My fertility isn’t your business

April 29, 2016

Why do people keep trying to convince me that I’m able to have kids?

Ok, I know the answer. It has to do with them wanting to give me hope, them not wanting to see someone give up on something wanted, them not wanting to admit that they might also fail to have the children they want… them them them. It’s not about me.

But it still bothers me.

When I was in my late 20s I decided that I didn’t want to pass on these genes. I had an entirely unhelpful diagnosis of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. That roughly translates to some-sort-of-connective-tissue-disease-but-we-don’t-know-what-or-how-to-treat-it. I was looking at 60 years of pain ahead of me and I wasn’t happy about it. No, I couldn’t pass that on to my kids.

But even as I said it, I still hoped I’d somehow have kids. I might adopt. I might marry someone with kids. Maybe I’d marry a woman who wanted to get pregnant. But it still hurt that I’d never be pregnant myself. I’d always wanted kids.

When we had room for an elective in high school, my friends took art and drama. I took a child development class. I started babysitting at 12 and continued to babysit regularly for many years. I was a camp counselor for 6 summers. I always loved kids and always assumed I’d have some of my own. And I didn’t just assume it because that’s the societal expectation (though I’m sure that was part of it,) but because I really wanted kids. The question wasn’t if. It was simply how many and with whom?

So this was a major change in thinking, and it really didn’t help to have people constantly suggesting that I should still have kids. They’d tell me that there was no guarantee my kids would have what I had (and they’d conveniently forget there was no guarantee my kids wouldn’t have it!) They’d say someone might find a cure. Right.

As I moved into my 30s, that conversation stayed about the same, it just became less frequent. My friends knew where I stood, so there was no point in talking about it. No one else brought it up.

But in the last couple of years, something shifted. It’s probably my age. Now that I’m at the do-or-die stage (so to speak) people are asking if I plan to have kids, because if I don’t have them soon, I never will. Ok, I get that. And I don’t really mind that question. What I mind is that they don’t accept my answer!

If I say no, they ask why not. I sometimes say I’m too old, because that’s a convenient answer. But it doesn’t work. I then hear about how their sister’s friend’s coworker had a baby at my age. I point out that their sister’s friend’s coworker was probably married at my age. And already trying to get pregnant. And ready to have kids. And she probably carried the baby for around 9 months before that. I see them look surprised as they do the math. Yeah.

The truth is, I’m single, and I have no intention of having kids alone. I also never wanted to be an older mom. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not for me. I don’t want to be 60 when my kids go off to college. I don’t want to pass along these genes, but that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to now that I have some diagnoses and some treatments that would have worked great if they’d been used 15 years earlier. But I’m still in my late 30s and I’m single, and that’s a problem. Plus I have fertility issues that – funny thing – I don’t go around telling everyone. So even if I can get pregnant, and we don’t know if I can, there’s a good chance it would take a few years.

I think it’s time for some math. Let’s say I meet the love of my life tomorrow. Unlikely, but let’s pretend. We date for a year and then get engaged. I don’t care about a big wedding and let’s say they don’t either, so we’re married 6 months later. Then we start trying to get pregnant immediately. It takes at least 2-3 years to get pregnant. Then 9 months of carrying the baby. We we’re talking around 4.5 years from now. By then I’d be in my 40s. That’s a hard time to get pregnant even for someone who’s healthy!

And that’s if we don’t consider the other reason I can’t see having kids: my symptoms. I can barely take care of myself right now. I struggled to take care of a dog. How the fuck would I take care of a baby?!? Or a young child?!? I’m exhausted after an afternoon with my nephew. I visit my friend and her family for 3 days, she does all the cooking, I stay home half the time she takes the kids out, and it’s still more than I can handle. I couldn’t do that every day without doing real harm to my body. Other people do it. Plenty of you are parents. And I applaud you! But I don’t see myself handling that well right now. And it would break my heart to not be able to pick up my child. But that would be the reality.

And then of course there’s the pregnancy itself. My hormones, my joints…. I don’t see them faring well.

