Diagnosis vs. Identity
When I was first presented with the opportunity to write a piece on self-image and infertility, I thought to myself “Yeah!! This is AWESOME!! What a great way to share with other women how to feel empowered through the infertility struggle!” After three years of being diagnosed with “unexplained infertility,” I was so excited to share mine and my husband’s story. I wanted to write about how strong we’ve remained together through the infertility, and how it’s truly empowered me to be thoroughly educated on my own body and take my health back into my own hands instead of just relying on medical doctors — after all, me and my body have been together a little while now. I got this. After all the tests, and procedures, self-monitoring, seeing two different fertility specialists before our move to the west coast, countless naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists, and chiropractors, I was certain I understood my fertility issue down pat. And then last week, I found out, I didn’t. Not at all.
After moving from coast to coast across the country, my husband and I were thrilled that our six-month wait to meet our new reproductive endocrinologist was over. While I was thrilled for the appointment to discuss what our next steps would be, the last thing I expected was being told to forget everything I knew about my fertility for the last three years. People had told us this RE was one of the best in Canada, and I shrugged it off thinking “Great, but it’s cool … I know what we’re dealing with.” Clearly, all doctors are not created equal. After a full exam and reviewing our previous tests we had done, the doctor sat us down and said “You most certainly you have endometriosis.” As silly as it seems to me now, my first thought when the doctor said that was “What, I can’t have endometriosis! I don’t know anything about endometriosis! We’re both fine!”
The doctor then went on to explain in addition to this there were two cysts — one on each ovary which together with the endometriosis are quite likely the cause of my previous miscarriages. The rest of the appointment continued with the explanation of surgery for treatment, while I nodded along doing a very poor job of concealing my tears, and my husband did the balancing dance of trying to console me and still gather the information of what the surgery would entail, since it was clear I had checked out. All I kept thinking was “So, it is my fault we don’t have children.” For the first time, I felt like less of a woman because I was unable to give my husband children.
As we left the office and got to the car, I gave up on my futile attempt to hold back the tears, while my husband sat next to me trying to hide the fact that he was downright giddy about the news. One of the things I love most about him is his ability to see the best in any situation. He rarely allows himself to focus on the negative. He much more quickly than me was able to see that this was fantastic news and we finally had an explanation to everything. We had a reason for the difficulty in getting pregnant, as well as the previous losses. Even more than that, now we had a very hopeful plan to finally fix it.
Even still for a good 24 hours, all I was able to focus on was the feeling that this was on me. I was the reason we didn’t have children, the reason my niece and nephew don’t have cousins, the reason my parents and in-laws don’t have any grandchildren from us. I have never felt so defined by a diagnosis before, and it truly was an eye opener for me.
What I was eventually able to settle on is that I am not infertility. I am not endometriosis. I am a wife, who loves her family and wants to do her part to grow that family. I am still, if not even more so, a strong woman who takes pride in educating herself about her body. I am also a woman who doesn’t know it all, and will likely never have it all figured out. The good news is that I don’t have to. The good news is that I am fully reassured that no woman ever has to feel like she is infertility. We are all divine beings with multiple gifts and blessings to offer this world and the people in our lives. When we allow our self to embrace negative labels — whether self-imposed or by others, we deny ourselves and those around us the ability to know and love the strong powerful women that we truly are.
Arpita has a background in sociology and psychology and is studying to be a Post Partum Doula. She has a special interest in helping mothers establish the breastfeeding relationship and sharing information about natural/attachment parenting. She lives in Canada with her husband. As they await their first pregnancy, Arpita writes about alternative fertility treatments including acupuncture for fertility, naturopathic medicine and ayurvedic medicine (and offers giveaways) at Up, Down and Natural. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, cooking, baking, knitting, scrapbooking and photography.
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