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Back That Ass Up – Mom

In vitro fertilization taught me the benefits of having a bubble butt—my journey through two rounds of injections and retrievals and one successful embryo transfer. 


Written by: Shabana Sharif


I don’t have a fatty. It didn’t bother me much in life because society deemed me pretty and curvy enough. Then, four years ago, I started In vitro fertilization (IVF) and wished I had more junk in the trunk. Injecting multiple needles into my belly, like prenatal vitamins and decaf coffee, became routine. Most women have their partner, a friend, or family member inject their butt, I had to self-inject. Yet the shots in my bum were my great obstacle; with less jelly in my booty, it became hard to see the right spot to inject. The nurse directed me to inject the needle into my backside at a ninety-degree angle, but before injecting the medicine, I also was directed to pull back on the plunger to check for blood, possibly hitting a blood vessel. If there was a drop of blood, the needle had to be removed and restart the whole process with a new needle.


Before my first ass shot, I viewed a video of a nurse demonstrating how to inject the needle. I had no medical training before IVF. The closest medical training was a CPR class during my first pregnancy. Thankfully IVF was not part of my first child’s origin story. I got pregnant the good old fashion way - sperm found the egg. But fast forward three years later, after an incorrect Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) diagnosis from my OB/GYN doctor, I was at a clinic helping women get pregnant. Because I had a successful birth, I had a better chance of getting pregnant again than the other women who filled the office daily in masks in 2020. The nurse’s demonstration video felt too staged and unrealistic. Then I found a YouTube video of a woman and her husband. She held onto the kitchen counter, slightly bending, and he stabbed her ass cheek at a 90° angle. I was a little jealous that she had great lighting, but mostly because she had an IVF partner. Plus Sir Mix-A-Lot would approve of her buns. 


Early in my journey, I learned it would be a lonely one. My husband worked 70+ hours a week, and (thankfully) my two-year-old son was sound asleep during my needle rituals. During Covid lockdowns, we were allowed to only socialize with members of our home. Even without Covid, I didn’t have a nearby friend or family member to pierce my butt. I kept the process a secret from my family, dreading I would be blamed for being too old at 37. A decade earlier I was unmarried and told by an aunty I was “drying up,” others quietly agreed. 


I found a support group for monthly Zooms and started weekly therapy check-ins. My therapist was about my mother’s age and was kind. She gave me the support I assume most mothers would give their daughters, “You are doing all the right things!” My best friend in Nevada also shared words of encouragement “You got this!” I had a virtual tribe supporting me, and I was less alone in my IVF journey because of those chats, which made me feel seen, heard, and appreciated. I even joined a WhatsApp group chat with two women who wanted to socialize off Zoom and social media. The three of us lived social media-free lifestyles and didn’t want to join a Facebook group to remain “connected.” My two WhatsApp friends also had husbands who injected their rump shakers. I was happy for them. I, unlike them, was already a mother. 


Some days I felt guilty taking up space in an “(in)fertility” support group when I had a healthy child within reach who was miraculously created in my womb. Every support group session was filled with tears, pain, and shame. There was sometimes another mom TTC again who probably felt similar to me “Should I even be here?” It was humbling to be in a space with mostly wealthy to middle class white women and hear their struggles with their bodies, partners, and families. Our lives didn’t feel all that different, yet the guilt was still there. The guilt for being a wealthy enough woman of color for fertility treatment and the guilt of being a mom to a healthy three-year old weighed on me. Did I deserve two when these other women had none? Of course I knew that my getting pregnant has nothing to do with another woman getting pregnant, but the energy and guilt was undeniable. Before the support groups I struggled with my body betraying me and then shame morphed into guilt. Outside of the TTC world I had little to no support. However I didn’t let the shame and guilt get the best of me, I had a goal.  


After my first child, I realized I loved being a mom. Finally, there was a human being I could unapologetically love and receive love day after day. I wanted to give him what I didn’t have – a loving and nurturing childhood. I also realized someone was missing. I wanted him to have a sibling. I desperately wanted a sibling growing up. I had halves and steps, but due to circumstances, I was never treated like I belonged. I wanted to create a new narrative with my family. Some families can blend, but that was far from my experience. Even in my twenties, I was questioned about my father, “Who’s your daddy again?” Often feeling unclaimed or illegitimate. 


Through group meetings, I realized how lucky I was compared to most women in their IVF journeys. Many women had no children; a few had been trying to conceive (TTC) via IVF for years. I was a few months into the process, and we all had the same daily dreads and doubts. Some of us stopped going on social media because of baby announcements, baby showers, “gender” reveals, and the infinite amount of cute baby photos throughout the year. We cried when we got our periods. We cried when we had a positive test. And then we cried a few days later when we were no longer pregnant. I had two positive pregnancy tests via Intrauterine insemination (IUI). One was a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy lasts a few days, ultimately ending in a miscarriage. Both positives felt hopeful, both ended within days.


In the eyes of a woman TTC I already won, I had a child. I understood this. Admittedly, my child made my journey easier. Every morning and night, I hugged him deeply. Every laugh, smile, tickle, hug, cry, “mama,” and “mom” eased and encouraged my IVF journey. 

After two cycles of injections and retrievals and one successful embryo transfer, I got pregnant. In fall 2021, my son and baby met, and my family was complete. And thankfully, the ass shots became my past, and I returned to liking my ass again, guiltless and shameless.


 

Shabana Sharif is currently working on her childhood memoir – Pagli. Themes include race, gender, religion, immigrant life, blended families, abuse, and neglect in Long Island and Queens, New York. She became a finalist for the 2023 PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship. She was a Tin House 2024 Winter Workshop participant and was accepted as a Tin House 2024 Summer Workshop participant.  Shabana is the daughter of Guyanese immigrants, a descendant of Indian Indentureship, and a mother of two children.


Shabana has an Executive Master of Public Administration from Baruch College (CUNY) and an MS in Education from City College (CUNY). She lives outside of New York City. 


Currently, Shabana is an Essay Reader for The Rumpus and Shabana co-founded Jahajee Sisters: Empowering Indo-Caribbean Women.


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