Infertile to the Core

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As a teacher, I spend a lot of time explaining the concept of choices and consequences. Sometimes, kids just don't understand that throwing paper across the room, showing up without your homework, or deciding to do any number of shockingly inappropriate things in class are all choices on their part. These students see these actions as mystical occurrences from the great beyond, and as such, the students believe they should not be held responsible for any of those actions. In short, holding them accountable for their actions "isn't fair." Every time I hear that what I am doing isn't fair, I want to come back with, "yeah, you don't know the half of it." But, alas, my burdens are not meant to be shared with seventh graders.

I've recently become more involved in (obsessed with) Pinterest, since I am revamping my classroom for the upcoming school year. In my quest for inspirational quotes for my classroom walls, I stumbled across a "poster" that has made me reflect quite a bit. It simply says "Don't let your struggle become your identity." It's a simple enough notion that we are more than just our struggles. But, isn't my identity, or anyone's identity, extraordinarily tied to the struggles they face? Aren't the struggles the things that show us what we're made of and who we really are?

When someone conquers, or simply faces, something huge or seemingly insurmountable, doesn't it become part of their identity? My mother was extremely proud to walk the survivor lap in the Relay for Life each year. She rocked the pink ribbons in October and willingly spoke to others about cancer survival and support. She was proud to tell anyone and everyone she was a Cancer Survivor. It was a part of her from her diagnosis until her death. I still think of her as a survivor of cancer who got her reprieve after a long, hard journey. Though she was many things to many people, one of her major, and defining roles, was cancer survivor.

When someone overcomes an injury that was set to take away their ability to see, to walk or to do any of the other things we so often take for granted, don't we say they are survivors of (insert issue here)? Don't struggles, by their very nature, change the core of who we are and become part of our identity?

I guess the sentiment at the heart of the quote is true; I am more than just an infertile- we are all more than just the struggles we face. But, it's also unfair to ask me to sugarcoat, or even deny, that part of my existence because it touches, quite literally, every part of my life. The ability to create a child is hard-wired into our DNA. It's part of who we are as humans. When it doesn't happen after so many interventions, it seems ridiculous to think it would not affect our very essence. How could it not shake you to your very core and make you question the "woman" you are?

Those who are parents often characterize having children as one of the most meaningful experiences they have ever had. They say children give their life meaning it lacked before. So, why then would the absence of children, after desiring them with ever fiber of your being, be any different? Wouldn't it change your life inexplicably? Wouldn't finding out parenthood is not meant to be completely change your world? How can someone who sees the beauty of parenthood fail to understand the heartbreak of the childless couple who faces infertility?

Unlike my earlier analogy, my husband and I never made a decision that led us to our childlessness. We are, for the most part, rule followers. We didn't do anything to "earn" this, much like others who have various illnesses and conditions. As such, it's not a struggle born of a choice we made. It is a struggle that comes from the necessity to complete our family, and a struggle over which we have nearly no control.

I'm setting forth on a new juncture in my path, one I have viewed with quite a bit of trepidation. Jeremy and I are going to meet with a new fertility clinic on Wednesday to get a second opinion. I'm afraid and exhilarated simultaneously. It's another part of my struggle and it will very likely contribute in part to my identity. Conflicted, overwhelmed infertiles, party of 2.

But, the murky and chaotic world of the infertility path is one that is very much at the core of who I am and who I will forever be. Regardless of the twists and turns it takes, it is woven into the fabric of my essence. For better or for worse, I am Becky. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a teacher, a friend... and I am an infertile, still praying that someday someone might call me "mom."

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