Wednesday, October 17, 2012

the pregnant infertile identity

Snippets of thoughts are swirling around. Will they actually come together in a blog posting? I think I've found the thread, with a little help from my friend (yes, that's you, the Scottish mama/psychologist).

We are in the car, driving up to a cottage for the weekend, and she says I'm not infertile.

What do you mean?

What she means, pointing at my (now visibly) growing bump is that I am looking like fertility incarnated. That what's going on inside of me is what fertility is all about. That my biology, and my social world, all think I'm as fertile as it gets.

She has a point. But I protest, of course.

I'm not about to give back my infertile badge. I feel like I'll be part of that club until death. Is that short sighted of me? Maybe. Probably. But at the end of the day, my body didn't create life. Yes, it is growing it as we speak. And yes, my body, my whole being will work hard to sustain this life once it joins us on the outside. 

But I'm still infertile.

I hear myself tell people I don't know well that this was a long awaited for baby. I do a double-take on myself when I say that it has been years of work to get here. What is that about? I look the same but I'm different, and I need the world to know it? I don't know. I just find it odd that it keeps coming out of my mouth. I go back to thumbing my rolodex of emotional patterns. Oh yes, I see. This is the one about deserving things only if I've absolutely worked my ass off to have them.

Don't get me wrong. I've long abandoned the idea that my infertility is psychosomatic. My psyche did not create this. No amount of relaxing would have brought us this pregnancy. But I do find it disturbing that my actions perhaps demonstrate that I fancy myself more deserving of this child than others since I've suffered so much for him or her. That's a tad effed up.

Is it that my experience of pregnancy is completely the one of a pregnant infertile? I don't think so. There are aspect I feel I'm experiencing like every other woman who has or is or will be pregnant, no matter what route she took to get there. I have the same worries (ok, perhaps magnified a bit). I've started to smugly rub my belly (yes, you can hate me). I'm interviewing doulas, and I've picked out a colour for the nursery (parma grey - farrow and ball), and I'm getting freaked out about giving birth.

And yet, I'm not ready to say that all has just gotten back on track with the pregnancy. This train didn't just jump the track, it piled up into a full wreck. And perhaps that is what I am holding onto when I cannot drop the infertile after the pregnant in my title. Let's not pretend there wasn't hell to go through to get here (and perhaps more hell before we get there - oh please no. PLEASE, NO MORE HELL!). And without going all psychoanalytic on you folks, this is perhaps a parallel with my childhood. There was a certain amount of shit that went down, all of which went unacknowledged by my parents and extended family. 15 years of therapy later, it appears I find it important to acknowledge the truth of what happens to me. Go figure.

So, I am pregnant. And I am infertile. Both of those are my truths. And I understand that to the outside world, I am just another pregnant woman* Very few know about the donor egg process we've been through and for now, it's very easy to decide who gets to know and who doesn't. But on the inside, I'm mostly still infertile and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know enough to let hope in and go with the facts (inside my uterus = growing fetus). And I also know that this is entirely a miracle, that science, money, selflessness, another woman's eggs, good medical staff, lots of missed hours of work, enormous support from all of you, and a large measure of determination on our parts made it possible. And I know that if we lose this miracle, we can't just have sex to try and make another one happen.

I think I'm ok with living as a pregnant infertile. That's what it will need to be for it to be my truth, so I'll stick with it for now.    

*Did I ever tell you how much I dread being that woman to someone in the throes of infertility. Like I could just be sitting somewhere, and she is having the worse day ever after a beta of 1, staring down her 4th IVF, and then she sees me with my bump and I am her last straw. Funny how self-important we are in our worst fears.


  1. I have always loved how wonderfully, beautifully, and sincerely you are you. <3 Themis

  2. What's funny, is that your last point about worrying about some other woman going through a tough time, is exactly why I think I sometimes sneak in the "we went through a lot to get here" qualifier. Both simultaneously softening the blow to someone potentially struggling, or advocating for some other imaginary person that THIS person will someday encounter and maybe, just maybe, be a little more sensitive that it doesn't come easy to everybody. It also comes out when people ask me questions that I just can't indulge, like "don't you worry that your baby will be ugly?" I've blogged about that one already, still can't look at the friend that delivered that doozie the same way.

    How we got here HAS shaped who we are now -- it just is.

  3. I had a really hard time when I started showing- it was hard letting go of the fact that I controlled what people know about my experience. When you 'look' pregnant, you lose the opportunity to include context about the long struggle, the many tears, the uncertainty that remains, the irreplaceable nature of your situation. I found myself hiding the pregnancy that I had long wanted, because I needed people to know that it was so much more than 'just another pregnancy'. Even now that baby cakes is here, I find myself very sensitive to the perception that he is 'just like all the other babies'. I mean he is, of course, but i want people to know exactly how much he was wanted. I don't want to make it that e is special or something, mostly that i want people to acknowledge that every child has a story, every child is special and unique.

    Anyways, layer the complexities of being a pregnant infertile, or infertile parent, on top of your own life experiences and it most certainly gets complicated.

