Birth. School. Work. Death.

Kudos to anyone that can remember the name of the 80’s band that recorded the title of this post.

My last post had me pulling this song out of thin air. It was the whole rinse and repeat life cycle that I’ve been living in for so long that had me chanting the chorus (and subsequent title) of this song.

I remember singing this song in high school thinking, “Oh G*d. Is this all I have to look forward to after college?” The thought of just working day in and day out for the rest of my life just seemed pretty, well … boring.

Now realistically I know that life is not broken down into just those four stages. There are many more milestones to pass before we can get from one stage to the next. Going through school alone takes, at the very least, 12 years of our lives.

Personally, I can remember a lot of “firsts” during those years. The first day at school. The first time I got a bad grade. My first crush. My first boy/girl dance. My first kiss. My first job; which was also my first time being discriminated upon simply because of my ethnicity. My first road trip; which was followed shortly by my first speeding ticket. And I certainly remember the sense of accomplishment I felt after surviving all those “firsts.”

And then there was my graduation from college, which would symbolize the end of my formal education. I distinctly remember how wide open the world seemed after that moment; so many opportunities available within my reach. I could have traveled the world at that time. I could have continued on to get my masters in Nursing (which I still could, I suppose). But the truth is, I chose the path of which I thought was of least resistance.

The Asian-American in me did what every good Filipina does. I lined up a job right away and started my orientation before even attending my official graduation ceremony … before even taking the NCLEX (RN licensing board exam). Hubby & I got engaged shortly after that and then the focus was on saving money for the wedding and for a house.

I don’t regret the choice I made, because quite frankly, I had a lot of fun those first few years after college. I had an awesome job with awesome co-workers. I moved out my parents’ home (against their wishes, mind you) and into my own apartment. And of course, had the joys of being newly engaged and planning a wedding.

And then the fairy tale wedding. A gathering of family (trust me, there was a lot of extended family) and friends from both parents’ side as well as our own. Great music, good food, and just pure joy and happiness. It was, and I can honestly say this without prejudice, the best day of my life thus far.

We found our house within months of our wedding and moved in the day after Thanksgiving that year. We didn’t have much to fill the home at the time, but it was our own abode. Our first home.

Ten years later, we have filled that house, and have pretty much outgrown it. Too much junk for two pack rats that tend to keep everything. Too much clutter to constantly be picking up after. Two cats and a dog inhabit the home and shed all over our furniture and our clothes. We have shelves among shelves (not to mention random stacks) of books. We have a lawn that we can barely take care of, because quite frankly, we just hate yard work.

And that’s because we’re work-aholics. While I’m not in love with my job, I’m good at it and I constantly have ideas to make processes flow better … which tends to get me in trouble sometimes. But I’m appreciated at work … and that makes the world of difference, knowing that I am making a difference.

And Hubby? While he tends to downplay his talent, I consider him very innovative and groundbreaking with his design. He has this love of typography (that I have since picked up) that, in my mind, makes for smart and witty design. I respect him immensely because, as a Filipino-American … going into an industry that isn’t related to health care or engineering or accounting (at least here in the Midwest), is a sacrilege. Unfortunately, since moving to a smaller ad agency with more conservative clients, he has not had that much opportunity to do the innovative design work that he loves to do. And that simultaneously frustrates him and pushes him to work harder. And longer.

So what am I getting at with my rantings about the life cycles … and particularly work? Well, it goes back to the song. And where I’m at. Or rather, where I’m stuck at. It’s that part of life that comes after love and marriage. Yup, that baby carriage. Or in my case, the lack of one.

And here Hubby & I lay. Stuck in the “work” cycle of our lives. Our lives revolve around what we do best in life … which is work. Many family members and friends claim that we devote too much of our lives to work. That there is more to life than working. And for them, there probably is. They have family to tend to. They have children to care for, to raise … to be responsible for. They have other priorities in life.

While being childless certainly makes a big difference in the priorities of our daily life. And while it’s also the largest disappointment in my life that I can’t produce a biological child of my own … that’s not the only reason I feel stuck.

It’s that feeling of being alone. Because, in my humble opinion, being childless (and not by choice) tends to lead to a somewhat isolated life. Yes, I realize that this is no different than most people with a life-threatening disease or condition may feel. And I know it’s no different than, let’s say the loss of a child. While I, in no way, mean to belittle these circumstances … it’s just that it goes back to the “physical-ness” of these events. These are things that people can actually see. Or touch. Or understand why someone would feel so hurt or heartbroken. These are things that people can actually “put a finger on” when it comes to expressing sympathy for someone.

