I have been looking at my life a lot lately and savoring the many things I have going for me. And while much of what I have has come from a lot of work, effort and patience on my part, I still can't believe the miracle of having my sweet, perfect daughter is here smiling at me right now. I certainly didn't do anything extraordinary to deserve her. Sure I charted, I OPKd, I timed, I payed thousands of dollars to receive hundreds of shots, I cried, I lost, I hurt, I prayed and I hoped but did I really do anything anyone else in my position hasn't done? No, absolutely not.
So why am I here while so many of my deserving sisters in the IF community are still hurting from prolonged adoptions, BFNs and tragic losses? Not because these things are meant to or not meant to be or because I have good karma and they don't. I still struggle daily with infertility "survivor's guilt" knowing that so many people that I love dearly are still hurting and hoping for their time to come. I don't believe I am somehow more worthy of motherhood or somehow think I am somehow a better person than someone just because I have made the choice to be a parent and have been lucky enough to be able to do so. And the same goes for the choices I make as a parent, I don't believe mine are "right" and someone else's are "wrong".
I have been a mom for 3 and a half months, and with the exception of the first night in the hospital when Snow Pea was away from me in the nursery for observation, I have been fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed exclusively since she was born. I am very grateful that it has, for the most part, come easily to me and my daughter, but I don't take credit for it and I don't believe I am somehow superior because of it.
I am sure it is no secret to any of you that breastfeeding is a huge hot button issue. People are constantly throwing in their two cents on whether or not to do it, if it's ok to do it in public, whether it should be scheduled or "on demand" and what you're doing "wrong" if it doesn't go well. I have talked to friends and family members who have fallen on every side of all of these concerns and I have come to realize that breastfeeding carries with it so many of the same emotions and feelings as infertility.
One of the great gifts infertility has given me is gratitude. Of course, having struggled to become a mom, I don't take being one for granted, not for a second. And having learned that lesson with my fertility, I also realize how much my ability to nurse is something to be grateful for, something I got lucky with. So far, I have not had any trouble with supply or pain or infection and it has been pretty simple and painless for both Eliana and me. She is gaining weight perfectly and has even taken easily to a bottle of pumped milk anytime we offer it to her. But I don't think I did anything special to make any of this happen and I am also aware that it could all change at any time. Yes, I work at it and it can take a lot out of me, but that doesn't mean I have any control over it. I also worked hard to take my temperature every morning and chart my ovulation but I will never get pregnant without ART no matter how much work I put into it. It's just not something I can control. And just as someone who got pregnant on their first try is no more deserving of motherhood, I am no better at at it than friends who have had struggled with milk supply or who simply chose not to breastfeed for whatever reason. We all love our kids and we are all taking the best possible care of them in whatever form or fashion best suits our families.
I have seen and heard the hurt that comes from some of my friends who couldn't or have chosen not to breastfeed for whatever reason, and it reminds me so much of the pain of infertility. They seem to experience so many of the same emotions. And for those who struggled with IF before becoming parents, it can be even harder. There are similar feelings of helplessness, loss, and inadequacy. If you want to do it and can't, you can feel robbed of what you envisioned as a sacred experience and a rite of womanhood. If you choose not to breastfeed or become a mother without experiencing the hormonal changes of pregnancy and birth to trigger milk production, as in the case of adoption, you can feel completely left out by the rest of the boob-obsessed world we seem to live in. And in either situation guilt is lobbed at you in heaps. It all too often seems to make women feel like failures at motherhood if they don't breastfeed, just as I felt like a failure at womanhood when I couldn't get pregnant.
Being infertile, I highly value having relationships with others in my shoes that can relate, but I also have a great appreciation for my fertile friends and family that truly empathize with my experiences, those that acknowledge that they aren't somehow more deserving of being parents just because it happened easily for them. And in that same vein, I think it is important for me to acknowledge that no matter how hard I worked to get here or what choices that I make now that I have arrived, there is no amount of money I've spent, tears I've cried, shots I've received or milk I've produced that makes me a good or bad mother. I am a great mom because I love my child and I make choices every day that reflect that. I don't have control over many things, but loving her unconditionally and supporting everyone else that does the same for their families, that I can do.