And as if that’s not enough, there’s the part where I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever find someone I want to marry, much less make that happen this year. But see the math above – this year would already be too late for me.

These are all very legitimate reasons to assume that I won’t be having kids. But why should I tell strangers and acquaintances all of this? Why isn’t it enough for me to say no, I won’t be having kids unless I marry someone who already has kids? Why can’t people just believe me and move on?

Probably for the same reason they can’t let it go when I say, “I’ll never be cured.” But that’s a subject for another day.

What about you? Do you deal with this? How do you handle it? What do you say? Please comment and let me know!

Period period period period. Period.

August 11, 2014

Approximately half of the population on this planet gets, has gotten, or will get a period. And yet for some reason no one talks about it. What the fuck is up with that?

A couple weeks ago I was eating lunch with some follow chronic illness folks. Between us we had two cases of hypothyroid, Hashimoto’s disease, endometriosis, neuropathy, herniated disks, PCOS, 2 cases of Celiac Disease…. and a bunch of other diagnoses. We were 4 women and 1 man. At one point I turned to my friend with endometriosis and excitedly told her that I’d gotten my period the week before. She congratulated me. Then I explained to the others that I was excited because before that I hadn’t gotten it for 7 or 8 months. The women congratulated me. The man squirmed. Now, I can understand a teenager being uncomfortable, but a man in his 50s or 60s who’s been married for years? I just don’t get it.

There are plenty of situations where it’s not appropriate to discuss my period. I’m ok with that. But if it’s ok to talk about my chronic pain, then I can talk about my period. If it’s ok to talk about my nausea, then I can talk about my period. If it’s ok to talk about being pregnant, then I can talk about my period. And I will if it’s relevant. I won’t censor myself on this.

There are cultures where a woman* is shamed for having a period, where she’s considered dirty. In some cultures, men can’t touch women while they’re having their periods, even married couples. In some cultures, girls have to cover their bodies from head to toe when they get their periods. In my culture here in the U.S. it simply isn’t discussed except in the patronizing and dismissive form of an upset woman being referred to as being “in her time of the month.” Now, it’s true that some women get more emotional around the time of their periods. Not all women do. And women, like men, can feel emotions at other times as well. Imagine that!

The squirmishness can’t be from the blood. Sure, some people have issues with blood, but that usually involves seeing the blood. Most people don’t get as squirmish when I mention a bloody nose as they do when I mention my period. Hmm. So maybe it has to do with discussion of women’s bodies. No, it can’t be that general. No one seems to mind if I mention something about my arm. So maybe it has to do with women’s reproductive systems? Could be. Legislators are regulating birth control pills and abortion but not condoms or Viagra. Many citizens think this is ok. Others may be against it, but won’t discuss it. The Vagina Monologues came about because many people won’t speak the word vagina. I admit, there was a time when I was embarrassed to say the name of the show. But by my early 20s I was over it. I wish everyone else would get over it. Because women have vaginas. And, oh-so-shockingly, women have periods!

Let’s get something straight: every single person on the planet came into being because of a woman’s fertility. Think about that for a moment. Has it settled in? Are you ready for the next revelation? Part of a woman’s fertility cycle almost always involves getting a period. Think about that a bit. Makes sense, right? A woman’s period, after all, has to do with an unfertilized egg shedding the uterine lining. They’re connected. So everyone should be grateful for women’s periods! Would you have been born if your biological mother had never had a period? Maybe. It’s possible. But it’s not likely. So be glad that women get periods! Period.

Ok, it’s your turn. Speak up! How do you feel about this subject? Do you think women should be able to openly mention their periods, especially in medical contexts, without people saying it’s gross? If you have two x chromosomes, do you discuss your period if it’s relevant? If you have a y chromosome, how do you feel when women discuss their periods?

*I’m referring to cisgender women, for the sake of simplicity. Obviously trans women don’t always have vaginas. And trans men might have vaginas. And there are plenty of genderqueer folk who don’t identify as either men or women.

%d bloggers like this: