I’m participating in the Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign created by Tara Sophia Mohr and Paola Gianturco. This post is my little contribution to what has been an abundance of good thinking on grandmothers.
My Grandmother Power story may be a little different, in part because of what power means to me and how I associate it with my grandmothers. It is also because it is Mother’s Day weekend. Over the past few years, the weekend has given me extra pause, and I’m writing with that on my mind.
When I consider how my grandmothers have reflected power, I come to their deep and consistent influence in my life. When I was young, their influence was often practical — listening to how a classmate had hurt my feelings, picking me up from school when my parents were working and I got sick, and so on.
As an adult, their influence has worked on a more spiritual level, even though (or maybe because) they have both died. With one grandmother in particular, my father’s mother, her power has shown up in direct ways. Years after her death, she continues to shape my story.
Mother’s Day and I have had an odd relationship ever since my husband and I discovered that we have unexplained infertility. We started trying to get pregnant in 2009. For about two-and-a-half years we went down the rabbit hole of the many ways to start a family.
Infertility creates a lot of noise. The noise of people and their anxieties and hopes for you, and the theories they offer to troubleshoot your uterus. The look on your parents’ faces when you tell them you’ve been trying for a year, and no matter how many times they ask for a grandchild, it doesn’t change the results. The nurses saying that maybe we just need to “clean the dust bunnies” out of the tubes. The unexpected pain of friends and siblings announcing their pregnancies. The books, the blog posts, the sheer cost of it all.
I had watched friends unravel in the midst of the noise. As much I was anxious about understanding our infertility, I was equally anxious about getting swept away emotionally, physically, and financially in the pursuit of children.
The process of infertility is designed to search for answers about your body. But as the months and years passed, I realized I was seeking clarity about what this meant for my life and my purpose.
I had not grown up convinced I was going to be a mother. I didn’t feel what I’d consider the true rush of wanting to have kids until I met Carl. On our first date, the thought of “I want to have his children” whooshed through my mind, as if my ovaries fell in love with him first.
My sense of parenthood and why it mattered had become tangled up in my love for Carl. This works well when you get pregnant right away. That’s joy. But when your bodies get stubborn, things get confusing fast. We had built a life in anticipation of children. Now what?
At the same time, I was growing uncomfortable with the increasing amount of physical intervention that infertility demanded. I never expected this. I’m a progressive person. I love science. But with every push of dye through my tubes, every Clomid prescription, every blood draw and conversation about hormone hacking, I felt more out of alignment with my body. Like I was holding it hostage until it gave me what I wanted.
In the midst of all this noise, I had one of the most powerful experiences of my grandmother ever. She had passed on Christmas Day in 2003, but this experience about eight years later convinces me that a grandmother’s power does not quit.
She had visited me in dreams once or twice before this. Each time, she had hugged me, talked to me, and then disappeared as soon as we let go of each other. So on a night in the midst of the infertility journey, I was thrilled to find her in one of my dreams.
It was a family reunion at a campsite. I had gone back to our RV, and as I opened the door, I realized she was there waiting for me. Immediately we hugged, and she began talking.
She was talking about the infertility, and she started chuckling in the mildly chiding way she always did as I was growing up. My grandmother had invented the art of the gentle scoff. If my mom said something she didn’t like, she would just chuckle in her way and say, “Oh, Annie.” And we all knew the queen had spoken.
So she had visited me in a dream to gently scoff me about this infertility issue. Because she knew that she knew better than I did. She talked about the process, she hugged me in the way she probably did when I was sick as a child, and in the final moments of the dream, she said: “People try like animals for this. You don’t have to.”
I felt it like a truth I had been stabbing at but missing for months.
She didn’t tell me what to do. She didn’t tell me what was wrong with my body. She didn’t troubleshoot or theorize. Instead, in her grandmother wisdom and her grandmother way, she simply implied that I needed to trust instead of fight.
In many ways, her visit became a turning point in the journey. We began asking what our life would look like if we didn’t have children. We realized how many decisions we had made with a family as the context. And when we took away that context, we found other dreams, like our recent move to San Francisco.
I carry my grandmother’s words with me every day. Whenever I feel unmoored, wondering what the infertility means or getting unexpectedly weepy over a happy family, I return to those words. And I try to trust. I look at the path I’ve taken since hearing her words, and I realize that I can only choose gratitude… for that path and for her.