PAIL guest post: “the infertility tourist and getting my pregnancy citizenship” by keiko

Earlier this week, we featured a recent post by Keiko of The Infertility Voice examining the experience of transitioning from “infertile” to “pregnant, but now what?”  If you missed it, you can catch our recap of her post “Seeing Pink, Blue– and Green” and click through to Keiko’s post on her blog. Today, Keiko joins us to continue with the theme of transition from infertility towards parenting, passing through a series of milestones on the way.


I’ve been carrying around a secret, hidden passport with me. With each passing week, I earn another stamp in my passport. For the last 8 weeks, I feel like I’ve been going through an endless series of pregnancy customs checkpoints.

First, there was the fertilization report. Then transfer day. Then my Big Fat Positive two-lines plus-sign “I’m Pregnant” stamp on beta day. The “You’re Doubling” stamp 48 hours later. And the big one, two weeks ago: “There’s a heartbeat.” My passport is filling up with this multicolored emotional collection of milestones. Today, I get to add another: “Second Ultrasound.”

As someone who has a bit of a sticker and stamp fetish, it’s been marvelous collecting these imaginary badges of positive reinforcement. And yet, if you were to pass me in say, the baby aisle of Target or that adorable local baby gift shop, you’d be none the wiser of my obsessive private collection.

Photo courtesy of The Infertility Voice

It’s early yet: 8 weeks exactly today. Thanks to my curvy (okay, fat – let’s just call it what it is) figure, I’m not really rocking much of a bump. My gigantic boobs and stylish Sea-Bands might be your only clue if you were to see me on the street. But I know its there – this little knish baking’ in my oven. I sometimes find myself instinctively rubbing the panty line fat crease between upper foopah and lower foopah, pressing gently and smiling to myself as I feel resistance over my uterus now.

. . .

I have always had a bit of wanderlust. I blame the Gemini in me and the Sagittarius at my side. Larry and I are wanderers, travelers, explorers. We don’t really do relaxing vacations: we hoof it, we hike it, we bike it – we want to see and do everything.

We’re also the folks who have their shoes in hand and liquids out in a bag ready to go at airport security. No fanny packs for us. Most of our maps are discreet, either on our phones or iPads or tucked into our single travel guidebook.

We’re travelers, not tourists.

And yet, I can’t shake this touristy feeling every time I engage in activities and feelings that “normal” pregnant women have.

Like I’m some kind of a phony.

Like I don’t belong here.

Like I’m the woman the locals keep casting sideways, disapproving glances at.

Part of me wishes my two foopahs would meet in the middle already so I could sport a visual cue, like, “See! Yes, I belong here! I’ve got a bump too!”

…As the locals snicker.

. . .

“You belong there.”

This was a message of encouragement I got from a friend in a series of frantic texts a few weeks back. I had the privilege of assisting with a car seat event at a local Babies ‘R Us. In it for me was a free car seat – how could I say no?

I don’t think, at the time I signed up for the event, I realized just how emotional the experience would be. After spending three years of avoiding Babies ‘R Us like the plague save for the handful of necessary baby showers I’ve had to attend, it was the first time I was walking in there for myself. For our baby.

I was in there maybe, 10 minutes tops, before I dashed back out to my car, nearly hyperventilating.

“You’re not a tourist,” my friend texted me. “You belong there.”

Eventually, I did get over my immediate issues. I smiled as the lady at the register asked me if I wanted to join their Rewards Club when I bought out first baby item. In the weeks since that panicked moment, I’ve been parsing out these strange, conflicted feelings of belonging and membership. Of citizenship, really.

This week I joined a Twitter party for new and expectant mothers. Who knows how many or if any of them were parents via ART or adoption. Being so newly pregnant, it was hard to join in the discussion of baby sleeping tips beyond “filing this away for later!” and I felt awkward. I felt like the new girl at school who didn’t really know anyone, who didn’t understand the social cues and norms that had been established long before she arrived.

The new girl who just wants to make friends without being judged.

It has been a strange few weeks.

. . .

In finding membership, citizenship and a new community, I have to remember to write letters home. There are still plenty of people who read my blog for the non-pregnancy things about which I write. (Take for example, the Ricki Lake Show fiasco.) I still have very important work and commentary to do over at The Infertility Voice and in truth – I just can’t walk away from that space even if I tried. The unresolved ALI community is still too dear to me, too close to my heart.

And remember: I’m only 8 weeks out from that community, so it’s not like the ALI experience is some distant, fading memory. It courses through my veins.

It’s been a fine line to walk, striking a balance between writing about this pregnancy in all its glory (the round-the-clock morning sickness, the constipation, the so very gross Crinone goop, the boobs-like-whoa, the “Oh, Hello Sex Drive, I’ve missed you” libido dashed by all that Crinone goop, the food aversions and my obsession with grapes, apples and oranges right now) and being sensitive to my readers still in the trenches. The readers who would give an arm and a leg for any of the things I just listed.

I’m still not sure if it’s possible to carry dual-citizenship as a woman pregnant after infertility. I’m not ready to renounce one for the other, either.

. . .

In 1996, my dad finally got his U.S. citizenship. He had had his green card since 1964, when he first came to America from Japan. A few months before he began the citizenship process, we took a drive up to New York City, to the Japanese embassy. At the age of 55, my father renounced his Japanese citizenship.

I was 14 at the time.

I waited in the reception area, as Japanese men in suits bustled about me. When my dad came out, he looked sad and tired. “Do you want to get some lunch?” he asked me. I nodded, hungry and cranky from the long drive to the city.

We ate at this little hole-in-the-wall Japanese place down the street from the embassy. I had chicken teriyaki. My dad ordered lots of things, savoring the many delicious tastes of his culture. He spoke in Japanese with the waitress. I had initially resisted his suggestion to get Japanese food for lunch, but relented after he became ornery himself.

In retrospect, I realize now as an adult just how bittersweet that lunch must have been for him, how much it meant to him to sit down with a bowl of miso soup, to eat pickled plums with his rice, to have a steaming cup of o-cha.

And even though I’ve been an American citizen since birth, I think I can finally understand the unique pain and excitement of leaving one culture for another, to straddle two worlds.

The moment you stop becoming a tourist.

The moment you find belonging…

…if you’ll have me.


Keiko Zoll is an award-winning women’s health writer and infertility advocate writing at The Infertility Voice. With extensive media appearances to spread awareness of and health empowerment for infertility patients, she can be seen later this month on The Katie Show discussing her infertility experience. Keiko is the author of three eBooks and is the Founder of and Social Communication Architect at Words Empowered, providing social media strategy, freelance writing and web/graphic design services to small businesses, non-profits and individual brands.

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