Miscarriage, infertility, broken-ness etc (which isn’t half as scary as what some people can say).
I’m 7. Playing on the couch.
Dad comes home with baby doll number 3.
It blinks vacantly. It has a milk bottle that fits between it’s lips. It mimis.
I’m gonna be the best mum.
I’m 17. Doubled over in the car park of a Westgate Shopping Mall.
Retching bile into a shrub,
Bellyful of razors,
A slender red snake escaping down my thigh.
I’m 20. In the ultrasound room for my second appointment.
Cold runny jelly smeared across my surface.
Grinning at an ambiguous smudge on a screen.
“Is that it??”
That’s when I clock her expression. Serious. Sad. Pitiful.
I’m 21. Staring out the hospital window from my bed
It’s been two days. My first visitor arrives.
She’s just so sorry. Let her explain.
He would be here… but it’s just too painful for him.
I blink, vacantly, then return to staring out the window.
I’m 23. Lying in a hospital bed. No window this time.
There’s a young woman lying across from me
complaining how she has to stay there for the entire final trimester of her pregnancy,
“3 is enough, this better be the last”
I’m consumed with envy.
White coats and stethoscopes crowd my bed,
A thin veil wrapped around us for my dignity,
It’s just us now.
Just us five, huddled in clinical intimacy.
I roll to my side for all to gaze up into me.
My pillow cold from hot tears.
I’m 30, paging through Wāhine Toa,
Image after image of mother
We are divine because we birth.
I’m 34. On a boat, with friends.
We’re into the deep and meaningfuls.
The sea will do that for you.
What’s it all about we wonder.
Having kids, continuing the whakapapa.
Yes, that’s why we’re all here.
(my silence goes unnoticed)….
I’m 36, sitting across from Doctor number 300andwhatever,
She’s exhausted all the tests.
We just… don’t know, she says
(what’s wrong with you, she doesn’t say)
I’m only half listening.
I guess time doesn’t heal all wounds.
I’m 39, more deep and meaningfuls,
This time with a wāhine.
“If you ask me”, she says,
“you’re never truly connected to whenua until you have a child”.
It hangs in the air between us
Thick and heavy, like a violent fog.
My words are stuck in my throat
Like every other careless, soft strike
“You’ll never know true love until you have a child”
“Childless women just seem cold to me”
“You’d be an amazing mother”
“It’s a mum thing”
One last hospital.
One last Doctor.
One last procedure.
My whare tangata distorted by
Pou lashed to maihi
lashed to pare
lashed to epa
lashed to tekoteko
lashed to tahuhu
lashed to mahau
The Awa stops here.
In a few weeks from now I will have my whare tangata removed, and I have not had children.
What I have had, is seven miscarriages, 5 d&c’s (dilation and curette), 3 laparoscopies, abdominal keyhole surgery, and an ovarian cyst removal. And not one clear explanation.
Apparently something like a fifth of all infertility is termed “unexplained”. Other than two (one from being kicked in the abdomen and one from a burst cyst) there have been no other clear explanations, and of course there is no way of knowing if those two would have spontaneously miscarried as well. What I know is that even well before my first failed pregnancy, my relationship with my whare tangata has been strained. I’ve loved it… It’s not loved me.
I think, generally, when you reach 40, you start to consider your life’s journey with your whare tangata anyway – and this is largely because it starts to behave differently, as your potential for childbearing begins to close down. In my case – differently meant from bad to worse. From random pain to consistent pain. And all the predictability of El Niño. Another trip to the doctors, some tests, some serious discussions, a right turn, and here we are in Hysterectoville.
My childbearing potential was never great to begin with…. Maybe 1 or 2%, I’m told?
But it’s only now that it is about to hit 0% that I realise how much 1% matters.
My percentage has always been pretty low – low enough that I had to make peace with the strong likelihood of a childbirth-less life quite some time ago.
But still – maybe it’s the social engineering, from the dolls to the happily-ever-after stories and every image in between – but even when it’s only 1 or 2% – it’s enough to make you, in the quiet moments, wonder.
Wonder what your partner would react like. Wonder what that “amazing love” that everyone describes, is like (you know, the one that makes your own idea of love pale in comparison). Wonder about that first glance at your own genetic footprint, your immortality, your continuation of an act that was passed unbroken to you since time immemorial. Wonder about that first skin to skin contact. Wonder about names. Wonder what a “little you” would look like, would be like, and how you could love and nurture “little you” into an incredible being. Sometimes you catch yourself wondering like this – quite inadvertently, and admonish yourself, and shut it down. And then, perhaps a month later, perhaps a year – you will do it again. Yep, you can pack a whole lotta wondering into 1%.
