Hands-Off Mom or Helicopter Mom?

This month’s topic for PAIL is the following:

How do you decide how much independent play is best for your child, and how long of a leash do you give them to do that?

There’s a lot wrapped up in my answers to that question. First of all, what you must know about me, is my guilt complex is over-developed. When it comes to other people, most of what I worry and think about it is “what would a good ____ (mother, wife, daughter) do?” and I measure myself by that yardstick. If I deviate at all, I feel guilty and horrible. I’m a horrible wife, a horrible daughter and a horrible mother.

Two weeks ago when we had a weekend with few plans (usually a yay!) after unexpected days home due to illness, I was crabby and frustrated. Probably a little anxious too. I stormed outside with Daniel that Saturday and Jimmy looked at me, inquiring, “what is wrong?” I answered, “I’m bored.” I practically stomped my feet like a 6-year-old. And the guilt set in immediately. After all, how can you possibly be bored with your children? Isn’t that an impossibility? A good mother wouldn’t ever feel bored. She would identify a suitable craft and get to work. Or plan a nature walk to identify various types of flora and fauna through the local paths.

The guilt set in immediately. How could I feel bored with this small boy, my treasure? My miracle? I should spend every damn moment he’s awake playing with him on the floor. He should have whatever he wants, and I should try to make his environment as stimulating and wonderful as possible. Isn’t that what a good mother, a mother who appreciated the incredible blessing she had been given would do?

The truth is, Daniel plays well by himself and always has.  He asks us to play with him from time to time, and we do, but he is happy playing by himself.  This frees us up to do laundry, dishes, cook, clean, get ready for the next day while keeping an attentive ear out for his play. I love it and of course, I feel guilty about it. Shouldn’t I be playing with him all the time? Shouldn’t we be his companions and work to develop his imagination and skills all the time? How can dishes and laundry compare with such a responsibility?

While I do feel guilty naturally, a lot of the guilt I feel is compounded by how much effort we went through to have him. If we worked so hard to have him, how could we prioritize chores over him? Surely, he should come first and take precedence over everything. The problem is that I’ve also learned my limits and what I do and do not enjoy about parenting. I am not a great person to play with preschoolers right now. They are set in their ways and want to play on their terms. Such absolutism frustrates me. Right now, Daniel would rather watch a couple of videos than read books during our bedtime routine, which I get, but is still a shock to the system.

I guess the real question is how you let your children develop their own interests and become their own people, yet still feel like you have influenced them and made sure they know how much you love them? Right now, Daniel is enrolled in no extracurricular activities. I’ve thought about swimming lessons or tae kwon do, but it hasn’t progressed beyond that. Daniel’s school day is 8-2:45 followed by after school care from 2:45-5ish or whenever I pick him up.  We think that’s enough activities for now, but I wonder if we are denying him from having important experiences. And then I remind myself that he’s 4 and it’s OK. He can just be a little boy for now. Right?

I suppose that to move on from what is rapidly becoming an encomium to the guilt that rules my existence, I should look at some of the other PAIL questions:

Are you more “hands off” as a parent than you thought you’d be? More of a “helicopter parent?” Are you happy with the type of parent you’ve turned out to be?

I do feel like I am more hands-off than I anticipated, and unsurprisingly, I have mixed feelings. I love that Daniel can play by himself in our home, but I wonder if I should do more to encourage play with us. When we go to a public park or museum, we hover quite a bit because we went through a hitting phase when Daniel was 2 that still haunts us. He’s almost 4.5, yet we still feel the need to hover in public. JHC, it’s almost like PTSD.

I struggle a lot with trying to figure out the parenting style that genuinely works with us and what the “experts” say we should do. Daniel is happy. Daniel likes his toys. We have great conversations in the car, at dinner and at bedtime. Are we ignoring him or fostering his independent play skills?

Ultimately, I think it boils down to what your definition of a good mother is. In 2013, it still comes back to that.


If Your Child is Born but You aren’t the One Giving Birth, is it Still Your Birth Story?

PAIL’s Monthly Theme for October is about your birth story. Technically, we have one, but I wasn’t the one giving birth.  I wrote about our surrogacy birth experience a couple of years ago.

