Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Dealing With Our Scars June 14, 2012

By Quasi-Momma

How much time do you spend concealing “what is?”   As I begin my road toward healing, it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

I have tiny scars on my chin from blemishes. I don’t like them, so every morning I dig into my arsenal of beauty products — foundation, concealer, powder, and the like — to make them appear like tinier, lighter versions of what they are.  This enables me to leave my house feeling a little less self-conscious.

The time I spend performing this ritual allows me to practice hiding my emotional scars as well. I take stock of how I’m feeling, rehearse my mask of calmness, and identify potential triggers that might set my heart reeling. It’s a routine I haven’t quite yet mastered. With relatively fresh wounds, it is difficult to maintain composure at times, especially in the face of cherub-like cheeks, rounded bellies, and all things that radiate motherhood. I am no Lady Gaga.  Yes, you CAN read my poker face.  I need more practice.

Last month as I was getting ready for an unavoidable family reunion and bracing myself for being around a pregnant relative, I wondered aloud to Hubs if it would just be easier to wear a little sign around my neck. It would be like a “Don’t Feed the Bears” sign, only mine would read, “Don’t ask me about [insert relative’s name here]’s pregnancy.”  He shook his head sympathetically, laughed and said with his best southern-boy charm, “That ain’t right.”  I agreed, and then offered to make him one too.

Joking aside, Hubs is correct. Indiscriminate expressions of hurt are not appropriate. Everyone has their own burdens, and our issues belong to us. We simply can’t expect everyone to sympathize with our plight. Not many people truly can. Selective concealment is a necessary evil.

This leads me to wonder how we can know when it is appropriate to reveal our emotional scars to the outside world. What yardstick is used to decide when we show them and to whom? How do we prepare ourselves for the reactions of those who just don’t “get it?”  Do your scars protect you?  Do they give you strength? Or do you no longer consider them as such?

Quasi-Momma is not quite a mom, but has always wanted to be.  In her blog, Quasi-momma, she explores her struggles with pregnancy loss and facing childlessness while grappling with the ups and downs of step family life.

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9 Responses to “Dealing With Our Scars”

  1. Jenny Says:

    I don’t hide my scars well. I still tear up every so often on my morning walk when I pass by the little day care center and see all the moms unloading their babies and gear for the day. Also it has taken me a long time to feel comfortable and appropriate disclosing what we have been through. I still tend to reserve my comments regarding that just to those online. I’m just not able to handle the reactions of those who don’t get it; I can’t deal with the questions; and I’m afraid some people would feel that because we made a conscious decision to stop treatment that we aren’t entitled to our grief. I think the general public equates the grief of childlessness to the disappointment of not landing a dream job. Unless it is happening to you, it really isn’t that big of a deal. I was recently asked in public by an acquaintance if we had plans to have children; my pause as I struggled with how I should answer became awkward. To just say “no” implies that I’m someone whom I’m not. I really really wanted to be a mom. I think about it every day. But to explain things is just too complicated. All that being said, we’re turning over a new leaf in our life and I started a new, very public (well, once it picks up), blog/website. In the about me page, I came out and talked about our infertility/childlessness. I had done this before on my previous personal site, but I didn’t want to carry it over into our new life. My husband though encouraged me to do it. It *is* a part of who we are, like it or not, and it is a part of where we are going ~ people need to understand and accept that.

  2. shari Says:

    Hello! When I am in that situation, I keep my pain to myself. To me this is a private issue. I guess I just don’t want to deal with any questions, opinions or advice from well-meaning outsiders. They don’t understand and it is not my job to educate them.

  3. Jen Says:

    When I started my new job back in November, I was still dealing with horrible hot flushes and hadn’t gone to see my new GYN who specializes in menopause yet, but I felt that after a month of being here and the fact it is a school (there are children everywhere) that I choose to tell my co-workers in my department (3 people – all women). I guess I wanted them to know before I started to get the question of “do you have children?”. I also felt pretty comfortable at that point with them and with trying to deal with the hot flashes at the same time, I just wanted to lay it all out there. Maybe due to the fact they are older than me (late 50’s and 60’s) and their children are grown and some have their own now, I didn’t get any “unwanted” reactions from them. I truly think they felt for me and that after all we had been thru that our choice to be “childless” was our choice (no, why don’t you just adopt or use an egg donor). I wish I could say everyone I encounter has this kind of reaction, but they don’t. I just feel fortunate that these women that I work with on a daily basis do. I don’t judge others on how they handle their situation as I believe this is truly a personal choice.

  4. S Says:

    It’s a good point that we all have our burdens. I tend to get wrapped up in my “poor me I don’t have children”. Sometimes I don’t stop to think about what issues other “normal” people are carrying. For instance a bachelor friend recently confided in my husband that he is “sick of being alone”. This friend arrives at outings, has conversations, has fun. I wouldn’t know that this tough guy is really sick of being the third wheel and just wants to find that person to be his other half. When I stop and think of how I socialize I realize that a great deal of conversation does revolve around your spouse, what “we’re” doing to our house. Where “we’re” going on vacation. How “we’re” spending the holiday. To a single person who really wants to be a “we” that must get tiring.

