Last Friday, Buddy and I made dinner together and settled in on the couch with a cocktail to watch The Descendants. Not far into the movie, there's a scene where George Clooney's character tells his daughter that her mom is going to die. Her reaction is a primal underwater scream so well acted with raw emotion that I burst into tears. Something about that scene was so pertinent, so relevant for me. When he was totally puzzled my reaction, I told Buddy, "that's what I feel like sometimes."
I talked to my counselor about it at my appointment yesterday because I've still been thinking about it and my reaction. Through talking, I realized it's meaningful to me for a number of reasons. First, in the beginning of all this testing and diagnoses stuff, I felt like screaming. Out of anger, out of sadness, out of grief. Infertility sucks - it changes so much and I had and still have many ugly feelings about how it's changed our life. I was amped up emotionally pretty much all the time. I felt like I could cry at the drop of a hat in those early days. I did often sob in the shower. And screaming like that, underwater or not, was probably the cathartic action I needed, had I not feared I would have disturbed the neighbors.
My counselor mentioned that it was interesting that she screamed underwater, rather than just screaming aloud. She asked me why I thought that was. I said because it would muffle the sound and hide her pain. And that clicked for me. I muffle my emotions for Buddy when I'm upset sometimes - I don't want him to feel badly that I am sad. Don't get me wrong, I share my emotions with him often. But sometimes, I just don't want him to feel that I'm mad at him rather than the situation. Particularly when I know I'm being irrational or extreme in my emotions, I tend to work it out alone rather than with him.
I don't only muffle and hide my emotions from Buddy. In the real world, I can't go around showing every emotion, good or bad. I'm "muffled" by appropriateness, for example. If a coworker asks if my husband and I have kids, for instance, I'm not going to get into why not. It's not appropriate in that setting. I might be muffled by my own energy - if someone has ideas of what we should do, ("just adopt/do IVF") I might shut down and discontinue the conversation just because I don't feel like getting into it, or because what I really want to say would be rude. And I'm muffled by the simple fact that people don't know how to handle emotions like that sometimes. I can't very well let loose with my sadness or anger when I walk through the baby aisle at Target. I'm not saying that it's not okay or that I haven't gotten upset in a store, but I think in general, we as humans avoid showing such pain in front of others, particularly those we don't know. I don't feel free in public to show an emotion I may have.
I'm also muffled by the simple fact that Buddy and I don't necessarily agree on how "out" to be. And even for myself, because of the reasons I listed above, I'm not consistent. But when it comes to the difference between the two of us, and what I'd chose if I didn't have to consider his feelings on the matter, I'd be open about it. I'd prefer to educate and offer support and not feel like I'm hiding something that has transformed me from the woman I was a year ago. Buddy, on the other hand. Would prefer to not have anyone know. He's staunchly in Camp Nunya Business. He knows our parents know and that I have the support of both online and some in-real-life friends, but the thought of me being out in a place like Facebook makes him uncomfortable. It should be noted I would never say what our issues are or whose "fault" the IF is, but I don't feel that there is shame in dealing with IF or in making others aware that not everyone grows up, gets married, and pops out 2.3 kids.
A conclusion that my counselor and I talked to is that the thing about infertility is that it's one of those taboo subjects that, unlike breast or testicular cancer or heart disease or juvenile diabetes, people aren't comfortable having it in their face. No one's going to come out with a line of kitchen products and golf accessories emblazoned with a symbol for Infertility Awareness. It's a health issue like any other, but the sensitive and private nature of it leaves many of us struggling with it feeling like we're screaming underwater instead of being embraced with support and understanding.