I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to birth stories because I can’t really participate. Get a group of women together who have children and you can be certain that at some point the topic will come up and the story swapping will begin. What can I offer? “Oh, my surrogate pushed for 5 minutes and almost didn’t have time to get an epidural!” Yeah, that’s a bit of a conversation stopper.

Women bond over their birth stories. It’s the female version of a war story. And I get why they are important. I do. Birth is an amazing, beautiful, terrifying experience and the end result is literally life changing. It’s just that after spending 4 years being mute during discussions of pregnancy symptoms, delicious babies and birth stories as well as dreading baby showers, I was looking forward to being in the club. And I am, sort of. I failed to realize there was another level of membership, of initiation, and I can’t join. I am silent again. You don’t realize how much the discussion of motherhood revolves around the physical aspects until you are unable to participate, to contribute.

Contribute. Maybe that’s what bothers me. I am unable to contribute to the larger narrative of pregnancy and birth that is unique to the female experience. Does that negate my experience? Make me less of a member? Perpetually a junior member of the club Mother?

But then again, 4 years out from my son’s birth, I am wiser. I’ve realized over the passage of time and (sometimes painful) experience that there are always clubs to which we cannot belong. There are new clubs I didn’t realize existed until recently and clubs to which I belong that others may envy.

So ladies, I do not begrudge you your birth stories. You earned them. My story may be a bit more unconventional with me hyperventilating in a chair and wishing for a Valium, but that’s OK. The end result was the same.

I’m the Monday Snapshot!

Hi. I’m here. Insane, but here.  We have under 2 weeks to go until our Listen to Your Mother show and much like a wedding, there are many last minute details to finish up.  I find myself humming, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” at odd moments, but you know? It feels GOOD to be back in this theatrical environment. Also? Tickets are still available!

And work has responded by crowding my calendar with meetings, meetings and more meetings.  Today I was in Greensboro for our strategic plan refresh session. I was in meetings pretty much every day last week and will be in meetings every day this week. Even Friday, and that’s just wrong!

Months ago, I signed up to be part of PAIL’s Monday Snapshot. They told me it would likely be April before mine went up, and I promptly forgot.  Last week, they emailed me that Monday was my day, and I promptly forgot again. Then this morning, I woke up to an email asking if I had gotten the earlier email and if I could still participate. Yikes.

I was looking so forward to participating and had screwed up royally. I hurriedly found a picture, wrote a few paragraphs and sent it out. The PAIL ladies were very sweet to work with me despite my tardiness, and my profile went up later today.

I’m not usually so disorganized, and I hope to be in better form soon. In the meantime, check out my Snapshot if you have a moment.

We survived Monday, right?

20 Questions: More Than You Wanted to Know

PAIL is hosting a meme designed to get to know us better.  They may regret that 😉  Here are my answers to the 20 questions!

1. What was the last thing you threw in the garbage/recycling?

The greasy paper towel on which I microwaved pre-cooked bacon for breakfast this morning.  I had 5 pieces (4 really because I gave one to Daniel), yet it wasn’t very filling.  Kind of like eating bacon-flavored sawdust.

2.  What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?

“Last Resort” by Papa Roach.  It’s the first song on my Ire playlist.  I love the part where the singer howls in frustration, “I. Can’t. Go. On. Living. This. Way.” I’m not sure what that says about me; maybe I need to take up yoga?

3. What is your favorite quote?

Just one? Impossible.

“Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy to those who think” (Walpole)

“The world is too much with us” (Wordsworth)

“Can’t talk to a psycho like a normal human being” (Poe – there’s a life lesson there)

4. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?

Is “all of them” an acceptable answer?  Truthfully, cleaning the litter box.  We have geriatric cats who view the litter box as optional, especially when it crosses the line of their (nebulous) cleanliness threshold.

5. What is your favorite form of exercise?

I keep two 10 LB free weights in the closet, and I do tricep and bicep work before I get dressed most mornings.  Sadly, you can’t tell because I appear to lack muscle in general.

6. What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?

Time of day: 7:45 PM for story time with Daniel.  It’s the calmest part of our evening.

Day of the week: Saturday. Hopefully I’ve had a chance to catch up on sleep, yet I still have another day off.

Month: October because Fall is in full swing and you have the anticipation of the holidays, but life hasn’t become too hectic yet.

