I got married at eighteen (as a lot of women from my culture do). A husband and two kids by twenty-one was the only path that women I know were ever expected to walk. I, however, shunned the cultural expectation for me to get pregnant. I was young, my (now ex-)husband and I were wild and I wasn’t ready to give that lifestyle up. This was all at great dissatisfaction to my husband who desperately wanted to be like our peers and be parents. We fought over birth control and sex endlessly.
Fast forward three years later and you would find me on an operating table having my lady organs snipped and burned and moved about. A severe case of endometriosis forced me to make a conscious decision about my own need to have biological children. The answer I came to was that if the day came that I was ready to be a mother there would already be a child out there who was ready to have one — so out went the lady parts. Even as I made these decisions and measured all of their logic in my head my heart still felt the vacancy left by what they were taking from me.
Now I am twenty-five and have ended an engagement partially over my inability to have a biological child. Although he understood when we met that adoption was my only choice in parenthood as time passed the reality of the loss of his own biological children set in and a bitterness came about punctuated by arguments over freezing my eggs, and surrogacy. As much as I understood his compulsion towards science his questions felt treacherous to me.
I had mourned the loss of my unconceived children. I cried those tears. I resented being forced to face that loss again. It was like making me choose my infertility all over again. I send baby shower gifts in the mail but return my RSVPs with a “regretfully declines” because I’m too afraid at how quickly tears may come when little pink baby socks are unwrapped. There isn’t a day goes by that someone doesn’t post a picture of a sonogram or announce a birth on Facebook. I give them all of my love and good intentions and then I draw my fingers away from the keys and think about that. Sometimes I get sad. Sometimes I feel relieved that that wont ever be me. But most of the time I just understand that I am different. My life was meant to be different.
I have more options than anyone I know with children. More freedom. My life is not bound by a timeline drawn by my ovaries. I never think of a partner in terms of his potential abilities as a dad. But I will never have a baby shower. I will never get to surprise anyone with a little pink plus sign. I will never feel the kick of a child inside me. These are complicated trade outs.
I don’t know which is better, which is worse. If any of these things can be quantified as better or worse. I don’t know which way would have made me happier. One of the most terrifying questions I have ever pondered is if I could go back to eighteen, in my first marriage would I make the same decisions? If I had known that that was my only chance to give birth would I have thrown out my pills and said yes to my husband? My head still seems to know that it wasn’t right, but my heart holds an honest regret.
Today I know who I am. I am child-free. Single. Stable. Ambitious. I can be reckless with money, and daring in behavior. I can spend a month’s rent on a pair of shoes, and jump out of perfectly good airplanes. I can sleep all day, and write submissions for Offbeat Mama all night if I like. I have time to develop who I am as a person before I am responsible to develop someone else. Getting my shit together before I have kids and not because of them.
In a few years maybe those feelings that they drained out of my body will reappear and I will go find my child somewhere armed with all of these glorious stories to tell her. Maybe someday I will thank my lucky stars that I never became a mother and was free to pursue any path I wanted with out the obligation of parenthood. I think what I find myself most thankful for is that those aren’t decisions that I need to make today or tomorrow, or any day. I see so many women imprisoned by the incomparable pain that infertility buries you in and I would give my heart and soul to lessen that burden. I’d give my eggs if I could.
For me, infertility means freedom. Beneath the hurt, the fear, the hope and the confusion about why THIS thing happened to me… there is freedom to choose.