Growing up I felt there was this glass door between me and the other girls. I could get right up close to it, but never go through. My surgery, being barren, not having a period…all of these things separated me from being just like them. This is something I kept to myself though. It was hard enough being an adolescent. As an adult, it has been hard work to remind myself that while I may be different, I’m still just as much a woman as any other female out there.
I think hysterectomies are difficult for women to undergo. Mine happened at such a young age that I grew into womanhood already feeling as if I was not wholly female. Women of any age might not feel completely whole after a hysterectomy. If the surgery happens at a younger age, then it is more than just losing some organs. It’s losing the ones that are vital to a women’s experience in this life.
As I have developed through the years, the recognition of the impact on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health became clearer with each milestone or emotional age. I could tell that infertility was not going to get easier, but harder, much harder. I stood by and watched my friends’ life cycle continue on. From the announcements of their pregnancies, to the first baby bumps appearing, the baby showers, flushed cheeks, and swollen feet… I was on the side-lines watching. I often heard them talk about their pregnancies and tried to act like I knew what they were talking about. But the truth is, I did not know and honestly did not care to know. It would never happen for me.
Infertility creates such a distinct type of isolation. People just don’t know how to react when one says “I can’t have children”. Instantly, there is an awkward silence usually followed by some words of wisdom that may or may not be too wise. It is sadly refreshing sometimes to be around other women who cannot have children. The conversations tend to be more driven by genuine empathy and understanding for each other. We don’t have to “be strong” and hide our emotions about it.
There are also those universal themes that tend to come out while discussing infertility with fellow women who are struggling. First, baby showers are the worst things to attend when you cannot have children. They can create a raw and digging pain that is usually held in until after the shower is over. I venture to guess that a lot of infertile women cry themselves home after baby showers. I know I did before I adopted. I actually dreaded going to them. I would “fake” my way through them, drive home as quickly as I could, and then curl up on my bed in a sobbing mess. The rest of the day following a baby shower was usually filled with emotions and apathy.
Second, it really hurts when people say to you “if it’s God’s will, then it will happen”. Most believers agree that things happen in our lives that are within God’s will, but it does not take away the pain. It may not be within the Lord’s will for any of us to children – biological or adopted. Unbeknownst to people who say this, an infertile woman might start thinking “if I can’t have children then God must not want me to be a mom”. This is an awful place to be at. I’ve been there. I’ve thought “perhaps God doesn’t think I will be a good mom”, or “God must not want us to be parents”.
Third, pregnancy and birth announcements are wonderful and sweet unless you will never be the one sending them out. That may sound selfish. I’m a little embarassed to admit this, but sometimes I would think “why does she get to have another baby when I can’t even have one?” This does not mean that those of us who cannot have biological children aren’t happy for our family members or friends. Sometimes, the announcements and the excitement that follows reminds us of what we cannot have.
Growing up, I always felt that maybe I was the only one out there like me. In some way, this may have been true since I was so young when my hysterectomy happened. But, now as an adult, I know my experience, though somewhat different, is one that is shared by many. Being an infertile woman in a world of baby-bearing bliss is difficult. It can be socially isolating. It can cause tension between spouses, friends, and family members. For those of you who may be struggling with handling your journey of infertility or adoption, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just know that there are others out there on your side of the glass door.