I’m soon to be 60, raising teenage brothers who my husband and I adopted from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua almost fifteen years ago. Being a Latina and native speaker definitely helped when we approached an orphanage in northern Mexico. Being a Latina also made it difficult for me to talk about it openly among my family.
I’ve noticed the same reluctance in Latinas to discuss infertility and IVF, as well as adoption. I follow many wonderful blogs where important issues concerning Latinas are showcased, but I have not yet found one that discusses infertility.
Because infertility tends to shame and isolate women who ultimately end up suffering in silence, believing they are the only ones. I did.
For years I struggled to get pregnant, believing it was only a matter of time before I joined that coveted inner circle of womanhood. Infertile. Me? No way, I’m Latina. I’d bought into the myth of our universal fertility.
I grew up as one of eleven siblings in southwestern Arizona where it seemed I was related to half the population on both sides of the border. Mexican mother, Greek father: how could I possibly be infertile?
I remember my maternal grandmother, Nachu, rejecting the notion that I would be childless after years of painful disappointment. In her faintly perfumed bedroom, she gave me a San Judas novena, blessed me with her warm plump hand, and said, “no one in this family is infertile.” She cupped my chin, trained her eyes on mine, and said that I was merely a late bloomer.
I desperately wanted to believe her. I took that novena and her loving promise, and I hid my pain. I girded myself at countless baby showers and baptisms where some one would inevitably ask if I had any children. Piercing sadness and awkwardness would replace the small talk. I’d turn away or bolt to the bathroom and cry.
Infertility sucks, plain and simple. For me, it sucked even more because I took it on alone, except for my husband. No one discussed it. In my family’s case, they didn’t want to hurt my feelings or were afraid they’d jinx my chances. We are a superstitious lot. But after three, five and then ten years not having children, I needed my family to fill my empty arms.
Twenty-five years later, I still sense the same squirming discomfort among my family when we discuss someone who is having trouble conceiving. The air seems tainted by embarrassment as the conversation drifts away, heads shaking in empathy. No one uses the word infertile. Instead they say that the problem is nothing more than bad luck, the evil eye, or the fact that the unfortunate woman works too much.
I’m reminded of the time when I uttered the forbidden word around a tableful of women, and my mother cupped her hand over mine and shot me a silent reproach. Later she explained it was rude, no different than talking about one’s sex life in mixed company.
Is it rude to bring up or is it rude to avoid it?