    Or how about people who have difficult family dynamics? It must be sad and frustrating to chat about the lovely holidays when they know they have a mountain of drama instead of happy times. A person with chronic health issues must hate conversations where people complain about mundane things when it’s a challenge for them to get dressed in the morning.

    Of course our issues are important and that is why we are here – to get and give support. But todays post makes me think of how my issues are no greater or less than the personal issues of another.

  5. Amy Says:

    Re:’Do you have kids?” question….Sometimes, when you least expect it, your life intersects with another childfree person and it results in a great retort to the seemingly simple dreaded question….

    I was going about my typical workday – happened to be at a workshop that day. The speaker – a mid 60’s-aged guy who does medical research finished his power point with a picture of himself and his wife with a bunch of other people involved in his research. About 20 people of all ages sitting casually on a set of stairs – sort of looked like an intergenerationa-family pic. He looked out into the crowd and winked at his mid 60’s-aged wife – then he added this awesome non-sequitor at the very end ~ “We don’t have kids..(wink)..but we try every day.” BEST line for me to hear that day. I intend to pull it out and use it when I can. : )

  6. Quasi-Momma Says:

    Thanks for the comments ladies. When I wrote this piece, I was struggling with the feelings resulting from a pregnancy that would bring a new grandchild to my in-laws life. After losing two pregnancies of my own, I foolishly thought that the new pregnancy would somehow be viewed as a “replacement” for the grandchildren we could not give them. It was a idea that was fueled by pain. I did not want my babies to be forgotten. No new miracle was going to replace the miracles that I lost. The feeling of beng foresaken on the mom front was strong. I’m in a calmer place for now.

    I realized that what I really wanted, needed in fact, was some acknowledgement from my family that they understood that I really wanted my babies and they knew how painful this was for me. But I realized that (a) not everyone was going to be able to do that and (b) if I was going to get that acknowledgement from the people that really mattered, I needed to express myself. Given that Hub’s family are the ones least likely to acknowledge the elephant in the room, I started to express myself privately to my MIL. While I never got the exact words I was hoping for, I did get the acknowledgement that we weren’t the only ones hurting over the loss. That made a world of difference.

  7. Wolfers Says:

    I was thinking long about your quote, “Indiscriminate expressions of hurt are not appropriate.” I can’t help but wonder if it’s because of the society’s expectations, social consequences from emotional suppression in the Western-European culture here?

    Mind you, I am Swedish and Irish by descent, but I had grown up in two different cultures, with exposure to other cultures. In the Middle east, it’s okay for parents to be very expressive with their grief over miscarriages, children- the town knows how much the family grieves. It is very much same in many other cultures in Africa, South America and etc. The general purpose here is to have the village grieve with them, to remember what is missing, as they welcome new lives as well.

    Back then, women were open about their miscarriages, and being barren. Women were supportive to each other. Death was considered a part of nature, and part of us all, not to be ignored.

    It was only lately in the 21st century when -mind you- this is my own theory… it’s not okay to talk about death, it’s not okay to talk about what is lost, we develop emotional suppression as an habit, to protect ourselves because of the society’s disapproval of being public with negative emotion/experiences. Society approves of positive/affirmative behavior/emotions, even a graduation for children who finishes pre-school! Every child get a participating award even if they did not win the first, second or third prizes in the race.

    I ‘fess even when someone talked about a miscarriage back then, I felt uncomfortable. I did not know what to say. I dismissed her, by telling her that she’d have other babies, and then changing the subject. How can we help ourselves heal if we don’t get recognition, validation, and acknowledgement that we lost something, and that we need to be reminded that we all are human, AND to help us heal? How can staying in the dark, staying mum in the dark, and sparing others in the dark help us heal?

    I didn’t mean to go on this… I just wanted to share my thoughts, and to let you know that I hear your pain, your anger, and of acknowledging the scars that you bear, of your loss that cannot be forgotten.

  8. Lois Says:

    I do selective concealment too. It’s a part of my nature and I have been doing it all my life for one thing or another. I do try to be more open. But when it comes to childlessness, it does not just involve me, it involves my husband too. Yes it’s my pain, my struggle, but it’s intertwined with him and us, and I don’t feel it’s appropriate to share too much with people who know us both unless he’s good with it. Some stuff is just TMI for most people.
    So things about him, us, affect me and I don’t say anything, just carry it around with me for the most part. I have scars that no-one else with never see.

  9. Mali Says:

    I think we all do selective concealment, whether it is over our infertility, or other scars we inevitably collect through our lives. And I think that by and large it is healthy and normal to do that – it protects us, and it protects others. I do wish it was more accepted to talk about more openly, without judgement. But I’m not sure whether I would do that anyway. There are times when it will surprise me that I do feel comfortable saying something. But that’s the point – it’s when I feel comfortable that I do it. My scars and my pain are very private (except here on the internet!), and I don’t and won’t share those with everyone.


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