7. What is on your bedside table?

Daniel’s books for story time, a stack of my own books to read, coasters, a book light and a creature that in theory plays soothing music for infants but terrified Daniel.  Jimmy, however, loved it.  We call it the “Kraken.”

8. What is your favorite body part?

Hmm. Maybe my legs because they are long and look nice in dresses and skirts.  Maybe my shoulders because they are broad. Is hair a body part? If so, maybe my hair because of its color.

9. Would you use the power of invisibility for good or evil? Elaborate.

I’d like to say for good, but I’d probably use it to sneak around and eavesdrop.

10.  If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?

Probably my current age of 35.  I feel like I have experience and wisdom but am neither too young nor too old.  My body hasn’t completely crapped out yet, but I have the scars from our infertility journey.  I can’t imagine wanting to stay an age in which Daniel didn’t exist yet.

11. What is the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?

Faint. Then book a trip for the three of us to Europe.

12. What is your biggest pet peeve?

I’d like to stay stupidity, but it goes beyond a pet peeve.  People who can’t get to the point or who complain all the time.

13. If you could know the answer to any question, what would it be?

Is there life after death?

14. At what age did you become an adult

Birth. Just kidding. Sort of. Um…21.  After I graduated college, I decided not to teach, which meant I had to pay back my $25K scholarship.  I decided that paying it back myself and finding my own way was more important than doing something that would ultimately make me unhappy.

15.  Recommend a book, movie or television show in three sentences or less.

That’s tough.  Breaking Bad for its tragic study of the common, modern man. Law & Order because there are 20 seasons to keep you occupied and provide food for thought. The Emperor of All Maladies to make you realize how far we still have to go for a cure for cancer.  Far from the Tree to highlight various ways in which children are alienated from their families. BBC’s Pride & Prejudice because Colin Firth (duh).

16. What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?

I was a perfect child 😉 I sneaked out of the house and rode down the street on my tricycle when I was 3ish.

17.  What was the first album you bought with your own money?

I think Pearl Jam’s Vs. My cassette (!) still had the original title of “Five Against One” on it.

18. If someone wrote a book about you, what would be the title?

Not as smart as she thinks she is.

19. What story do you wish your family would stop telling about you?

My birth story. The doctors had to break my mother’s tail bone, and I always feel guilty about that.  Also, the story about putting a wet diaper on my head to cure my cradle cap.

20. True or False: The unicorn is the greatest mythical creature. State your case.

I’m tempted to say the unicorn, especially since I am one (unicornuate ute) 😉  I dunno.  Being me, I spent 20 minutes Googling “mythical creatures” so I could make an informed decision. Wow, there are a lot of mythical creatures.  Unicorns are cool and all, but what do they do except symbolize purity? I like the griffin. I think “chupacabra” is fun to say. Or maybe a chimera? She sounds pretty bad ass.  Fun fact: did you know that there are human chimeras?  Look up a documentary called “I Am My Own Twin.”

My apologies if you wish you could unread this post.

Book Review: The Conflict (about which I am conflicted)

This month’s PAIL book club pick was Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. I was excited when I found out that The Conflict was the next book because I was halfway through it (and had been since April), and it gave me the nudge I needed to finish the book AND have a built-in group of bloggers with whom to discuss it.

In The Conflict, Elisabeth Badinter analyzes the rise of the child-centric culture and how it threatens the progress made by feminism. Modern motherhood demands sacrifice – total sacrifice – from the mother as she places the needs of her child first. A goodmother births naturally, breast feeds for as long as possible, wears her baby, co-sleeps, cloth diapers and makes her own baby food. The dirty secret, Badinter points out, is that this emphasis on all-things natural takes a lot of time and devotion, hurting women’s freedom, ability to work, sense of self and relationships. According to Badinter, the rise of the La Leche League and its influence on breast feeding, the ecological movement and the assumption that natural must be better and safer crashed into a generation of women who believed that their mothers pursued their own independence to the detriment of child-rearing, leading them to grow up swearing they would not parent that way.

All Things Natural

Badinter heavily criticized the trend towards natural parenting and the pressure under which it places women: natural is best and anything else is inferior. Badinter paints the emphasis on natural parenting as almost a conspiracy and while I concede that it does undermine a woman’s independence in that she is attached to her child constantly and at the child’s beck and call, I hardly think that petulant men were conspiring with the La Leche League in some smoky back room to figure out how to chain women back to the home and convince them that it was their idea.

