It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to hear, one week after you turn 36, that you are quickly approaching menopause and the chance of having children, even with IVF, is 5 percent. But that is the news I received 5 months and 11 days ago.
I never wanted children; at 15 I asked my mother for a hysterectomy, and while I love my friends’ children, I get bored playing with them after an hour (lying, it’s 30 minutes) and want to resume talking with the grown-ups. While all my friends were getting married and starting their families, I burned my own marriage to the ground and embarked on my first journey as a single person in 10 years. But, as most things go, you never realize how badly you want something until you are told you cannot have it.
It’s taboo despite the fact that the majority of women experience it. You are suddenly thrust into this secret society that a lot of women you know are also a part of, yet no one dares to admit it. It makes you question and examine every decision you ever made. You feel you are being punished, punished for not following the trend of getting married and having kids in your 20s or early 30s, punished for divorcing a good man that you loved but whom you were not necessarily in love with, punished for probably knowing before you married but being too blinded by the diamond ring and Oscar de la Renta dress to do anything about it, punished for making really poor choices post-divorce, for dating the wrong men, for being careless with people’s hearts, friends and men alike, and for going back to the same people who were careless with yours. Punished for being selfish, for prioritizing yourself and chasing your own happiness, taking your age and health for granted, regardless of consequence at times.
You dread your friends and family sharing their pregnancies, but you also get mad if they keep the good news from you. You receive a ton of stories of someone’s “mom’s friend’s hairdresser’s sister” who went through the same thing and they did [insert thyroid testing/skydiving/stopped stressing/acupuncture] and then got pregnant. You roll your eyes as they give you their “advice” and then secretly run out and do every single ridiculous thing suggested, then cry when it doesn’t work.
Some advice to the advice-givers: if you would never consider making these suggestions to someone with cancer or heart disease, perhaps your remedies are better left unsaid.
You read an obscene amount of books and join countless closed Facebook groups of like-minded women (but not before triple-checking the privacy settings to make sure no one else can see you are a member). You ingest 30-something supplements daily, based on the various blogs you visit and podcasts you listen to. You form an absurdly dependent relationship with your acupuncturist and start obsessively checking every thing that comes out of your vagina, tampons included.
You eliminate dairy, gluten, sugar, soy, alcohol, caffeine—anything that gives you joy, basically—from your diet, and ponder why you have to do this while crackheads have five children with ease. Your husband questions your sanity when he comes home and you have thrown out all of the Tupperware, because plastic is the devil, and replaced it with glass containers.
You discover what phthalates and sulfates are, how they wreak havoc on your egg health and that they are found in just about everything you put on your skin (lotion, eye masks, makeup), hair (shampoo, conditioner), and nails (every.single.thing. at the nail salon). In an effort to reverse the effects, you throw out every single item of expensive beauty product you own and try in vain to find replacements that will never compare.
You are the opposite of a joy to be around and cry when your younger sister gets pregnant after a month of trying. Not because you’re not happy for her but because you are really fucking sad and really fucking angry for yourself.
Why didn’t any gynecologist I saw for the past 20 years ever think to test my blood for these hormones that would indicate my poor egg quality and reserve when I repeatedly told them that my periods were irregular? Why did they insist year after year that I should test for fucking chlamydia and AIDS but not something that was actually part of my reality? Why can’t the mangers of some these fertility clinics teach their staff a course on fucking organizational skills (not RMACT—they are amazing.)? Why is everything so fucking expensive and why are insurance providers life suckers?
Will my mother love my sister more than me if I can never give her a grandchild? Why doesn’t this hurt my husband as much as it hurts me? Why did sex turn into a chore when it used to be the best thing about us? Why is he staying with me? Does he wish he picked a more qualified candidate?
Luckily for me, he doesn’t. The reason why I changed my mind about not wanting children to wanting them, is him. Because someone as pure, and kind, and smart, and genetically blessed as him, should be replicated. I love him so much it physically hurts at times because I never thought it was possible. I didn’t think I had that much love inside of me to give.
He was the first person I called, after the nurse—her hand still attached to a wand prodding around my uterine cavity—informed me I should start looking at donor eggs because IVF would probably not even work. He is my confidant, the person I cry to and scream at, the one who can make me laugh even in my darkest hour. The one who rubs my head when I am sad, which is often, and my back when I’m not, just because. He’s the one who won’t really talk about his feelings but who cried like a baby as I walked down that aisle. I may not be blessed reproductively, but I have been blessed with him.
Fuck that. I won’t go quietly into that good night. I’ll tell anyone who asks that I’m infertile and they should get tested, I’ll start a blog that I’ll probably never post but it feels good to write about this fucked up journey with a lot of curse words for emphasis. I’ll continue to travel and drink wine and eat GLUTEN because is any of this fucking real? I’ll be self-deprecating and make fun of my defunct ovaries despite the fact that the meditation apps I listen to tell me I should “be kind to them.” You know what, ovaries? Do your fucking job and then I’ll be kind to you.
This will not destroy me. I fought hard for this happiness and I found it, through an insanely strong group of girl friends, my constant family, and my rock of a husband. Fertility, or lack thereof, can take a finite thing away from me, but it cannot and will not, take away my life. I don’t really know what will happen, if I’ll end up being a mother or just continue to be the coolest aunt; until then, my reproductive system can go fuck itself.