What Infertility Taught Me About Feminism

by Danielle Lyons

As a child, it was obvious to choose motherhood as a career. That was the goal. That was the plan. Things don’t always go according to plan. At the age of 19, I received the diagnosis of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility. Marni Rosner says,

“Women often begin to imagine themselves GetAttachmentThumbnailas mothers long before actually trying to have children, and this is certainly influenced by implicit cultural and societal messages that idealize motherhood. When this imagined self of a mother, however tentative, is withdrawn, it may result in feeling a loss of control, threaten her imagined future, cause her to doubt her womanhood, and feel like an assault on her ability to self-actualize.”

So much of my identity had been taken from me at the second of my diagnosis. I had invested so much in my plans of motherhood, I had to do a little revaluation of my goals.

First I addressed the age old question, “What’s Plan-B?” I had planned so much of my life around the prospects of motherhood. I was left reeling when I realized that might not come to fruition. When we are young, we are given baby dolls to nurture that instill in us the value of being a caretaker. Through my work here at The Women’s Center, I came to a realization. Yes, I’d be a great mother. But I’d probably be good at a lot of things if I give myself room to explore other avenues. Iris Waichler reminds us, “Spend some time thinking about how many other different ways you can identify yourself. You may be a sibling, a friend, a wife. Perhaps you are a person with a solid career and professional skills, and proud personal achievements that occurred before the word infertility ever entered your consciousness.” So, motherhood may not happen for me. That’s not the end of the world. There’s infinite possibilities at our disposals. Infertility has taught me about recognizing my worth as a woman. My worth and possibility as a person reaches far beyond my fertility, or lack thereof.

It is easy to see your body as the enemy when it doesn’t work in the way you want it to. I eventually learned to love own my body; broken parts and all. Gloria Steinem reminds us, “Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms.” At the end of the day. It isn’t the final say in motherhood. That took a while to grasp for me. We do have options if we so choose to pursue them. There are fertility drugs, surgery, in vitro fertilization, adoption, and many other choices. At the end of the day, I realize that I’m not completely at the mercy of my body. I have much more power and choice than I realize. Mothers aren’t defined just by their ability to bear children, and that’s an important conclusion to come to when you are dealing with infertility.

And finally, I learned the importance of self-care. I’m not going to pretend that fertility issues don’t make me sad. They do. I think it’s completely okay and necessary to mourn the things that just may not be. With that being said, it is also a necessity to provide some self-care at those times I’m mourning. Self-care is an intentional act in which to help care for your emotional and mental wellbeing. Lucille Ball says, “You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” On those days of grief and insecurity, it’s essential to actively be kind to yourself. Sometimes the most radical thing you can do, is just care for yourself.

To my fellow sufferers of infertility, I’ll leave you with this:

You are power. You are worthy. And you are not alone.