GUEST POST: On not being a mum – yet

This post is about wanting to be a mother but not being one – yet – and all of the internal dialogue that comes with that particular pain. Thank you so much to the author for opening up and sharing with us here – that’s tough to do. There’s nothing more powerful than speaking your truth. We can connect with people all around the world so simply by sharing our experiences and our thoughts and feelings. Empathy and honesty binds us. I am so grateful to the women who share their stories here. I feel very privileged to be able to host these stories and I take that honour very seriously, so guest posts are moderated. I am always keen to feature posts about different experiences in parenting so please email me if you’d like to write something for the site.

Trigger warning: Infertility. 

I didn’t really want to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. I’d seen spoilers for it. Not about major plot points or if any of the main cast die or anything like that, but the fact that a big deal was made about Black Widow being infertile.

My friends would probably assume I didn’t want to see it because I really don’t need more terribly-handled Joss Whedon casual-sexism-disguised-as-Strong-Female-Character-development in my pop culture.

A few years ago, that would have been true. Despite much urging, I still haven’t watched Dollhouse precisely because I’m so over Whedon’s obsession with using sexual violation and psychological abuse to progress his Strong Women Characters’ storylines.

Now it’s different. Now, I just don’t want to see yet another movie or TV show which uses a woman’s infertility to make the audience feel sad.

A coworker once told me, “when you’re pregnant you suddenly see pregnant women EVERYWHERE.” It’s like when you’re waiting to get picked up by someone who drives a red car, and all you can see is red cars going past.

Well, you don’t just suddenly see pregnant women everywhere when you’re pregnant. You see them everywhere when you desperately, desperately wish you WERE pregnant. And you’re not. And your chances of getting pregnant “naturally” are pretty nonexistent. And there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it but pray and daydream about tens of thousands of dollars falling into your lap.

And you feel like the worst fucking feminist in the world. You’ve spent your entire politically-conscious life railing against the patriarchy, against the social pressures which say as a woman (ignoring/erasing trans women, of course) you must want kids. It’s natural, it’s ingrained, and you downright deserve to get paid less and overlooked for jobs and treated like a man’s property for it. All the institutional sexism stops being oppressive once you look into your baby’s eyes, right?

It’s bullshit. You know that. It’s a trap which set by The Man to stifle your options and perpetuate capitalism. You don’t need kids to be fulfilled. You can totally live your life and have your relationship and build your amazing career and be a whole, healthy, satisfied person.

Except I’m not. Despite ticking so many of the boxes, despite being in a comfortable place with nothing but good options in front of me, I just want to be pregnant. I just want to have a baby. It’s not rational, it’s not conscious, it’s just a deep, driving urge which no amount of sense can talk down.

But it might never happen. That’s life. Sometimes shit doesn’t work out the way you assumed it would when you were planning everything out at the age of 13.

So I try to go through life looking at the great things I have – a job I enjoy, a partner I love, a warm dry house – and hey, if it happens, it happens. Maybe by random biological chance. Maybe by a sudden financial windfall making IVF an option. I find myself humming “Let it Go” a lot to try to stop stressing myself out about it.

But at the same time, every single show and movie – not just the ones peppered with Joss Whedon’s trademarked short-and-snappy dialogue – seems to be part of a grand scheme to remind me that my situation is literally the worst thing that can happen to a woman.

In Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen is hung up on never being able to have children of her own. Revenge’s Emily Thorne can’t get pregnant because Daniel Grayson shot her. Masters of Sex was unsurprisingly full of reproductive themes but specifically used Libby’s desire to have a child to emphasise what a villain she was against the happy, randy, fecund Virginia. Boardwalk Empire – Nucky’s first wife had a mental snap after their child was stillborn (again – the infertile woman = villain compared to child-bearing Margaret’s virtue). Mad Men’s Trudy Campbell got depressed about not being able to conceive and seeing women with children everywhere.

Spartacus’ Lucretia is obsessed with having a baby. The titular second half of Julie and Julia cries on hearing about her sister’s pregnancy. I’ve been there. How many episodes of any procedural crime drama – or supernatural drama – revolve around adopted children, crooked fertility doctors, women so desperate to conceive they do extreme things? How many science fiction shows depict species which can’t reproduce taking drastic action to preserve their societies?

My favourite show is Orphan Black – wall-to-wall motherhood issues.

Don’t even start me on the opening montage of Up.

I try to be reasonable. Relationships and procreation are common human experiences, so of course that’s reflected in our media. I tell myself I should take comfort from the fact my situation isn’t unique. Other people get what I’m going through.

But every day while I try to hold things together, chill out, let life unfold the way it can … fuck, it’s difficult. And I just wish I could sit down and watch a goddamned silly superhero movie without being reminded yet again of the assumption, the thing I know deep in my soul, the thing I deny and deny but can’t escape: that my whole life is a complete fucking failure if I can never have babies.

I went to see Age of Ultron in the end. I figured I was forewarned, at least. If I cut out every bit of media from my life which used women’s fertility as a plot device I wouldn’t be able to watch anything at all. Just got to keep trucking on, and hoping.

6 Comments on “GUEST POST: On not being a mum – yet

  1. Thank you so much for these honest words. All the very best for whatever happens next.

  2. Someone I love very much feels just like this- it could almost have been written by her. Thank you for sharing x

  3. I could have written this. This post feels like a suckerpunch to the stomach. Going to go drink and cry for a while.

  4. Thank you so much for writing so frankly about this issue. While I am a mother now, we did experience years of infertility because both of us had issues. Of course, they wasted an entire year running tests on only me because everyone assumes the woman is the source of the problem, right? I remember well the searing anguish every time a friend announced a pregnancy. And then the guilt that my first response has been that sharp stab of envy and emptiness instead of joy for my friends – which was hot on the heels of that immediate reaction. I remember leaving one medical appointment and emerging into what felt like a sea of pregnant women or women with tiny babies. It was like a plague I wanted to catch. And then there’s all the pat things people say like “Some women are just destined to do other things” or “You will be the best auntie ever” or “At least you can travel easily” or “I always had you down as a career woman anyway”. Each thoughtless comment of “support” was like a pain that can’t be voiced. So thank you for writing this in the hope that some people read it and consider what they say and do around women who are not yet mothers. I rather think it’s too much to hope that the representation of women and issues facing women will be portrayed with greater sensitivity and realism in future but we can still hope.

  5. I totally hear your heart…
    It may be hard for you to believe…and it would have been hard for me to believe when I was paddling like hell to keep my head above water through the maelstrom of screaming…but I’m a walking womb!!!
    And the many years that I lived in
    Torment through baby showers
    Having sex in many creative positions..following every lead…trying every trick
    Trying to twist the arm of the almighty…doubting, believing hoping failing
    Spending my mothers inheritance on IVF
    Dealing with miscarriage…I won’t go on into foreign adoption

    And every human being is totally unique..with a unique story and path…so mine will not be yours…and infertility is not leprosy…so connecting with me cannot queer your pitch..

    But I am on the other side….and joy, creativity and adventure and new beginnings happen
    I don’t know if it would help..but if you lived in anywhere near Christchurch ..and you wanted to…we could have coffee..Lois