The Positioning Exercise


positioningSome could argue that in writing this Coming2Terms blog, I risk wholly or primarily defining myself as an “infertile woman.” My response is that society already does that work for us “infertiles.”  We never had a choice in the matter. Day in, day out, we hear countless references from others that establish their “fertility” as a key component of their identity.

If I correctly recall a lesson from my marketing 101 course, the net effect is that one positions oneself by positioning the other guy (e.g., “There are credit cards.  And there’s American Express.”  Hmmm, which is supposed to be superior?).

Building upon this idea, MotherOfNone, shed further light on this when she commented on the What Would You Do entry:“Every day we live as IF women we are subjected to countless conversations about children starting school, taking first steps, the ‘clever’ things they say, the lessons they’re taking, etc. Folks need to understand these experiences are not universal. One day, I got stuck in perhaps the millionth such conversation. I turned to one of the parents, a friend, and said, ‘Infertile people are subject to this kind of conversation ten times a day.’ She looked horrified and guilty.

Yes, the references to pregnancy and fertility come at us all day long — in the grocery store, the workplace, the airport, on television and in media of all kinds.  If we matched these references example for example with references to our infertility, the fertile world would appreciate how discreet we are when it comes to not discussing the life-changing events going on in our world. Heck, infertility blogs aside (and our blogs are far outnumbered by Mommy blogs) there’s nary a peep from us. Out of curiosity I once tried to count how often I heard or read the expression “as a mom…” but the frequency made it far too hard to keep track.  A recent Google News search of “as a mom” brought back nearly 200 articles in one month alone. One article used the description and its variant, “as a mother” three times.

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Now granted it was an article about Juggling Parenthood and a Profession but the point stands. (It would be fun to do an Onion version: Juggling Infertility and a Profession, wouldn’t it?)  The same news search for “as an infertile woman” brought back zero news articles.  Now let’s take this a step further with a little word substitution from a sample of off-the-cuff comments I’ve heard in the last few days.

Before anyone starts protesting that we can’t go around censoring ourselves to the point of neutering our lives, the examples below simply make the point that there’s lots of fertility positioning going on…

I engage in lots of smiling and nodding when my fertile friends merrily make references to pregnancy and mommyhood, but my smiling is caused in part by the translations going on in my head. (You’ll find the key below).

Here are the conversations as I hear them:

  1.  “Donuts? Don’t you know you should keep donuts away from an infertile woman — especially one getting hormone shots.”
  2. “So I’m talking to this other infertile woman about what kind of car makes sense…”
  3.  “Should he leave his wife at home to travel, especially when she’s infertile?”
  4.  “As an infertile woman, I believe it’s important that kids have good healthcare.”
  5. “Now that I’m infertile, I have so little time to read.”
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Where you see infertile or infertile woman, the real words used were 1) pregnant 2) mom 3) pregnant 4) mom 5) a mom. 

Care to play? Comment away with your favorite conversation translations.

Now what was that you were saying about me focusing too much on my lack of fertility?


15 Responses

  1. Bea

    September 12, 2007 1:50 am

    I am so going to be playing that game. I love how sentence four came out, especially. Like being a mum gives you special dispensation to care about kids’ health. (Sometimes I hear people say, “I didn’t used to worry when a child was crying until I had one of my own!” and I think, good heavens – these are the sorts of people they give babies to these days?)


  2. Amanda

    September 12, 2007 12:44 pm

    So I guess my first entry for this game would have to be, “Are you infertile?” from a 95 year old patient. This is gonna be interesting!!

    And I agree with Bea. It kind of makes you see why the world is in the state it is.

  3. JJ

    September 12, 2007 1:12 pm

    “Since I am infertile, I have very little time to carry around my empty womb to all her activities: I just don’t know if I can fit in one more injection shot between soccer and dance.”

  4. May

    September 12, 2007 3:50 pm

    “Now that I’m infertile, I know I’m not the centre of my world anymore. I have something so much more important to do.”


    “Now that I’m infertile, I can’t do all those silly fun things you can do.”


    “I’m so glad I’m infertile. My life was pretty meaningless before it happened.”

