Finding freedom in infertility

Guest post by Lily

Photo by chuybenitez, used under Creative Commons license.
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.

Comments on Finding freedom in infertility

  1. I grew up in a similar culture. I followed that path, had 2 kids and was divorced by age 24. It is not an easy path and neither is yours. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. As an adopted child, from the “other side” of a situation similar to this, I wish you happiness, and I thank you for your beautiful post.
    I have found that fate will always find a way– if you are meant to find a child through other means, you will– and you will have your baby shower, and while you may not feel the kick of a baby inside of you, you will know the joy of holding a baby in your arms and know that she, regardless of who she came from, she is yours, and yours alone.

  3. Perfect timing for this post, for me. I haven’t been officially diagnosed with endo, but that’s what the doc is currently going with for the moment (among other similar things). My SO and I had recently discussed the fact that we don’t want kids now, and likely won’t anytime soon. But I still feel a bit off about the likelyhood of having my own kids never actually being a choice I could have made, anyway. I’ve found plenty of articles and blogs about endo, and solutions that have worked for some, and how they deal with the pain, etc. But none about dealing with the fact that they may never have even had the choice of giving birth (whether they wanted to or not).

    • This was certainly a problem for me also. I always knew that I wanted children. I just wanted them on my own terms. My terms isnt really an option for me any more. When I choose to be a mother my finances, my romantic relationships, my familial relationships, my medical history are all up for plundering by some adoption agency or social worker. Would becoming a mother be worth it? Of course. Will it be painful? Yes. Is it the only reason I am at concerned about the fact that I have my neck tattooed? Absolutely. Having someone else/ nature take your right to choice away is extremely difficult. I dont really believe that there is any resolution to it.

      • You know what? I kind of like that, for some reason. No resolution. It still sucks. But dangit, you’re right, sometimes there IS no resolution for something like this situation. So it’s ok to feel weird or frustrated about it sometimes.

  4. Don’t worry to much about your choices. When you are ready to be a mother an option will present itself. I married a man who has several drug charges in his past including a dui, but We were able to be approved as foster parents. If you are genuine in wanting to love a child and you can find a good and understanding social worker you will be fine!

  5. This is beautiful, sad AND enlightening story. But I love your courage and the amount of reflection you did to make your life and well-being sound and contented. I wish you all the best in the future and I can foresee that because of your experience, you will make for a great parent.

  6. This was so very beautiful, thank you for sharing. I received a call from my obgyn that I should have a child now if I wanted to have one ever, but I’m single, just started a new career in a new city and in no way ready to bring a life to the world. But I have “pre-cancer”, not sure what the “pre” is all about, but chemo pills and a surgery may be in my immediate future. It took a conversation with my sister to get okay with the fact that I may need to consider my options beyond bearing my own child. Thank you for sharing.

    • Sorry to hear!
      A friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer a week before her wedding. They treated it, but she relapsed and was given two options: Wait 2 months for treatment so her eggs could be harvested (and potentially then not survive treatment), or start now and likely never have kids.
      I cant imagine facing that decision, especially if children was something that was definitely part of your life plan.
      But she has worked through it – and is the most awesome aunty and godmother around.

  7. I want to thank OffbeatMama for posting about infertility at times. Husband and I are struggling and recently a friend announced their pregnancy on facebook, which resulted in lots of heart wrenching sobs from me.

    It’s very comforting that other people struggle with it. Even though infertility is still just a fear (compared to an official diagnosis), it’s comfortable that people are infertile and are still alive and happy. Or just are out there, getting by best they can.

    I’m not sure I’m putting this right. But thank you OffbeatMama, and thank you everyone who contributes on the topic. <3

    • Kathryn, I think you “put it” just fine. I totally understand where you are coming from. I was told I’d be unable to bear children without major intervention when I was really young (about 16 or so) I never looked back, took it as a blessing at the time because I was pretty sure I didn’t want to have children anyways. The older I got, the more squicked out I got by the whole idea of having a baby INSIDE me, and I am really super duper uncomfortable around infants too. But I was still sad and longing in a way. I wanted to be a “family” and I didn’t realize it. Then I met a fantastic man who had sole custody of his young sons because his ex-wife was a selfish immature person who wasn’t cut out to raise kids. I fell in love with the whole package and in no time was having “family movie nights” all piled up in the waterbed and was fixing kid friendly dinners and washing PE uniforms and THAT was when I realized what I had been missing. I never looked back from that moment either, and am so very glad that I “found” my boys. I’ll be forever grateful to fate for bringing us together and giving me what I didn’t even know I wanted.

      So what I am trying to say in my own long rambling way is that there are many paths to having a family. Don’t let one thing make you feel like all your choices are taken away. Fate finds a way!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautifully written thoughts. It sounds like you’re handling an incredibly difficult and sorrowful situation with grace and maturity. You’ll make a great mom (biological parent or not), a great auntie (literal otherwise), and/or great person who loves adventure with or without children. xoxo.

  9. I was infertile for six years before we simultaneously pursued adoption and more extensive fertility treatments (which worked). I know exactly what you mean about the baby showers and the Facebook posts. Even when I was happily traveling and working on our fixer upper with my husband and telling myself, “Now isn’t the right time for a child anyway,” it was always still there in the back of my mind. Seeing other people’s joy and how easy it was for them all to do things the “normal” way always got to me. Now I’m on the other side and getting to do things the normal easy way myself, but I’ll never completely forget.

    • Yeah, its so weird. I get choked up about my friends and the things they do in their lives but I also torture myself by doing things like watching Teen Mom compulsively and reading parenting sites. Im not exactly why I do these things. I just do.

  10. A friend of mine and I have both had endo.
    Unfortunately, hers is far more severe than mine and has caused her to be infertile (to the point of having issues with IVF).
    This is even more unfortunate since mine was quite minor, I’ve had a single surgery and then fell pregnant at the first attempt naturally – when I was ambivalent about having kids and she was desperate.
    If I could swap places with her I totally would, and she knows that. But I still feel bad for her, and so avoid talking about the baby in public forums. Sadly, it has driven her life for the last wee while – she cant see her way past it, and I dont know how far they are willing to go to get a child (financially and time wise), so I really do wish that there was a way to help her relax her focus a little, to perhaps be a bit more positive about life, as she is getting quite depressed by it all, and its so sad for me to see her like that!
    I guess – just hugs to the OP. If you do one day decide you want a child, I wish you the best of luck with whichever route you end up taking. And may you find joy in your life, regardless of which track you take.

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