Although it may be years away, I constantly think about what kind of parent I want to be. I've been hyper-focused on this since I was a teenager, actually, when I decided to become a nanny, and then later, when I decided to become a School Psychologist. Being in the neighboring worlds of psychology and child development in my job, one of the things I am constantly striving for in the schools is the idea of self-acceptance. This is something that is so hard to develop early on for many children. This is especially true for children with disabilities, kids who look 'different', and girls in general, who are faced with a celebrity-happy society that tells them they must be one way (generally skinny and blonde--and now pregnant!) or they have somehow failed to be a decent human being. But in all my conscientiousness (damn that's a long word), I realized I'm already doing a piss poor job of setting a good example. I have let my infertility rob me of the very thing I've worked so hard to instill in others.
According to society's standards, my ass is too big, my chest too small, and my skin too light, but nothing has ever made me hate my body more than infertility. While it's something that is beyond my control, just as skin color and facial features are, I know that somewhere, deep down inside, I blame myself, perhaps even dislike myself for it. For years I was so proud of budding out of the self-hate that comes so easily in early adolesence. I became what I wanted to become in my adulthood: an independent, educated, strong-minded woman with a thriving marriage, healthy friendships and a taste for learning about the world. And as I got older, life got even better. I grew into someone I never thought possible as a youngster and happily tossed aside the shame I felt coming from a poor family who loved in their own dysfunctional way, but made growing up difficult. I was proud of my resiliency. I was ready to create my own reality and my own family, but infertility stopped many of those plans in their tracks. Now, I feel as if that cage of self-hate is building walls around me again, threatening to take away the progress I worked so hard to create.
What does this have to do with parenting and child development? Well, children naturally learn from their parents, we all know this, but this goes beyond simple behavior. The way you love yourself, the way you accept yourself and face the world and the adversity thrown at you will find it's way past your generation. I know this because I had parents who were terrified of the world (and still are, even more so today) and now, even into their senior years, do not love themselves as they should. I know I learned this from them and have spent years trying to claw my way out. Add in infertility, vigorously stir, and it has all the makings of a recipe in creeping backwards in time.
But I can't let this happen. I don't want my future children to learn this from me. I want them to see, to hear, to feel that although their parents may waver, their confidence and strength remain-that infertility changed them, but did not rob them of being the parents our children deserve. Everyday I toe the line on this battle. I am exhausted, keeping a slippery grip on loving myself in spite of IF. I know that it is something I must do. The fight I face today will define the parent I will become. Parenting begins years before your children ever arrive.