I held back tears last week as I waited to check out at the Dr’s office. Not just any doctor, I should explain. Obstetrics and Gynecology. I stood behind a young couple. The woman was at the desk. The father was rocking an infant carrier. The baby was giggling. The rock on her hand seemed to sparkle despite the gross office lighting. And at first the image made me smile a little. Happy family. New baby. And then I heard the woman behind the desk say “And when the new baby comes your insurance coverage will…..”.
New baby? They already have one. It’s right there. And they get ANOTHER one? So soon? And I’m here, all alone, wearing a Dr. issued pad that was invented in 1954 the size of a diaper after the procedure I just had. And life just seemed so unfair.
Chris and I tried for over a year to have a baby once we got married. With no luck. We had always said we would give it some time on it’s own, and we would see how we felt if it didn’t happen. Having never had regular periods, part of me suspected it wouldn’t be a quick process. But neither of us were sure we had it in us to go through the process of medical assistance in getting pregnant. I’ve watched friends and family go through the very difficult, emotional, stressful, expensive process of hormone shots and injections and IVF or IUI and all the different ways to make it happen. And some of my favorite human beings are on this planet today because of those procedures and I thank God for those options. But we weren’t sure if we wanted to do it – so we waited to try on our own.
Funny thing about time, you always think you have more of it. We were starting to discuss more frequently the idea of going to see a Dr. about the fact that we weren’t getting pregnant. I was getting more and more disappointed with each period I would get. Not having regular periods, I can’t tell you how many pregnancy tests I took. Two minutes of hope every now and then. And then one morning he was gone, and so was hope of being a mom.
I need to preface what comes next as MY perspective. My story, my feelings, my preferences for my own life and my own body. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to parent alone after losing a spouse or partner. To watch your kids grieve and struggle. I can’t speak to that and I’m not comparing my situation to anyone else’s as easier or harder or more or less painful. We all carry the pain in different ways. It is just different. And I am not knocking anyone out there who decided to have a baby at an older age. Good for you, girl. Honestly. You rock. I completely understand that women are having children older and older lately. Almost everyone has some story of “someone I know is 45 and pregnant for the first time”. Good for them. I wish them the best, I honestly do. But I know what I feel comfortable with for myself and my life and the life of a child I bring into this world. So please, if you are reading this, don’t be offended by what comes next – it is just my world vision right now.
When Chris died it left me very much ALONE. I moved out of our apartment and back into my parents’ house to not have to be so alone and they have been amazing at taking care of me. But I don’t have a part of him to live on. I don’t get to see a smile that is exactly like his was as a reminder of a mark he left on this world when he went. And that kills me. I never got to see the man I love hold our child in his arms. He was taken from us before he ever got to know the love in his heart of being a dad. He would have been an unbelievable dad. The only person that I have to be strong for is myself. And that is not much motivation some days. I don’t have anyone to get up and put one foot in front of the other for, so there are weekends I stay in my pajamas and don’t shower and days I don’t get out of bed until 4pm. Still. A year and a half later. It is just a different type of alone.
Fast forward a year or so and an irregular pap smear has me at the obgyn. And in the midst of cervical and uterine biopsies and other medical concerns (all of which came back fine, thankfully), I am officially diagnosed with PCOS. Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Fairly common syndrome actually, not exactly rare, but a condition that can lead to making it very difficult to conceive naturally. I was basically told that the odds are I would need hormone shots and IUI or IVF or some sort of assistance if I ever wanted to have a baby.
Now – I can imagine this information is difficult to hear for any woman. Even those that already have kids and are struggling with secondary infertility. Even those not necessarily wanting a baby right then. Just being told that you can’t have one on your own, is tough. I don’t claim to limit the feelings of loss this can cause just to someone who has lost their spouse. Many couples struggle with the emotional havoc infertility can cause.
But had I gotten this news at 34, with a doting husband sitting next to me when it was delivered, we would have had options. They may not have worked. Nothing is certain. But we could have tried. At 36, alone and not getting any younger, the diagnosis was a confirmation of something I had known deep down for the past year and a half. That in all probability, my chances of being a mom died with him. Another ridiculously unfair layer to an already heartbreaking loss.
Most people I talk to about this are quick to say “You never know”. And they’re right. I lack the ability to foresee the future. I am not psychic. On occasion, psycho… but not psychic. Life has taught me that the unexpected and unlikely can happen at any moment. But just because something is scientifically and medically POSSIBLE doesn’t mean it is PROBABLE.
I could technically do a lot of things that aren’t probable. I could technically win the Olympic Gold in any given sport. Highly unlikely though. I could hit the lottery, I could win a Nobel peace prize, I could grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. But the odds are not likely for any of those things to happen, and I need to face the fact that the odds are not likely that I will bear a child. And deferring that acceptance, putting it off with “you never know” or “don’t think like that” does nothing to help me process the grief and the emotions that come along with it. I need to mourn this. The way I’m mourning my husband and the way I’ve mourned the loss of the life we wanted to lead together. I don’t know what the future holds, but glossing over the blow is almost making the pain I feel inside seem less legitimate.
It is okay to be upset over this. To feel it. To cry about it. To get angry at the universe. Because that is how you work through it. So often we go through life trying to hide our pain over things and trying to seem strong or let things roll off our shoulders. Put on a brave face. What good does that do other than just cause a lot of people to suffer alone when they could be healing together by talking about it?
The truth is I’m not even close to a place where I could consider wanting to make a family with anyone else. I haven’t even been on a date yet. And I’m not saying I may not open my heart again to someone in the future, but the rate I’m moving doesn’t lend itself to it being any time soon. And biology, unlike love, has a clock. And there is only a little bit of sand left in that hourglass. My personal choice is that there is an age at which I would no longer feel comfortable becoming a mother. For many reasons, and I’m not going to pretend some aren’t selfish. But it is my life, I’m allowed to be selfish. For my own comfort level, for what I want for myself and for a child I bring into this world. I am not knocking anyone who doesn’t have such an age in mind, but for me… it is there and it is looming. Could I hit it and change my mind? I suppose. Could I push it off the way I push off the date I’m going to start eating healthier or finish cleaning my room? I am known to procrastinate so it is possible. But again, not probable. I feel strongly in my heart about this.
And yes, I could do it alone. I could adopt. My parent’s won’t let me get a kitten, I’m not sure how they would feel about another human being living here with us. Plus I am still recovering, I’m not ready to do it on my own either. The time it would take to feel ready to explore either option in a legitimate manner would put me right up against the same time restraints. I am grateful that there are those options out there for me should I change my mind in the future though, because as they say, “you never know”.
So where does that leave me? The old maid. The cat lady (because I will move out at some point and damn straight the minute I do I am getting a kitten). The spinster. Maybe someday. Who knows. But for now, it leaves me really needing to dig deep to take a look at all I do have in this world to keep me from feeling sorry for myself, from feeling cheated.
I have no offspring, but I am far from childless in my life. I have snuggled the hell out of so many babies that my friends or cousins have had. I’ve had the honor and privilege of watching them grow. I have nieces and a nephew on Chris’ side of my extended in law family that I adore. I took over his role of god parent for one of them. She will be two and when she says “auntie” when she sees me my heart swells. I was blessed to know instant unconditional love like I didn’t even know existed the day my brother and sister in law had my niece, Keira. She is four and she is my favorite human. Some day when she is old enough to understand, I will explain to her how she alone pulled me out of some of the darkest days of the past year and a half.
I don’t know what the future holds. None of us do. But I know that if this is my fate, I am still going to be ok. I will be surrounded by love. And I will enjoy every minute of being Auntie Katie.