I am not an attachment parent. I would have had an epidural if I gave birth. I did not induce lactation so I could breast feed and when F needed to start a medication that would require her to stop pumping, we switched to formula without a second thought. Ok, I admit that I did have a few qualms and last-minute regret as I got ready to mix that first batch of formula after 5 months of breast milk. I didn’t baby wear a lot; honestly, the contraptions looked so complex that I was worried I would get it wrong and drop the baby. We did not use cloth diapers, and it was for selfish reasons: I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. They seem gross to me and didn’t seem feasible to me as a working mom. A few days after Daniel was born, my mother and mother-in-law were talking about diapers and how when Jimmy and I were babies, cloth diapers were the only option and how much work and how nasty they were. To them, disposable diapers are a miraculous time saver. I know that cloth diapers have changed a lot since the 70s, but it is interesting how one generation’s scourge becomes another generation’s preference.

We did co-sleep for a while. It wasn’t a philosophical decision; it came strictly out of a desire to get more sleep when Daniel woke up in the middle of the night. What surprised Jimmy and me was how much we liked having him in bed with us. We loved having the opportunity to snuggle him and feel his warmth and hear his even breathing as he slept between us. We also made our own baby food. Again, that was something I never planned to do (so very crunchy in my opinion and while I am liberal, I am not crunchy) but after seeing how jarred food looked and smelled, I thought that surely it couldn’t be too much more work to make our own apples and sweet potatoes. We’d make huge batches of pureed fruits and veggies and freeze them. I have to admit that there was also something about looking at Daniel and thinking that he deserved only the best; surely we could take a few extra minutes and make homemade food for him, and it gave me joy and satisfaction to do so. And if I’m completely honest, probably a little smugness as well.

I often wonder how infertility influences our parenting styles. Because I didn’t carry Daniel, I felt detached from a lot of the hot-button parenting issues surrounding birthing, eating and sleeping. My focus was on getting a live baby. I can see, though, how infertility could possibly influence a mother down the path of natural parenting. These hard-won babies deserve only the best, right?

Motivations for Having a Child

Badinter writes that most couples cite “happiness” as the primary reason to have a child, a motivation that causes them to be shocked when the reality of parenting sets in. I do think that a lot of couples don’t think deeply enough about what parenting a child entails and likely do make the decision wearing rose-colored glasses. Yes, there are sacrifices required even if you aren’t an attachment parent. The reality of parenting is that a child takes up a lot of your time, energy and focus. Forever. I think it is hard to understand what parenting is like – really like – until you are one and maybe that’s nature’s way of ensuring the biological imperative wins out and the species continues now that we can choose whether to have children. It would be helpful for there to be more frank accounts of what parenting is like, though; maybe such accounts would reduce the pressure to live up to the ideal of the good mother. Hopefully our blogs can provide that.

Infertility forced us to think long and hard about why we wanted to have children. If your route to parenthood includes invasive procedures and a lot of money, you better be damn sure you want to have children. At the same time, for us at least, finally attaining a child did come to equal happiness: everything will be better once we have a child. I think that belief insulated us from some of the first shocks and frustrations of parenting. Not much phased us because we were so damned happy and relieved Daniel was here. I’m not implying that infertility makes us better parents and Daniel has been a fairly easy child. What I’m trying to say is that for us anyway, we had been in such a dark place for so long that any negatives were buffered and experiences filtered through the lens of not having him here.

This book is the latest in a series of books that has made me think about how I parent Daniel, how I feel I should be parenting him and what mix I should strive for. I do feel pressure to make my child the center of my universe – not from any person per se but from society in general and when I don’t spend every moment playing with him or nurturing his intellect, I feel like a bad mother as I wrote last week. What Bringing Up Bebe and The Conflict helped me realize is that not all cultures are as child-centric as America is and that it’s ok, maybe even preferable, not to be.

Overall, I thought the book was an easy read if a bit disappointing. Some of her arguments and conclusions came across to me as flimsy and that impression wasn’t helped by her usage of end notes because I couldn’t find the source as I was reading and judge its merits accordingly. Badinter examined leave policies and parental support initiatives in several countries and didn’t find one that offered a completely workable model for any country, making me wonder what the big takeaway from the book is supposed to be. Are we supposed to question why we have children instead of just mindlessly reproducing? Are we, especially women, supposed to make a detailed pros and cons list? Am I supposed to buy stock in Enfamil?