    Thinking about you all the time friend!

  4. There was a woman sobbing in church being consoled by her friend after glancing at my then 8 month belly. It was hard to not say, yes I look lucky, but am in fact fucking unlucky indeed. IF is more like military service, the haircut, the way you carry yourself, all that experience makes you stand out even in civilian clothes.

    I am thrilled to see you mistaken for that normal lucky one. Belly rubbing is delightful and enjoy every minute (as rubbing the floppy post baby mama cat tummy not so much).

  5. I love so much about this post. It's so hard to know how to remain true to the struggle to get here and yet try to enjoy the pregnancy at the same time.

  6. Augusta, this post is exactly right. You ARE pregnant. And you are infertile. Mel from Stirrup Queens has talked about how you can come to terms with your childlessness but not infertility and vice versa. In the case of DE, it's entirely possible to be *pregnant* and still infertile. I still very much identify as an infertile woman; that's about my body, not about my son. And I felt that identity very profoundly during pregnancy because of the seeming appearance of normalcy; you couldn't even tell I was "high risk" just from looking at me.

    But I'm glad you are having some "normal pregnant woman" moments, too. You certainly deserve them!

  7. Really, it's time you stopped clinging to that infertile label, and leave it to women like ME.


    I think people say those sorts of things because they think it's comforting in a "see, there's nothing wrong with you!" way. My feeling is that it's not up to others to decide what labels are and aren't appropriate. Humph. And I certainly found myself doing the same "this baby was hard won" and, then, ahem, "this baby was easily conceived, but THE OTHER ONE, um...that one was hard won" dance, but I was more generous with myself, and didn't assume it was me feeling extra interpretation was that I spent a lot of time hating fertile whores and didn't want to be mistaken for one.

    But mostly I'm just so happy to think of you picking out a nursery color (very nice choice) and smugly rubbing your belly. When we're very lucky, those things are part of infertility, too.

  8. I could have written this myself, really. I haven't told everyone that it was a long hard road to get here but I've told quite a few. I think sometimes I say it because the person has known me for a long time and might be wondering why we waited so long and that is the last question I want to answer. So I cut them off with "this has been a long time coming" or "I've waited a long time for this" type of comment. And you know what else? I rub my belly too, but I usually try to do it when I'm alone or just at home. If I'm in a meeting and baby girl is kicking I'll put my hand on the location and then slowly remove it because I don't want to offend anyone. How crazy is that? Is seems like we will always label ourselves infertile. You should definitely enjoy the growing belly and the excitement of this pregnancy.

  9. beautiful post. I never really thought of how one might feel being infertile and then pregnant (perhaps because I never have been pregnant). but i suppose it is similar to how I felt walking around with my baby after I adopted him. There are still moments when I feel infertile and in a limbo like world, but there are also normal exciting motherhood moments. Just as it sounds like you have normal happy pregnancy moments. We will never forget what we went through to have our children join us. And you will find that other moms out and about won't either. As you share snippets of dialouge like "how long you waited, etc" you will find that other moms out there waited a while too and you may feel an instant kinship to them. I know I do. Passing through infertility is not for the faint of heart and the lessons we learn and the sorrows and joys we have felt from it stay with us as well.

    Thinking of you my dear friend. Keep that other shoe on--don't let it drop.

    1. thanks for that beautiful reflection, Jana.

  10. Perfectly written Augusta. I feel the same way. I am pregnant but I am infertile. At this point the balance of those two is heavily swayed towards infertile but I like to hope as we get further along the balance will shift slightly. It's important to me not to forget (how the hell could we???) what has happened to get to this point but I have to hope that in the future it will turn into a quiet and respectful reflection, rather than the in-your-face terror that it has been up to this point.
    And I understand your feelings about a little part of you feeling like you're more deserving than someone who didnt struggle to get here. I cant help thinking you deserve a bit of glory and status for all you've been through. That doesnt seem too much to ask. xx

  11. Wonderfully written, as always Augusta. I also felt the need to tell everyone that it was a hard-fought pregnancy when I was pregnant. And then after I had the boys, I told everyone that they they were long awaited for. In fact, I STILL tell people that! Three years after they were born, I don't live with the daily pain of infertility, but it is still there. It particularly shows its head when I take the boys in for pediatric appointments. Even thought it is written in my chart that these are babies via egg donation, the nurses ask me about MY family history of disease every. single. time. When they were first born, I was just so happy that they were here that I didn't mind repeating myself. Now, it feels like rubbing salt in the wound. We have always planned on telling the kids (actually, we already read age appropriate books about it, which they love), but now I dislike having to bring it up at the doctor's office.

    Ugh, sorry to ramble on about myself!

    Keep the faith strong lady! Enjoy the pregnancy as much as you can and be gentle with yourself in all other aspects. It will be what it will be. Take a deep breath and keep going forward! :D

  12. this is a conversation, Brenda. I love that you tell me stories about your life and your experiences. Never apologize for that. Thank you for your support, dear woman.