A Different Kind of Motherhood
A book editor once told me that no one wants to read a fertility story, so in case she was right, I apologize in advance. Let me get the boring part over as quickly as possible.
For six years, I could not get pregnant. (I was living in Italy—and still am.) And like most thirty-five-year-old women I knew with undefinable fertility, I pushed, pulled, poked, prodded and insisted on reproducing, first by counting the three days per month I was for sure ovulating and insisting on a very unsexy sex schedule, and then—when that didn’t work—resorting to IVF.
By falsely stimulating my ovaries into action and fertilizing them in a jar on a counter somewhere in Milan, I actually got pregnant three times. But each time, at the three-month mark, when the massive needle pierced my inflated stomach at the Italian gynecologist’s office, it pulled out a perverse death sentence. The fetus was in fact alive, clinging on with iron claws, and yet was completely chromosomally scrambled. I imagined that the children I was spawning had four heads each and were kicking furiously with one jagged fin. I wondered if they even had clothes for such creatures.
In Italy, each tenacious, four-inch dwarf got ripped off the sides of my uterine wall with the condolence of a rusted, iron medieval ax. One time, this procedure actually happened during Milan fashion week, with the little guy being taken out right after the Armani show that I was covering for Wallpaper magazine. The storming and razing of my womb was emotionally, psychologically, physically, and in every possible way destabilizing, not to mention that it left me in a pair of huge Italian mesh diapers comically similar to those I’d seen the male models wear at the Versace show the night before.
Then I went back to living my life the way I always did: running, writing, lifting, organizing, producing, socializing, doing, photo-shooting, achieving, striving for something else. I did not care for myself. In fact, it would take me years to know what my body, heart, and soul needs in order to be cared for. I did not love or properly mourn those dead mini babies in the days following their death, in the way a good witch woman later taught me they must be mourned. Most important, I did not connect to the bigger picture of: What the hell is happening to me?
By forcing fertility with IVF, I willingly walked into what became, at least for me, an energetic prison. I shackled my womb with man-made chains, stabbed myself with poison brewed in labs that destabilized my feminine body’s natural chemical balance, polluted my mind fauna, and buried my open heart beneath a toxic black cloud. I got depressed while doing IVF. I consensually created this creepy, dangerous neighborhood for myself to live in, insisted on children magically showing up in it, and was genuinely nonplussed when they didn’t. “What do you mean this isn’t working?” I demanded. “Everything I do works!”
My immediate reaction—to this and to most things that went wrong in my life—was that it was the Italians’ fault. I’d lived with them for eight years when this adventure started and knew one thing for sure: They’re never the fastest, never the most productive, never organized enough. They never even kept my medical records on file and couldn’t even chromosomally test embryos before gluing them onto my uterine wall in the first place. It must be them! It’s a medical system designed by people who should be making spaghetti! It’s this dysfunctional country!
There had to be someone to blame. But a year later, when I stood on the sidewalk in front of YogaWorks in Santa Monica, listening to my new LA-based, genius, celebrity gynecologist give me the exact same outcome by phone, sounding as soft and compassionate as a lizard, this hideous seven-year run came to a close. I went into the sweaty vinyasa class and came out vowing never to torture myself again.
Getting pregnant, obviously, has nothing to do with being organized, fast, or productive. The leisurely Italians have been doing it for thousands of years with exceptional results. The judge in me was like a big, hairy, heartless, old man looking for someone to blame. Even after all this: I am not inherently against IVF. If a woman choses it, I support her. But I do want to share the realization that I came to: In my case, I’m convinced that IVF shut down the natural work that my own ovaries and womb were destined for. If there were a chance they were merely sleeping or were just hiding in fear or had been left too long unattended and unloved, there was no way to find out and coax them back into action by drowning them in drugs. They became subjugated completely by the weapons of male-based science, chopped off from their true “knowing.” Silenced.
I realized all of this only in the last five years when I abandoned fake fertility for good. In this period, with a nonmedical team of healers, seers, shamans, witches, ovarian breathing experts, yin teachers, Qigong masters, and yoni experts in random rotation, I began to learn what fertility really means and how to cultivate it in my own life.
And in the process, dear readers, I did not create a child. Instead, I created and become a mother to: a spiritual practice, new relationships, new ways of connecting with people, new ways of connecting with myself, and a company that ballooned unexpectedly from one employee to dozens.
If I had to guess how it happened: It happened because I embraced the principles of motherhood before I became one. From an energetic and emotional standpoint, there are specific principles and states of being that you can cultivate that make you more fertile. Whether you want to be a mother to a manuscript, a new business, a blog, a women’s group, an epic dinner party, or three screaming infants in the back of an SUV, the creative brief is the same: Women are natural-born creators. New life can blossom in our hands, eyes, hearts, or stomachs—but it all starts from the womb, the second chakra. And you absolutely must create a fertile environment for yourself for the creativity to flow.
This happens almost entirely in the presence and support of positive feminine energy. Feminine energy, in its purest form, is yin energy—relaxed and soft, like your belly when it’s completely hanging out with no nerves, no tension, no expectation, no self-consciousness. It is absolutely open and accepting. It holds things—people, ideas, feelings, events, attitudes—that are stinky, screaming, and a pain in the ass, with large open arms and without judgment, without rebuke. It does not get bulldozed by the pressures around it (as negative feminine energy would do). Rather, it acts like water: finding the quickest and easiest flow. It is receptive to what is happening around it and will surrender to it rather than build walls and throw bombs, whether they are real or verbal. It is true love.
