This week, there has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about identity. It’s made me ponder, think and wonder. It’s made me cry. And it’s made me feel. Feel anger. Feel fear. Sadness. Confusion. Regret. Despair. Guilt.
Here is the thing: I do not, in general, identify myself as infertile. At least not aloud. As I mentioned before, you will rarely hear me call myself that. I don’t like the word and I don’t often use it. Because I’m ashamed. That’s the sad truth: I am ashamed that my body, which appears to be all-woman on the outside, cannot do anything that a woman is supposed to do on the inside. I am ashamed. Let me be clear, I do not think anyone else on this journey has any reason to feel shame. I think those of you whom I’m getting to know through the comments you leave and through your own blogs are so very strong. You are brave. You are fighters. You should be proud. And yet, in one of the many double-standards in my life, I am ashamed.
But however desperately I sometimes try to hide it, in the quiet moments when I am alone, I know who I am and the truth remains: I am infertile. For me, there is power in saying that. In saying it over and over, and being honest about who I really am. I am infertile. It took me fifteen (fourteen-and-a-half if I’m being very exact) months to conceive my first child, our little Cupcake. By most of your standards, that probably isn’t very long. To me, when in that time I ovulated a grand total of once (maybe twice), it was unbearably long. Two years later, we conceived our Teddy Graham in less than three months, but that does not make me more fertile than I was just a couple years earlier for my first pregnancy. No, it just makes me smarter. I could have waited six months or a year only to realize I would never ovulate on my own…or I could do what worked the first time and try to force myself to ovulate with drugs. Which I did. And regardless of whether my loss that followed was (in)fertility-related, and regardless of how long it takes us to conceive this next time, and whether we get a happy ending or another tragedy, I am still infertile. I. Am. Infertile. I’m not proud. I’m trying not to feel ashamed. I’m just working on accepting it. This is who I am. It is a part of me. A part of my identity. A part of who I am. I am a mother, wife, and daughter. I recently learned I’m a sister. I’m a writer. I’m a realist. I’m smart. I’m shy, insecure, and timid. I’m adventurous, hopeful, and gentle. And I’m infertile.
And just as I will always be a victim of childhood sexual abuse and that makes me sad and sometimes really, really mad…so I will also always be an infertile, regardless of how many babies we eventually have, and that, too, makes me sad and mad and everything in between. Sometimes it does ruin my day. Some days it does consume my life. But I don’t particularly feel like there’s anything wrong with that. We had some unexpected house guests this weekend and my Honey and I took them to a local tourist attraction. There, I saw a young woman in the early stages of her second trimester and I cried to see her bump, the same bump I would have had if our Teddy had stuck around. (Sorry to Jeanette and everyone else who hates the “bump” word…but I do use it, and I love it!) I cried very hard and suddenly in seeing that woman. But I think that’s okay. It’s only natural, given the path my life has taken. Yes, it does hurt when another friend announces another pregnancy. I have no expectations that the world should stop because I am struggling and I wish them all well, but it still hurts. Often, deeply and for days. But this does not make me weak. I am not weak because, right now, I need to avoid baby showers. Or because I have blocked expecting friends from my Facebook news feed. Or because I ache when I see another bump, or newborn. I am not weak. I am smart, because I’m acting in self-preservation. For the first in a long time, I am taking care of myself and doing what I need to do to protect my well-being. But what if these things did mean I was weak? Well, there is no shame in weakness. No shame in fragility or vulnerability. Or infertility. We are all weak in our own ways, and strong in others. And this — the sadness, the frustration, the panic, the simultaneous avoidance and obsession with all things baby-related, the anger at the unfairness of everything, the highs and many lows, even the shame — is all part of the journey. I’m starting to accept that. To embrace it.
But even that is a journey all its own.
And when the journey is feeling too long and too hard, and I wonder if it’s worth the effort, I just tell myself this: All journeys have an end. Regardless of where this journey takes us, there will one day be an end to it and we will move on. Another journey will begin. And we will be stronger and better for it. I hope. However much we hurt right now, however much infertility takes over our lives, one day it will not. I think the only real tragedy would be if we let it destroy us beyond repair.
Me? I plan to be a survivor. I may come away from the fight bloody, battered, and bruised. I know I won’t ever be the same. But I plan to survive, and I plan to do it with as much dignity and grace as I can. How about you?