With being infertile (and therefore childless, in my case), most people cannot comprehend the pain that comes with being left childless. Most people that I have encountered that see we are without kids automatically assume that it’s by choice. And since we spend so much time at work, that we’re just not “settled down enough” to start a family. Thus the conversation always turns to why we don’t want kids … which of course, is furthest from the truth. And the subsequent nodding and vacant stares from these same people, as we vaguely explain that we’re “still waiting for our miracle.”

And so that’s how the isolation begins. We’ve either became isolated because a) we’ve refused to fully divulge our infertility issues, or b) we have told them too much and have thus eliminated about 90% of conversation with those who do have children. Because really … how can life with children not encompass every aspect of a person’s life? How can one with children not be able to bring up what their sons or daughters are up to? Or how their children are taken into consideration when deciding on simple things … like what they’re going to do for dinner. Or even more complex things … like deciding on which presidential candidate will best help their children’s future.

Depending on the person or persons, I can handle conversations like that. And I can have great conversations with certain people and relay to them that not everyone can identify with how it’s like to live a life with kids. But for the majority of people … I find that I’m too nice of a person to push the subject. And besides, I hate confrontation.

In addition to being stuck, to remain childless, especially after this past birthday, has also created the feeling of being “left behind.” Over the past ten or so years, Hubby & I have encountered many couples who have since gotten married and subsequently started their family right away. Some of those couples have also had issues trying to get pregnant, but had ultimately been successful. We’ve watched other family members and friends move forward toward the next milestones in their lives … their first pregnancy, their first child followed by many “firsts” for that child (first smile, first word, first step, etc). While Hubby & I are simply left in the shadows.

Ironically, Hubby & I were one of the first couple among our friends and family to get engaged. The first ones to plan a wedding. The first ones to get married. I can say, hopefully without sounding arrogant, that we were a couple that many of our friends and family looked up to. We were not the usual older Asian couples that most of us grew up around. They were more afraid to show any type of affection amongst the conservative Filipino peers. And they, at many times, communicated with double-edged passive-aggressive tones with each other. We, on the other hand, were a couple that weren’t afraid to show some PDA. We were a couple that geniunely listened to each other and communicated openly. And to the parents of our Filipino friends and family, we were used as “good Filipino-American examples”: Happily married after finishing college and establishing our careers.

And now … we’re the ones left behind. We’re the ones looking up to those family and friends who have now gone through all the milestones in life that we have … and now have surpassed us. We’re the one’s on the outside looking in. We’re the ones that long for the children that aren’t coming. We’re waiting for the next milestone to surpass, to knock my wedding day off its pedestal as the best day of my life. The next stage in the cycle of life …

And if we keep going in the childless direction we are at … perhaps the next stage in life will be that very last one.

Yes … realistically I know life is not all about milestones and stages. Life is exactly what we make of it. And how we want to fill those times in between these moments is much more important the milestones that we pass.

I’m just trying to feel my way around the filler time. And trying to find a way to feel less isolated and less like a fifth grader who just failed sex ed.

9 Replies to “Birth. School. Work. Death.”

  1. There’s a lot to unpack here.

    Yes, you are right, when you are childless, there is nothing to mourn. There is nothing to point to, and say “that, that is the cause of my hurt”. I understand this. I have been on both sides of the coin.

    Mr. Spit and I were the first to get married, and we have friends who are on their third child. It’s hard. It’s isolating. It’s easy to isolate yourself, because you are right, they will not understand. They don’t want to, they aren’t able to.

    It’s just so not fair. But you are also right, life is the stuff that happens in between. And your worth, it’s not defined by how many children you have.

  2. Hi Emily, I just wanted to leave a comment to let you know how much your words resonated with me. I could have been reading my own thoughts and situation – except for the asian/american expectations bit. I’m just plain old Australian caucasian. But I too, am the last of my married friends to have children. It seems so unfair because, like you, I know we have the sort of relationship that wold provide a truly loving home for children. And often my friends say they wish they could have a relationship like mine. I feel your isolation. It is real – even if it’s not acknowledge by those around you. Conversations with some of my friends have become nigh impossible. It’s just so hard, isn’t it. And my SIL is preggers with her third child right now…and they’re not coping with the first two! People underestimate how much harder you have to look to build meaning in your life when you are childless not by choice. I’m wishing the best for you.

  3. There’s a lot to digest in this post. I can remember being at a family gathering a few years ago and having one of my distant cousins ask, “you pregnant yet?” To which I, of course, replied, “no.” She then said, “Well you better get on it!” I was so livid. And appalled. People assume just because you don’t have kids yet that it’s due to a choice you’ve made…but I used to be guilty of the same assumptions before going through IF. It’s a challenge, for all involved. I don’t have any answers; just wanted you to know that I remember that feeling very well.

