FaceBook, I take the time and space I need to feel as though I can be a good friend and offer real, sincere congratulations. I offer them up, because their pregnancy is not about me. It's about the wonderful blessing that is now a part of their life.
But on April Fools' Day, I assume they are all fake. I also assume they need to know about the other side of the fertility coin since they clearly have never seen it.
On April Fools' Day, I'm sure I'll watch a string of fake pregnancy announcements cascade across my news feed once again. But, this time I refuse to be silent. This time I will do what I do best: educate.
You can call me bitter all you want. You can add yourself to the growing list of people who have "unfriended" me because my infertility posts make them uncomfortable. Or, you can join with me to tell people that pregnancy announcements as jokes aren't funny, cute or witty. At best, they are passe and overdone, and at worst, hurtful to those of us who are unable to get pregnant.
You see, those of us on the outside, with our faces pressed against the glass, staring at hopeful "mommy-dom" are living for the hope that a pregnancy will happen. It's not easy and it's certainly not a joking matter. We are inflicted with a medical condition which makes us unable to perform a basic function of the human body. It's a medical diagnosis, like diabetes or cancer. However, apparently it's OK to joke about pregnancy, since many people don't think infertility is "really" a medical condition.
I have grown tired of apologizing for making my opinion known on all things infertility. People have said that I need to relax and have said I have no right to be bitter or angry because my diagnosis will not kill me. These people are correct, in a sense. But, emotionally, I am broken in a way I never imagined and the pain that infertility has caused me is real and palpable. If you've never endured it, you can't begin to imagine. I know the pain of losing someone dear to me from cancer. I know the sheer force of determination she had every day to make it through. No, infertility won't kill me, but the tenacity it takes to try again and to confront the heartache over and over again is a reality for those of us suffering from infertility. I make no apologies for showing others the reality of infertility and the impact it has on one's life. Infertility is hard. Why can't we, as people, understand this and make the burdens of others around us a little lighter?
Some people will say asking people to realize that pregnancy is not a joking matter is one more step in the "far too politically correct" direction. Maybe it is. However, I would rather live in a world where we think about the consequences of our actions before acting than one that revels in hurting one another without a second thought. I teach my students that actions have consequences. Sometimes we should remember that as adults, too.
So, on April 1st, take a moment to consider that "hilarious" fake pregnancy post you are creating. Trust me, joking about pregnancy just isn't that funny.