The Importance of Found Family
Many people with endometriosis struggle with infertility. When I realized that I experienced some of these challenges, I mourned. I wondered why I was sad because I had never planned to get pregnant.
I was not actively trying to conceive. At that point in my life, a pregnancy would have financially and emotionally devastated me.
But I had always taken for granted that one day, I would have the option of having biological children. I grieved that this nebulous future, a "maybe-someday" family, would never be.
As a queer person, though, I knew that families are built in many different ways. I have found family and belonging outside of biological parenthood.
What is a found family?
Family is complicated. For me, family includes all of the people and animals with whom I have a mutually caring relationship.
Who do I love and support? Who, in turn, makes me feel loved and supported?
Before I knew I had endometriosis, I understood that my future family would probably never be 'nuclear,' even if I had biological children. For example, I was open to the idea of going through artificial insemination treatments if I married another woman.
I was (informally) adopted when I was a child, so I know that biological relationships are not automatically more meaningful than other family connections.
I remember being in kindergarten and drawing a card for Mother's Day. The teacher showed us a pretty sample that she encouraged us to copy: a mother, a father, two children, and a yellow dog standing beside a house. This image represented a 'nuclear family,' but the doodle did not depict what my family looked like.
Fortunately, television shows like Modern Family have helped raise awareness about different types of family dynamics. Now, only 22% of American households identify as 'nuclear' families1
A family might have many generations living under one roof; adopted children; no children; one parent; many parents; roommates; and many other configurations.
Some of my biological relatives do not fit into my definition of 'family.' We share little more than DNA.
The people with whom I feel safest are my best friends, my roommates, and my mentors. These are people I have found during my journey through life. These loved ones are my 'found family.'
How found family helped me feel like I belong
My found family helped me cope when I realized I might never be able to give birth.
It's totally normal for someone to want a biological child. Infertility can be painful, and it's normal to mourn that 'might-have-been' life we might have wanted so desperately to live.
However, we may feel hopeful when we recognize that infertility doesn't mean that we will end up old and alone. For example, a common refrain that many childless women hear is, "Who is going to be there for you when you get older? Aren't you going to be lonely without children?"
But if I do choose to have a child, I have many options: co-parenting, adopting, fostering, or surrogacy. Even if I decide that I do not want to be a parent, I trust that I have found lifelong friends who will be there for me and them.
Despite infertility, we can build - or find - a loving family.
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