Her name is Marta Puig, but we know her as Lyona Ivanova. Born in Barcelona in 1979, the illustrator and director of video clips for groups such as Love of Lesbian or Lori Meyers has just published Madr?eh? (Random comic), a comic in which she tells humorously about her process of becoming a mother. A process that began when at the age of 38 she began to seek to become pregnant and that culminates after four years traveling the long road of assisted reproduction. In his case, age and endometriosis were the factors that prevented him from achieving it. Lyona says there is still a lot of shame and guilt in infertility. That is why he has written this book, to normalize and make visible that, sometimes, things are not as we expected, however, we cannot carry more weight than this type of process already supposes.
QUESTION. Many factors influence the desire for motherhood, although I think that sometimes there is an irrational point. Why do we want to be mothers?
ANSWER. In my case, I think it is because I had a very beautiful relationship with my mother and I would like to be able to reproduce it, and give that love to someone else. If I think further, I also suppose that social pressure influences this desire. We still assume that for a woman to be a woman she must be fertile, have children. We have grown up like this, when we were little we played with dolls as if they were our daughters. It is difficult to fight all this that we have learned. On the other hand, at the same time I consider that there is a point of instinct, that your body is prepared for this. There is a biological clock and you cannot fight this. There comes a time when you think it’s now or never.
P. Many times we want to be mothers, but the circumstances do not exist …
R. Totally. We want to have it all. We want to be mothers and we want to have a professional career, but it is not easy to do both. How many women have been interviewed for a job interview and asked about your wish for motherhood? Many times it happens that as you see it difficult, you leave it, you leave it, and in the end it may happen that when you consider that it is the moment your body is no longer there for this.
P. You’ve mentioned peer pressure before. Would you say that not being a mother is still a stigma?
R. There is a lot of taboo around assisted reproduction because there is still this stigma that an infertile woman is not a complete woman. There is a feeling of guilt or shame, which is very unfair, that appears when you are faced with this. That is why I decided to make this book: to normalize it. Okay, I have reached 40 and I cannot have children naturally, because I am going to undertake an assisted reproduction treatment and nothing happens to do it. It is such a hard process that you just need to carry the process yourself.
P. In addition to infertility, I think about menstruation, sexuality, menopause … Is it still a taboo for women’s reproductive health?
R. We have a negligible reproductive health education. Having discovered at age 40 that an egg has a 24-hour life seems incredible to me. How come no one has explained it to us? When you are in high school they tell you to be careful because you can get pregnant, and you have that fear all your life, and then you see that it is not so easy. That you have a menstrual cycle, that you cannot get pregnant every day of the month. I was having a disconnect from my beastly menstrual cycle and maybe if I had known this I probably could have saved a lot of morning after pills.
P. You never believed that you couldn’t get pregnant, but when you wanted to, age and endometriosis didn’t make it easy for you. What has it meant for you to “vomit” your experience in the book?
R. For me it has been the hardest process that I have faced in life and being able to write it has helped me to relativize, to get my fears out of the inside, and even to find a point of humor. There are many surreal situations that you face when you go through this process and seeing this with a humorous, positive point, also helps.
P. What would you say is the most exhausting when you start the process to become a mother?
R. In general, people who undertake these treatments think that they are easy. They take the egg, they take the sperm, and that’s it. During the process, you realize that this is not the case, that there are many factors that must be in place for it to be successful. The hardest moments for me were waiting after the egg retrievals. Over the course of about five days the eggs are analyzed, it is checked if they fertilize, if they reach an embryo … You are waiting for the doctor to call you and tell you, and those moments are the most exhausting because you have incredible nerves, you do not sleep.
P. And how are you living the pregnancy? Calmer now or are those nerves still there?
R. I think that the entire previous process was so hard that the pregnancy was very quiet. All this has helped me to relativize and harden myself. I am not afraid of what is going to come.
P. You end the book by telling the anecdote of what a friend told your mother one day: “You don’t know how to be a mother, but she doesn’t know how to be a daughter either. You are going to learn together ”.
R. Yes, I do not project what motherhood is going to be like. I am not at all clear how it will be and it does not worry me either. I know that we are going to learn together along the way, I from my daughter and she from me. And I lean on that.
P. I imagine that the creative process of such a personal book is more difficult when you try not to have expectations.
R. It has been a strange process. I started the book when I was three months old, and I still didn’t know if the pregnancy would go well. I was starting to write about something that I would not know how it would end, however, I thought that if it did not go well, I had to tell it too. It was difficult, it was not the most creative moment of my life.
P. Have you drawn new reflections or found new answers about motherhood throughout the process?
R. I have reflected a lot on whether it was convenient to be a mother right now, as the world is, or if it really is not very selfish. What has helped me a lot to face these doubts has been having a group of friends around that has made me reflect. That has accompanied me. I believe that having an emotional support network is essential to be able to travel this path.
P. We must continue talking about these issues because although it seems that we talk more I think that it is not enough … What do you think?
R. We must keep talking about this. They are topics, stories, that should not only interest women. I look at my book and I think it is an adventure story. Everything happens! There is drama, there is sex, there is action, there is fear. Why can’t this be universal? We have swallowed stories of knights, of warriors for centuries, why can’t we be interested in the story of a woman who is going to be a mother?
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.