It was a challenge growing up after having a hysterectomy so young. I never really knew how to handle it. I felt ashamed of it, and I really don’t know why I felt this way. It was not my fault. I was gravely ill and the surgery had to happen in order to save my life, but for some reason, I really didn’t want many people to find out about it. I internalized a sense of guilt or embarassment because I was different than my peers. Due to my young age, I did not fully grasp how my surgery would play out in my life over and over again.
As an adult, it has taken me many, many years to say out loud “I HAD A HYSTERECTOMY”. Even now, when asked about my medical history at doctor’s visits, I always get a little tense and just a bit nervous. Perhaps it is because the response is usually “You had a hysterectomy at age eleven?!?”…followed by an awkward moment of silence…then followed by “May I ask why?” One of these days I may just say “No, no you may not ask why…” just to see how they respond!
Sometimes, I let medical professionals off the hook early and just go right into all the details of it. I sense at times they are a little overwhelmed. Or at least, the women are. They usually give me a slightly pitiful look, but most of the time they express sadness about it. Men on the other hand just sort of skip right over, as if there’s “nothing to talk about here”…move along.
Often, they will stare at me briefly as if they expect me to say more, or break down sobbing, or something. The truth is even if I felt like crying, I would hold it in until I left the appointment anyway. This is not as much of an issue for me now that my emptiness has been filled with children, and I have come to a place of fully embracing who I am, but throughout my life, there was a tremendous amount of despair mixed in with a sliver of shame over it.
One thing that I habitually do time after time is quickly follow up my revelation of being infertile with an “It’s okay though. I’ve adopted children, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world”. Before I adopted, I found myself saying things like “Oh, it’s okay. I might be able to adopt” even if I did not believe my own words. It is as if I have always felt the need to apologize for my lot in life.
Perhaps in my earlier years, I was still trying to figure it all out. I didn’t want or need anyone to explain things to me. I also never wanted to be pitied for it. This was my experience to navigate on my own – no one else’s. Some things in life are just too big to wrap our heads around until we are fully ready to do so. Giving simplistic and quick explanations to medical staff or anyone else who wanted to know what happened to me did nothing to help me understand my own circumstance. I often felt I was fulfilling their curiosity at my own expense.
I’ve always wondered, yet never quite figured out what it is about infertility and hysterectomies that cause the feelings of shame, embarrassment, or whatever else it can be called. I just sometimes think that the rest of the world (all the fertile myrtles) don’t fully grasp the complexity of infertility. Perhaps this is why those of us (non-fertile myrtles) feel isolated out in the “real” world. There is nothing to be shameful of! We didn’t cause this. We didn’t set out in the world thinking “I’m going to do whatever I can to make having a family extremely difficult.” Barrenness has been around forever; yet, there is so much restraint when talking about it out loud.
While pondering this issue, I thought “God has used barren women to do mighty things.” Several women in the Bible, who were considered barren, ended up giving birth to children who went on to do noteworthy things. I know the incredible ending of their barrenness was the birth of children, but I find it equally incredible that their struggle with it was written down. Their stories were compelling. They were often mocked for it. Yet, their faith ran deep.
I choose to believe that barrenness is close to God’s heart. I know that He does not want us to be ashamed. I believe that there is no reason anyone should ever feel the need to apologize for not being able to have children. My life is not desolate. I feel totally fruitful; quite the opposite of barren really.
The world may think, or even expect me to be angry, bitter, and even resentful about infertility, but I choose not to follow the world. I am not listening to it; my ears, my eyes, and my heart are captured by the whispers of God. Through Him, and only through Him, I am beautiful, purposeful, and redeemed.
I am unashamed.