Healing Salon: Let’s Talk

French salon

Bienvenue!  If this were a genuine salon, I would be reclining on a daybed while you all sat around me (rather kinky!), making a salon a very intimate exchange of ideas and debate.  In that spirit, I welcome you to my virtual room, the “room” in which I share my thoughts and musings, ridiculous and profane and even mundane.    I’m excited to be your hostess and salonniere as part of the Healing Salon suggested by Mel as a way to heal the issues from last week (see this post for a summary).  Please let me introduce myself.  I am KeAnne.  I’m 34 and since we started TTC in 2005, I have experienced many of the stops along the ALI road.  In 2007, I was diagnosed with stage 4 endo and a uterine anomaly and told that our options were IVF, surrogacy or adoption.  In addition to our pointless prior Clomid and injectible/IUI cycles, we tried one IVF and one FET, both negative.  As we were weighing our options in late 2007, Jimmy suggested surrogacy while I was ready to move to adoption.  We agreed to give surrogacy a try first, and I met our gestational carrier practically days after our agreement.  We cycled in September of 2008 and had our first positive beta ever.   At our first u/s at 9 weeks, we saw two sacs and two fetuses but only one had a heartbeat. The other fetus had stopped developing about a week before.   The rest of the pregnancy progressed uneventfully (wow!), and our son was born on June 2, 2009.

Yes, I am parenting after infertility, but it might be more accurate to say that I am parenting despite infertility because I am still infertile.  I still have endometriosis and the uterine anomaly.  I’ve always found those couples who “forget” their infertility after having a baby to be disingenuous at best and traitors at worst.

I write all of this to say that I get it.  Obviously I identify with other infertiles who now have children, but I still understand and can easily access the pain and fear and anger and sadness at finding yourself unable to do what so many seem to do without little or any thought.   I volunteered to host one of the salons because I believe that we can find a way to repair last week’s hurts (cue up “Love Can Build a Bridge”).

My role is to facilitate our conversation.  I ask only that you be respectful but honest in your responses.  It will do no good if we can’t have a genuine conversation.  So let’s begin.

Here are my questions:

  1. Is the ALI community that has been collected and organized by Mel able to encompass the entire ALI journey or can it only represent those still in the trenches?  Why or why not?
  2. While we all have the collective goal of moving to the other side, be that side parenting or living child free, why do so many bloggers who have moved on feel excluded from support and even despised? How can the community help them feel supported and included?
  3. Why do you blog about ALI? What is your primary motivation for doing so?
  4. Within the ALI community as curated by Mel, who should be responsible for community building  and innovation, creating new blogrolls, etc?  Should it be top-down or is there room for grass-root movements?
  5. What was the most frustrating aspect about last week’s brouhaha to you?
  6. If you have children now, what one thing would you want those in the trenches to know?  Conversely, if you are still in the trenches, what one thing would you want those parenting to know?
  7. You are Empress of the Internet for one day.  How would you fix the division and hurt feelings from last week? Or, is it fixable?
  8. Anything else?  Feel free to ask your own questions, say what you are thinking.

I look forward to having this conversation with you!

Beyond the PAIL

The phrase “beyond the Pale” refers to the part of Ireland under English control during the Middle Ages.  Pale came to mean boundary; therefore, if you move beyond it, you are outside of the boundary and laws don’t apply.  The phrase implies that you’ve gone too far and are alone.

That concept is fitting given the controversy roiling in the ALI (Adoption/Loss/Infertility community over the creation of the PAIL (Parenting/Pregnancy After Infertility and/or Loss) community.  Quick recap:  the PAIL community was created by Elphaba (we do love our nom-de-plumes) to help those who feel between worlds once they achieve pregnancy or parenthood.   Unfortunately, the creation of the community was done without discussing it with the ALI community’s godmother, the amazing woman who has worked tirelessly over many years to build a space in which everyone felt included and supported, and she feels hurt and that her ideas are being used to build something exclusive instead of inclusive.

There has been a lot of nastiness in the comments accusing PAIL members of using the community to rub their success in the faces of those who are still trying to achieve parenthood and even some resurrection of everyone’s favorite game: the pain Olympics.

