Last week Jan Richardson shared a workshop on her Facebook page that looked interesting to me. It was about the discernment process one might take when deciding whether or not to write a book. It was hosted by Bookwifery. I knew there was potential for some uncomfortable moments since her whole concept is based on midwifery – helping writers bring their books into the world.
The words and phrases started right away – “Are you pregnant with a book?” “Are you ready to take a pregnancy test?” They just kept coming. One of my coping mechanisms when surrounded by babies, pregnant women, etc. is to dissociate a bit. Only a bit. I tune out. I pretend that those images or words or people don’t bother me. I check out, only slightly, to make it less painful, to make it possible for me to get through the experience without an emotional breakdown.
So that’s what I did. I pretended like this whole midwife metaphor was no big deal, that I wasn’t bothered by the pregnancy test imagery.
But, it was a big deal and I was bothered by it.
After the workshop (which was actually really good!), I sent her an email about my experience. Not to suggest she say or do things differently, but instead to let her know how I experienced it. I wasn’t pointing any fingers at her – it was about me and my experience.
Of course, being a spiritual director and one who tunes into the Spirit all around her, she was affected by my email. She had never considered that “all those pregnancy words” might be a trigger for some people. She wrote that she wants to be more sensitive around that metaphor, if she can.
The thing is – she probably can’t. Her whole business is framed around midwifery. It’s hard to get away from pregnancy language when the act of giving birth is the framework of the business. And, the other thing is – I wasn’t asking her to change anything. I think what she has created is beautiful. Her workshop helped me understand that there are many ways we can experience pregnancy in this lifetime – and only one of those is about creating a child.
I don’t think I’m pregnant with a book yet… but someday I might be, and the thought of that is very exciting! I wouldn’t have known that without her workshop, without her metaphors and imagery. A part of me healed through that experience knowing that I can claim a different kind of pregnancy for myself someday. I’m no longer at the whim of my ovaries – I can control what I bring into this world.
Last week I learned that my co-worker and his wife are expecting their first child in the fall. Unlike my experience with a similar situation this past fall, I didn’t go home and cry. I felt happy for him and, at the same time, I tuned out. I pretended like his news didn’t hurt.
I’ve thought about letting him know about my situation, but I can’t figure out how to word it. “I am infertile.” No, I will not say that because that’s not who I am. I am loved, I am creative, I am full of possibilities, but I am not infertile. I will not let that define me.
I’ve written about this before, how words have power. Words that others say to me, as well as the words I say to myself. I don’t want to say, “I am infertile” to myself. When I say that I feel empty – like my insides are hollow. I don’t feel that way – I don’t feel empty, I don’t feel hollow.
Often I say, “It’s not likely we’ll have children.” This one doesn’t work well for me because it leaves hope in the picture, which although optimistic, is also quite painful.
I don’t have a rote sentence or explanation and maybe that’s how it needs to be. I want each conversation and each interaction to be authentic – if I’m ready to tell someone about this part of my life, I don’t want a well-polished statement. I want to be true to how I feel in that moment.
And, like Bookwifery, I’m not asking my co-worker to do anything differently. I don’t want my situation to dampen the office excitement. I don’t want my feelings to dictate what he chooses to share (or not) with our team. I just want him to know that if I’m not smiling or joining in on the celebration, it’s not because I’m not happy for him. My feelings have nothing to do with him or his wife or their growing family. I’m not pointing my fingers at him expecting him to do something differently – I’m revealing a part of myself, a part that needs a little more protection, a part that is still quite fragile.
Being open about all of this can be scary at times. Some people might be uncomfortable with what I write. Others can’t imagine sharing this out in the world. I agree with all of that – there are times I wonder why I write this too!
I don’t write in order to point my fingers at anyone, asking anyone to say or do things differently. Sure, I wish society as a whole would be more sensitive to this – asking questions other than, “do you have kids?” would be a start. But, the sensitivity is about me, not them. I can’t expect everyone to be aware of my needs at all times. This isn’t about what I need or want you to do – this is about how I respond and how my response really has nothing to do with the other person.
I write because it’s healing for me. And, I write because there’s a chance it might be healing for someone else too. And that right there is a tiny seed – a seed that may one day become a book. I’m not ready for that now. My family isn’t ready for that now. But one day, when the soil is rich and full of nutrients, that seed will grow and maybe a book will be harvested. Although the midwife metaphors are beautiful, I think I’ll claim the garden for the metaphor of my life. And like any good gardener must do, I tend and I wait.