I am that woman (and many others)
This post is best read while listening to 'Go sadness' by Shout Out Louds.
I've always been fascinated by the concept of 'identity'. Who exactly am I? Where do I belong? Where do I go next? And how about ambivalence - do you necessarily have to be one person, with one unchanging identity? What if Walt Whitman was right when he said "I am large, I contain multitudes"?
My identity most certainly acquired a new shape and structure when I left my hometown in Italy and moved to London in 2010. Since then, it never stopped transforming - and baffling me. One moment, I was working in a busy marketing agency speaking English to high-profile clients, and the next I was sending a Whatsapp voice message to my best friend, in Italian. One moment, I was attending a human rights lecture at Birkbeck, and the next I was singing along to my favourite Italian punk band.
During and after my second pregnancy, it became apparent to me that I am a million different women - all enclosed in an ordinary-looking 32 year-old. Maybe not a million, alright, but I am quite a few.
I am the one who got pregnant for the first time after one month of trying. But I am also the one who had a miscarriage at 9 weeks.
I am the one who got pregnant for the second time after one month of trying. But I am also the one who later found out that she carries a super-duper-mega rare genetic mutation on a gene whose name sounds like a psychedelic drug.
I am the one who found true love in the most random of places - a pub which no longer exists. But I am also the one whose true love carries another super-duper-mega rare genetic mutation on that very same gene.
I am the one who gave birth. But I am also the one whose baby was born dead.
I am the one who had a stillborn baby. But I am also the one whose baby was stillborn because she chose to have a termination for medical reasons.
I am the one who loves, misses, and grieves her baby boy, Luca, and never tires of saying or writing his name. But I am also the one who knows that Luca would have never survived, or would have been forced into a terrifyingly painful, short, and cruel life.
I am the one who is on maternity leave. But I am also the one who has no baby to look after, because that baby didn't live.
I am the one who is suffering from post-partum physical and mental symptoms. But I am also the one who has no living baby to justify those symptoms - or, at least, to make them less distressing.
I am the one who, despite being young, healthy, and fertile, might need to conceive her next baby through pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and IVF. But I am also the one who knows that conceiving a baby this way means waiting at least a year.
I am the one who, because is young, healthy, and fertile, could conceive her next baby very quickly. But I am also the one who knows that doing so would mean undergoing risky invasive testing and, potentially, facing another termination.
All of this can be incredibly gruelling, confusing, and hurtful some of the time. Not knowing where I stand, not knowing if and where I belong, not knowing who will understand me for who I am, for all the different women who live, ache, and love inside me...
"I am large, I contain multitudes."
I guess Walt Whitman was right.