Naturally. Instinctively. Gracefully.

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Naturally. Instinctively. Gracefully.

Lately I’ve been struggling in my relationship with my body. It’s not about the way it looks or the way it feels, though I sometimes struggle with those things too. Rather, my problems stem from the expectations I have on the way it is supposed to work. The things it is supposed to know how to do. Naturally. Instinctively. Gracefully. As a woman, the ability to conceive a child is something we are raised to expect. We are taught at a young age how easily pregnancy can arrive at your doorstep, intended or not. We are taught that this is our gift. Our burden. Our superpower.

When it doesn’t come naturally, the feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness can be overwhelming. Infertility has taken an enormous toll on my emotional wellbeing, on my physical state, and on my financial security. But it has also taken a toll on my perception of myself as a woman. I am embarrassed to admit this fact, because to view womanhood as being defined by one’s ability to bear children seems so old-fashioned. Indeed, part of my challenges with fertility stem from the fact that I am thirty eight years old, having proudly spent much of my life progressing my career in a male-driven field, being the primary (and then only) breadwinner in a family markedly undefined by traditional gender roles, and single parenting a strong, brave and resilient little girl through the tragic death of her father, my husband.

Yet here I am, feeling inadequate in my womanhood all the same. I don’t have the answers to my complicated relationship with a body that won’t do the one thing I want it to most. But as we celebrate International Woman’s Day this week, I am reminded to be grateful for all the things it can do. It can move, it can feel, it can dance. It is the means through which I interact physically with others, through which I bring comfort and show affection to those I love. It is strong. It is protective. It is otherwise healthy. And more importantly, I am reminded that my body does not define me in either its capabilities or shortcomings. It may be the vehicle, but I am the driver.

So this week I will chose to celebrate the power of my womanhood—not because of the body in which I inhabit, but because of my compassion, my accomplishments, my relationships, and my perseverance in the face of challenges like infertility, and the many others I have faced and survived before. Happy International Women’s Day to all.

Xo, Alexie