love, life, and the pursuit of liberation
Editor’s note: I apologize in advance for any typos or grammar errors. I am not emotionally there yet to proofread this. Therefore, you’ll get my whole truth in its messy, raw form.
Yesterday I posted a passage about how tragedy can serve as a catalyst for transcendental peace or it can push you to attach to new identities. For me, it has done a little of both. It’s caused me to examine my relationship to my identities and fight tooth and nail against identifying with them, though often at a price.
As many of you who have been following this blog since the beginning may know, I’ve been battling infertility for a number of years. As I type this, I’m shocked myself that it’s been four years already. For much of that time, I thought that my challenges were due to technical difficulties—timing ovulation and inseminations, having the proper mindset and chi, home insemination versus ART*, bad doctors versus great specialists, and the list of factors go on. I didn’t want to embrace the label “infertile” because there was no medical root to my issues and every doctor I went to seemed dumbfounded as to what was going on. Additionally, labeling myself by what I can’t do seemed to be defeatist and unhealthy.
But the reality is that here I am all this time later and I don’t have the fight left to go on with trying to conceive. I know because I tried again this spring and, though the process was minimally invasive and “natural,” it was beyond emotionally exhausting. This is forcing me to examine what it is that I hope to get out of pregnancy that I’m struggling with letting go. Maybe this is what this experience is supposed to be leading to—figuring out my “root,” so here I go with trying to unpack it.
As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a mother. I’m the eldest of five children, and despite being only two and a half years older than the second child, my place as second mother in command was clearly established. My maternal reach went beyond my household. My OSP (Oldest Sibling Privilege) extended to cousins, neighborhood children, and any other child that was under my watch. I went on to be a classroom teacher for eleven years and have students that are still my “babies” to this day, though many of them are well over 21. There was never any doubt that I would have children of my own and my only concern was whether I should wait for the right person or embark on that journey solo.
At this point, I think I need to distinguish between mothering and carrying a child. I need to tease out what I hoped to get out of pregnancy that is different from what I hoped to get out of mothering. Out of mothering, I wanted to be able to instill values and experiences in a child that would help them be productive citizens and feel empowered. I wanted them to have a life that I didn’t have as a child—I wanted them to feel secure, safe, stable and know a child’s joy instead of worrying about things that shouldn’t be on a kid’s radar. I wanted to help a child realize their personal greatness. I am blessed that I have been able to be that kind of mother. Not only to my own daughter, but also in small parts to other children that have been in my care.
Believe it or not, when I first considered mothering, being a biological parent wasn’t part of my vision. It was more of a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have.” Carrying the black community’s broad definition of family that I wrote about here, I didn’t see genetics as a necessary component to parenting. When A and I first started discussing a family, she shared that she would be willing to carry if I were to do it with her; she didn’t want to do it alone. I was open to that idea. It would be fun, right? Besides, I had done everything “right” and had no other health issues that would forecast fertility issues, so trying to conceive didn’t seem like a daunting feat. Those first few months quickly laid the foundation for what pregnancy meant (means) to me.
Being able to conceive, especially when my wife successfully conceived meant forming a different kind of bond with my wife, one in which we could be co-conspirators in pregnancy and truly understanding firsthand the ups and downs of carrying a child. Being pregnant also meant moving to the next level of womanhood, the publicly revered status as “mother.” There is nothing like the attention and reverence that people seem to have for the telltale pregnancy belly. Pregnancy is beautiful. Sexy, even. Being pregnant is confirmation that everything is in working order with my body, that being hyper vigilant about my sexual health, prolonging sexual activity, and being extremely mindful about who I chose as partners mattered and paid off. Being pregnant meant that I could pass on my grandmother’s shapely legs or my great- grandmother’s mole above her left eyebrow or my grandfather’s widow’s peak. Being pregnant meant no questions about the legitimacy of my role as parent or even the legitimacy of our union as a family. Being pregnant means holding up my end of the marriage bargain for forming our family.
This is the first time that I’ve admitted all of that to myself and not push those shadows back to the corner when they threaten to show their faces.
Not being pregnant has meant that all of those things I hoped to gain has come crashing down, despite my smiles, optimism, and running up thousands of dollars with medical intervention. Not being pregnant continues to feel like failure, like disease, like inadequacy, like hiding in plain sight. I gently deflect comments about “you know it’ll happen soon enough,” I smile when I’m told that LA looks just like me, I avoid all trying to conceive women, March of Dimes solicitations, infertility groups. I have nightmares about hiding a 30-week pregnancy because I’m afraid it’ll end in another miscarriage and I don’t want to get my hopes up that this one will stick.
That’s the truth of where I am.
I know I’m supposed to be looking for the lesson, looking for the peace in it, working through this with therapy. I’m not there yet. I’m just now at the point when I “come out” as infertile to people who don’t know me as intimately ask why I haven’t had a baby yet. I’m not sure when I’ll get over this, if I will get over it, how I will get over it. I do know telling the whole truth is a big first step.
*ART- Artificial Reproductive Technology- this refers to many forms of medical intervention to conceive including medically stimulated ovulation, intrauterine insemination, and in vitro fertilization, all of which I’ve attempted numerous times.