NIAW-National Infertility Awareness Week

So, other blogs I read have been letting me know that it’s infertility awareness week. I’d guess I qualify as someone who can speak on that topic, so I’m going to. Partially because I feel woefully inadequate to comment on numerous other topics, including but not limited to: whether to circumcise your son (sorry, Jen, I just don’t know!), how to potty train a toddler, when to quit breastfeeding, or a myriad of child related topics that seem to crop up all around me.

Babies are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. In the grocery store. In all my friend’s bellies. Mothers are pumping at work and kids are all over my gym. And that’s great. Procreating is what many people see as the reason we’re on this earth. Just ask the Duggars. So does that mean that those of us who were medically excluded from having kids were deemed unworthy to carry on the species? Does it mean that our genes are inferior, not meant to survive? I hope not, because I feel awful that I was unable to give my mom a grandchild, to carry forward a piece of my dad, that I’ll never get to look down and see a bit of my Grandpa’s smile coming back at me from the baby in my arms.

The thing is, and I’ve said this before, I think I always knew I wasn’t meant to have kids. As a young adult, I said I’d make a horrible parent. As a thirty-something single girl, I told myself that by the time I found “my person” that I’d be too scarred from endometriosis to actually get pregnant. Then I found Jeff, but it also became apparent that surgery every 10 or so months was totally inhibiting our quality of life and brought obstacles to our new marriage. So we made the choice that said we valued my health over any future plans biology may have had for us. That we could adopt one day. That we had so many other things to see and do in our future, we wouldn’t want to have children. I watched the fertility nightmare my friends were going through and it scared me. So we cut the scary part out. A machine with lasers and a doctor with precision removed the thing that was causing me pain, and we went on our way. Recovery was hard, and required patience, but physically we made it.

But it’s so easy to forget that there’s another side to the story. That by being sterile, you feel like you don’t have a voice in 75% of the conversations around you. That your schedule should bow to your coworker’s schedule because they have kids to work around, while you just have a running obsession and a husband in college. That you might end up on your couch on a work night at 8:00 and realize that you don’t have anything to do, that things will never change, and you’re going to spend the next 30 years of your life just hanging out and surfing the web because nobody is going to need changed or put back to bed after a bad dream. None of that’s a bad thing, but it’s a different thing.  Several times a day you’re reminded of your uniqueness, to reinforce your decision, to rededicate that the choice you made was right. And sometimes, inevitably, you feel a wrinkle of doubt that you’re in the right.

The thing is, we’re not alone. Whether by choice, by necessity, or by loss, there are so many people out there feeling the same things as you. Like you don’t belong. Like your choice makes your life “less than”, that your choice is strange or abnormal. But it’s not. I was rendered infertile by disease, but I was made sterile by choice. I chose happiness of a different kind. I promised myself I’d see the world. That what my friends spent on braces and daycare, that I’d spend on travel and wine.  I’m so excited to see the world, piece by piece, that I can hardly stand to be patient. But I forgot one thing: to forgive myself. It’s not my fault that my organs were overachievers and wanted to create tissue at super speed. That choosing my health was the right call. That different does not equal less than. That I may not have given life, but that I’ve helped raise life, and that my brother contains no small part of my influence within him. That I have things to offer. That I have value. That maybe incision scars are just as much war paint as stretch marks. And lastly, that nobody can make me feel inferior without my permission. And this girl doesn’t sign permission slips.

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12 thoughts on “NIAW-National Infertility Awareness Week

  1. Wow, amazingly written. Thank you for sharing, you have been through so much – you should be proud of yourself, you DO have value. There is so much expectation in our lives of a ‘normal’ pattern – marriage, babies, blah blah blah, but it doesn’t always work out that way for all of us and in different ways it can be incredibly tough, so it takes people, like you, to speak up about such things and reassure everyone that is IS okay (more than okay) not to follow that pattern.
    I love that last line – “nobody can make me feel inferior without my permission. And this girl doesn’t sign permission slips.” Made me go BAM in my head 😉

      • I guess I’m considered different being childless by choice. I still get the odd looks of confusion and or pity when I say I don’t want children. I have a gorgeous step daughter and that’s good enough for me. Yes, we are all unique.

      • You know, I went through phases of my life where I was sure I didn’t want kids, and then was sure I did, and back and forth. I don’t know that we’d have decided to have kids if the option existed, but it’s just been weird dealing with not having the option.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing! It isn’t an easy path – and is made more difficult because of others, the media and even the tax code!

    While we have two wonderful teenage boys, Lisa and I have been forever changed by the years of infertility and multiple miscarriages we suffered before we had our boys. It can be a very lonely world, made harder by those who try to be ‘helpful’ and end up saying some awful things. Being in an infertility support group was one of the best things …

    Even now, with two boys we hear about ‘why we didn’t get the girl’ and so on … after so much loss, we were happy for babies; and after nearly losing Lisa AND Chris and our OB/GYN saying another pregnancy might kill Lisa … enough was enough.

    Each of us should be valued for who we are – as people. Not as a spouse or a parent; our stuff doesn’t suddenly get more important because we have kids – but sometimes our schedules become less flexible … but that is OUR problem, not someone else’s. I have always bristled when people make those assumptions about childless or unmarried people. Maybe it is because of all the terrible things we heard while struggling with fertility issues.

    Thanks again for sharing!

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