What the members of PAIL keep trying to explain and what continues to be ignored is the very real need for support for those parenting after infertility.

The ALI community is an inclusive, supportive place when you are wondering why you don’t ovulate.  When you are having vial after vial of blood drawn.  When you move to HSGs, clomid, IUIs and IVF.  When you lose a baby too soon.  When you agonize over the importance of biological ties. When you need to consider the ethics of domestic or international adoption.  When you are outraged over a surrogacy attorney’s crimes. When you need to vent about callous friends and family members who don’t understand your pain. The community celebrates your highs and mourns with you during your lows.

Sadly, as many of us have discovered, that support ends when you receive a positive pregnancy test and/or finally achieve that take-home baby.  Blog readers drop off.  When you participate in the community, you are ignored.   Your new status is everyone’s goal, yet you are almost ostracized once you reach it. The solution, as some of the commenters on Stirrup Queen’s post suggested, is for us to expand our readership into the general mom blogosphere.

Ignoring the fact that the solution is a bit condescending, the real problem is that we don’t feel like we belong completely in the broader parenting community.  I don’t feel like I belong completely.  I am a mother, but I still feel “other.”

There are some tangible reasons someone parenting after infertility might feel different from mothers who took a more conventional route to their children.  They might be parenting a child of another race or in an open adoption and dealing with the issues that surround those situations.  They might not have carried their child themselves.   They might have to include complicated factors such as donor sperm, eggs or embryos into their child’s origin story. They might be dealing with mountains of debt and scarred veins from IVF treatments needed to achieve that child.

They might be parenting multiples and fielding knowing glances from strangers insinuating that they know your children must be the result of infertility treatment and feeling free to inquire after the regimen and using terms like “natural” (with the implication that your children are unnatural). Parenting after infertility causes many of us to redefine our definition of what a mother is.  What a family is.

Though I have my much-loved sweet boy, I still can’t participate in some of the experiences and situations mothers use to bond with other mothers.  Baby showers no longer cause me pain, yet when conversation turns to swapping war stories on birth options, labor experiences and breast feeding, I literally have nothing to say.   I notice the other preschool moms in my son’s (former) class are all either pregnant or have recently given birth to their second child, and my mind goes to our 5 embryos in storage and the tens of thousands of dollars we will need to make a second child a reality.   I observe the heated discussions over breast feeding vs formula feeding, natural birth vs pain medication vs c-sections, and they don’t mean anything to me (which is probably a good thing).  I have no stretch marks to display (not from pregnancy anyway), no frustration over shedding baby weight.  These concerns may sound frivolous, but they are the very real conversation of mothers around the often primal nature of motherhood.

I find myself questioning myself as a mother all the time.  Am I giving Daniel everything he needs?  Am I being the best mother I can for him?  Is there something in me that prevents me from being a good mother? Because I faced the real fear of never having a child, I now feel fear all the time.  Fear that I won’t be deserving of this incredible miracle that we were handed.

Some of this otherness and doubt may stem from the fact that our membership in the ALI community is based on the fact that we are abnormal at procreating in some way; that acknowledgement of not being “normal” doesn’t go away once you have a child.  And that you needed to use medical treatment to subvert your body, while amazing and miraculous, sometimes makes me wonder whether I achieved motherhood fraudulently.  Was I supposed to be a mother?

Maybe that’s the crux of my otherness: a nasty, deep-down suspicion that I don’t belong because I wasn’t supposed to be there.

I don’t write this post to be dramatic and fuel the fire on the inferno of PAIL.  I love my son.  I would have done nothing differently to have him.  I can swap stories about sleeping and feeding when he was an infant, commiserate over picky eating habits as a toddler and what it’s like being a working mother.  I do feel like I am a parent and share the same trials and tribulations others feel.

It’s just that how we got there never goes away.

Maybe I’m making too much of my experience.  I remember in philosophy class that one theory said that as individuals, we are all alone and can never really know anyone but ourselves.  We are all “other.”  I thought that theory was very sad and depressing, and I think that we as humans are so desperate to build community and to escape that existential loneliness.  We don’t want to be other; we want to find others like us who have shared the same experiences.

Please talk to me:  if you are parenting after infertility or after a conventional path, do you fully feel like a mother?  Do you ever feel like you don’t belong or are “other?”