Imagine my surprise when I received this comment on my blog:
“Hi Sarah, I stumbled across your link whilst doing some analytics and was quite inspired by your post. We’ve now put the sign you created up on our site as a specific sign – http://www.personalisedcarsigns.co.uk/infertile-on-board – with exclamation mark this time!”
I know people of all kinds have quite a reaction to, and many opinions on, the word infertile. So how did “Infertile On Board” come about?
It may have started when, almost two years into TTC, a Maya Abdominal Fertility Massage practitioner told me not to say the word “infertile” because my uterus would retract upon hearing it. After my initial internal response of “my uterus ain’t THAT dumb”, I continued to reel from this absurdity. I just knew it was wrong.
“I’m being robbed of one of the greatest joys in life and now it’s suggested I rob myself of getting to voice it too?”
“Why can’t I say what is? I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Not to mention the precious thread of common sense that if people who abandon, severely abuse and even repetitively murder their own children don’t need to worry about what they do or say in order to reproduce,
then I DON’T EITHER.
So, lo and behold, I started using the word infertile a lot more. And you know what? It felt good. It facilitated the grasping of my reality, dissolved shame and relieved me of the tremendous weight of trying to make something that I already didn’t control into something it isn’t. For me, the attitude of unrepentantly calling something as it is was the attitude that held power.
Or perhaps it started much earlier. Meet Lil’ Infertility Honesty.
Fed up with a neurotic mother and an impatient photographer who didn’t like her much at her illustrious 1974 Sears portrait photo shoot, Lil’ Sarah decided to stand her ground. (No doubt her LL Bean on crack sweater was also contributing to her irritation). When things quickly dissolved to the point where the photographer was desperately throwing stuffed animals up in the air and fake laughing in my face to try and get me to laugh, I drew the line. I decided then and there that there would be no smile for ANYONE that day. Nope, no sir you are OUT OF LUCK. Throwing stuffed animals in the air is NOT FUNNY (Painfully unimaginative, yes, funny, not so much), therefore I will not laugh.
The above was the best shot from the day and upon picking up the picture, the woman at the studio commented (to my Mom) something to the effect of, “I know this is not the picture you were after, but I think it really shows who this child is.”
Damn straight, bitches.
Suffice it to say I never did well being told what to do or say, especially when it’s something that compromises my truth for the sake of someone else’s mirage.
More recently, I can say “Infertile On Board” emerged from my local car travels while undergoing treatments. Whenever I’d get a period or was on meds or grieving the loss of yet another failed treatment, the bombardment from families with children sharing their status with the world via their back windshields was a constant. Yes, the white stick figured families were on full display here on Long Island, featuring each child, their hobbies, shoes sizes, pets, third cousins and the family ant farm all on one window!!
Having to view this perpetual onslaught while enduring what I was enduring was disheartening to say the least. Where was MY sign? Like most things relative to the infertile experience, the answer was “nowhere”, of course. But I was working just as hard as any parent, while no doubt suffering a hell of a lot more for not getting to reap any rewards. I deserved a sign. I exist on this earth too, and, as I said before, I haven’t done anything wrong. So it was really there that “Infertile On Board” was born.
For me, it’s about not succumbing to a stigma. The fact that my husband and I could not reproduce, that we are infertile, has no relation to our worthiness. My infertility is about as much of a reflection of me as my brown eyes or the fact that I stand just under 5 feet 4 inches tall. It is not a reflection of my soul. I refuse to allow a word that simply labels this thing that randomly happened to me that I did nothing to invite or create hold any kind of power over me.
It’s about using the “be mindful” inference of baby on board to remind people that we exist too and are deserving of consideration.
Moreover, it has become about pride for me – a “badge of courage” as a friend of mine accurately put it. I’m proud to be surviving such a life crisis, whether the greater collective yet recognizes it as one or not. As my Mom, who conceived me on the first try and my younger brother on the third, so astutely pointed out to me somewhere in the middle of our TTC journey,
“Anyone can bring home a baby. But NOT getting to bring one home really takes a person. I love you more.”
And our community? Well, we have a lot to learn, no doubt, but people who live with infertility are a fascinating crew. Insightful, resourceful and industrious, those who authentically face their pain are some of the deepest and strongest as hell people you will come across. Ideally, broken hearts make for broad souls and I’ve encountered much of that along the way.
Infertile? Yes. And I’m proud to call myself one.
Will my car sign defiance make a huge contribution to the validation of infertility as a disease and life crisis? Perhaps not. And I get it, it’s not for everyone. But it’s one tiny sliver of space and acknowledgement that, as of a few days ago, did not exist. And now, it does, thanks to the open mind and heart of a person named Simon from the UK.