Have you ever been broken up with right before Valentine's Day, and all of a sudden, it feels like EVERYONE is in love? Of course, you are a smart cookie, and you rationally know it is not true, but it feels like everywhere you look, you see signs of happily ever after. In every cubicle of your office, you see evidence of Cupid's arrow inspiring grand gestures of love. Everyone in your office has bouquets of red roses, balloons, Hallmark Kiss Kiss bears and cards that declare their beloved's undying love. It's bad enough to be broken up with, but to be broken up with in early February is bad on a whole other level. It's not that you even wanted roses or a stupid stuffed bear, it's just a big, heart-shaped reminder of what you don't have. As much as you tell yourself how stupid Valentine's Day is and that it is a made-up holiday that makes money for florists, candy companies and Zales, it still hurts. You certainly don't begrudge anyone their 10-pound Godiva heart or their Jared's eternity heart collection ring; you want others to be in love and happy -- it's just that you want it, too. And seeing others have what you want most can really hurt.
OK, now take that aforementioned pain and amplify it, make it bigger -- a whole lot bigger. Because as bad as your breakup was with Howard in accounting, in the long run, you knew you'd be better off without him; without that breakup, you never would have met the amazing guy you are with now. But imagine, if you will, that you have spent years and years and years trying to have a baby, and you spent more money trying to conceive than you did on your combined undergraduate and graduate education. Imagine that all of that left you as childless as you were the day you started seeing reproductive endocrinologists and infertility acupuncturists. And this pain, unlike Howard, will not fully heal with time. You will, to some degree, always mourn what you don't have if you are childless not by choice. It does get better, but it still hurts and some things make it hurt worse than others.
The 2014 Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian baby watches were even more epic than the buzz surrounding Y2K. Again, imagine that every time you go to the grocery store to buy the food of the childless (wine, Greek yogurt, prepared sushi, gourmet olives and a super-size box of maxi pads and Midol -- no yogurt pops, pampers, wet wipes or Annie's bunnies), there are the covers of Us, People and Star documenting every bit of minutiae that they can muster about Kate and the Kardashians' pregnancies. You try (as you unintentionally read the headlines about how much weight Kim gained and how little Kate gained) to remember if we, as a society, were always so obsessed with celebrity pregnancy. Or did this mania begin when the term "baby bump" was created? You think it was the latter, but you have no data to back this up.
And maybe, just a day before Kate gave birth to the royal baby, you were getting your nails done and the manicurist did an inquiry into the vital statistics of your life (Are you married? No; Do you have children? No.). And then the manicurist grows desperate to give your life purpose. She looks at you pleadingly, her eyes widening, asking, "But you do have nieces and nephews?" You respond, "Um, no." And that is when the manicurist quits tending to your woebegone cuticles and her big, beautiful eyes fill up with tears. This woman is crying for you. You try to tell her you are OK and happy, and that you have a fulfilling job that you love and that you are happy with your life. Only she doesn't believe you; she just had twins and she had another child before that, and she tells you that having her children was the best thing she ever did, the best thing that ever happened to her.
You (OK, I am switching pronouns now. I am owning this -- this is my story, and it might very well be other people's story, too), ahem, I try to assure her that I am OK and happy. Only as I convince her, I start to cry. I worry that she will see my tears as evidence that I was not being honest about being happy, but I am -- I am happy, but I still wish I had been able to have a baby. The awkwardness is at an all-time high between me and my manicurist, and so I turn to magazines as a way to escape our uncomfortable conversation, but there again is story after story of Kate's and Kim's pregnancies. And on the pages where there weren't stories about the expecting double K's, there were stories about Khloe's difficulty with getting pregnant, and there were baby bump watch articles in which the editors speculate on who might be pregnant based on the drape and cut of their garments (Jessica Biel, in this case). I gave up on magazines and closed my eyes, waiting for the manicure to be over, and comforted myself that soon, the royal baby watch would be over. Media attention would again turn to something less personally destructive, like what the heck is going on with Miley Cyrus's parents.
I have, metaphorically, kept my eyes closed ever since that manicure. I knew better than to turn on The Today Show once it had been announced that the royal couple had gone into labor. I imagined that every minute of their four hours of morning broadcasting would be a play-by-play of the royal birth, and a host of experts would speculate on names, nannies and what Diana would say if she were here today; I just couldn't bear it. It's not that I am not happy (forgive my double negative) for Will and Kate -- I suppose that I am, as I would be for any couple giving birth to a healthy baby. However, I simply couldn't watch it, as it brought up all the pain, time and energy I spent in pursuit of my own baby bump, birth and baby. Silly, naïve me, I thought I might be able to turn on CNN to hear about the Southwest flight that had difficulty landing at LaGuardia. CNN had given up on reporting news (at least on the birthday), and were instead asking bystanders at Kensington Palace what they thought they would name the baby. I desperately grabbed the remote to turn the channel to anything else, when I heard the announcer read a tweet. I began to cry, because I once again realized that Kate has a job that I will never have. No, not being the Duchess of Cambridge -- it's her other job that I wanted. The tweet read: "'Congratulations to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son! Being a parent is the best job of all.' -@MichelleObama."
Follow Tracey Cleantis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@labeletterouge