Cathy versus the Cheesecake… Hooray for Metaphors!
Ahhhh the amazingness (and sometimes anxiety) of the holidays. Here in America, the holiday season officially kicks off with Thanksgiving! A wonderful time of joyousness, celebrating family bonds, eating way too much rich foods, and also the occasional awkward moments as we traverse these family moments. Dealing with the struggles of infertility can be especially sharp during these very family-focused gatherings. I often felt myself completely DREADING the holidays when we were in our family-creation challenges (and coming up short with yet another BFN or “Big Fat Negative” pregnancy test). Very difficult and stressful times indeed.
I have mentioned here at SS&FE that I have sometimes felt the pressure to have a traditional family, realize the dream of motherhood, and do what we are “supposed to do.” Another one of the things that I always thought I was “supposed to do” was cook. For whatever reason, I never really learned to cook when I was growing up in my childhood home. I never asked my mom to teach me, and she never went out of her way to show me either. She kept on her side of the frying pan and I on my side of my textbooks when I wasn’t out galavanting with my friends. When we had “pot luck” night at our house where we all fended for ourselves for dinner, the most adventurous I would get was boiling some water to heat up a frozen dinner before we had a microwave (I kid you not). I continued the boiling-water-to-materialize-hot-food tradition into adulthood while adding in the microwave for maximum speed and efficiency. Thanks modern technology for saving this simple starving gal!
Somewhere along the line, I got totally inspired by the amazing creamy taste of cheesecake and my good friend’s recipe for the creamiest ever holiday spicy pumpkin cheesecake. Mmmmmm. I realized over time that cooking wasn’t really my thing, but BAKING… now the science of that I could get into. Science was easier for me to understand, and have very clear instructions that I could WIN at! And feel triumphant taking my creation out of the oven. Sweet success! None of this hocus pocus of magically knowing what flavors and foods go together like my chef friends (and later husband). That just was not intuitive to me at all. Give me baking. Give me science.
In retrospect, I see now why infertility frustrated me, saddened me and baffled me. After all… SCIENCE, people! Formulas! A goes into B, and you get C. Count days on the calendar. Learn how to read the fertility charts. Follow the instructions on the ovulation kit to time intimacy to the exact right moment for baby-making. I thought time and time again, it just HAD to work eventually, right? I was doing all of the right things! I was taking all of the right tests! I aced all of the practice Fertility Friend charts to track my entire cycle. I had it DOWN! I read success stories of other lucky mommies-to-be to keep me motivated. I cut out caffeine, did yoga, drank fertility tea. Oh yeah, this is going to WORK! I am doing EVERYTHING to succeed. Science! Yesssss!
And yet every month… another BFN would show up on my little tester… as well as my period. “Hello friend. We meet again, dammit.”
This past Wednesday night, my good friend and I happily chatted with each other as we made our annual spicy pumpkin cheesecakes. And gloated with each other at their smooth surfaced beauty. Ahhhh, sweet success again! As I did this, Eric reminded me that only a few years earlier, during the worst of our infertility struggles, I had taken my beloved cheesecake out of the oven, and it had a Big. Fat. Crack in it. A big ugly crack that then started to split into more cracks! I was devastated. Eric was confused as to why I was SOOOO very devastated and then had burst into tears and loud sobs of despair. I looked at the cheesecake and then at him and yelled:
“Don’t you understand? It’s not about the cheesecake. It’s about my failure as a woman, a mother, and a human being!!! I have failed!”
…again, more sobs. I was inconsolable. The cheesecake was a metaphor for my feelings at the time – an outward expression of what was going on inside of me.
If you are not getting the metaphor yet, it’s:
Cracked Cheesecake = Cracked Self-Worth
I felt worthless. I felt cracked. I felt broken. And sad. And desperate. And misunderstood. No one understood my pain. Sometimes I didn’t even think Eric did. He looked at me baffled as I sobbed over my poor cheesecake.
When Eric reminded me of this incident the other night, frankly I was overjoyed. I have come so very far from that scary, sad place that I was at only a few years ago. I am so proud of the journey that I have been on and continue to charge forward on, no longer worried about what I’m “supposed to do.” I now know I am whole and complete exactly as I am. I love myself. And I love others whole-heartedly. And lovingly. I accept that infertility is a part of me. But it is not ALL of me. It’s not that I AM infertile. No. It’s that I HAVE infertility. But infertility does NOT have me!
I give you this, my friends: The greatest gift we can all give ourselves is to love ourselves with all of our heart. For all that we are. All of our flaws, and our goodness, our light and our dark. We are love. Love is always the answer. 1 + 1 does not always make 3. Not all “formulas” work. And that is OK. We can move on with our lives and still enjoy and revel in every second that we get… with our loved ones… with ourselves. You are beautiful exactly as you are in this very moment. Focus on that. Focus on the beauty. On what you have, not on what you don’t. Remember you have all you need already… no matter what the pregnancy test says this month.
Please join us next week to hear more about our personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.