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.