“I’m getting snipped, so now I’ll be less of a man.”
I’ve heard this sentiment a lot, maybe because I’ve hit the vasectomy age, when everyone has all the kids their minivans will hold and husbands start popping their nuts under the knife.
I understand the joke, but as an infertile girl, lemme just speak to my people. Your ability to reproduce doesn’t make you more or less of a woman or man. Your reproductive capability has nothing to do with your sexuality.
But it can feel that way, can’t it?
I felt so incomplete and not enough. Inferior to all the women whose bellies swelled and breasts nourished. And people telling me to “just relax” and “enjoy trying” made me feel worse, like all these healthy, voluptuous, fertile bodies were all shagging and getting pregnant and cycle of life-ing all the time and I was barely managing our forced copulation when the calendar said it was time for another dismal, calculated round of Inseminate the Egg.
I didn’t feel like a woman. I felt like a lab rat.
Infertility can destroy intimacy. You go so many months and years on a schedule, with doctors looming in on all the ins and outs of all the moving parts and it becomes nearly impossible to enjoy sex. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.
You feel broken. And having a baby doesn’t make it all better. Your confidence is shattered and you feel stripped bare. Your body becomes no more than equipment to tweak on a cold table, a series of pipettes and test tubes, and you lose the ability to respond to warm caresses and heat.
Maybe you go to church where the couples do marriage studies and you learn about what a husband should do and how a wife should respond and it’s all crap to you. You don’t feel like a woman and you have nothing to offer and you build up resentment toward other couples who are probably having sex six times a day. You’re sure of it. You’re the only one on your lonely, sexless island. And the thought of sex makes you feel like you can’t breathe, just one more pressure on your body to perform.
Infertile girl, you are not alone. No one talks about this stuff, because no one wants to sit in a room and say that sex is hard and everything feels like defeat. No one raises her hand and asks if she’s still a real woman if she can’t have a baby and can’t share stories of labor and nursing. No one does, but I will, so you know you aren’t alone. You aren’t alone. You aren’t alone, and let me tell you something.
You are all woman, no matter what your fallopian tubes are doing. You are desirable, you are loved, and your identity as a woman is not contingent on your ability to birth a child. Is not.
Having a baby doesn’t make you a woman just like playing with pink Legos doesn’t make you a girl. If you’re struggling with who you are in light of your infertility, may I suggest that you spend some time discovering what makes you feel feminine, apart from conceiving?
What makes you feel beautiful, capable, and female? It’ll be a little different for everyone. For some people it’s running or making adorable, Pinnable crafts or cooking meals for friends and family or starting your own business or cultivating plants that bring beauty and make food.
For me, I feel beautiful, capable, and female when I do yoga. Something about seeing my short, squatty body in the mirror with my arms and legs in some sort of alignment and feeling the stretch of my muscles makes me feel grateful and strong. I practiced yoga throughout my long years of infertility. I used the quiet moments to pray and thank God for the body I have.
I feel beautiful, capable, and female when I talk about our long-term development and child sponsorship program in Uganda. My mother’s heart, regardless of the capability of my uterus, has labored in partnership with my peers there and I am humbled and grateful for all that we’ve accomplished together.
I feel beautiful, capable, and female when I stretch my arms overhead and sing, whether in church or in my kitchen. I feel it when I pull on my boots and feel the stretch of my jeans around my hips. I feel it when I look another woman in the eyes and listen to her story. I feel it when my husband wraps his arms around my waist. When I brush my long hair.
Infertile girl, we are more than the people we make. We are more than the sex we have and the checklists we keep. We are more than the waiting and shots and disappointment. We are more.
Think this through. What makes you feel beautiful, capable, and female, apart from conceiving a child?
image from the.mutator at https://flic.kr/p/joDs6F