Placing Stock in Bonds

Today is my day off this week. I planned on working on special project for most of the day (details still forthcoming in a future post), but first I had to head over to my parents’ house to pick up more stuff for said project.

I forget what it’s like to be out driving around 10:30-ish on a week day. Mostly because 10-hour work days are spent indoors working furiously at my desk. So yes, I forget about the old folk out driving about 20-zillion miles below the speed limit. Or the multitude of service cars and trucks that zoom around you as if there was no one else on the road.

Or in my case today, watching at least three different groups of women walking around pushing baby strollers.

Okay, so not all of them were pushing strollers. Some of them were holding their pre-preschool kids’ hands as they walked. And others, well … they were pregnant. It was that image of pushing the baby stroller and/or being pregnant that reminded me of what I don’t have. Or rather … not necessarily what I don’t have, more than what I haven’t been able to experience.

In this case, it’s not about being pregnant or having a child. It’s more about the ability to form friendships with other women who are at the same stage of life that you are. A tribe of women, as a good friend once mentioned in her blog, that I can bond with and share.

I’ve always said that not having a sister to grow up with has limited me in my ability to form female bonds. There’s something to be said about having another female (about the same age) around to learn how to act and react to different social situations. Whether a woman is close to her sister or not, this relationship still teaches that woman about the female mind in ways that another “sister-less” woman cannot experience or understand.

I tend to think that this is one of my biggest flaws within my personality. This social ineptness, when it comes to forming relationships with other women. Up until Hubby & I started trying to start our family (and failing miserably), I would say that I had a fair amount of female friends. Ones that I would call up and make plans to go shopping or out to eat just so we can hang. Being in a profession dominated by women also helped form these friendships. But the longer Hubby & I went without having children, the more isolated we became. And that’s because these female friends went on to start their families and began to relate more with other women and couples that also had children. More and more, I began to have less in common with these friends.

Oh, I know not to place all the blame (if any blame at all) on these friends, who are now more like acquaintances. I know that friendship goes both ways. And I know that there are the times that I just didn’t make the effort to continue the friendship. But I also know that there are the times that I just couldn’t be the friend that they needed … my own pain, in my opinion, would have caused more of a rift in that friendship.

There’s another part of me that I believe has limited my ability to form long and lasting female friendships. And that is being a first-generation Asian/Filipino-American. (And for clarity’s sake, this means that my brother and I were born here in the US, while my parents were both born in the Philippines.) Growing up in my household always meant you had one foot in the traditional Asian mindset, while your other foot was learning to survive in the American culture and way of life. The traditional Filipino way meant that family and God (followed closely by education) always came first and anything else, such as friendships and after-school activities came in a distant last. And although the “American” part of me always wanted to make tons of friends and be involved in lots of activities, the “Asian” part of me held back considerably. Mainly because when I looked outward at myself and my family … I always knew that I was “different.”

So how about forming friendships with other first generation Asian- or Filipino-American women? Believe me, I do have those few friendships. And quite honestly, they’re probably the ones that have lasted the longest. I strongly believe that this is the case, mainly because we’ve stepped outside of our “Filipino-American” selves and truly know one another, outside of our personal issues (read: Emily’s infertility). That is simply because we’ve known each other for years. And we’ve bonded. And if they’re not family, then they are certainly the closest thing I have to family (without, of course, all the dysfunction).

The rest of the Asian/Filipino-Americans … definitely different story. Especially as it relates to infertility. Loribeth recently shared an article from Newsweek on her blog. While this article’s primary subject is about infertility and the lack of treatment in developing countries , there is a small focus about the ostracism of infertile women in these countries. Here’s a little taste of it:

The stigma that infertile women face can infiltrate every aspect of life. They may not even be invited to weddings or other important gatherings. “People see them as having a ‘bad eye’ that could make you infertile, too,” says Inhorn. “Infertile women are considered inauspicious.”

Other people simply “don’t want to have them around at joyous occasions,” says Frank van Balen, coauthor (with Inhorn) of “Infertility Around the Globe” and a professor in the department of social and behavioral sciences at the University of Amsterdam. Their reasoning: “they could spoil it,” he says.

The thing is … this article doesn’t just pertain to these women living in that particular country. This article reflects just about everything that I’ve, as an infertile, encountered here. In the US. Amongst family and friends. Within my culture.

That article basically summed up the reason why I started this blog in the first place. Because what I write here is everything I feel about myself and everything I could never say out loud.

This blog was meant to help me work my way through my infertility issues. It was a way for those family members and friends who would always ask us why we still didn’t have children know why without me or Hubby having to spill all the details out loud in which I would inevitably cry. It was a way for me to feel comfortable telling my story, without having the other person feel uncomfortable.

