When we booked our anniversary trip earlier this year, we casually agreed that we wouldn't talk about getting pregnant again until the trip. Mitch teased me constantly about having more kids almost from the moment Phoenix was born, and I teased back that one was enough. Well, September came, and we went away together on a romantic tour of New England. While we were gone, the timing was pretty dead-on, but we decided we weren't ready. When my period came two weeks later, an unexpected disappointment pricked my heart, unexpected yet old and familiar. And with it, a desire settled in and started growing roots. I've felt this before...years of it before Phoenix. The monthly bleeding starts, I feel a pang of disappointment, a week or two passes, and I want Mitch in a whole new way. I feel potential prickling under every inch of my skin, and I start craving that new baby smell. All at once, a "maybe someday" is a burning desire for new life now.
I haven't ever written about infertility. Friends know I struggled to conceive in my first marriage, but not much more than that. I didn't talk about it while it was happening because in the early months I was in denial and chose to be optimistic, and in the later months I was embarrassed and angry and still in denial. I watched my younger sister become pregnant twice by accident and give birth to two beautiful healthy babies, while month after month I tried then bled over and over. I was ashamed of my jealousy. That's why I didn't talk about it then. I didn't talk about it when I married Mitch because it was painful to remember wanting a family with someone else. I was also afraid we were bound for the same road. I didn't talk about it after we conceived because I didn't want to be insensitive to those who haven't yet or those like my other sister who had conceived and miscarried.
Infertility wasn't a label I wanted to bear, and yet, it's part of my feminine story.
I'm sharing a bit now because this part of my story impacts me to this day. Having already conceived, carried and delivered a baby bird, I don't worry much that I'll be able to again. Yet, I have a weird relationship with birth control and planning. Having experienced years of my life trying to prevent pregnancy, and then years of my life trying to conceive without success, I've developed a distaste for trying to control such a magical process. And it really does feel like magic to me more than science. I don't have any religious or philosophical views that affect whether or not humanity should plan for children. I just have a personal bag of mixed feelings about the issue. Knowing many women have difficulty conceiving or carrying a baby to full-term makes me want to respect my own ability and allow it to happen with huge amounts of reverence and gratitude. Sometimes I feel so passionate about it, I want to carry children for these women, as I would have wanted someone to carry a child for me. Other times, I respect that my husband is exhausted and nearing the finish line of a multi-year project, and get so excited when he shares his secret desire to go back to school to study history. I look at our bank accounts and see we have some catching up to do. Phoenix shows me how eager and curious he is, how much more of my time he could use, blossoming under extra attention and focus. I consider how privileged I am to have access to birth control. Then I think, there's no rush, and no reason to be afraid. Our journey is our own. Move forward knowing another baby will come, and the timing would be better later.
Then my period comes. The roots grow deeper. The disappointment stabs a little harder this time. It's a bit more painful. My heart gets a little more tender. My husband looks even more delicious. The prickling under my skin moves towards a blood boil. And I want to burn all the condoms.
It's important to me to share these feelings, this experience, not because I have answers and not because we are all the same. But because, every woman I've talked to about her journey with her womb is affected on a very deep level by this part of herself. Women I love deeply have struggled to conceive, been bitter about unwanted pregnancy, felt hurt by pressures to conceive and confused about not wanting to. Still other women in my life are in transition, moving past their monthly cycles altogether, hot-flashing their way into a new season. There are babes that live with ice and heat packs at the ready every month, and others take pills or eat strict diets to get their blood to flow regularly. I know of women with no access to birth control or sanitation items. And still others lose ovaries, tubes, or parts of and whole wombs for the most devastating reasons. All the humans with vaginas have a story, and I feel hugely connected to them because of it. My heart breaks with some, rages with others, and celebrates too. Our wombs are wild things. I cannot control mine or the intense impact it has on my emotions and desires. That is the point. It has an impact. It's an integral part of me, and for better or worse, clear or confusing, I believe it's worthy of being shared.
As an advocate for equality of the sexes, I want to recognize the sexes, honoring that which is female. I don't have any well-crafted speeches supporting well-formulated and researched arguments about female objectification in the porn industry, work-place wage inequality, the right of a woman to give birth in her own home or terminate unwanted pregnancy, sexual harassment and assault, or the rise of the girl boss. All these subjects interest me, and I'm glad they are being discussed and researched. I'm a proponent of awareness and I love to see our society getting into the mess. I see the pure motives, improvement and change for the better. And this is my contribution, the only one I feel qualified to make: my best honest story-telling about my experience in a female body—my internal dialogues, monthly emotional experience, doubts and fears, embarrassment and desires—my personal relationship with my feminine self. I'm grateful, grateful for men and women, glad we are different and still equal. I'm proud I was born with a vagina and a womb, though I've treated them like the burden they can sometimes be, and bemoaned the pain and intensity they bring with them. Today, I'm grateful for them, proud and unashamed of my story. This is my feminism.