Friday, August 3, 2018

The hazards of bridge building

It was lunchtime. Sitting together at a fold-out table, waiting for turns at the microwave, my new co-workers and I shifted our conversation from work to more personal topics. To the outside world, all of it was pleasant and benign, yet I was inwardly cringing as we touched on each topic knowing that though the three of us were clearly at ease, the topics we covered from housing to career tracks to finally our families, focusing on our children, would be landmines for so many.

Since Sunday, I've been thinking more and more about all of this. One of my biggest fears with moving to the Bay Area was facing Lucas and Moon. Until 4 months ago, I had never seen a photo of the daughter they conceived who's due date matches the babies I lost during my second miscarriage. Though Grey talks with Lucas regularly, I made a point to stay distant given all the negative emotions from those years in the trenches. The idea of having them both so close frightened me in ways I struggled to share.

Within a week of arriving in the Bay Area, Grey, Teddy, Maddy and I were invited over to celebrate Easter, a visit I steeled myself for but even then found myself struggling. Then there was another invitation to watch Teddy and Maddy while Grey and I were car shopping, which I agreed to at the last minute when it became clear both kids we're craving time with cousins. This followed with a conversation with Lucas about Moon's friends who were suffering following the loss of their child and then us learning that Teddy was going to require surgery too, leading to a call for help.

But what shocked Grey (and I believe Lucas too) was when Moon and I started texting one another. What started as a simple request to add her as a emergency contact lead to a conversation about birthdays (both sets of twins share a birthday month) followed by an invitation to join us at the aquarium. All figured out without either of the brothers involvement, leading to Grey wondering what the hell had transpired. On the visit, Moon and I would have a few moments to chat, asking each other about work and how life was generally going. It would be later as we were sitting together that she would open up more about her own worries in life. And it was because of that conversation that I would immediately think of her for help with my neighbor's daughter.

Interacting with my co-workers, I realized I'm at an odd crossroads with past hurts and damaged trust. In some cases I'm still fighting, like with my parents about my mother's continued inability to see how her actions and words don't lead to healing (she still doesn't understand why asking me to adopt my cousin's son after he had been removed from her custody as a way to cure my inability to get pregnant would be damaging). But with Moon and Lucas, the situation is different. Olive branches are being extended on both sides and it's becoming clear that the pain that was caused didn't come from a place of malice, but of lack of context to begin understanding.

The thing I struggle with the most is how to move beyond and foster the bridge that is slowly forming. Unlike disagreements or arguments that are considered socially normal, this situation created in the midst of trauma is largely uncharted. For me, trust was broken compounded by the additions of triggers and pain during moments where I felt like I was drowning. Though I know well there were moments I behaved badly, it's not as simple as asking for forgiveness because I believe it's important that they understand there was underlying hurt in how some things transpired. The isolation Grey and I experienced, both together and as individual, was far from okay.

The realization I've been puzzling over more is that understanding infertility and loss is extremely difficult for anyone who hasn't experienced it. Just like any trauma, most people are unable to relate and even for those who have walked this path, there's a tendency that is highly encouraged by society and loved ones to block out that pain. These things frighten so many and there's a natural desire to block all of it out in hopes of continuing with what is normal. Hence it's difficult to understand how things that can be triggers would be painful. There's a societal enforcement of keeping one's head in the sand, preventing others who might want to understand from getting a footing for how. An unexpected gift from infertility is becoming aware, tasting pain on this level and being aware that though there are different paths towards healing; that it's not about making things instantly right or better, even though that's the first instinctual reaction.

But another realization that has been emerging is that triggers for trauma often come through efforts to connect. That when people ask what they consider benign questions about family make up or milestones, the purpose is through their own intention of finding common ground. Granted, so many are extremely sloppy at this, likely encountering many moments where the answers result in awkward silences and them failing to follow through with establishing a connection through another route. The summary statement being that many lack the refinement in social skills to navigate triggering others.

I don't have any sage advice from all these reflections, given that I'm currently navigate the minefield of my own crossroads. Hell, I'd love some advice! But one thing I am beginning to appreciate more is that as humans, though we are social creatures, we struggle a lot even under the best of circumstances. Infertility just manages to fuck it all up even more.


  1. The challenges I've been through with IF (and other stuff) have made me realize that I have probably been on the ignorant/offensive side of social interactions with others in realms I know nothing about. Because I just didn't know. And I didn't know what I didn't know!

    Anyway, surviving such things has made me, I think, more sensitive and compassionate. However, I'm sure there is still a ton that I don't know I don't know.

    I'm glad that the bridge is under construction.

  2. Oh, yes. Trying to navigate the broken bits of relationships when there's trauma involved is just...yeah, so much its own thing. The only thing I've learned over the last few years in those situations is that it has to be taken one moment/emotion/event at a time, and I try to find the tricky balance between being cautious after some major hurts but also seeing and valuing olive branches for what they are. No real good advice, just hoping for you that you and Grey are able to navigate this bridge construction for the best (whatever that winds up looking like for you).



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