But apparently even by just writing these things, I still make certain people very uncomfortable and therefore ostracizing myself even moreso amongst my family and Filipino/Asian friends. Certain actions have made it quite evident over these past few weeks. Certain things have forced me to evaluate exactly whom I want to be closest to me at my most difficult times.

It’s because of those actions, I have debated about taking down this blog. Or making it strictly password-protected for those who would be genuinely interested in following my rants.

But then I thought … how many other Asian-American / Filipino-American women or couples are out there that are going through similar things that I’ve experienced? How many are out there longing for some sort of bond with others going through something just as painful? How many more of us are out there that feel ostracized and alone?

I know what it was like to meet all of my infertility friends through blogging. And even though we might not share the same cultural considerations … I do know that they are going through the same (or similar) hurt and anger and pain that I’ve gone through while traveling on my IF journey.

And it’s because of you girls I’ve felt less lonely … less ostracized. I’ve felt as if I could go out to meet you for a “virtual walk” at around, oh … let’s say 9 pm … (when most of us are known to read/blog the most) and bond.

So I decided to keep my blog “password-free” (except maybe for the occasional post). My hope is that this blog is still a way to communicate with those people who want to continue with me along my IF journey. But it is also my hope that it be available for those Asian- and Filipino-Americans (as well as those that are not … Asian, that is) traveling down the infertility road alone and looking for some company.

13 Replies to “Placing Stock in Bonds”

  1. You brought up some really great points Emily. I do understand the need people have for password protected blogs – but the downside is that it does limit people stumbling upon your blog and it being helpful. I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve stumbled on that I’ve been able to connect in some small way – and at that particular moment – I suddenly felt less alone. Even though I didn’t know the person, and would likely never meet them – the moment that I read their blog – I connected – even if just for a moment. And that connection gave me some comfort. We may not share the same exact history – but there has been many times I have felt this connection with you through your blog. And if I have – then I know others have as well. ((hugs))

  2. It’s really interesting to me that many of the deepest connections I’ve made in blogland are from my infertile friends or my friends who have lost babies. I guess I’m not a peeing roses or sunshine kind of person all the time, and I appreciate learning more about people than just “this is what I did last night.”

    Wow. Rambley. Sorry. What I’m trying (really badly) to say is that although you and I don’t have the same background, I feel like I learn a lot from you. And I’m glad to have met you.

    Good for you for staying un-pwp for the most part. It takes real guts to do that and talk honestly at the same time.

  3. I hope that somebody does find your blog who is hurting and needs it.

    I am happy to be your friend – I really do think that blogging is one of the best things i have ever done, simply because of who I have met.

  4. Glad you liked the article. You know, my dh & his cousins are all first-generation Canadians — their parents emigrated from Italy in the 1950s. What you wrote about having one foot in each culture holds very true for them, too — especially the girls. When we’re all together, they talk about all the fun things their daughters are doing that they were never allowed to do — after-school activities, sleepovers, etc. If they did have friends, they also tended to be Italian. The boys were allowed a little more freedom.

    Of course Italians are huge on families too. I am the only married childless woman on both sides of his family. 🙁 (I am also the only non-Italian to marry into his mother’s side of the family!)

    It is hard being the “other,” whether that means being the only childless woman in a room full of mommies, or someone from a different culture.

  5. this is a really excellent post, emily. I was also raised with no sisters. sometimes I think no amount of girlfriends in the world could replace that sisterly bond I lacked as a child. I’ve grown apart from so many of the women in my life as they’ve grown their families, and even from my colleagues who are either work-driven or family-driven. I’ve been in limbo so long just “trying.” even my sisters in law and I don’t have children in common, though I adore my nieces and nephews and they all know it.

    I also realize the cultural aspects of infertility make things that much more difficult. with so many ethnicities and religions placing such a high value on children and motherhood, the infertile are made to feel less than, not just as women but in so many other ways too. I hope someone finds their way to this blog to share your journey too.

  6. First I must say that I love the play on words that you used in the title of this post 🙂

    You (and the posters above me) have made some great points. Like Sara, I too have stumbled across blogs from time to time and felt that instant connection. It was how I found your blog as well. It’s tough sometimes to balance the need to openly express your feelings, and yet not worry about what people who know you think (assuming that they read your blog). I’ve intentionally stayed anonymous with mine because I didn’t want to feel inhibited.

    I know what you mean about those female bonds. I didn’t grow up with a sister, and I’ve tried to keep close with my female friends…. but it’s tough sometimes since just about all of them have had kids and have moved on to a different circle. I’d love to be part of that particular “tribe of women”, and share the bonds of motherhood. As each year passes and their kids get older, I feel I miss out on more and more.

