Thursday, April 26, 2012

Don't Ignore...

...your identity crisis.

This post is for those of you going through infertility right now. This is my story, but I have a feeling that it will be similar to many of yours  as well.


For me, infertility has brought with it great and unexpected grief. There are some areas of loss that I anticipated, such as the loss of things going according to plan, the loss of control, the loss of time I imagined having children in our home, or the loss of a whole lot of money! But, one loss I never anticipated after our diagnosis was the loss of my identity.
 
I never before realized how my entire life was planned with giant arrows pointing toward the day when I would become a mother. Everything from my career choice to the amount of money we had saved in our savings account was all intricately planned to facilitate becoming a parent. When I was a young child I would watch a video of my mom’s called “Bringing Home Baby” that was about everything you needed to,  well, bring home a baby. I made lists and “went shopping” among all my baby toy paraphernalia to be “ready” and then took care of my toy baby. A few years later, I would pretend I was the mother of seven children. I would name them all and pick their personalities and interests. I came up with detailed “activities” and put them in a calendar so I could organize my “children’s” lives. I pretty much always pretended and fantasized about being a mom.

Then, in college, despite the fact that I enjoyed my Mass Communications major, I learned that the hours weren’t very conducive to being a mom, so I changed my major to education. Even though I LOVE being a Spanish teacher and am 100% confident this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now, there’s no denying that the overarching dream of becoming a mom influenced this decision.

But, the worst part of making motherhood my identity came after marriage. Dave and I had a proposed date that we wanted to start trying and I counted down to that date. Even though parenthood always seemed (and still seems!) overwhelming, it was as if my heart was always drawn to it as the time my life would REALLY begin. So, I looked forward to that date with a lot of too much anticipation and excitement.  I drew up a “baby budget,” attempting to plan how much baby expenses would be and how that would work in our budget, if I could feasibly go to part-time work, etc.  I would even stroll down the baby aisle at Target imagining the things we would need for our baby, and even bought a few clearance items (oops). 

But, as time passed, after we got our diagnosis, and after our initial treatment plans (both naturalistic and then medical) didn’t work, I realized I had no idea who I was anymore. I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A MOM!  That’s all I could think about:  the fact that I flat out wasn’t who I was supposed to be! What was I supposed to do with my life if I wasn’t planning for motherhood? If I wasn’t actually able to do any mothering?!  Who the heck am I and what am I supposed to be doing with my life?! All this preparation. All this anticipation. All to just STOP. With no.forward.motion.

Since completely losing my chosen identity, I have been on a journey. A journey to discover who I really am with motherhood out of the picture. And it’s a very difficult and challenging journey. But, you know what? It’s also a beautiful journey! A journey of discovery. Of trying new things (and sometimes failing) and of discovering other things that I’m good at and that I enjoy doing that I never would have without infertility.  A journey that has connected me with people that I never would have gotten to know otherwise. A journey of slowing down and appreciating each moment of life as it comes, breathing deep and being mindful (ok, I’ll admit… I’m really just in the learning phase of those skills). But, at its core it’s a journey of appreciation of myself whether or not I ever become a mother. And of being content with God and His presence and power in my life without the other things I’ve told Him I so desperately "need". 

So, even though there are ways in which infertility has seemingly ruined by life, it can also give great gifts. I’ve been given the opportunity to discover who I am. I’m first of all a child of God, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a dancer, a writer, a learner, an encourager, an advocate, a servant, a pray-er, talker, thinker, listener, explorer, do-er, helper, crier, a planner and a laugh-er. And there’s still much further to go on this path. I still have so much more to discover about myself!

