Boy, I seemed to have raised a lot of sand with my last post. I touched a lot of germophobes’ nerves. Yet I am glad to see that my assessment that playing in the trash was not a great exploration of her world for a toddler. Thanks for all the comments.
I want to shift gears a bit here. I’ve been marinating on this topic for a while now, but have needed time to figure out how to best frame the issue for discussion. I think I have finally managed to do so.
This goes back to a dialogue that I had with another infertility blogger. This blogger, who I respect tremendously, wrote about how much it hurts being infertile in a fertile or parenting world. She wondered if people knew how much the pregnancy and birth announcements and talk of children wounded her regularly. In my reply, I wrote about how people are not aware of our sensitive areas and don’t generally have a clue how much their words wound. I gave the example of how I felt during all my unhappily two decades of singledom (I didn’t marry until I was 39). Whenever people mentioned their husbands and families, I felt like a dagger went through my chest, though they were never aware of my pain. It was excruciatingly painful being single and lonely, wanting so much to partner with another when it seemed like just about everyone else in my world had managed to successfully partner. I thought the parallels (pain unacknowledged and not understood by others) were apt.
Yet she disagreed about the parallel. Here’s what she wrote:
If I hear one more person tell me, “My single friends get upset when their married friends talk about their husbands…” I’ll f@#$ing scream.
I was single once. I wanted to be married. Yes, it was hard to go to weddings at time. I envied my married friends. It was NOTHING like infertility. You know why? Love does not require complex biological systems to operate properly. Love doesn’t time out. I know people in the 50s and 60s who’ve fallen in love with the infatuation of teenagers. Love can be waiting around the corner on any given day. People seeking a mate have hope for the future. The hope gets them through the tough days.
I was stunned and hurt. All the loneliness and longing I felt during my 2 decades of being single and looking, all those Saturday nights spent looking longingly at my Henckels knives, thinking, one cut can at least give you a physical pain to relieve the emotional one, all that anguish was dismissed out of hand. And I can tell you that with singledom well into my 30s, I didn’t have any hope to get me through tough days. I was lost and bereft, feeling like I would be alone with only my cats for company (and they would no doubt eat me after I died and no one around missed me or came to check on me). Loneliness is a bitch.
And I wasn’t alone in my feelings. My friends, other black, overeducated professional women, were in the same boat. It was commonplace and almost normative to find unmarried professional sistas who would never ever get married. The majority of my black female friends are still unmarried and I feel for them because I know how difficult it is to be black, overeducated and single.
Did you know that 42% of black women have never been married, compared with 16-21% (depending on the study) of white woman? That is a staggering difference. The rate of unmarried black women in this country is higher than the rate of infertility. So I don’t really agree that lonely singledom and infertility are that disparate in concept. At the age I married, I had better odds of being hit by a bus than getting hitched.
Now of course there are many sociological reasons for the marriage gap for black women. Here are some further readings if you are interested. Marriage and African Americans And last year, the Washington Post had an interesting article on how black children now perceive marriage as being for white people: Marriage is for White People. But where does this leave a lonely, single black woman who wants to be married (and not have a baby daddy) before becoming a parent? Well, in my case, she ended up staring at Henckel knives every Saturday night.
I ended up lucky. Luckier than many of my sista-gurl friends. I met and married my husband (after dating the largest series of broken men on the planet) and at 40 we tried to get pregnant. And we tried. And tried. And we got pregnant. Then we lost the baby. Finally we adopted the most perfect baby on the planet. Our family has been enriched.
Unlike the blogger I was referring to earlier, we chose adoption to build our family. This is something that not everyone is comfortable with. But it allowed us to move past the hell that is infertility (not that I’m truly over my infertility). I thank God every day for blessing us with Zara.
Yet going back to the original theme of this post, I have lived both lonely singledom and infertility. I’ve been to hell in both arenas and I wouldn’t wish either of these states on my worst enemy. However, from where I sit, I completely disagree with the blogger I quoted. For me, infertility was not worse that 2 decades of being single and lonely. Why? Because I had my love, my partner, my husband to travel the infertility road with me. His presence soothed my heart in ways that I cannot begin to explain.
So what is the point of all this writing? Well, while we are still caught up in the pain, frustration and loss of infertility, and want others to be sensitive to our feelings and needs, we must remember that others can be living their own personal versions of hell that are equally important to them. We cannot decide that our pain is greater than another’s pain. Pain is pain. The distress it causes must be respected and not judged.
That’s all I got.