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.
8 thoughts on “Unashamed”
Amen. I thank God and am overjoyed that we can come boldly to His throne . I work as a nurse on a GYN floor and your blog has opened my eyes to the unspoken feelings they may be experiencing. Thank you for sharing your heart
Thank you for your comment!
Amen! You are an inspiration !
wow – thank you so much!
I think I can understand a little bit of this. The shame thing, I mean.
It’s not infertility I struggle with, but another problem, and it has made me feel in the past like I’m in a little bubble of silence. There are some parts of our body that we just don’t talk about, and although it’s okay to tell happy stories about pregnancy and babies, anything negative to do with fertility sort of feels like it’s outside the bounds of polite conversation. So it can be really hard if you have a problem in one of those areas, it’s breaking your heart, but you can’t bring it up “politely”. Add to that the fact that even starting to talk about it will drag up all the pain you’re feeling, and you might not be able to handle it, and all in all, it’s easier to just say “fine”.
I don’t know how similar that is to the feelings you describe, but I thought it was worth sharing.
Love the wording of “little bubble of silence”. Even though your situation might be different, the thoughts, etc are similar. We probably all hide behind the word “fine”. Thanks for the comment!
I’m really glad that you like my post the other day because I have been able to come here and read your posts! I had an operation when I was 5 that resulted in a severely decreased sperm count but didn’t find out until I was 28. Despite this and being male I am finding so many similarities in our journeys. It’s the first writing on infertility that I have really connected with – so I’ll be working my way through all your posts!
Two weekends ago I stood on a stage in front of 800 men at a Christian Conference and shared about our infertility. It was difficult but my wife, Anna, and I always said we would be honest in our journey. It’s great to discover your blog and find someone else who is willing to be honest too. There are so many people who suffer in silence and I am starting to see how valuable it is for them to have big mouths like me and honest people like you to share and make them feel normal. Thank you.
Wow, thank you so much for your honesty and your boldness to stand in front of so many people to talk about infertility. It is a great area of need that often goes unmet – especially in ministry. The Lord just continues to bless my journey and through it all I am finding that my experience can positively impact others who are struggling. I never knew this growing up, but now I see how it all is unfolding and it just reminds me of how vast His knowledge and love truly is. Blessings to you and your wife through all of this!