Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Yes, I am.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to see the "freak show" at the state fair. I desperately wanted to see the "lobster claw" boy and the "bearded lady". I could feel the desire rising in me when we would pass - and I begged, pleaded, and promised not to ask for anymore tickets to the ferris wheel if I could just see it one more time. There was always a man in a red and white striped blazer and a cheesy straw hat promising that for a few tickets I could see the MOST AMAZING spectacle on earth. I was sold. This was a must see event.

My mother's answer was always a resounding "No." She tried to explain to me that this was appalling, that it was horrible that these people were exploited for the tragedies that life had dealt them which made them 'different'. I didn't understand. All I knew was that no amount of cotton candy and corn dogs was going to diminish my desire to see. Then, I got older. I remember visiting the state fair as a teen, and I was filled with shame. I saw the grotesque paintings on the side of the "exhibit" and was crushed. We were a horrible society - we claim to be civilized and yet - we stare. we label. we point fingers. our mouths gape open. we grimace. we avert our eyes. we whisper under our breath.

When I was in high school, there was a young woman who played the french horn in band. After a bizarre playground accident in early elementary school one of her hands was supposedly amputated at the wrist. I never noticed her hand was missing, for she always hid her wrist in her pocket. I never knew her as anything other than a bright, funny person who had pretty hair. But there was talk. Mean spirited vicious talk of teenage girls who labeled her a freak... the handless wonder... etc. They didn't see how she had struggled, how she had grieved for her loss. They saw her not for who she was as a person - but labeled her on what was a perceived failure to be 'normal'.

In graduate school, I met an incredible person - quite possibly the most gorgeous man I've ever met. He had a great heart, an infectious laugh, and beautiful eyes. He was genuine ... loving, intelligent - and to be honest... pretty damn stunning. Then word got out. He was no longer "J" but rather the "gay" blonde guy. Even his friends labeled him as they spoke about him. Even I was guilty of it. (and "j" if you ever read this - trust in your heart that I am sorry. I am so sorry.)

As I've opened up to more and more people about my infertility, I've felt this bizarre pain in my back...as if I can feel the label being slowly pinned, then sewn to me as I go to doctor's appointments and as I speak in hushed tones over bottles of wine to confidantes. The label is becoming the representation of who I am to others. This past week, a very close and dear friend hurt me tremendously without - apparently - intending to. A friend of hers, who was pregnant, was going to be taking her place at an event we were attending together and she sent me an email to "warn" me that this woman was pregnant. I was crushed.

Is my infertility now what defines me? When people see me am I no more than a scrawled diagnosis on a medical chart? What about that I tell lousy jokes, or that I am thoughtful, or that I sound like a bee when I laugh, or that I make a mean lasagna? And I find myself using the label to describe myself... and it hit me, I am so much more than that.

I am an attorney, a redhead. I am a woman with a big heart and I am honest. I am giving, and I am incredibly ticklish. I am a daughter, a sister, a wife. Yes, I am.


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