I made a New Year’s resolution that I would leave some gas in the tank for the writing and management of my own blog. This is my first post of 2013, and we’re more than halfway through the month of February. Is this a resolution failure? Methinks not. You have to start a resolution in the first place before you can fail at it. Consider this my Day 1. My goal is to write at least once per week, even if I’m merely griping about the lack of chocolate cake and cookies in my diet.
But today is not a day for gripes.
This is the March 2013 issue of Essence magazine, which hit the newsstands over a week ago. I am one of three women profiled in an article about infertility in the African-American community. To say that this was a great honor is an understatement; Essence reaches an audience wider than I ever could on this little, understated blog of mine.
My motive wasn’t to attract an audience, though. There wasn’t even a link to this blog included. It was my hope, though, that it would create a dialogue. In its own small ways, I think it’s done exactly that.
I rushed to share the word about it among my friends on Facebook. I didn’t, however, take my copy of the magazine and flash it around at work. A couple of days after the issue came out, a coworker called me at home practically shouting her excitement when she flipped through her mail-delivered subscription and came across Frank’s and my faces. The next morning, she’d scanned my portion of the article and emailed it out to the entire school before my car even hit the parking lot.
I’m at a new school this year, and most of the staff there knew nothing of my surrogacy or infertility experience. The article opened up a floodgate of conversation. I know how prevalent infertility and loss is and also how often people keep it to themselves. I have almost always found my infertility community circles online…people geographically scattered and far-flung, brought closer not through cars and highways, but rather through computers and cyberspace. The statistic that 1 out of every 8 couples is affected by infertility dictates the logic that at least some of the people I pass in the halls everyday have a history with it. Still, it never fails to amaze me when someone I know personally looks me in the eye with that knowing weight and says, “Me, too.”
Five. Before the day was over, five coworkers opened up and said that they either had infertility troubles in the past or were currently going through them. One learned at the age of 13 that she would never carry due to a congenital defect. One has been trying to conceive her first for the past five years. One is experiencing secondary infertility in her quest for a second baby. Another, who has two grown daughters, recounted the devastation of the miscarriage of her first pregnancy more than 25 years ago. It made me aware, once again, of how there might be hidden support systems all around us even when we feel small and misunderstood and alone.
It is this perceived disconnect that I hoped this article would help alleviate, if not for me and the people around me, then maybe for a woman somewhere that I didn’t know. Maybe she’d read the article, talk about it, and discover her own hidden system of support.
A second result, one that I didn’t anticipate, was that the positive feedback I’ve received has been like a salve in a tender place of hurt. I didn’t do surrogacy with the intent to be put upon a pedestal and praised, but I did want to know that what I did would always be appreciated. Openly. Well, that’s not exactly right, either. I’ve never needed–or even wanted–red carpets and fanfare. Knowing that I wouldn’t one day be considered the skeleton to keep in the closet? Well, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
It was difficult not to let the reframing of the relationship with my former intended parents diminish my view of what I was able to accomplish overall. I felt like the pride I held in my accomplishment couldn’t shine as brightly just because to some extent, my role was made to be an Unspeakable.
Well, I am speaking. I can tell my story, be proud of it, and still maintain the subtle distinction between privacy and secrecy. Readers of the article–whether affected by infertility or not–have expressed gratitude for my having been a surrogate. I didn’t expect that the response from this article would work to fill a void that I’d convinced myself didn’t need to be filled; the simple act of showing unabashed appreciation–even if it throws me off-balance and I humbly try to bat it away–reassure me that it still matters to someone.
People matter. It’s why we click through and tap into each others’ stories, struggles, triumphs, and celebrations. I resolved my infertility, expanded the fight beyond myself, and then wrote about all of it because others still in the trenches mattered to me.
Letting people know that they matter to you, and in turn, knowing that you matter to others is one of the greatest gifts to give and receive.
Because isn’t that, my friends, the essence of why we’re all here?