I sat at a table surrounded by five other women I've known for years but hadn't seen in quite some time. There was wine being shared, except by the few who were pregnant, and a basket of forbidden (well to me) gluten with hand whipped butter being passed around the table. I took a long sip of my red wine before taking the warm bread and smothering the butter onto it before taking a bite into a version of heaven to me.
I had come in with no expectations, yet was prepared to struggle a bit that night with a few pregnant bellies and the only one at the table who is not a traditional mother. But it had been some time since I had seen everyone and even though it was not kids I had to share about I still have an interesting life to share.
There was laughter, baby tips and birth stories.
There was not one single inquiry for me.
I feel invisible a lot, especially marketing a book about infertility and loss. I feel invisible in our society a lot as the woman who can't have kids, where many times I am quite literally the only one every where I go.
Never have I felt more invisible than at that dinner table despite being surrounded by old friends. I breathed deep, engaged in the conversation and clasped my hands beneath the tablecloth harder and harder as if the pressure between my hands kept the tears from pouring down my face.
By the time I got home I was inconsolable.
I texted one of my other mom friends,
Thank you for seeing me, for always doing your best to make sure I don't feel invisible as the only one without kids. You have no idea how much that helps me survive this world.
Chad tried his best to console me as I tried to contain myself, he said,
You can cry.
He could tell I felt stupid and frustrated but there was no holding in these kinds of sobs,
It's not fair, you hardly ever have to deal with this.
He forced me into a hug and said,
You're right, guys don't talk about their kids nonstop.
He held me tighter and between sobs I managed to get out,
I will have to deal with this for the rest of my life.
As a therapist, hell as a human, I work hard to make sure every single person I am around feels seen, known and loved in my presence. Thriving after infertility without my own children has only strengthened this quality of mine.
Because I feel invisible almost all of the time.
It's been some time since that dinner, the work I have done the last several years helps me to know that this sense of being invisible is not my truth. It also helped going into National Infertility Awareness Week and my #MoreThan1in8 project and connecting with so many of my fellow warriors. But, it was scary knowing the dreaded Mother's Day was just around the corner.
The day of what feels like true disappearance from this world for a woman like me.
But this year, Mother's Day was different, for a couple of reasons.
- I reclaimed the day by giving myself permission to celebrate it myself.
- I felt more seen and loved well through it than ever before.
I received cards in the mail, texts and gifts from friends and more Facebook messages than I ever imagined. Many of these things coming from people who I never even realized were watching my journey at all, let alone cared about it.
I was a mother seen.
Because I speak my truth and own my story, sometimes to the dismay, disapproval and discernment of others, there is no choice but to know I exist.
I know my story is sad, I know it makes you uncomfortable and I know some wish I'd just stop already.
What I know now, several years into thriving, is that your denial, or perception, of my story does not change my truth.
I am seen. I am known. I am loved.
I am helping.
I am helping because I will make sure you feel seen, known and loved too.