We like to put people, situations, stages of life into neatly labeled "boxes" because as a society we are uncomfortable interacting with those who's lives do not match up to our own ideals - giving them a "name" helps us to decide where they fit in (or don't), what we should or should not do about them.
There are certain people I've learned to avoid because their view of the world consists of:
1) Women who have children: good
2) Women who don't have children: bad
They've viewed the world for so long through such a divided filter that it is impossible to squeeze a thought into their brain that doesn't fit neatly into one of these two categories. Attempting to try is like trying to block machine-gun fire with your own body. Not a good idea. Also, not worth your time.
Then there is another set of people who see the world through similar filters as above (though softened a little with something called "compassion") which look like this:
1) Women who have children: good
2) Women who don't have children: sad
Into this category, falls nearly everyone else you come in contact with. Doctors, family members, co-workers, acquaintances and even close friends. They are the ones who, when they find out that you don't have children yet, are either "sorry" or offer to "pray for you" or want to give you advice on where you can get "help" to rectify this undesirable situation in your life. They are very well-meaning and you can't fault them for feeling empathy toward you. But at the same time, it is comments like these from people you admire and trust that strengthen the walls around the box you have unwillingly and unwittingly found yourself in.
The word "infertility" (which means NOT-fertile, as in the complete absence and lack whatsoever of) is a medical term used to diagnose couples who have been trying unsuccessfully for over 1 year to become pregnant. This is based on statistical data which says that most couples (about 90%, depending on which site you read) who eliminate contraception will become pregnant within a year's time. Everyone else is deemed to be "infertile". Yet, the literary world abounds with stories of couples who tried for years before finally becoming pregnant - some after getting "help" and some by sheer luck. Also, there are many different biological factors which may affect either the woman's or the man's ability to contribute to the fertility equation. In most cases, it is simple a matter of decreased chances of becoming pregnant and not an actual fact that it will never, ever happen. But never mind all this. If it's been a year and you aren't knocked up, girls, you are INFERTILE! Happy?
Of course not. Who wants to walk around with that kind of label over their head? Especially if you are just starting out in your quest to have children and the topic is still very sensitive. Nothing like a prediction of failure to keep up your morale, while all around you people seem to be popping out babies left and right without giving it a second thought (never mind those who don't even want the children they so effortlessly conceived).
But more importantly, since WHEN did your ability (or lack thereof) to have children become the most important defining element of your life? While, mothers are wonderful and necessary people, why are they automatically lifted onto a societal pedestal just because their bodies were able to perform the basic act of reproduction? Before, I start getting hate mail, let me explain that I am referring to the biological definition of a "mother".
Unfortunately, because of this imbalance in human perception of "worth", those who don't fit the mold experience isolation and segregation which all-too-often leads to bitterness and depression. A silent "war" persists in the minds of the "haves" and the "have nots". And it will rage on until you realize that the only person you can change is yourself.
Before this gets too deep, I want to say that my point in writing this first blog post about my own experiences with the I-word is to open up a conversation about the "box" I found myself in, nearly 5 years ago and how I broke out of it. I will be honest and I will be frank. I may post snippets of journal entries and the memories I recall may be laced with bitterness from time to time, but I ask anyone who decides to read them to keep in mind that my experiences are my experiences and that my ultimate goal is freedom, acceptance and happiness.
You don't find clusters of women chatting about the I-word around a cafe table . It's not a popular or fun topic and those unfamiliar with it personally are also uncomfortable with it in reality. But it exists and so, for the silent sufferers around the world, I write to let you know that you are not alone. Life is beautiful and so are you!
Until next time,