My Evolving Identity of Infertility

Growing up as a biracial half-Japanese, half-Caucasian girl with a Japanese first and last name and a “white” middle name, I have long struggled with the concept of identity.

Infertility Identity

I was never Asian enough. I was never white enough. For a long time, I felt these two halves of myself were constantly at war with each other. When I converted to Judaism, I had another label to throw into the bag: Jewish. But not just any kind of Jewish; I was Jewish-by-choice. And with that all of the same identity dilemmas, wondering, am I Jewish enough?

I had a boyfriend who became my fiance and then my husband. Throw “wife” into the mix. And now, with our first child due next year, I’ll finally have “mom” to add in there.

But there are other labels: Gemini, INFP, foodie, traveler, writer, designer, gamer.

Infertile.

My identity is hardly single-faceted and with each passing year, evolves as new labels come to the forefront and others fade into the background.

Sometimes my sense of identity can shift over the course of a day. As I answer emails in my inbox, I might be Keiko the Writer, the Designer, the Professional. And when 7pm rolls around and Larry and I wrap up for the day, I’m Keiko the Wife, the Best Friend, the Lover.

For the last nearly four years, my identity has largely been driven by this absence in my life, this empty womb and wanting, waiting heart. It took a little while to get there, but I accepted my infertility as an intrinsic part of who I am. And yet now, I face another turning point in my journey, another shift in my identity. I may go on to parent, but just how much of my infertility is still a part of my identity, of what makes me, well – me?

Last year, I went to the Massachusetts Conference for Women. It was there that the idea for The Infertility Voice was born. I went to this conference again yesterday and I’ve come out of it more reinvigorated in the work I do here more than ever. I’ve realized, that though my identity may be one that’s shifting right now, in a transitional state, really – my purpose remains the same.

Through the pain of my own journey, I know that my life’s passion and purpose is to serve the infertility community.

Working with each of you is my calling.

Resolved or not, infertility then remains a part of who I am because I define myself by the work I do.

I am what I put out into this world.

#   #   #

I love this time of year as we close another annual chapter and turn the page for a New Year. I feel like the transition of December into January is a mini-rebirth, a chance to reset the clock. Sometimes the New Year is like a clean slate and other times, it’s a perfect turning point for reinvention.

In any event, there’s a transformative energy and excitement around this time of year. We make peace with the last eleven months and plan for the next twelve. I love that.

And boy howdy, 2013 is going to bring lots of changes to The Infertility Voice. Change is never easy. Stepping out of our comfort zone feels icky and strange and foreign. But as I crafted and experimented with this space over the course of this year, I realized there are bolder directions in which I want to take this blog.

In fact, in 2013, I’m going to stop referring to this as my blog. The Infertility Voice isn’t just a blog. It’s my brand. It’s my website. It’s my work.

It’s my passion.

It’s my calling.

#   #   #

I was so worried when I got my BFP that I would stop caring about this community, that I would lose interest in maintaining this space. I’ve seen it happen time and time again with so many bloggers who go on to parent. And yet, I can’t fault them: such is the transitional and evolutionary nature of one’s identity. One day we are infertile and then one day, we might not be anymore. For some people, it’s a distinct leap from one identity category into another, like flipping a light switch.

I think because of my own cultural diversity growing up, I could never just flip the switch on who I am. I have to ease into things, feel things out, and name who I am on my own terms.

I’ll be honest: for a little while, I wasn’t sure what to do, what to call myself. Could I really continue to be The Infertility Voice and still go on to parent? Would I still be relevant, valid? For the last month or so, I had this horrible feeling like people were going around whispering, “Infertility Voice? Please! She’s a phony now.” (I know this is a COMPLETE fabrication and have no indication that any of you have said that. This is what my paranoid, irrational inner monologue was saying to me.)

And then, infertility touched two more people about whom I care deeply.

It was like a wake up call, like the Universe was shaking me by the shoulders, saying: “Keiko, you have a LOT more work to do. It’s time to get your shit together and DO IT already.”

And so here we are.

#   #   #

I created my fluffy Team Zoll blog to get out the junk in my head. To play the role of “mommyblogger” when it suits me. That’s going to be my “real” blog, where I can write about all the random fluff like food and travel and baby things.

Because in 2013, I’ve got big plans to make The Infertility Voice an inclusive resource for the entire infertility community. To keep the posts and resources you see here focused on one thing:

To empower women through their infertility journeys toward healing, hope and authentic living.

Infertility, for better or for worse, will always be a part of who I am. It may ebb and flow, but it drives my work and will always be carried on my heart.

#   #   #

Tell me: how has infertility shaped your identity? How has it changed over time?

Never miss a moment at The Infertility Voice: subscribe now.

Comments

  1. says

    Surprisingly, IF made me softer. It taught me to yield when there is nothing more I can do. It taught me to try my best….and accept the rest.