So, don’t ignore this time in your life and use this time to discover more about who you truly are! As I read recently on another blog, “Don’t Waste Your Infertility!” I’m not saying that infertility isn’t a horrible, awful thing. Because it is. But, I’m trying to look for the little gifts along the way and I hope you will too. Take this time to discover who you are without the pressure of needing to be a mother (or father). Because you WILL get there when you do you'll need a whole lot more than parenthood defining you. Take this time to feel truly loved, by your spouse, your family and friends, and mostly by God. And hopefully, one day (soon) we can all add “parent” to the list of who we are. And then, it will not be our only identity. :)

15 comments:

  1. Hi from ICLW. You sound just like me - always a planner faced with coming up with a new plan.

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  2. I think this is my favorite blog you've ever written. What a beautiful, poignant portrait of all that infertility takes from you (and gives?) Thank you for being so vulnerable. This may be an ironic, insensitive thing to say, considering this post was about finding your identity outside of motherhood, but I'll say it anyway: whatever child God has chosen to give to you in the future, whether biological or adopted, is so, so blessed to have you for its mother. You are going to be absolutely incredible. I can't wait to watch you. In the meantime. I'm so proud of all this has taught you. I respect you so much!

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  3. Wow, I'm so encouraged by all that you have learned. (Also, I remember that 80's bringing home baby video haha). All of us around you have learned and grown SO much because of you and what you have taught us along the way. Thank you for sharing your life with us, we're so blessed by you and Dave! You definitely are so much more than just a future mother and I'm so thankful that you are my sister!

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  4. I planned and planned so much in the beginning. We have a closet full of baby items that we couldn't stand not to buy. We just kept thinking it would happen. We know that it will happen, just not in our timing but His.

    Beautiful post, Elizabeth. =)

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  5. I'm so excited for you, Elizabeth. I think finding your identity APART FROM motherhood will so much better prepare you to be a good mother. (There's a lot of pressure when our parents try to find their identity in us.) I look forward to seeing how God continues to lead you guys.

    As for me; oddly, I've never much had a hankering to be a mother, but I sure did long for the companionship of marriage. God took His sweet ol' time with that one, too, but . . . check it out! ;-)

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  6. This so resonates with me! I used to walk around breastfeding my dolls. Heck, I played with my dolls til I was probably 12, because what I knew was that I was supposed to be a momma. Sometimes we have no idea why we're faced with certain things, but good does come out of them, doesn't it? Beauticul post!

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  7. Completely, totally, 100% my favorite post you have ever written. You are so many things to this world and I hope that I can be supportive in your journey of learning about all those things!

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  8. I agree with someone above that we can't be good parents without getting the identity question straightened out! I had the "great mother" identity and then I was under undo pressure to perform and put too much pressure on my kids to perform to fulfill my identity. I couldn't admit the truth to myself that I might not be a "great mother" because then who would I be? So instead of getting help or depending on God for help, I denied the truth and struggled in my own strength and ended up doing damage to my kids. Things became "all about me" - I would become defensive, blame others, resentful. Anyway you probably get the picture! Not pretty. God was merciful and faithful inspite of my messed up identity but I am so thrilled to be getting it straight now at my grandmotherly age!! Thanks, Elizabeth for your honesty!

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  9. This is wonderful! Thanks for writing and posting. I think finding our identities is a fluid and never-ending process in life and I'm thankful that you're willing to share your story with the people who love you. It takes so much bravery and I admire yours. Lots of love being sent from Chicago to you and Dave!!

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  10. Beautiful, beautiful post. You have grown very much through this difficult process, and it is a blessing to me, as well as to that crazy man you live with!

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  11. Whoooo.. this one really resonates with me. I think the idea of being a mother was so important to me since I was a little girl that when it suddenly wasn't happening - after I did everything I was "supposed" to do - threw me into a deep depression. I was so angry and bitter and scared for so very long.
    Good post - makes you stop and think about how we define ourselves at a primal level.

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  12. This is a fantastic entry. It is honest and uplifting. Still praying for you on this journey!

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  13. Wow, great reminder. I'm struggling with this same issue and have been starting to pray that God would align my will to His, not vice versa. It's such a hard, but good lesson.

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  14. It's "Becky-Mom" Still getting used to posting on Blogs. (-: Wow..Honey, I'm overwhelmed, teary, and grateful that you're learning this so much earlier, than I began to even THINK about Identity. I just kept going to the next step, then the next of life all along the way and let that phase often define me. ...I"m STILL learning that True Identity is not linked to my position or what I do. But WHO and WHOSE I am In God. Grateful you've embraced BE-ING GOD's child first and the beauty of that identity.

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  15. Love this post, Liz. I think so much can be learned by relinquishing control!

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