This is so much easier to write than to do.
I’m not naturally a feminine-energy kind of girl. In fact, in the face of blocks, irritations, frustrations, and unsavory situations, I’m traditionally a flaming bomb thrower. I’m not patient. I am not generous in the face of fear or pain. I tense up and close. It is my tendency to either be a screaming, ax-wielding warrior or a pusher/poker rather than use my own allure to gently attract something or someone. I’m really more comfortable yelling than calmly and compassionately explaining myself. But once I began slowly cultivating these principles—through meditation, yin yoga, ovarian breathing, emotional holding, energy healing, writing—my once-dead, burned-out bomb shelter of a womb began working. A dot here, a day there, a whole week there. Suddenly, I was delivering children left and right. No, not that kind of children.
The first was my company, La DoubleJ. The seeds for this were genuine love and foot-tingling excitement. Not a desire for a specific outcome (e.g., money) but rather adoration for the actual process. Sex on command lacks this relish. My love buttons were vintage clothing, which I had been collecting for twenty years, and Italian creative women, the mythical creatures in my adopted homeland who were simultaneously professional powerhouses and domestic goddesses.
Soon I went from selling vintage and creating an online magazine that gained global recognition to, on a whim, making one dress with a vintage print. That whim exploded into an entire clothing collection of printed ready-to-wear, swimwear, eveningwear, and a home collection of plates, table linens, vases, and bed linens. The abundance of my creation astounds me at times. Fertility swirls in its uncontrollable, distinctly feminine way around this project—sometimes I actually have difficulty controlling the output of our projects, partnerships, products, visibility, and growth.
Companies are, of course, not human beings. But I can tell you without a doubt that if I had not done the energetic, emotional, and spiritual work, I never would have been able to create the company in the first place or shepherd it into its kicking and gleefully screaming four-year-old self. La DoubleJ was a passion project. It was not born from logic or a particularly good business plan. In fact, the business plan was a little wobbly. Rather than insist on what I had in my head coming to exact fruition, I stayed flexible and fast. I constantly refined, changed, and transformed the business based on flow. This is a huge component to fertility: Stop banging your head on doors that won’t open. Stop insisting that your life look a certain way and that certain objectives MUST be met. Of course you should have objectives and work toward them. But in the process, when doors close, you should never stand stuck in front of them. Go to the next one and open it. See what happens.
Once you’ve given birth to something—whether it’s a silk-skinned, marble-eyed human wonder or a glimmering manuscript that could become a book, a movie, or a movement—you must nurture your baby. This is a key component of mothering: allowing your creation to flourish and eventually grow independently from you. It requires the patience that I don’t always have, the faith that every bad situation eventually eases up, the commitment to always stand by and stroke your baby no matter how obnoxious it becomes.
I was not always a great mother. Sometimes I screamed at my employees, shook the walls of the company like a giant beast, and lost my marbles with my husband, whom I sometimes treated as an absentee father to our child, La DoubleJ. (He had three other companies to look after, but often my own fear about doing this alone trumped my capacity for acceptance and receptivity.) Sometimes I wasn’t nice to myself at all. I couldn’t always tolerate and embrace the alarm that swirls around a creation that never has enough money or staff. I eff’ed up many times. I was ashamed of myself. But the intention toward fertility sat there patiently thumping inside me, and every time I went back to it, my capacity for motherhood grew.
The good thing about mothering is that the more you do it, the more children are attracted to you. My flowing company became a spawn. Suddenly, it felt as if I had five wombs on full fire simultaneously inside me, each baking something different into my life. I became a wise, nurturing mother to my own mother (dear readers: a previously impossible task!), to people in random disputes on the street, to children I met and had no connection to but who needed a wink and a little whisper of encouragement, to my garden, to my first dog, to myself. I learned how to take care of myself, listen patiently, and come in with the care and softness I was lacking. I rocked myself; I gave myself the space and time I never had before. I began aligning with my most authentic self and with my connection with the divine.
So why didn’t the baby come through once I learned all of these fertility tricks, you may be asking. To be honest, I think each of us has our own learning journeys to walk down in this lifetime, our own aisle of pain that pushes us into new currents and new oceans, where the magnificent jewels of our very existence are buried. These are unique to each of us. Each challenge, each heartache, each disappointment is here to teach us exactly what our souls need to know. If I had never had fertility problems, I never would have explored my own spirituality, my own emotional depths, and my own feminine energy. I am forever grateful for the obstacle that was placed in front of me. I know deep in my heart that my children were not meant to be made on a sanitary medical countertop in Milan. Do I miss not having human children? Of course I do. Am I going to focus on that? No effing way. I’d much rather foster a mind-set, heart-set, and energy-set so that I live my life bubbling up in a sizzling fertility bath.
Today, at forty-six years old and childless, I have never felt more like a mother. Whatever kind of mother is out there listening, I hope she looks closer, digs deeper, and listens longer to the music of her heart, the aching of her soul, the whispers coming from her womb. Play more, be curious, not critical, and most of all, soften into the gurgling ocean of flowing life. None of us can know what child may arrive next.