It would seem my husband and I are in good company. We share infertility stories with the Obama family. How cool is that?
NOT that infertility is cool. ‘Cause it’s not. It’s very painful, as anyone who has ever experienced infertility will acknowledge. However, knowing you are not alone is half the battle, because when you are dealing with it-you feel very alone.
Doubly alone if you are black because everybody knows that black women do not struggle with infertility right? Wrong. I attest to this fact when recounting my own infertility in my book For This Child We Prayed: Living with the Secret Shame of Infertility.
Add Christian to the sentence and you feel as if there isn’t a soul who will understand. As soon as you try to talk about a struggle in a faith based community you can get a plethora of stupid comments like:
Ya’ll need to pray more.
You just don’t have enough faith.
You know you can give your way out right? Just make a pledge to the church.
Maybe it’s just not God’s will?
Maybe you all just need to shut up!
“I felt like I failed,” Obama told Roberts. “Because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were. Because we don’t talk about them.”
Many women who struggle with infertility feel the same way. It’s as if our bodies have failed us in the worst way ever. This feeling is compounded when you are black. When I read the former first lady’s words I immediately identified with them.
According to Ronisha Browdy (cited in the article for the Atlantic)
“There’s a historical system that has been used to deny black women the status of true womanhood…Mothering is also attached to black women in stereotypical ways, whether they have children or not—they were situated within slavery as ‘mammy’ and sexually exploited as breeders.”
Therefore when you can’t “breed” you have no value, and that thought continues to be ingrained in the minds of black women. Further compunding this stereotype as the article states is the fact that “Film and television portrayals of infertile women” are preponderantly aimed at white women.
So to hear a person like Michelle Obama open up it was refreshing. It was hopeful that our struggle might now be seen as valid and those like us will find no shame in seeking the help we need.
When I wrote my book in 2007, it was the first to be written from both the black and Christian perspectives. Since that time more books and blogs have been written. While I can’t prove it, I like to think I had something to do with that.