    (Originals all kindly donated by the same woman in the one conversation and yes, I did ‘wander off’ to the second-hand bookshop pretty damn sharpish).

  5. Schatzi

    September 12, 2007 5:04 pm

    1) Being infertile is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    2)Don’t you worry, you’ll be infertile someday, too.

    3)Oh, I can’t believe I forgot about it… infertile-brain, you know.

    Oooo, this is fun. I will start paying attention more…

  6. MotherOfNone

    September 12, 2007 5:38 pm

    Oh, so much fun! A brain-teaser that will soon replace sudoku!

    “I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night because my infertility insisted on sleeping in the bed with me.”

    “I’m so infertile, my husband just needs to look at me and I don’t get pregnant!”

    “Damn this infertility fat! I can’t get rid of that extra 10 pounds that I gained when I became infertile.”

    “We had such a good time on vacation. We took our infertility camping and then to Disneyland.”

    Wicked fun! Thanks for the wonderful entry and for your wonderful blog.

  7. Kami

    September 12, 2007 7:51 pm

    Thought provoking post!

    “Honey, when you are infertile, you will understand.”

    “I never imagined being infertile would be so rewarding.”

    “It’s a lot of hard work, but being infertile is SO worth it.”

    “Now that we are infertile, my husband and I have really had some tough times as a couple.”

  8. Babystep

    September 12, 2007 11:25 pm

    My turn!

    “Now that I am infertile, my work let’s me have a flexible schedule”

    “If you were infertile, you probably would have thought twice about spending all that money on cancer treatments for your dog”

    “I never knew I could feel such a deep love for anything or anyone, until I became infertile”.

    “Guess what! I am infertile!” (From a single girl…)…”I always knew I would do it on my own!”

    All four comments were at a big lunch the other day…I was surrounded by preggos and moms. Thanks, I will never suffer through these horrible conversations the same way again!

  9. InfertileMan

    September 13, 2007 12:57 am

    “Look buddy, since you already have kids and I’m infertile, I’m offering to have sex with your wife to make sure she doesn’t get pregnant again.”

    “I get just one look at a girl and bam, she’s not pregnant!”

    “I didn’t get snipped, so now I just shoot blanks.”

  10. ursi

    September 13, 2007 1:57 pm

    When you are in a job like ours, it is easy to get a bit up yourself. Having ivf treatment helps you to avoid that. It makes you realise that there’s something more important.

  11. Geohde

    September 15, 2007 7:07 am

    When *I* became infertile, my priorities changed. Substitute ‘infertile’ for ‘a parent’ and add knowing smirk about career/employment status.

  12. Kareno

    September 23, 2007 12:41 pm

    You know, when I got this post of yours in my inbox, I thought many ideas would spring to mind. I’ve been mulling over my comment for more than a week now, and every time I get stuck on this one:

    “You’ll never know what it means to be a real woman until you become infertile.”

    “You don’t know anything about responsibility before your not an Infertile yourself” (insert “a parent” here)

    And yes, it sounds bitter, but so what. At least I didn’t slap someone in the face – so many of these comments about being pregnant and having children feels like a punch in the stomach and worse…

  13. MotherOfNone

    September 24, 2007 2:43 am

    I had to come back to this blog entry yet again because I love it and wanted to leave an anecdote about a clueless but well meaning fertile myrtle (fm).

    Setting: At a dinner party.
    FM: How are the diagnostic tests and treatments going?
    Me: Well, you know, I’m doing them, but it’s looking increasingly like we’re looking at a childfree life. And that’s really OK!
    FM: Well, if that’s what it turns out to be, you really ought to be closer to my children. I’m not saying you avoid them now or anything, but you should make them a bigger part of your life.
    Me: What part of “childfree” didn’t you understand?

    This interaction left me baffled. Why would someone think of it as consolation to offer up their own kids as kid-companions? Why would she think this would interest me? It was a very strange conversation.

  14. furinfertile

    January 29, 2009 12:11 am

    Referring to a candidate, a celebrity, any successful businessperson in a published article:
    He/She is the loving wife/husband of (Name), and the ashamed, frustrated infertile of 0 children — and not one on the way.

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