    For both of us, 2012 has been a crescendo year. I’ll be both sad to see it go, but also eager to see what 2013 brings!

  2. Kaz says

    Keiko – Like you, I am very lucky to be pregnant now too (thanks to the wonders of ART). When I say to people that I struggled with infertility for three years, it seems silly. Like three years is not very long at all. Problem is…for three years infertility consumed me. It was my identity (as much as I hated it). It was the longest and most painful time for me. For many weeks, this pregnancy barely seemed real. Now that I have come to accept it, and find some joy in it, I also feel empty. The pregnancy has not yet filled the empty (rather large) space left behind by my infertility.
    It is an enviable state to be in, I know. I also feel like a traitor to the other women who helped me so much through the pain of this journey. I think it is amazing that you want to stay commented and continue to help others. And I truly think you can. Your blog was a true source of comfort and humour for me since I discovered you (still is).
    I, on the other hand, am not sure if I can connect with infertility in the same way anymore. Deep down inside, I just want to forget all about it. I want to fill that large empty space with something less painful.

  3. says

    When I call myself “infertile,” I get a lot of reactions like: “well, you haven’t really tried, so how do you know? How can you call yourself that?” And it’s true, I’ve never tried to conceive and I don’t know for sure whether or not I could make a baby.

    What I do know is that I have endometriosis. And the disease has claimed an ovary as well as causing a lot of physical and emotional pain surrounding sex. In other words, my body may be capable of reproducing, but it hasn’t exactly sparkled in that arena for the moment!

    In the end, I don’t know whether or not my partner and I will even try to have children–biologically or otherwise. But that’s not really the point. I’ll always be infertile: I’ll always have the perspective and the gratitude which this experience and identity has given me.

  4. Marissa says

    I have either been trying to get pregnant or pregnant or dreading trying to get pregnant again for the last 5 years. I always feel it necessary to declare how lucky I have been in the spectrum of infertility, but that being said I’m infertile. I do identify with parents, because I am one, but when the subject ever turns to actually REPRODUCTION, I find that I don’t connect with fertile people at all. I’m still annoyed on some level at every pregnancy announcement, I cringe when someone tells me how easily they get knocked up or how they got a ‘”surprise.” These are not my people.
    I’ve been very private about my issues, mostly because I could not handle the expectations and interest that come along with telling people you are struggling and trying to get pregnant. It’s been the right choice for me. But after I have my 2nd child, I don’t intend to ever embark on the trying to conceive journey again, and I have literally daydreamed about opening up about this struggle. About advocating for people dealing with this openly by sharing what I went through, and getting all these people’s heads out of the sand who either don’t know someone who has gone through this or (more likely) don’t know, they know someone. I understand the tough position it is to deal with an infertile who has achieved a successful pregnancy when you have not. Been there so many times. But I hope those of us in that spot can also carve out a place for ourselves, but I absolutely think we’ve got a role to play advocating for the whole infertile community.

  5. says

    First of all, congrats! Now about identity…

    I identified very strongly as infertile… and then IUI worked and two years later IVF worked (after 9 IUI’s, thankyouverymuch) and suddenly I felt like a bit of a fraud. I even stopped writing on my blog (mostly about infertility) and started a new one that could be what you might call my fluffy blog space.

    Anyhow, the pain isn’t so raw anymore, but I still remember and understand what it was like to attend a wedding at which half of the female guests were pregnant. I know what it’s like to be driven crazy by the hormones and then be asked by my family why I couldn’t just be happy at my cousin’s son’s bris. GAH! (sorry, evidently that one still pisses me off!) Anyhow, the point is, I get it. And yet…

    And yet.

    Two years ago I got pregnant. You know, the way folks get pregnant in movies… in bed, with just my husband, no drugs, no procedures. No clue. Because, you know, we don’t get pregnant that way. But things change, and now I genuinely feel like I’ve lost my infertility cred.

    That being said, I’m still outspoken when talk turns to issues of IVF funding and women’s reproductive rights. I still cringe when I hear someone ask a woman when she’s due (because I just *know* that some of the time the answer will be, “I’m not. I’m just fat.”). I still try to slip my IF story into conversations shortly after meeting new people so that they know I’m not some oblivious mom with 3 kids under 5.

    So, you asked about my identity? I guess I identify as an infertile woman whose treatment was successful. An infertility survivor or veteran or whatever. It’s always struck me as strange when people say, “You’re not infertile. You have three kids!” It’s like telling a diabetic that they obviously don’t have diabetes because you saw them eating dessert a few times last week. Medical science has come a long way. Maybe “recovering infertile” is the right word.

  6. mia says

    It is amazing after having 3 girls, 2 while in my 20′s I feel a strong advocacy for my brothers and sisters in this struggle. I continue to support and encourage those going through the process.