  4. Oh wow, there’s so much here I can relate to, so much here that I could have written myself. Dh & I are both the oldest children in our families (not Filipino, but dh’s family were immigrants from Italy), among the older cousins, among the first to marry. We were both among the first in our extended family to go to university & were both high achievers thoughout school. Neither of us is particularly career-oriented, although we both have good, relatively high-stress jobs. I can so relate to that “left behind”/lack of milestones feeling.

    I feel like we both worked hard & did everything that was expected of us — but the one thing WE both expected & that most people just take for granted will happen to them has been denied to us. That’s hard to accept. 🙁

    P.S. My bp yesterday was 145/95. So guess who walked out of the dr’s office with a prescription for Altace? 🙁 He’s starting me on the lowest dose & says if I lose enough weight, I may be able to stop taking them. Easier said than done, of course…

  5. HI Emily — I’ve missed you! I’ve been sort of behind on the commenting part of the blogworld — I think we would get along FAMOUSLY – a too am a packrat, a dog and a cat…midwestern, professional (or used to be)…damn the fact that so many cool women live so far away from me!

    I feel I could’ve written this post too — feeling isolated, at 36 (Happy birthday to us) I just finished the final separation from my career — having begun it when I assumed I was going to get pregnant…and then, really, once I’d been away…still kind of have this blind, dumb optimism half of the time — but oh my GOD — my work was my identity and now. Poof. Gone.

    For me anyway I haven’t yet decided what the end of the road looks like and that’s the hardest part — do I hope for a child and try to imagine it? I’m at the point where I feel isolated as everyone else’s life rolls on…and I am kind of a poseur of sorts — a stepmom, son in tow, and everyone assumes us to be mother and son … but it is fundmentally different — and when the other mother’s find out that I’m the ‘step-mom’ its as if they take back away, leave me this wide perimeter…chattering amongst themselves.

    Oh Emily. Here’s to our lives at 40 — may we have broken out of the isolation and to the new stage — whatever it may be (hey, 40’s the new 30 right? That’s what I keep telling myself)



  6. Aw shoot Emily – I’m not sure if it’s the hormones or what, but you have me crying while reading your post. I know I only met you the once – but I so wish you were sitting here by my side again and I could give you a hug. And I’d make sure it was a good hug. The fact that you’re like probably 5 miles away from me right now, and I can’t just give you a hug frustrates me too! The words you wrote are so familiar. We were the first of our friends to get married, be responsible, buy a house, etc – all of our friends were amazed how much we had our sh-t together. . And we are pretty much the last to get pregnant over 6 years later. We have no where near been at this as long as you – so I can’t even begin to imagine what you have gone through. The only thing that I can relate your struggle to is my other friend who has been trying for about 10 years, has been married the whole time, and still nothing. She just emailed me saying how stuck she feels right now. She just got a new job – but she said she’s never felt more stuck or left behind her whole life. Your words and hers break my heart. So i hope some of this feeling goes away soon – you deserve to feel like a million bucks, and nothing less. ((hugs))

  7. I’m a little late to comment (I’ve been bummed out by yet another BFN), but wow, this really resonates with me. We’re the “ideal” couple amongst most of our friends too (or at least relatively so), but the one thing we thought was a given hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes it’s harder as more time passes; on the one hand, I’m more used to the feelings, but on the other hand, with each new pregnancy and baby, it’s like yet another reminder that we’re still here, childless not by choice. Life IS the moments between the stages…but it’s so hard to fully appreciate that while still holding on to this dream…for me that’s the hardest part – the hoping and trying isn’t over, and each month’s disappointment (which of course is accompanied by 3-5 or more announcements that month) is so acutely painful.
    I don’t know if I’m making any sense or just rambling on…but know that you’re not alone, and I’m feeling very much the same way…

  8. Oh, man. I totally hear you. It really does seem sometimes that everyone assumes that if you don’t have children, then it’s because you’re selfish and you focus too much on work or other things. And that’s just so hurtful, and, as we all know, totally untrue for most of us.

    And you are so right about the intangibleness of infertility. You don’t see me recovering from surgery, or with a cast on my arm, you don’t see a grave stone, or any other physical marker that there has been some sort of hurt in my life, which, you’re right, makes it harder for people to understand. Out of sight, out of mind.

    You’ve brought up a lot to think about here. I need to read this again, and go digest. Deep, man. Very deep.

  9. Emily! I’ve missed you! So sorry to have not read your site for a while- there’s a lot to catch up on. I’m hoping that I can get to it later this afternoon. In the meantime, I just want you to know I’m waving my hands extra high and telling you to have a damn beautiful day.

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