    The article which discusses the cultural impacts of infertility is interesting. I know we certainly see it in our society. It hasn’t gotten so far that I haven’t been invited to weddings, but you certainly get the feeling that you are Different and perhaps even Broken.

    To sum up my rambling, thank you for sharing your feelings here. Beginning my blog was one of the best things I ever did… I am so grateful to have found this amazing community. It really makes you realize that you’re not alone in this.

  7. I’m an only child, and I’ve always enjoyed hanging out with guys a little more than most gals, if only because so many women (to my dismay) seem to have so little to say beyond certain, well-worn subjects (including babies, motherhood, etc.) and this depresses me (always has).

    Yet there have always been exceptions, even among my friends with children, and some of my closest friends are female. I even call one of them my older sister. She’s been through a lot of loss and we understand each other. I think it’s very difficult to form such powerful bonds with other people in American culture in general, and most couples, once they start reproducing, ditch their friends and retreat into a world of relatives and shallow acquaintances.

    So, I think it’s just as much about them as you, if that makes any sense.

  8. Awesome post, Emily…I could go on and on in reply to it…but I’ll try to keep it readable 🙂

    I also have no sisters, only 1 brother, and I agree, nothing, no close friends, no cousins, not even the awesome relationship with my mom can quite fill in for that. I’m 1st generation in the US as well, and the emphasis on family first, while awesome, did make it harder to step out and have great bonds of friendship with others. I too have always been closer to my friends whose parents are friends with my parents rather than my “school friends”…to this day, it is those girls (women? I’m older than I realize 🙂 who I’ve maintained friendships with, while I’ve lost touch with others.

    Infertility brings in a whole different dimension to the above issues…and as time passed, those who were my very closest friends, while I still consider them close, became not so close. They had no time for anything non-kid related after they had kids, and while I adored and spoiled their children, their lives were so focused on them, that I felt like an outsider always, b/c how long can you listen to those pregnancy complaints, labor stories, and child rearing issues without having anything to contribute to the conversation?

    I’m glad you choose to go password-free, b/c just as I stumbled on your blog somehow (I honestly can’t remember how anymore :), I hope others will too. I find that most of the IF blogs I read are of American-Americans or Canadian-Canadians 🙂 which is awesome, but there’s something extra you bring to the table which helps me feel less alone, and I hope it will make a difference to others too.

  9. I feel so fortunate to live in a country where it is socially acceptable not to have children! My problem is only acknowledged if I choose to share it.

    I can’t imagine the incredible depression that infertile women must feel in countries or families where their entire purpose is to have children. Although I was quite depressed while I was going through treatment, it wasn’t the end of the world for me. For some women, it literally would be.

  10. Emily,

    I relate to your post in so many different ways — feeling isolated, looking for someone who understands our particular experience — because it is so powerful to ‘be seen’ — and I think that’s what I feel when you and I blog back and forth — or you comment and we chat — it’s that we’re seen — and we get it. I hope you keep this blog open because its so important for other women to read your experience.

    This post also reminds me of a book I used to teach from called ‘Beyond Borders’ — where my students read essays from all over the human map — and then were asked to reflect on the connectons. A favorite essay was Tan’s “Mother Tongue” and while she writes specifically about Chinese-American experience she talks about that living between cultures…and so many of my students who identified with the essay had never had the chance to read their experience on the page — and it is transformative…

    Keep writing! (Selfishly, I’d hate to lose contact)



  11. Yeah, I totally relate to this. As for now, my husband and I are just viewed as anomalies in his department. We are the only ones who don’t have children. Last year, there was a visiting professor in his department(“S”), and moreso than other permanent professors, we got really close to her because she was a lesbian (and Austrian, too…) and though she had a long-term partner, she had no intention of starting a family any time soon. And interestingly, the others in H’s department just assumed that we would end up being close to S, ‘cos she didn’t have kids. And sadly, they were right.

    We got invited to her house often, and she to ours. And even though we are slightly close to another faculty member of H’s department, we are never invited to his house unless the rest of the faculty is invited too.

    Anyway, those scenarios just remind me of the quote you included where people aren’t invited places because they are seen as unlucky. Though I don’t think that H’s department members think we’re unlucky, I do think that we get excluded often ‘cos we don’t have kids. And interestingly, when S was here, we worked so hard to include each other, ‘cos we both knew that we were part of the no-kids-outcast group.

    I don’t know what my exact point is in sharing all that, except to say that I agree that it does feel like a club that people subconsciously exclude the non-parents from. And that SUCKS.

  12. Wow, that’s harsh.
    Good for you to keep your blog up and open to everyone. It is a great service to many people, and unfortunately, sometimes friends are better supporters than family.

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