After about the eightieth person asked me about this, I figured it was time to write it down somewhere where I could reference it rather than re-tell it time and again.
Going off to school has brought up a bunch of weird issues for us, problems to solve, things we need to change about our lives. We'll be getting a roommate for the house in Alameda, who will help with animal care in exchange for part of the rent. I'll be getting a room in San Luis Obispo, and commuting home every other weekend. This is a lifestyle change, and one that very obviously would not stand up to the stresses of having a child.
Which is fine, because I can't have children. Which is fine, because we're not planning to have them.
Usually, when you hear about infertile women, you hear about the heartbreak, the pain, the loss, the suffering, the multiple miscarriages and grief and all that that they go through. You hear about medical procedures and doctors and how much they have always wanted to be a mother but how they feel cursed by god for not being able to do that. You hear about how they hate themselves for their condition, how their lives begin to revolve around the condition until nothing else seems to matter.
I have a lot of sympathy for those women, I can understand the pain and the hurt, but I'm not one of them. I'm an infertile woman who is completely fine with that condition, for whom the condition is not at all about heartbreak or hurt. It's just part of who I am. Planning not to have children makes it a lot easier, but even if I did want children, it's my opinion that it's not the bearing and giving birth that makes you a mother. It's the mothering. So being unable to bear children would not, for me, make me feel inadequate or less of a mother.
(Yes, I understand the desire to give birth and how some women feel that that is critical to their self-image as women, and if you read into this a condemnation of your own choices on this matter, you're a self-absorbed bitch. I'm talking about my own choices and feelings, not yours, so get over yourself.)
When I was in my mid-twenties, the pain from my period had reached unmanageable levels. I was nonfunctional for at least a couple of days out of the month, in so much pain that bright flashes were appearing behind my eyelids. I spent those days curled up and vomiting up anything I ate, and shoving fistfuls of ibuprofen down my throat, so much that I developed an ulcer. I had excellent health coverage, so I went to see a doctor, and she did some diagnostics. A couple of months of medical procedures which I won't go into.
One afternoon I left work early and went into her office to discuss the results. She'd asked me to come in, refused to talk about them over the phone. "What I have to say should be said in person."
As I drove over, I thought about what could be wrong. Cancer, I thought. I'm dying from cancer. This is uterine cancer and I have a month to live. I am such a drama queen. I was already picturing my deathbed scene, mentally working out my will. Dividing up my possessions. I walked through the bright California sunlight to the doctor's office in a daze. It didn't seem real.
"I have good news and bad news."
"I want the bad news first." I always want the bad news first. It reduces the time spent dreading it.
She looked me in the eye, with her Sensitive Doctor look on her face (they have to practise that in med school) and said, "You're probably never going to be able to carry a child to term."
Bear in mind that in my mid-twenties, I was hardly planning my future children. I didn't even know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I didn't have the kind of relationship where that would really be a possibility, anyway.
I stared at her. I didn't know what to say. I tried to think about how I should respond. My overwhelming response was, "and so...?"
There was my answer. Having had the possibility taken away from me, I found I wasn't all that damaged by it. On the other hand, I was deeply relieved at not having cancer.
She was waiting for me to speak. I said, "Was that the bad news or the good news?"
The good news was that there were a bunch of hormonal therapies I could go on to make the pain stop happening, and indeed that was good news. Five years later, the pain was reduced to a mere crampiness, and things were looking much better.
I'm not going to go into medical detail about this. I don't want diagnoses, cures,
work-arounds. It would be significantly dangerous to me or a potential child if I were to get pregnant and try to carry to term. No, I'm not a DES daughter; this is a naturally occurring genetic twist that appears now and then, and it may run in my family. That's all you need to know. But I'm not having any children, so there's not a problem.
So I can't have children. Or, I possibly could, but it's a high-risk scenario. And I'm not a big fan of major medical intervention in pregnancy. I decided that there was a good reason why people like me can't reproduce on our own, and I was not going to mess with that. I wouldn't want to wish this pain thing on a daughter, so if I got a yearning to raise a child, I figured I would adopt, maybe an open adoption like my cousin. That felt right to me at the time as a plan of action, should I suddenly be siezed by the urge to have a child.
But I've never had a yearning for a child. Years later, I met a man who also didn't want children, and he liked the fact that I didn't, either. We did both have a yearning for a dog, and we got a dog together. We got married.
Now we're going to live apart most of the time for four or maybe five years. We have our marriage, and we have decided that that is the most important thing for us. More important than my schooling (if it's not working, I will drop out and reapply to UC Berkeley), more important than his job (or maybe he will quit and come live with me in San Luis Obispo), more important than details of everyday life. The fact that our living situation makes it tough to have a child is unimportant, because we're not planning to have a child. We've taken steps to make that extremely unlikely, because my health is important to both of us.
Some people think we will change our minds, but for something like this it doesn't matter if you change your mind. Even if I wanted to have a child from my own body now, I couldn't. And going to architecture school for four or five years makes it pretty much impossible to adopt. So there will be no children.
There you have it.