The Label You Wear is Not Your Identity

About a year ago I made a mistake. Well, a few actually. I laugh just thinking about it. I was at a girlfriend’s house and my first mistake was forgetting that I am not as young as I once was. When you read “young”, you should also hear coordinated, agile and graceful.

Across my friend’s backyard patio, I spotted her son’s hoverboard. You know where this is going. Seeing the determination in my eyes, she suggested I ride it in the grass. Not listening to her was my second mistake.

I picked it up and carried that death trap right over to the asphalt driveway. I stood on it as if two decades hadn’t passed since high school. (see mistake #1).

I stood on that thing for all of three seconds before it started spinning me around like the rinse cycle on my washer. I’m not sure how many times I spun, but it had to have been a few based on the space between where I took off and where I landed.

Don’t feel too sorry for me. I couldn’t stop laughing. I moved my toes and checked myself for signs of head trauma and concussion, which I determined (with no medical background) that I was probably fine since I was mindful of those things.

It wasn’t until my adrenaline slowed and my shock started wearing off that I realized I couldn’t move my left elbow. Not only could I not move it, but it was swelling up like a balloon. I’m laughing at myself as I type, remembering how ridiculous this moment was.

The next morning (I’m stubborn) I went to the doctor. Do you know what he said to me? “Mrs. Quillet, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have a broken elbow.”

Now let me tell you a different story. Years before this incident, I sat on similar white crinkly paper, positioned high on an exam table. A person wearing a similar white lab coat said: “I am so sorry Mrs. Quillet. You are infertile.”

Sure it wasn’t my first rodeo in her office. She knew how many months we’d been trying and she already knew the broken parts of me. Unlike my fated elbow accident where I had a broken piece of me, infertility made me something different.

We struggle with blood sugar and we are not diabetes. We have diabetes.

You have frequent and debilitating headaches and you are not migraines. You just have them.

When we receive the diagnosis of infertility it becomes another name tag we wear. Not, “Hello my name is Cathie.” It now feels like we walk around with a new label, which says, “Hello, I’m infertile.”

You wear this name tag when you walk into your family holiday party, your college roommate reunion, an office meeting, shopping and when you look at yourself in the mirror. It feels like this new identity cannot be changed until you reach the mama club.

It is an unfair label that we (women especially) put on ourselves when we’ve already lived a lifetime of other labels.  Maybe you were the pudgy friend, the unathletic one, the one that needed tutoring, the one with the braces in the pictures or the one that was called unloveable straight to your face. Maybe you watched your mom criticize herself in the mirror so you knew from a young age you wouldn’t add up either. Maybe it was the foster system that made you wear the label of dispensable. Was it the first time he hit you that made you feel forsaken? Have you experienced discrimination that made you hate the very skin you are in?

Years and years of life challenge the view of who we are, and sometimes those things stick as we wear the labels: unfeminine. Ugly. Too big. Too small. Uneducated. I wish that you were sitting in my living room with me right now so we could start taking some of those labels off. Adding “infertile” makes it one too many.

How can you begin to remove those labels, those name tags that weigh us down, and remove them with the truth? Can you take off the label of “sick” and replace it with “resilient”? Remove the label that identifies you as “infertile” and replace it with “waiting.” Can you begin to replace your negative labels with the truth about your character that allows you to get out of bed every morning and fight?

If it is difficult for you to differentiate your lie from your truth, let me help you.

You are the strongest of warrior types for standing up to infertility every single day.

You are courageous for allowing professionals to poke and prod your body as they try to find something wrong with you.

You are a woman just as the woman you adore from afar – no less because your reproductive days are a little further out in the distance.

Your turn. Look inside.

Who are you?

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Cathie Quillet, LMFT

Cathie Quillet, LMFT

Founder of The Quillet Institute
Infertility and Pregnancy Loss Therapist
Mom to Four Miscarried Babies

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