Three years into a gruelling infertility battle I attended a 30th birthday party. The “birthday girl” being honoured was seven months pregnant at the time. One of the gifts she received was a t-shirt, with the words I Can Grow a Human. What’s Your Superpower? scrawled across the front. The guests oohed and aahed, giggled, and nudged each other.
“That’s such a cute gift,” someone said. I smiled but couldn’t force myself to agree. To a seventh-month pregnant woman maybe, not so much to a woman experiencing infertility.
The message of the t-shirt is not a new one. Although women still struggle to gain full equality, in my experience, motherhood is revered. From childhood we are inundated with phrases such as You’ll understand when you become a mother or You don’t know true love until you become a mother.
We find celebrities much more interesting once they become pregnant, clicking on images of their baby bumps, wondering if they’ll have a boy or a girl or what they’ll name them. Once a woman becomes a mother she is automatically seen as more serious and less selfish. In my own Italian-Canadian culture, to be someone’s mother is considered the highest of honours.
So then if a mother is a type of goddess to be worshipped, it could be argued that getting and staying pregnant are her superpowers.
I’m not saying that pregnancy and giving birth are not remarkable. They are and I feel very fortunate to have experienced them twice. I also think mothers should be recognized and respected for all that they do. But I think there is a strength that women experiencing infertility exhibit that doesn’t get the same attention.
How about the woman getting up at five or six in the morning to take her spot in the queue for blood work and ultrasounds and still manages to make it to work on time?
How about the woman injecting herself daily with hormones, having invasive procedures, spending thousands of dollars for something that is far from a guarantee?
How about the woman filling out paperwork, being finger-printed, and interviewed by social workers in order to meet the requirements of her adoption home study?
How about the women researching egg or sperm donors and gestational carriers for their chance at motherhood?
How about those women who are open about their infertility in order to spread awareness and eliminate stigma.
Women who instead of posting pics of ultrasounds, positive pregnancy tests, or baby bumps are sharing resources or relating heartbreaking stories of grief and loss?
How about the woman who after failed treatment cycles decides to remain childfree and dedicates her life to a new path, like a career change, that she never would have done if not for infertility?
How about the women who were never mothers in the traditional sense but who dedicate their time to nurturing and mentoring others in order to leave the world a better place then they found it?
I think these women are pretty powerful.
I spent a lot of time trying to become a mother, seven years in fact. But what I learned along the way was that the true reason I wanted to become a mother was not what perhaps motivated me to try in the first place. While I may have embarked on my quest for motherhood because I thought it was the “natural” thing to do or to meet society’s expectations of me, what I learned over years of disappointment was that the true reason I wanted to become a mother was that I wanted to experience all the joy, (and frustration) that comes with raising a child from infancy to adulthood.
In honour of International Women’s Day, I’d like to salute all women—fertile or not, mothers or childfree and tell them that they are powerful and their superpowers extend far beyond their reproductive status. I want them to know that I look up to them and that they are heroes to me.
By Lori Sebastianutti, http://www.lorisebastianutti.com