Today I went to the local clinic, the one that does take my insurance.  The faxing of the orders and all that worked out, miraculously.  Being an IVF veteran was helpful… I knew that the stuff I was having done today isn’t crucial, and so I didn’t get myself into a twist about it too much.

The local monitoring thing is different.  Apparently when having your IVF done elsewhere, you’re the red-head stepchild of the monitoring clinic and they don’t go out of their way.  These people were nice, but I’m to pay everything up front and I have to submit my own claims to Blue Cross.  I guess monitoring patients don’t make them much money.

Before going to the clinic I read some of their website, which for some reason included a long section on “diet and exercise” and many tips and questionable facts about nutrition and weight loss.  This made me feel so defensive that I had to eat a piece of chocolate before I could leave the house.  By the time I got to the clinic, my butt barely fit through the door.

I felt so… fat and frumpy and defective.  I kept imagining every person in there looking at my date of birth and whispering to each other “can you believe she’s trying to do an IVF… 47 years old…”  These pictures in my head looked suspiciously like my imaginings of the girls from fifth grade talking about my polyester pants with the seam down the front.

Since I have some distance from the whole infertility struggle, I can see how deep the grooves are in my heart and soul.  But infertility didn’t cause those scars.  They were always there.  Because of the generation, and a lot of people’s brokenness, everything about womanhood and our bodies was treated as dirty or a nuisance or embarrassing when I was growing up.  Or it was not mentioned, so that it was a vague, undiscovered country that other girls navigated while I hung back.  I know now that my mother sighed in sympathy when she found out I got my period (also in fifth grade), but at the time it seemed like she was disappointed in me.  I was taught that bad cramps are to be expected, periods to be “cleaned up,” sex not mentioned except in the context of  “don’t get pregnant.”   Femininity, the kind that we celebrate as part of our uniqueness, was an empty place for me.

I’ve always felt like my womanhood was messy and a burden, and that I wasn’t doing it right.  My obesity has probably been a way to express how dirty I feel due to some childhood sexual abuse.  My sexuality, even though I was a  shy suburban heterosexual, a virgin almost until college graduation, was terribly threatening and scary to me.

It’s all jumbled together now.  I felt definitely insufficient as a girl, or a woman; clueless about what to say to boys, often ignored or invisible, buried in fat, numbed by years of compulsive overeating.  But I was also too, too much.  Too many feelings, or so I was told.   Conflicts were sometimes blamed on my “strong personality.”  (um, why is that bad?)  Too much fat, of course.  Always too much of me, except when there wasn’t enough.  Except when I was wrong or broken.

Infertility was just a reprise of all that.  Once again,  broken.  Deficient.  Too old.  IVFs didn’t even work when they should have.  Not enough time, not enough eggs.  Underneath it was the same: undeserving, inappropriate, and defiled.  Unusual, but never in a good way.

The thinking and healing I’ve been doing about me and food has revealed these myths about me, embraced and retold and lived out by me for decades.  I see now how infertility just clicked right into the same grooves, even as I hoped that having a baby would heal, just a little.

It has.   The being-a-mother part has called up in me a mighty and feminine strength that can’t be diminished by the size of my ass or whatever else somebody wants to say is wrong with me.  Age can’t touch it, and it is burnished and made truthful by blood and barf and periods and stretch marks.  Being a mother is the birthright of every woman who aches for it, I think; and that’s what IVFs and adoption and fostering and all of it are for.*

Being a mother has not healed everything.  That is not what it’s for.  But it’s helped me see the lies and the myths about me so much more clearly, and I finally am understanding how much of who I am is up to me.  Not parents, not teachers, not fifth-grade girls; nor fertility clinic receptionists.

I get to decide what is true about me, and what is lies, and I get to decide what and why and how much I eat.   I get to stay in the moment with my hurts and I am learning that God is bigger than my pain.  But I am, and always was, just the right size.

*if you don’t agree with that statement, read the comments of the New York Times when they run an infertility article.  You’ll find plenty of people who say that wanting a baby is selfish (but only for the infertile), and that adoption is the only correct option for us, and plenty of other hateful things.  Sadly, most of the hate comes from women.

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