I had a baby shower this past weekend.
No, not my baby shower (yet), but one for a good friend. The truth is that I've been trying to actively keep my distance from most things "baby". Not necessarily babies themselves – for some reason I’m okay around babies (in fact I love being around them). But pregnancy announcements and posts, baby showers, and pretty much anything leading up to baby births I've been trying to avoid. I can't really explain why some things trigger me more than others but they just do. I had planned on attending this particular shower in my mind well before it was planned. And to be honest, I thought (as I sometimes do when events are months away) that I would be pregnant for this one. So I wrote the date down on my iPhone calendar and left it at that. Flash forward a few months later; the shower is a month away and I'm nowhere closer to being pregnant.
But I had told myself I would go. I had the baby shower invitation still sitting on the kitchen counter as a reminder to RSVP. I kept looking at every day. I realized I didn't want to go anymore. Since I had told myself I was going to go a few months ago, three other people in my life became pregnant, and while I was very happy for them and still am, it just seemed to amplify everything for me and bring up all of those especially horrifying days when the conversation always started with "I’m sorry Erin…" It's like the universe wanted me to walk around with a neon sign over my head that read "not pregnant" while everyone else walked around holding their bellies with lit up arrows pointing at their stomach stating "baby on the way!" You can imagine what attending a baby shower might feel like when three people were going to be pregnant and where OBVIOUSLY the topic of conversation would be baby bumps.
I RSVP'd yes by the date on the invitation. I called my friend, who was hosting the shower, and asked if I could help. Maybe going the complete opposite direction would make me feel less anxious? Maybe being a part of the celebration would make the awkward feeling disappear. I also knew that this awkward feeling would be felt by several of the other ladies who knew what I was/am going through. I considered that maybe I shouldn't go so that no one feels like they have to walk on egg shells around me or feel uncomfortable talking about the obvious reason why we were celebrating. I certainly didn't want to bring anyone down or make the mommy-to-be feel bad or uncomfortable. There were so many emotions running through my brain and the closer and closer this date came the more and more anxious I became.
The day of the shower arrived and immediately upon waking up I started to talk myself out of going. "Don't go Erin, why torture yourself, if they're your friends they should understand…" I had a couple people tell me that, too. Yet, they were totally right, they should and most probably would understand, but would I? I mean, would I truly understand why I would be missing this shower other than to avoid feeling a rush of emotions I wasn’t sure I was ready for?
These are the moments when I feel like IVF has taken control of my true self. Not physically but mentally. I LOVE parties, events, any reason to celebrate friends and family (especially people like this mom-to-be who have been in my life for decades), so the feeling of anxiety taking over my body because of a baby shower scared the hell out of me. I despised the feeling.
Despite all this, I got dressed. I did my hair and makeup and boosted up my self -esteem at least in that way. I felt pretty and ready to be out! I packed the shower gifts and drove to the event. My heart was pounding as I walked in the door and saw a flood of beautiful women smiling and laughing. I passed all the baby shower games and treats and held my head up with what I hoped looked like a very real smile. I said hello to everyone and felt both a sense of relief that I had made it but also felt like everyone knew I was uncomfortable. I didn't let either emotion arise or take too much control and I carried on with some small talk.
We ate, we made a couple cute baby crafts and then we gathered around to watch the mommy to be open her gifts. I sat next to a good friend who always makes me feel normal and who can talk to me about anything and make me laugh. It was nice to feel a little more like myself around her. I still enjoyed seeing the baby gifts and seeing the outpour of joy coming from my pregnant friend but I also found comfort in talking about everything else in life. You know what? That feeling was OKAY! Thank goodness for this special girl in my life.
After the gifts were opened, we moved back into the outdoor area and chatted a little more. I did it, I thought. And I was so glad that I did. I felt stronger than ever sitting outside, towards the end of the day. I felt like I knew I had done the right thing, the thing that would allow me to sleep better at night. I felt a tremendous amount of joy for this friend who was about to have her first baby and it only reminded me of the babies I DO have and how lucky I am to have two gorgeous daughters to call my own. I remembered how excited I was to have my shower and how grateful I was to have all of my family and friends there and I really hoped that she felt the same way.
The day ended and I drove back home. Nick was home waiting for me with a nervous smile on his face. "I’m nervous to ask you how you're doing after today," he said, half joking. How sweet, I thought.
"I’m really glad I went," I said.
I threw my sweats on and settled into the couch next to him. My mind was still racing but my heart felt full for the first time that day. IVF brings SO many more challenges than the procedures alone. If someone had told me all of the emotions, roller coaster rides, and every day doubts and fears I'm not sure if I would have signed up for it. Or better yet, I probably wouldn't have believed them!
But this is real life, this is me, and while to most a baby shower seems like the perfect afternoon with friends, a baby shower to me can feel like a huge mountain to climb over. But I DID IT, and while I don't know if I could go to another one any time soon, I am so much stronger than I was. So I'll pat myself on the back and keep this moment in my back pocket for another day when I don't feel like I can keep going. I'll pull this one out and remind myself that I can, and I will.