In honor of Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to raise up this topic that most don't really talk about. I know that every woman's story is different and so are their experiences. I recently reached out to a few women to ask if they'd share their stories, experiences, and hardships of carrying the weight of infertility while also being Hmong. If you continue reading, your heart will break to hear what this woman's gone through. No one has ever prepared a woman to go through infertility and being of Hmong descent, it makes it so much harder.
"Being a Hmong nyab is already stressful but when I’m also having issues with infertility, it makes me feel like a failure to myself as a woman and to my husband. In the Hmong culture, they expect the daughter in law to continue the generation by having kids. My first year of marriage, my mother-in-law and all the other women of the family already started asking when I was going to have a child. Second-year rolls around, still nothing. They still ask but now also gossip behind my back.
I was a bigger lady so I ate healthily and worked out a lot. I lost a good 20+ lbs. I got Hmong herbs to drink and to cook with eggs and also got a tummy massage too. All that yet still no baby. During the 4th year into the marriage, I decided to seek an Obgyn to see if there was anything wrong with me.
In the Hmong culture, they tend to blame the ladies first. I had lots of appointments and lots of labs to be drawn. It turned out I had polyps in my uterus which needed to be removed and I also had PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). PCOS doesn't make me sterile but it means I’ll have a longer and harder time to have a kid but doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t. I had my polyps removed, yet still no luck. I had an HSG exam to check my tubes, but I was also normal. At this point, my medical bills were adding up. My husband also got himself tested and he checked out too. I was stressed out.
Whenever I show up at gatherings, all the women will ask:
“Any kids yet?”
“You guys have been married so long, go see a doctor.”
“You're not getting younger, hurry and have some kids.”
“Have kids so your parents and in-laws can see them before they leave this world.” “
If you don't have kids who're going to take care of you when you get old? Who’s going to bury you” etc....
I was depressed. All these medical debts and no luck. Now all the questions every single time. I slowly distanced myself and stop going to gatherings. Even though I know my in-law's side is talking about me not being a good nyab by showing up to help etc. How can I come when everyone lines up asking the same thing? It hurts. I don’t need to be reminded. But yet they always remind you that you failed as a wife and daughter-in-law.
What’s worse was that my own mother even suggested me to let my husband married a second wife. She can stay home and my husband and I can just work and provide for whatever she'd need or want. At this time, I had a close friend who was recently divorced with kids, so my mother said to let him marry her. We are friends too so it'd be easier and plus she had kids so it meant she was fertile. It shattered my heart to a million pieces. Even my own mother saw me as a failure.
Everywhere I went, it made me ashamed to say "I’m married," because this is always the questions: “Are you married or single? How long have you’ve been married? Any kids? No kids? Why not? Have you’ve tried Hmong herbs? Have you’ve got tummy massage or seen a dr? What did the doctor say?”
Some days I feel so depressed. I silently cry myself to sleep or on my way to work and even in my dreams. We grew up learning that a woman with a period will conceive a child. We weren’t taught that there are some who will struggle with infertility, hormones, thyroid, PCOS, and many other difficulties. The Hmong don’t understand what PCOS is nor infertility.
I feel treated as an object. If it works cool, if it doesn’t, just buy a new one. They will never ask how am I holding up going through all of this, or if I need someone they are there. No! They won’t tell you that. They will keep suggesting all sorts of herbs and so on.
What they don’t know is that sometimes it's so hard that I began to lie to them and became good at it. “ Oh we’re not ready yet," " We still want to travel first," "We” ll think about it someday but not right now.” It's depressing and exhausting to be a Hmong nyab with infertility issues. If they would be a bit more understanding and put themselves in my shoes. Infertility hurts."