I don’t get to “wonder” anymore, and as sparse as those moments were, I will miss that.
When I think back about my journey with my whare tangata – it’s largely hospitals and doctors’ offices that come to mind. Clinical white coats and expressions that somehow simultaneously span sympathy and distance. “Some women just aren’t meant to have children”; “It’s just bad luck”; “You know, the Public Health Service isn’t here to help your kind reproduce” (ok that last one wasn’t so sympathetic).
And years, and years, and years, of being told in well-intentioned tones “Oh your turn will come”.
Note to those who have not experienced infertility: That does not help. Not one bit. Nor the various other versions of:
“Oh I knew someone who thought the same for X years but then [enter miraculous conception story here]”
“You just need to relax it will happen when you least expect it”
“When it’s meant to happen, it will happen”
All of these translated to me as:
“We cannot, and shall not, accept the fate of infertility”
When people would offer these platitudes, I’d plaster on a smile, turn, and walk away – silently fuming at the fact that within moments, in spite of myself, I would start helplessly wondering, again.
But more than that – I sincerely resented the cumulative inference that not bearing children was unfathomable. For wāhine Māori the inference is compounded by the suggestion that our whare tangata – our ability to create new life – is the source of our divinity and strength. If there is one thing I would ask of you – it is to check this reductive notion. All women are sacred. All women are divine. No suggestion should be made otherwise. My role and divinity as a wāhine comes from so much more than my uterus – and I will continue to be just as much a woman, without one.
No, my body was not created to have children.
It was created to forge change. It was created to traverse this world and carry me through a multitude of adventures, triumphs, and lessons. It was created to hold and caress those I love, to stand up to injustice, to burn up the dancefloor, to plant seeds, to care for our planet, to stand and speak up for myself and others who require it. That’s what my body was created for.
I will not birth a child.
I have birthed, and will continue to birth, so much of great importance. I birth new understandings, I birth change for the better, I birth pathways for wellbeing, I birth opportunities. That’s what I birth.
Maybe I will raise a child. Maybe I will not.
Maybe I will raise a righteous army.
And maybe, just maybe – we are not divine because we give birth.
Maybe it’s that we give birth because we are divine in our ability to navigate change.
Why else do we also sit charge beside the waka tupapaku.
Why else do we herald the spirits to oversee hui.
My Awa Atua began with Hineteiwaiwa – and has been a mark of that divinity.
A mark of divinity that has travelled down countless generations to me.
A painful, tormenting mark, but one that I honour, and now, farewell.
My Awa Atua ends here.
27 thoughts on “River’s End.”
Creating life is possible in so many ways, Thank you for sharing yours! May this next phase of your life unfurl wondrously!… let me know when you’re raising that army!!
Thankyou 🙂 xxxx
Wow I’m blown away. My heart cries with yours and sings with yours. You are a divine woman showing others what’s possible. Sometimes it gets cold out there being different and paving the way, but it’s what we came here to do. We knew it wasn’t too much for us, we knew we’d be able to handle it, we knew it all and we chose it anyway.
We are all holding hands across this blessed universe, and it’s an honour to hear your soul sing through your words. Thank you for sharing.
Love you so much,
Thankyou sis. I love you so very much too, and so value you in my life. X
No regrets. 🙂
E tangi ana mou, me ou tini whetu e tiaho mai ana i nga rangituhaha…ka aroha e te teina.
Ngā mihi aroha e te tuahine <3 nā mātau ko wāku whetū.
Nga mihi nui and arohanui. That was crippling and touching to read, thank you for being strong in sharing that and beautiful in your words.
Tēnā koe Lana.
I dont mourn your whare tangata.
I dont mourn the experience you have had with her.
I dont mourn the multiple meetings, surgical intrusions or the end of your river.
I welcome the NEW YOU!
I welcome the letting go of ashes for beauty.
I celebrate the decision you have made.
Your powerfulness in your critical choice point!
I celebrate the powerfulness of YOU!
