Infertility & Identity ! Who am I if not a mother ?
One of the most difficult and life shifting things about infertility, is the sense of losing your identity as a woman; or rather what society expects a woman should be.
I never gave my identity in society a second thought until I faced the prospect of never having children. What does that make me now? All the women I know in my parent’s generation are mothers, so what’s the alternative? I can’t be a non-mother – there must be something more positive and proactive than that.
I wrangled with this idea for months and months when I was first diagnosed with endometriosis, felt totally lost in myself during this time, not sure where to turn. Where were my role models now? Where were the people like me that could help me carve a new direction that doesn’t involve children?
I’m amazed at how far society has come even in the past 5 years – at the beginning of my journey there were not the same range of resources, publicity and community engagement in women without children as there are now. More and more high-profile women are speaking out about fertility struggles and there is so much more being written about IVF and fertility now than there ever has be which all helps normalise what we’re going through.
A friend showed me this video a couple of months ago and I’ve watched it tons of times as there is something so comforting about hearing celebrities who supposedly “have it all”, talk about the same struggles you and I face every day, so here it is, and I hope you can also pass it on to other people who might need to hear it:
Whether you decide not to have children, have been trying for children for a long time, have decided to stop treatment or have tried and now accept a life without children, society is starting to accept us all a little easier than it used to.
However, that’s not to say any of it is easy or that acceptance is wide-spread. We all inevitably hear the question “do you have kids”? on a regular basis, and the strained awkwardness when we say “no” or offer an explanation as to why. On an everyday level, a lot of people still don’t get it but the number of people that do is certainly increasing and that will start to make our circumstances, choices and conversations less alien and more accepted.
Society may be changing, slowly, but are we?
Are we as women ok with defining our identity in some other way than by being a mother? Surely we should be, as we are all now women of the 21st century with endless possibilities and life choices, careers, hobbies, networks but when it really comes down to it, ask any Mother who she is and she will always say first a foremost a Mother.
It’s such a powerful sense of identify that is understood by society and the world over. It doesn’t matter where you come from, which language you speak or culture you are part of, being a Mother is something everyone understands.
Not being one, however, cannot be the alternative – it sparks too much of a sense of loss or misfortune and we are so much more than that. We can help turn this perception around though by realigning our ideas of who we are as women of this world who don’t have kids.
Let’s have a go now!
Try and answer these questions quickly without thinking about it too much – go for your gut instinct and see what comes out…
DEFINING YOUR IDENTITY
What are the things that are the most important to you?
Pick three things that you really can’t live without.
What do you utmost believe in?
Things that make you tick, motivate you and are at your core.
What do you value more than anything?
What is your life about? What gives meaning to who you are and your life?
What sparks joy in your heart?
Things that bring you utmost happiness
Look through your answers and see if you can use some of those words to fill in the sentence below.
I am a ……, …………, ……………woman and I value …………, ………………
Eg. I am a compassionate, loyal and honest woman and I value my relationships above all else.
Congratulations! You have defined who you are right now (like anything in life, identity can and probably will change over time) and now you can use this in response to any awkward question you might be asked about your identity or role in society in the future!
How do you feel after doing that exercise? Has it readjusted your thoughts about identity? I’d love to hear from you wherever you are on your fertility journey.