I can’t tell you the countless number of times I’ve heard this statement pass through the lips of another person in response to conversations about my fecundity. I feel incapable of fully expressing the sheer frustration I feel every time I hear this from someone.
As a 25 year old woman with several intersecting reproductive diseases and the omnipresent realisation that my fertility prospects are shit (to put it bluntly) exploring my options for achieving a family has become an inescapable part of my life. I’ve looked at EVERYTHING and I really do mean EVERYTHING.
Adoption. Decided upon it.
Fostering. Investigated it.
Egg Freezing. Discussed it.
Embryo Freezing. Told I should definitely have it.
Co-Parenting. Delved into it (unsuccessfully).
Try Now Rather Than Later. Unwillingly trying to embrace it.
Living Childless. Accepted the possibility of it.
But thanks for that, I’d totally never thought of your helpful suggestion.
Advice Isn’t Always Necessary
I’m part of several Facebook support groups for women with various reproductive conditions from fibroids to adenomyosis and all that’s in between because I enjoy reading the community posts from women all over the world who have similar experiences and are seeking advice, reassurance, support and sisterhood in the digital world. I read a lot of posts where women type in heated emotion, littering their sentences with exclamation marks and capitalisation, their submissions painting a brief and colourful picture of their tiresome reproductive journey.
Recently a woman, let’s call her Jenny, posted about a conversation she’d been having with her sister-in-law about her fears of never being able to complete her family by having children, to which her sister-in-law replied ” well you can always adopt, there’s always fostering, you can still be a mother that way”. Suffice to say this just didn’t cut the mustard with the Jenny and it triggered memories of all the conversations I’ve had with other women and men which have garnered the same response.
Just Call Me Andy
When women with reproductive health problems, debilitating reproductive diseases, auto-immune, inflammatory and endocrine disrupting diseases come to you and commune with you, it is a sacred offer of vulnerability. To you it may just be a simple conversation, but to us it’s allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in a bid to offload, to seek reassurance and comfort, to find solace in the warmth of our sisters (and brother’s, and gender non-conforming persons) words. Those words which wrap themselves around us, can swaddle us in a cocoon of much welcomed comfort or they can strangle and stifle us, reminding us that we live in a world which doesn’t truly seek to understand our bodies and our corporeal experiences.
Sub fecundity can often feel like an invisible but experiential prison. There are no grainy steel bars or cell block windows but the burning pain which rips through your uterus turning you into something reminiscent of a weak and foetal like Lord Voldermort before he fell into the cauldron and began his newly orchestrated rise to power is very real. The fatigue which stalks you throughout the month causing you to miss entire days, weeks of your life as sunrise blurs with sunset, unable to tell if it’s the moon or the sun in the sky, whether it’s Monday or Thursday in the midst of your opiate induced painkiller haze seems never ending. Missing quality time and social engagements with family, colleagues and friends because while you’re not at the behest of HMP visitor restrictions your uterus has you feeling like your body is playing host to a biological version of the Shawshank redemption. It’s draining. Let’s not even start on the heavy and irregular bleeding (from the front and back sometimes, and no it’s not piles before someone proffers that useful personal anecdote my way -_-). All of these things barely scratch the surface of our everyday experiences living in bodies which we’re fighting, which are fighting for us, which we want to live in symptom and pain free. Bodies which are intrinsically linked to minds, minds which battle with depression, anxiety, fear, worry, self-doubt, low-esteem. Minds which feel chaotic and foggy as they try to discern fact from fiction, emotion from physical experience, drug induced dream from reality, on a daily basis. Minds which are ripe with the seeds of concern and endless questions.
Will I ever be able to have children?
Do I even want them? Yes. Well should I try now while I’m still young? Do I make a plan and spend the next 2 years preparing financially?
Am I ready? Am I emotionally & mentally capable and responsible enough? Would I make a good parent?
How will I afford it? What about my career?
What if I try and I’m not successful? How will I cope? Do I want to adopt?
But I’m single how do I find the right partner? Do I do this alone? What does that involve?
Am I strong enough? Am I resilient enough?
What kind of life would I give a child when I can barely muster energy to go from my bed to the toilet some days?
Do I even want them? No. Am I sure?
Am I saying that because I’m trying to accept that it might never happen?
Do I not want any children or do I just not mind if they’re not my biological children?
No. I definitely don’t want children and I’m happy to live childless it’s not defining for me. It’s not the pinnacle of womanhood.
I just want to be free of the restrictions of my body but hysterectomy isn’t a cure right? Prescriptions come with side effects.
But I can always adopt right? Problem solved!
Not Everyday Talk…
Some days just listen. I know it’s easy to think that your words are encouraging and reassuring. That your advice isn’t something new but it is something right? I know that as hard as it can be for me and women like me who are wading through the quicksand of their own reproductive journey to commune with you, it can be difficult also to be the recipient of those words, of that conversation which ventures into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory for you. But sometimes it’s better to just listen, to not give us advice, to just let us talk and wail, to laugh and vent. Some days we just want a shoulder to lean on and another warm body to embrace us with love and compassion. Actions quite literally speak louder than words. Some days we don’t need advice we just want a hug or a hot chocolate and we don’t even know it until someone reaches out for us. If in doubt just…