Ko koe ko au
Ko au ko koe
Ko tāua tēnei
Nga Tuhimareikura o Raurunui Whakataupotiki
Tina you are so gifted with talents that many would sell their soul to the devil for. Your words can make me cry or sing and today my soul grieves with you. Earth Mother or Papatuanuku is what you are to me. Best wishes and much love for your future xxx
Ev, thankyou so much for your kind words. 🙂 Much love right back to you <3
Wow, I hope writing this poem has healed some hurt and disappointment of your journey. I hope you allow me to share your story with whanau who have similar, so they too can express their own emotions, to get them out of the alcohol and drug addictions, becos they to carry their own mamae. Alas, you are still a beautiful woman, who is full of lots of love. Be kind to yourself, you have acknowledged one of the hardest thing for woman to go through in her life. Nga mihi.
Tena koe Aneta,
Thankyou, and yes please do share, those you mentioned are who I had in mind when I wrote this. Throughout my own journey, I rarely had anyone to speak to or fully express what was going on, and that led me down my own path of addiction, self abuse, running away, depression and anxiety. Since those days I’ve learnt the power of sharing your imperfect story, and how it gives permission for others to do the same, and the healing and connections made through that process. One of my greatest inspirations in this sense are the rangatahi of Kawerau, who overcame high suicide rates in this way, through modelling sharing, talking, and caring for each others mamae.
Unfortunately our suicide rate is still too high. We have lost 12 here in the East, just in the past year, and that tears me up. I know that a small but important aspect of this is feeling alone, feeling that others don’t/can’t relate, or don’t care, and not knowing how, or to whom, their story can be shared.
So yes, please share. And please let them know that in sharing, they too can help someone else who is also feeling this way. It’s so important.
Much, much love.
E tangi ana te ngākau, Tina. I don’t think we have met, but so much of your story is my story, too. My top five ‘soft, careless strikes’ include the word ‘barren’ (do Māoris love that word or what?!) and the awesome ‘Your clock is ticking!’ and a picture of an adorable baby billboard that Fertility Associates planted by the motorway exit in Wellington for months on end. Ok yeh, not so soft. I have so, so much aroha and admiration for you and this writing and your odyssey. Can we meet up some time maybe? And can i share this post on my FB page? x
Ah yes The Clock! Yeah I think, as you know, there are so many ways in which this experience is minimised, casually dismissed, and inappropriately “advised” by those who haven’t walked the path. A lot of it, in my view, really came down to an inability to face the eventuality of ‘No’, and relate to that in it’s full sense (ie it’s opportunity AND loss).
Anyway, yes please do share, I wrote this for sharing, in the hope that it may help (see my response to Aneta below). And I’d LOVE to meet up when I’m down in Wellington next, which will be by the end of the year 🙂
Mauriora e hoa.
And wtf Fertility Associates that’s just… I have no words. Out of touch, much?
tino nui te aroha ki a koe e te tuahine
Tēnā koe e Rere x
Nga mihi e te tuakana! You are amazing and insiprational. I have shared this as it has much wisdom contained in your words. We really do need to celebrate mana wahine in ALL its diversity. Nga mihi ano. Kia maia te haere x
Tēnā koe e Marnie 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experience so beautifully. This is also my story my thoughts. You have inspired me cousin xx Much love xxx
Much love to you, cousin. Xxx
What strength and honesty. You’ve given words and feelings to those who can’t. Continue to be amazing with all your adventures.
Thankyou Rosie xxx
I just discovered your blog by accident and I love your writing. Powerful, powerful stuff. While I was finally blessed with children, I lost my first to stillbirth. The pain stays with you. Your words are so raw and real. I’m sorry that your journey ended the way it did. Sorry for you, and sorry for me too, because as mothers, we are thrown into a social group that isn’t always of our choosing. We’re divided as women across lines that don’t always suit us; not made more compassionate or more brilliant because our wombs bore fruit. I long to sit around campfires with more women like you, and had we had the shared journey of parenthood, we would probably have crossed paths by now. Please keep writing; we need more voices like yours.
Kia Ora Amy. Thankyou for your kind words. I am blessed with two beautiful adopted girls now, and although I am still of a mind that this need not be the definition of a woman’s happiness, it nonetheless is a wonderful blessing for myself and my partner and they bring great joy with them. For them, for all women, we must keep elevating our voices as sisters to celebrate our multidimensional birthings into this world, our contributions of all kinds… Thankyou, again, for your contribution here – even though it was not shared across a campfire within an abundance of other deep truths, it is nonetheless greatly appreciated. xo nga mihi xo
Is this you?