The Day Cupcakes were Ruined

Photo credit: Becky Colletti, Consumed by Cake,

One day last week, after working for about an hour, I stepped away from my cubicle to fill up my water. I had barely set foot into the break room, when I stopped, momentarily frozen. There it was, on the far dining table: a large, square container, filled with cupcakes. Normally, such a sight would be most welcome. I mean, who doesn’t like a lunchtime cupcake, especially a free one? But even from a distance, I could easily see that these cupcakes were iced, alternately, in pink and blue frosting.

“Who’s having a baby,” one co-worker asked another.

As the other colleague filled her in, I tottered back to my desk in a daze, still reeling.

It hits me like a ton of bricks, nearly every time. They say, “time heals all wounds,” but fifteen years haven’t blunted the blow one bit. They are so full of shit.

Here’s the thing about triggers — once words are heard, or a picture is seen, the damage is done; there’s no unhearing nor unseeing. It feels like what I imagine a punch to the gut feels like, dull and heavy. In my head, I’m grasping at Everything and Nothing, the wind knocked out of me.

But nobody sees that. At most, someone may notice that my stare goes vacant, as I focus on mentally being Anywhere but Here. Usually, people don’t notice at all.

I work in a field that is historically and consistently comprised of about eighty-five percent women. In a society which is historically and consistently controlled by the patriarchy, working mostly with women can be a welcome relief. But for someone trying to survive infertility, working in the matriarchy can feel like traversing a minefield. Sometimes, I’m not quick enough at fastening my emotional flak jacket, and I’m more vulnerable to attack than I’d like to be.

Infertility’s not a conscious focus in my day-to-day life, anymore. I’m not currently under treatment; not actively trying to conceive. Actually, I’m at the age where even thinking about it is a Fool’s Pursuit. But that doesn’t mean that it escapes my notice when others are going through the one experience I always knew that I wanted for myself, and likely will never have. That smarts. And sometimes, though not as often as before, it stirs Envy from deep within me, her thorny green tendrils weaving themselves among my grey matter.

There may have been a moment when I wanted to take the whole container back to my desk and devour every last one of those cupcakes. And, honestly, had they been iced with butter cream and not whipped frosting, I might have.

It’s hard to talk about the icky emotions, the prickly feelings. We tend to villainize ourselves for such things, instead of affirming our humanity.

And so, for now, my taste for cupcakes has been ruined. I have Faith, though, that one day, I will be able to again consume cupcakes with no ill will toward anyone.

Do you have a challenge in your life that sometimes catches you off guard? How do you cope with it?

Are you also an infertility survivor? What is the hardest thing about infertility and the World of Work? What do you wish people knew or understood about your experience?

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