How Infertility Has Affected My Identity As A Woman
It took a long time for me to arrive at the conclusion that although it wasn’t what I’d hoped for, my diagnosis of infertility yielded a profoundly positive impact on my identity as a woman and general human being. My feelings on this are still largely dependent upon the day, the week, or the month; when your future is hanging in the balance on a near daily basis, your proclivity towards optimism often suffers the same fate. In my moments of quiet clarity, however, I am able to clearly observe all the ways in which it has permitted me the opportunity to shape and appreciate exactly who I am.
The delicate balance between grappling with a medical issue as maddening as infertility and all of the ways in which I have witnessed the positive internal growth it can inspire has created room for a deeply rooted sense of gratitude amongst all of the frustration and anguish. Gratitude, however, is just one of several ways that this intensely personal struggle has helped me to form a foundation to construct my identity.
Finding my version of happiness.
It is so easy to let the rest of your life get lost in the shuffle when you’re trying to conceive. It’s a gradual slide into obsessiveness but one that could end up costing a steep price and it didn’t take me long to realize that this was a route I was not willing to travel. The love my husband and I are ready to give to a child is bottomless and I will go to great lengths that most will never even have to consider in order to give him, and myself, that gift. But how could I expect to be the kind of mom I know I am capable of being if I lose touch with everything else important to me in the process? In light of this realization, I made the conscious decision to channel that energy into developing hobbies, passions, and interests that support my wellbeing and continued growth.
Yoga, reading, writing, meditation, and hiking are a few of the things that became essential ingredients to the makeup of who I have become throughout this journey. Learning to devote time, energy, and interest into something that doesn’t offer a paycheck or earn you a grade gave me back the quality of life I didn’t realize I’d been missing and provided a basis for the identity I have been growing into. I will always credit infertility for giving me the incentive to actively seek out what makes me happy.
Going toe to toe with my demons.
I am a firm believer that the human condition is such that none of us make it through life without an internal struggle of some variety. For me, that demon came in the form of an anxiety disorder. In my mid-twenties it became an all-consuming problem which motivated me to seek out a specialized treatment specific to my brand of disorder. It has been a year and some change since my first appointment and in those twelve plus months, I’ve been a witness to an incredible shift in the landscape of my psyche that has altered the trajectory of my quality of life in such a tremendously positive manner that somedays I am still in disbelief.
My husband is of the camp that our bout of infertility has bought me time to tackle my most menacing demon without the added stress of a pregnancy or newborn on top of that. With his unwaveringly selfless support, I was able to dive into my therapy, dedicating the necessary time and monetary resources to give myself the best outcome possible. So while I didn’t wish for the extra time sans children, in this particular instance it has been a blessing in disguise.
Choosing my company wisely.
Facing infertility forces you to confront and acknowledge the lack of control you have in life, but the one thing we can decide for ourselves is the company we keep and I have learned firsthand how essential it is to honor this by choosing wisely. Namely, genuinely good people.
As recently as a couple of years ago, parting ways in a friendship felt like an intolerable failure to me. Slowly and deliberately, I began to retire this idea and realize the best people to invest in were those who understood the value of showing up on your toughest days, both physically and emotionally. These days, I fully understand that not everyone needs to a hold a place in your heart or your life and it has given me the insight to trust myself in navigating all of the relationships in my life with confidence.
Bravery is vulnerability.
Writing pieces on such a taboo and excruciatingly private topic makes a lot of people squeamish and often draws unwelcome opinions and judgments. It is to be expected.
It was nerve wracking the first time I submitted an article admitting to our infertility diagnosis…if I’m being honest, it still is. What I learned after deciding to be vocal about our struggles is that opening myself up to being a human, which is intrinsically flawed and naturally vulnerable, creates a platform for honesty with yourself and with those who hear you.
What I have come to learn throughout our journey with a diagnosis that affects 1.5 million women nationally, is that in the face of almost any kind of hardship or grief we often discover the most intimate details of ourselves that make us the people we are. Some are more subtle while others are bold and obvious. All of them, though, are my silver lining.