This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). Interestingly, this week is also when my son, my only son, celebrates his birthday—my one and only triumph against my condition.
I suffer from this disease and I'm just grateful that it feels less taboo to speak about it now than decades ago. It is said that 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age face infertility in some form or another. This is why having conversations about this issue is important, not just on a personal level so that people like me don't feel alienated, but also on a social level as this reality creates ripples in so many different spheres of our social lives. (One cannot tackle infertility as an issue without realizing that it is multifaceted as it includes the medical/health aspect, an economic dimension—financial costs, health insurance policies, population issues, etc—as well as the moral and religious concerns a lot of us with this condition often times contend with).
This year's NIAW theme is 'You are not alone'. I know the power of those words which is why I promised myself never to feel ashamed of my condition or my story. There are a lot of articles or essays this week that raise awareness on infertility and here are two that resonated with me:
The 3 Biggest Myths About Infertility (and I highly recommend you read the comments here too!)
I asked myself what it is that's left for me to say when there are already countless brave and wise voices in this conversation. What is it that I want people to know about infertility?
This is my simple answer: That I am just like any other parent; that my infertility doesn't define—or shouldn't make you look at me any differently in terms of— the kind of parent I am.
Yes, it was certainly not an accident that I became pregnant. And yes, I obviously wanted to become a mother which is why I actively sought out ways to make it possible. I disregarded all the pain and discomfort of getting numerous shots, vaginal ultrasounds, and countless intrusive diagnostic tests required of anyone using assisted reproductive technology, all because I longed for a child. But my agency in all this, and my deep desire to become a parent don't exempt me from any of the normal sentiments felt by any other kind of parent, and this includes my right to complain.
Just like any other parent, I go through challenges, frustration, doubts, anger and immeasurable exhaustion from caring for my son. But what I don't want to hear when I vent or complain is that unsupportive tone that says, "Well, isn't this what you wanted so badly? Suck it up and stop complaining! You asked for this.".
I won't even focus on the fact that such an argument doesn't hold much logic, but I will point out its obvious unfairness and cruelty. It's bad enough that people suffering from infertility go through so much physical, pyschological and emotional pain while trying to conceive. We really don't need the added guilt when we are simply being like any other normal parent struggling with our role. Just like any other parent, we need to know it's okay to give ourselves permission to feel the whole gamut of emotions that parenthood brings, from the saccharine sweet to the dark and ugly.
My son turned 8 this week. He continues to fill my life with unparalleled joy and love every second. But I will admit that not a day goes by when I don't ask myself if I'm being the best mom that I can be to him. Fertile or not, I'm still me. I get angry, I scream, I'm a recovering perfectionist, I tend to be impatient and I hurt and will continue to hurt my son's feelings at times. All these make me question if I'm giving my all to be the best version of Mom I could be to my 'baby'.
But there is one thing I will never ever question, and that is if I was meant to be a mother, and particularly a mother to him, my Noah. It doesn't matter how he was conceived, how we became part of each other's lives. He is my Noah. Just as the Biblical character, he is the chosen one for me, my survivor, the only one from among our three embryos during our very first IVF cycle in 2006 who made it to the end. My son and I, just like every other child and parent out there, fertile or not, are a perfect match in spite of, and most especially because of our imperfections. I know in my heart without a doubt that it was all meant to be.