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A "Real" Woman: My Journey As An Infertile Muslim Woman In America

A personal refection on being an infertile in the 21st Century and how some things have never changed for a woman with fertility issues.


It’s a beautiful, sunny summer day. I sit in the park with my friend’s little 4 year old daughter Cami. She wants me to push her on the swing. I smile and say, “Come on, let’s go!”. Cami is such a beautiful child. She has long dark hair and big brown eyes, but what truly makes her beautiful is her laugh whenever she is happy and having fun.

I put Cami in the swing and start pushing her. A woman who is also at the swings smiles at me and says “Your daughter looks just like you”. She is pushing a sweet baby boy of about 2 years old. I smile back at her and say, “Oh, she’s not my daughter, I’m babysitting her for my friend.”. The woman seems surprised by my answer. “I really thought she was your daughter, the resemblance and your patience with her, it’s amazing. Well, take care!”, she says as she takes the little boy out of the swing and walks away.

As we are walking home, Cami turns to me suddenly and says, “Why did you tell that lady that I’m not your daughter?”. “Well, because you aren’t, Cami, you have a mommy, a great one.”, I answer. Cami looks at me thoughtfully and says, “My mommy says you can’t have a baby, so I will be your baby till you get one.”, she says. I figure she must’ve heard her mother talking to someone about that. I hug her and try not to show her the tears in my eyes.

The exchange at the park is not new to me, but never ceases to make me happy and sad at the same time. I’m happy because for a moment, I’m like other women, normal and a mother. Then, the moment is over, and I tell whoever is talking to me that I’m just the babysitter. In that moment, an immense sadness envelopes me and it reminds me of my lack of fertility and my endless struggle to become a mother.

My infertility is “unexplained” which means that doctors cannot find a reason for it. Biologically, I’m fine, but fertility eludes me and has done so for most of my adulthood. I’ve tried to come to terms with my struggle, but I think what made it harder for me is the way that people react to it. Here are some examples:

  • My ex husband had a friend whose wife was pregnant and I was jealous. I told him what I felt and his answer was, “It’s not my fault that you’re defective, I wouldn’t have married you if I knew you couldn’t have children!”. Let that sink in and put yourself in my place for a moment.

  • Overhearing a friend’s husband say that I’m not a real woman because I can’t produce a child.
  • People telling me that “it will happen” over and over again.
  • Others saying that being a mother is overrated to make me feel better.

  • Lying whenever I saw my ex husband with his new wife and his daughter and pretending that I had a baby so that the word “defective” is negated and was never true.

I tried fertility treatments, but they became too expensive after a while. There was always adoption and here is where the absolute cruelty of this world reared its ugly head. I made a Facebook page to find a mother that might want to adopt out her baby. I tried adoption agencies, but as they put it ( ever so delicately), “The mothers that we get are not open to adoption to a MUSLIM household.”.

I got a lot of responses, but many had no desire for their unborn baby to be raised by a woman like me (the kid might grow up to be a terrorist, right?). Then, I was contacted by a married couple who had 5 children and have adopted out one baby boy a few years prior. They were aware that I’m Muslim and they just wanted their baby to be adopted by someone that would love her.

I couldn’t be any happier and since there was about 4 months left in the pregnancy (the baby was conceived on Valentine’s Day), I had plenty of time to get the legal stuff in order and get ready for the baby. I was beyond happy, I was floating on air for 5 months. I helped the couple out financially and made sure that they had everything they needed.

The baby was supposed to be born on November 15th and I sent them the plane tickets to come to NY for the birth. I picked them up from the airport, got them a great Airbnb and while waiting for the labor to start, I took them all over NY and to many breakfasts, lunches, and dinner. I spared no expense, after all, they are giving me the greatest gift I could ever hope for.

At one of the dinners, the husband started telling me about his military service and how he was in Muslim countries. I listened, but I did notice that some words were used by him that were degrading to a Muslim. I let it go, kept quiet and remembered that I will be a mother very soon. His wife was quiet mostly and then she looked me right in the eye and asked me how many miscarriages have I had. I was honest and told her that over my lifetime, I’ve had 9 miscarriages. She doesn’t say a word.

(Please join me for part 2 of this story coming soon. Thank you for reading)

© 2021 Johanna Elattar