Anyone else remember those quizzes in the teen magazines that would tell you your style or perfect boyfriend or predict your future? Those silly little time wasters that me and my tween friends would read aloud to each other at sleepovers that would someday morph into the weird alcove of the internet: Buzzfeed quizzes. I remember a common question they all asked back then was, What is your biggest fear? And while my friends would squirm and laugh about fears of spiders and closed in spaces, my go-to answer was always firmly, infertility. Well, now as a full grown adult, well into my 30s, I can say for certain, I am living my adolescent nightmares.
I’m not exactly sure why not being able to have children was fear of mine, or the reasons behind parenthood being such a huge aspect of my burgeoning aspirations. But I have always wanted to raise children. Now that I’m at the age to start a family, in a stable marriage with a supportive husband, and while everyone around me is announcing their second and third pregnancies, I’m just not able to do it.
I had expected that this realization of infertility would be more heartbreaking for me. But honestly? I can’t pinpoint how I feel about it. I mean, I definitely do not feel good about it, but all the emotional turmoil I thought would accompany it just hasn’t happened yet. I’m stuck in a limbo of meh, feeling barely anything but short pangs of longing when I see another pregnancy announcement and the occasional bitterness I swallow when I see someone complaining about parenthood.
Maybe it’s because I already mourned a lot of my youthful aspirations a while ago, and now I just have a knack for it. I wanted to be a writer, an artist, a musician, and an actress. I wanted to be a chef, a baker, and a business owner. And then I got sick. My teenage years ended with a general malaise and the beginnings of intense unnamed pain that got so intense that by my second semester of University, I had to drop out. I went back to school a year later, feeling somewhat better, but then I fell ill again. This time with a diagnosis of mono that to this day, I still don’t know how I got. I tried to rest and take the time to get better, but four months later, my blood tests came back the same. So, I struggled through the rest of my undergrad degree, with months on end where getting out of bed was almost impossible. Eventually, I got a second diagnosis: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. A condition that causes wide-spread pain, intense fatigue and exhaustion, and it explained the inability to move, or eat, or take care of myself. Fibromyalgia was added to the mix, and along with it, leg weakness, and body tremors. I had to stop working, and now I use a wheelchair to get around. I never did get to become any of those dreams and so it makes sense that after all of that, motherhood would be the next dream I would find myself sacrificing.
And of course I am sad, but also, I suppose I just understand that adding a child to our family would make our already complicated life far more tangled. Maybe that understanding has softened the blow for me. So, the anger and sorrow I had expected is just diminished?
Perhaps it’s just that I have had to renvision my life so many times already. The anger and sorrow has been spread out over a decade and a half of different blows to my ambitions. And now with this most recent one, I’m meeting it not with anger or sorrow, but with tiredness. My body is fatigued, so it makes sense that my emotional responses would be fatigued as well. And in ways. I feel like this exhaustion is almost worse than despair.
Mother’s Day is still a sore spot. I tend to ignore it since I am not a mother and also no longer have a mother. Unless you count being a dog mom, which I absolutely completely do. I also know it’s a little different. But that’s how I have chosen to cope with my feelings about my infertility for now. I am the mom of a beautiful border collie/australian shepard mix named Sapphire. We call her our dogter, and spoil her daily. People poke fun at others who treat their pets like they are their children, but the moment I adopted the dog mom title, I felt a little glimmer of joy. It honestly does help to cope with the emotions that infertility can bring.
I also know that I still have time to explore other medical fertility options and I shouldn’t just completely shelf the idea of parenthood. There’s adoption and fostering and just being a really cool aunt to my nephews. But I do have to work within the constraints of my circumstances. And unfortunately being disabled comes with poverty, and with poverty and limited physical ability, those options do begin to narrow. So, I’m preparing for the worst case scenario. I’m finding joy in all the places of my life where things just didn’t work out. Motherhood is no different, and if all else fails, there’s always more dogs.