l.i.b.e.r.a.t.i.o.n. theory

love, life, and the pursuit of liberation

Authentically Me Day 3- Lessons from Infertility

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.


13 comments on “Authentically Me Day 3- Lessons from Infertility

  1. palmwinenyc
    July 5, 2012

    Reblogged this on Palm Wine.


  2. Cathy
    July 5, 2012

    I don’t have any words to make this all better but I just want you to know that you are loved!!! (((Hugs)))


  3. Makita
    July 5, 2012

    Thank you. It may seem weird, confusing, or even crass to thank you for sharing something so raw with us, but it is the only thing I can think of to say. For you to open your heart, mind, and soul to let the words flow freely and unedited moves me. I applaud your braveness in speaking up all these years about your infertility (long time reader, first time commenter) and I hold you high for your raw spirit in sharing your struggles. While I do not know the pain of infertility, I know the courage it takes to reconcile something difficult–something we sometimes take on as a flaw of our character. And it takes a hell of a lot of courage, for lack of a better phrase, “to lay our burden down”. I feel like infertility has been an undue burden placed upon your back, a constant pink elephant in your life. I applaud you for acknowledging it and being ready to “accept. I wouldn’t dare say I understand your struggle or give you some cliche of “you never know what God has in store for you…” because to do so would, in my opinion, disregard the plight you’ve already been through and continue to go through. I love you. I love A. And I love LA. You all mean the world to me. I truly wish you peace and offer my ear and whatever I can do to help


    • liberationtheory
      July 5, 2012

      You will NOT make me cry. Dammit, you did.

      My words (and eloquence) are spent but I am nodding and agreeing with feeling like I FINALLY laid my burden down and it means so much to me know that you get the dreaded I-word as the pink elephant. You know I love you like a play-sister so thank YOU


  4. Veronique (Wiz)
    July 5, 2012

    The power in your honesty…thank you


  5. GL
    July 5, 2012

    The word I am left with is surrender. By laying it out there (and I commend you for writing out what a lot of women feel or only pray about between them and God), you are surrendering. Surrendering to what? I applaud you for beginning this journey in discovering your answer, your peace. I can not tell you that I can imagine what you are going through but when you described the differences between “mothering” which is what I do at work and at church, and “carrying a child”, you helped me sort out what this means to me. I thank you for that. I lift you up in prayer so that you reach the end of your journey in God’s love and peace. And thank you for that excerpt from day 2, great read.


  6. Thorn
    July 6, 2012

    All of this stuff is so complicated and so intense, and I’m glad you’re wrestling with it even when it’s painful to do so. I’ve been trying to tease out some of the differences between professional parenting (in my case, foster parenting but also the tutoring and mentoring I’ve done before) and the permanent/ongoing parenting of Mara. I don’t mean that I’m less serious about parenting a child who may only be in my care for a while, but I have to do it with an eye toward the future and an awareness of the past. So Mara uses correct anatomical language but with Val and Alex it was “Well, and what does your mom call it?” because I believed they’d be going home to her and my intention to make the transition smooth was more important than my beliefs about how to talk about bodies.

    That’s such a banal example, but I think being a generally mothering person can make it tougher to be a full-time mother and not feel some kind of imposter syndrome about it, that there should be some tangible line of demarcation and there so often isn’t. The general bias that families like ours are not as “real” as mom-dad-shared bio baby families doesn’t help either. But I really appreciate reading about how you’re thinking about all this.


    • liberationtheory
      July 6, 2012

      You totally get it and “imposter syndrome” is such a fitting description. This is definitely challenging territory but somehow I hope that we’re all the better for it, even in the grief and lack of clarity around it.

      Thank you for reflecting with me.


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  8. Deena lahn
    August 9, 2012

    Hi. I am glad you wrote this piece. I have been there. Four years ago I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and people were shocked when I stated the truth: going through the infertility thing was worse than cancer treatement.(probably easy for me to say since my cancer has not re occured and I’m healthy now).

    This may not be an option for you, but just in case….I tried for years until my partner got pregnant with our daughter on her first try. . The doctors never could figure out why I couldn’t get pregnant. We ended up using in vitro to put my partner’s egg in me,(we started trying when I was 34, but the time we did this she was 40, I was 43) and the second time it worked! It felt like a miracle, and now is just the everyday reality of our eight year old healthy and happy son. We hadn’t thought of this until I heard about two other moms, so I wanted to mention it to you.
    thanks for your blog!


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