Womanly In More Ways Than One

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FYI: I’m updating this post with a poll since the Newsweek story (mentioned below) has had me wondering what you (infertile and fertile alike) really think. Since anonymous polls net more participation, here’s your chance to weigh in. Don’t be shy!

Survived my first very busy day back in the office after a holiday break that included:

  • Getting snowed in with the marvelous Mr. PJ in the Sierra Nevada mountains (heaven, for all the obvious reasons — I mean what else do you do when you’re snowed in with your man with nothing but time, a fireplace and wine?)
  • Catching a series of the latest, greatest releases on the big screen including Valkyrie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons and The Reader. All get my thumbs up. For the last two, bring plenty of tissue (warning: I almost dehyrdated from the tears shed) … still much more on the list to see — what a feast there is on the silver screen of late.
  • More edits to Silent Sorority. My final manuscript is now off on its way to a terrific book editor (fingers crossed for something resembling a book deal in the not too distant future).  Thanks to all of you who have emailed to ask about it. Please stay tuned.

Now here’s the thing. I also had some time to surf the Net, research and look into more on the topic of involuntary childlessness and what I found made me appreciate how glad I am to:

  1. Live in Bay area of California — one of the most progressive places on the planet
  2. Have a really interesting career in the endlessly fascinating cradle of innovation (aka Silicon Valley)
  3. Not have to suffer the level of ostracism that my sisters in other parts of the world face when they can’t conceive.

Not sure how I missed this Newsweek article, What it Means to be a Woman, which ran in September, but it’s worth revisiting if only to offer up further evidence that infertility is not something to be marginalized or swept under the rug. This quote made my blood run cold:

In some developing countries, the consequences of infertility—which can
include ostracism, physical abuse and even suicide—are heartbreaking.
“If you are infertile in some cultures, you are less than a dog,” says
Willem Ombelet of the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in
Belgium. Women are often uneducated, so their only identity comes from
being moms. “It [infertility] is an issue of profound human suffering,
particularly for women,” says Marcia Inhorn, professor of anthropology and international affairs at Yale University. “It’s a human-rights issue.”

And that’s just one of many quotes that will leave you practically speechless. Here’s another:

“In Western countries, it has become much more socially acceptable to be
childless, and more American women are hitting their 40s without kids,
according to the latest census data. By contrast, in many developing
countries, women have no careers—just motherhood—to give them their
identity. “The notion of child-free living is not considered an
acceptable thing for a married couple,” says Inhorn.

One of the biggest challenges in my own struggle to accept my infertility was overcoming the feeling that I was less of a woman. Yes. There it is. Sigh. A child of the women’s movement with a graduate degree and a successful career and I was still tripped up by the whole I am only as valuable as my parts mentality.  Perhaps that’s why you’ll usually find me wearing form-fitting clothes that highlight my natural curves. The equipment may not work as intended but it looks pretty darned good in the latest fashions.
Is it any wonder I’m grateful not to be trapped in a society or place with nothing to stimulate the other part of what I’ve come to appreciate is just as important to my womanliness, my mind.

You can read more of Inhorn’s thoughts in her book Infertility Around the Globe: New Thinking on Childlessness, Gender and Reproductive Technologies. Not surprising I just ordered myself a copy.

Now if you excuse me I’m going to take my womanly body and mind into 2009 and get ready for what promises to be an interesting year.