Becoming a parent is often one of the greatest things a woman may hope for in her life. But, what happens when you are diagnosed as infertile and can no longer become the parent you once wished to be? For one woman, infertility became a life-changing experience that has shaped her identity. After learning to accept her infertile disease, Keiko Zoll was able to move forward in helping others to accept theirs, as well.
By Keiko Zoll
I have always wondered what my child’s face would have looked like. Not the child I hope to have with my husband in the next few years, rather, the child we should have had together.
The child we create from this moment on, should we be so blessed, will be built of my husband’s genes and those of a gracious egg donor, but not my own. I know that, yes, our child will indeed be ours. But I can’t help but wonder what my child – the child of my genes – would have looked like.
When we received the infertility diagnosis bombshell, the idea of children was merely on the horizon. The news came just months after our first wedding anniversary; parenting was in our five-year plan as a newly married couple. At the time, we weren’t even actively trying to conceive. We will never have the chance to naturally conceive. Premature ovarian failure at age 26 robbed us of that chance.
Yet I’ve found myself in a place of strength and acceptance that I could have never imagined two years after I was diagnosed. While infertility has wrought havoc on both my body and spirit, it hasn’t broken me. I’ve come close; I was brought to the ugliest corners of myself that frightened me in their visceral rawness. It was through this dark journey that allowed me to confront some of my worst fears and come out renewed and strengthened.
No matter how difficult this road has been or how challenging it may be as we begin treatment, I wouldn’t take my infertility back for a second. I’ve learned valuable lessons about my own character, resiliency and resourcefulness that, had I not been diagnosed as infertile, I may never have learned about myself. I’ve arrived at a point of acceptance that this is my disease. The rest of the work is in learning to live with my disease every day of my life, even after, or if, we become parents.
I would never wish infertility on my worst enemy, but if I could wave a magic wand, I wouldn’t change this defining experience in my life. I’ve found healing through writing about my journey and by advocating for research, awareness, and equal access to treatment coverage. In accepting my infertility as merely one part of who I am, I’ve become acutely aware of its prevalence in others.
The infertility community is one that is so often culturally silenced. There is the silence we often impose on ourselves, one constructed from grief, sorrow, and shame. I’ve confronted these emotions – given myself the permission to grieve and rage and cry – and channeled them into positive action for the greater good of this patient community. I am not defined by my infertility, but it has shaped me in profound ways.
I accept my infertility and the woman I’ve become in its wake. I accept the duty to help others like me, to offer support, to inspire hope and to be a voice for the infertility community.