Vulnerability helps us better understand one another, the world, and ourselves.
Most of the time, feeling vulnerable sucks.
I’m an open book when I want to be, but there are a few things I don’t talk much about. One is the impact of PTSD on a person and their environment and relationships (my husband, however, writes sporadically about his experience here). I keep that tucked away under the bed in my brain, for now.
There’s something else I never talk about. However, I’m currently medicated (completely legally), and my penchant for discretion has considerably faltered. Blame it on the combination of Percocet, anesthesia, nausea, and delusion. Or the netless nerve my friends and family have created this week with food, cards, and well wishes. Either way, here we go.
Basically, my uterus hates me.
It’s not that I don’t like children (God help us if that were the case; I’m a teacher).
It’s not that I prefer a quiet, spontaneous, traveler life to the responsibilities of parenthood (though I do love to travel).
It’s not that I have some secret sin in my life (although I was once asked if this could be a reason).
The choice to have children is simply out of my hands.
The story begins in 2006. Josh and I were newly engaged, and I sat him down to tell him what had been on my mind.
“Josh, I know how important having a family is to you. That’s why I need to tell you something.”
I breathed in deeply.
“I don’t know if I can have kids.”
Josh stared at me, his eyebrows scrunched as if solving a puzzle.
“Did you go to the doctor recently?”
“Did something happen to you to make you discover this?”
“I don’t understand.”
This was where I sounded crazy. “I just have this feeling that I might not be able to have kids. I can’t explain it. It’s not like the other times where I thought I’d die before graduating high school or live as a spinster. I just feel like you should know.”
Clearly I have issues.
I’m not sure what he thought about this melodrama (he’s since gotten used to it), but his reply was simple:
“Amy, I’m not marrying you for your uterus. If we can’t have kids, we can adopt or figure something out. I just want to spend life with you.”
We didn’t talk about it again.
As the new year rang in, I was having regular abdominal discomfort. Being weirdly hyper-hyper-sensitive to medicine, I figured it was my birth control, so I stopped taking it. I had ultrasounds in October, which showed cysts on my ovaries. The doctor said it wasn’t PCOS. I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it.
In 2010 and 2011, all the friends started having all the babies.
In 2011, after two years of being off the pill, we started seriously trying. We only told a few people. Josh thought for sure we’d be pregnant right away. I had a sinking feeling it wasn’t going to happen. We continued to live life to the fullest.
In 2012, I attended the girliest baby shower ever. Usually I can acclimate to just about any setting, so I was surprised by how uncomfortable I felt. At first, I thought it was all the glitter. There was a lot of it. There was also a lot of tulle. I watched as the fabric swayed and the glitter danced, and I heard my friends talking and laughing about babies. As time went on, I grew insecure and completely awkward (more than usual). I’m sure I said some super weird things, if I even talked at all. It finally hit me while my friend opened gifts: I was the only one in the room who wasn’t a parent. I fought tears like a ninja and got out as fast as I could. I cried the whole way home.
Baby showers became my nemeses.
In 2013, friends stopped calling to see if I’d gotten pregnant. Others assumed I didn’t want kids. I started to hate everyone. Any time someone announced on Facebook they were expecting, I unfollowed them and deleted Facebook off my phone.
In 2014, I went to another doctor. He asked me how long I’d been trying to get pregnant. I swallowed my nervousness and said, “Three years.” I didn’t mention I’d been off the pill for over five. After various examinations and tests, the doctor called me in and wanted to refer me to a “friend” of his. I agreed and left his examining room. I walked up to the medical assistant who said, “I’m setting you up a referral for next week. You’ll need to take this in.” She handed me a piece of paper.
I stopped breathing when I read what was printed on the paper.
Patient: Amy Walker
Reason for Referral: Infertility
I felt like someone had shot me in the stomach. I turned around, crying in frustration at the insensitivity. No one ever said the word infertile to me before. I met Josh in the waiting room. I showed him the paper. While he stared at it, I called my brother and asked if we could stop by for a glass of wine.
It was three in the afternoon.
Mick had a glass of cabernet waiting for me on his dining room table when I walked in, no questions asked.
I downed it and poured myself another.
Mick threw a sideways glance at Shauna, my sister-in-law, which made me feel infertile and alcoholic.
Mick cleared his throat and said, “What’s going on?” I slid Shauna the piece of paper.
They poured themselves glasses, too.
In 2014, I saw three additional doctors, all telling me the same thing: the greatest cause of infertility was unknown. They weren’t sure what was going on. One suggested in vitro.
I was overwhelmed, so I did what I do best: I pretended like it never happened.
In September 2015, I finally agreed to see another fertility specialist.
He diagnosed me with endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
A nurse explained, “Your body is a hostile environment currently incapable of sustaining life.”
Last week I underwent a four-hour operation. The doctor removed the endometriosis, an Atlanta traffic jam in my endocrine and reproductive systems. He cut into my right ovary. He performed two other procedures. The surgery went well and should minimize my pain and enhance chances for fertility. Currently I’m on a two-week recovery (I thought it’d be a faster healing process, but this. is. moving. slow). We’ll see what happens.
So. That’s my story. I’m literally the only blonde, 30-something, married female in the Midwest without children.
The infertility road is lonely, perplexing, shaming, and painful. Which is exactly why I decided to share.
If you’re infertile, you’re not alone. If you don’t want kids, you’re not alone. If you’re a parent of more kids than you dreamed of having, you’re not alone, either. None of us are. Cry when it gets hard. Allow yourself the grace to never attend another baby shower. Unfollow all your cute, pregnant friends. Unfollow your childless friends who travel to all the cool places while you have spittle running down your shirt.
But, whatever life brings you, make the most of it. Pray. Be thankful. Be vulnerable, and share your story; it keeps us connected in the dark and light places.
More than anything, embrace who you are and live your life. You’re the only one who can.
It may suck, but vulnerability is power.