That's a lie, I'm well aware of why I haven't written a post about it. The subject is painful. I've written pages upon pages of diary entries about it but they all end the same way - fading into blank spaces that ache with emptiness. This post has sat dormant for months. I come back to it, rework it, and then let it sit. I think it's sat long enough (which probably means I've spent at least another week or two revamping it). I'm not sure I can convey how tender this subject is. It's vexing, not only to concisely discuss my situation, but also expose a part of me I consider to be the seat of my vulnerability and self esteem...so...this feels scarier than doing the world's highest commercial bungee jump (been there, done that, and it was a piece of cake compared to this; how silly is that?).
I cannot conceive children.
Were you waiting for something crazier than that? Something life-threatening or drastic? Maybe you guessed it. Either way, there it is. Not an overly shocking revelation in itself. Thousands of couples in Canada experience infertility - roughly 16% according to the government. Except I'm not a couple. I'm an otherwise healthy 32 year-old woman who wakes up every morning, takes hormone replacements, and is reminded that instead of being "normal," she's menopausal. (Ladies, hot flashes are the fucking devil, I kid you not. Thank God I don't have to deal with mood swings or I think we would all know exactly why I'm still single.)
When you learn this at 17, you know it affects your future but you don't see the totality of it. At 24, when a fertility specialist lays it all out on the line - that your best chance of "naturally" having a child is to find an egg donor and do in vitro fertilization - reality comes crashing in. You realize that one thing you have always wanted - to be graced with the privilege of having children - may never happen. At 29, when you're unceremoniously dumped because you can't conceive children, the bigger picture starts coming into focus. It becomes clear that 9 times out of 10 the guy you just went on a date with will probably run for the hills once you share this little gem. Most people want a family, but they don't want to go about getting it the hard way. At 30, when you still haven't met that tenth guy and your personal deadline for attempting to carry a child comes and goes...well, the big picture is in sharp focus and it's glaringly obvious. Not only is that prospect of having children floating further and further away, but the idea of finding your soulmate seems to be following suit. Suddenly, you realize this shit is just not going down the way you pictured it; a remarkably difficult thing to accept.
I'm not quiet about my infertility. Most of my friends know, my family knows, and I'll freely share it if the conversation steers toward having children; which it frequently does when you're a thirty-something single woman. I can't begin to count how many times I've been asked why I'm single, why I don't have any children, or how come I'm not "hopping on the marriage and kids bandwagon" (that's an actual quote, mentally I screamed I would gladly jump on the fucking bandwagon if it came anywhere near me; in reality I smiled and cracked some joke about being single by choice). I find it amazing that it would be considered uncouth to discuss my sex life in public, but commenting on or criticizing something as intimate as my reproductive choices/situation is just considered standard conversation.
I came across an online article in early December that brought this all to the forefront of my mind (now you know how long it actually has taken me to write this) - something that happens cyclically for me depending on what's going on in my life. Some days/weeks/months I'm at peace with this situation - it's part of who I am, but doesn't define me or my worth. Other times...other times I don't know how to describe it in a way that most people would understand. All I know is the aching of those blank diary pages does not compare to the visceral, gaping hole that threatens to swallow me if I let it.
The article talked about "Why giving women shit for not having babies is one of the most fucked-up things you can do." I don't think I need to tell you, but I agree. I've spent 15 years contemplating what having a family would look like for me. I've run through all the possibilities: egg donors, in vitro, surrogacy, adoption...every last one of those costs a lot - financially and emotionally. I lean more and more towards just not having children. For whatever reason (and only God knows the fucking fucked up reason for this) having children is not natural for me - why would I then force it? There's also one fact that has remained relatively constant throughout those years (feminists are going to hate me for this) - I'm still single. Call it antiquated, old fashioned, or whatever else you want, but I've always wanted at least that to come about in the "normal" fashion. I don't think it's crazy to want to find my person (my man - the right guy, for me) before I start pursuing having a family, whatever form that takes.
While that article didn't necessarily speak to my exact situation, I can identify with it. But I wish I could extend it one step further. I'd suggest we all realize that every single person, man and woman alike, have different circumstances in their lives that bring about varying opinions about bearing and raising children. Sometimes the decision about having children is taken completely out of a person's hands. So perhaps, instead of chastising or teasing someone about their lack of children, just stop and remember - the person you're talking to could be someone who has no choice in the matter. And that person might just appreciate an attempt at empathy instead of yet another reminder that their biological clock is ticking.
P.S. - When I watched the documentary on the Dixie Chicks' documentary Shut Up and Sing a number of years ago, it was a relief to learn two of the band members had dealt with infertility in their marriages. And then to learn they'd written a song about it, well, it was crazy that not only would a song speak to me about this part of my life, but also be so accurate when it comes to describing it..."It felt like a given, something a woman's born to do...And I'd feel so guilty, if that was a gift I couldn't give." You might not love the Dixie Chicks like I do, but you should watch this, it might give you an inkling of how I feel.