“In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
This is a blog about surviving a Siberia of the soul. If you are infertile, you know this place well: it’s the social and emotional exile which women experience when they’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to have a child. It’s the frozen tundra of women who cannot be mothers. If you’re not infertile, imagine this: you’re the proverbial fly on the wall at any social gathering of women: a cocktail party, a shower, a luncheon. Imagine yourself hovering over them and eavesdropping. Notice how quickly their conversation turns to children. From the initial “do you have any kids?” to the exchange of concerns, tips and advice; to the heroic tales of pregnancy and birth–women’s conversations are seldom devoid of references to motherhood.
That’s because the “moms club” is the world’s largest club. Numerous in members, not very exclusive, sometimes involuntary, but still, a club. When you have a child, you become a card-carrying member, you learn the secret handshake, and you uncover mysteries that “only a mother could understand”.
We live in a society geared toward, even obsessed with, motherhood. Despite their liberation from traditional gender roles, most American women view being a mom as central to their feminine identity. Do you remember a 1970’s song that went something like this: “When I grow up, I want to be a mother… one little, two little, three little blessings from above”? From an early age, women receive the message that, no matter how much they succeed in other areas of their lives, they are not entirely complete until they have one, two or three of these “blessings”. And more than that: in recent years, having kids has moved beyond the mere fulfillment of womanhood. It has become the ultimate symbol of worldly success and status. Pick up a tabloid, and you will immediately lay eyes on the inevitable “babyrazzi” photos: celebrity A and her designer-clad “baby bump”; superstar B and her $3,000 diaper bag; starlet C and her baby’s Swarovski-crystal-encrusted tricycle. You don’t read tabloids, you say? No problem. Just peruse The Washington Post (“A third child in the city is definitely a luxury good “) or listen to NPR (“The newest status symbol for the nation’s most affluent families is fast becoming a big brood of kids”) or go to Slate online (“Kids as Status Symbols”). All in all, the pressure to become a parent has evolved (with the help of the billion-dollar parenting industry) into a new trend, one that some have termed “competitive birthing”.
But what if you can’t even have one child, let alone the second, third or fourth “trophy kids”? What if these messages only leave you feeling like a wallflower at a prom, lonely and inadequate? What if you are an infertile woman—desperately yet unsuccessfully wanting to have a child? You feel alone, isolated, different and even shunned. That is what the “Siberia” of infertility is. You need resilience to survive it. And resilience is what this blog is set to teach you.
Welcome to Fertility Resilience!