The Other F Word (Fertility)
From the time I was young, I cursed my uterus.
Cramps plagued me when I was trying to do rounds at the hospital, and blood would leak out of my tampons and onto my scrubs in the middle of a surgery. Seeking a way to escape my own womanhood, I discovered that I could take birth control pills daily and never get a period. Why hadn’t anyone ever told me this? After I uncovered this secret, I sent my uterus to a dark recess of some basement closet and didn’t bleed again for a decade. Every now and then, my uterus (I affectionately call it Yoni) would cry out for me, but I pretty much ignored her. I wasn’t a very good friend.
Around the time I turned thirty-four, I heard Yoni calling more consistently, beckoning like a siren bellowing out to sea.
She’d cry, “Lissa! Lissa! Don’t forget about me.”
And I’d shrug her off. “No, Yoni. I’m busy.”
She kept asking, “Aren’t we ever going to have a baby?”
I responded with my standard brush-off answer. “Not now, maybe tomorrow.”
So I’ve been chatting with my uterus lately …
As my thirty-fifth birthday loomed, I decided to bring it up with Matt, the commitment-phobic perpetual bachelor I had been dating for almost two years. But I wasn’t quite sure how to broach the topic. Do you say, “So I’ve been chatting with my uterus lately…” Or do you couch it in the awkward terms of biological clocks and such?
Now, mind you, I was never one of those women who had to be a mother. I was always a bit on the fence. I love children, and with the right guy, I could see myself having oodles of love to offer a child. But I didn’t see myself trying to wrangle some guy into fathering my child if he didn’t want to be a 50/50 parent. So it seemed a strange turn of events to find myself bringing it up. I guess I knew deep down that my beloved Matt would be a wonderful father, and I feared he would realize this when I was 42 and past my prime.
So I swallowed my pride and, heart beating fast, I broached the baby conversation. I have to give him credit. In spite of how shocked and blind-sided he felt, he heard me, validated me, and promised to give it some thought. I didn’t blame him for being surprised. After all, we had joked that we were the perfect couple. I was the twice-divorced girl who never needed to marry again, and he was the perpetual bachelor. But alas, things change.
I asked him to consider my question over the course of the next year — no pressure. I wasn’t attached to any answer, and I wouldn’t take it personally if he said no. But if, at the end of the year, he said no to having a baby with me, I wanted permission to take it off the table permanently. Not to judge anyone else’s choice, but personally, I just didn’t want to be a forty-something year-old woman making a test tube baby because I had delayed child-bearing too long.
Almost exactly a year to the date after that fateful day, Matt said yes.
I felt this rush of something — adrenaline, I guess — move through me, and I broke into a cold sweat.
I said, “Well okay then.” Matt’s face registered panic. Turns out he thought he’d have to do more convincing.
Almost as an afterthought, Matt asked awkwardly, “So, uh, should we get married, then?” No ring. No grand gestures. I agreed. We wanted our baby to know she was chosen.
Soon afterwards, I took my last birth control pill and invited Yoni out of the closet.
The next month, Matt and I said our vows in a private ceremony in Big Sur. We fantasized about creating a honeymoon baby, but thirteen days after our wedding, my period arrived, splendid in her red dress, leaving me curled up like the fetus I hoped I could create. In the throes of terrible cramps and faucets of blood pouring on my sheets, I cried, “Yoni! What are you doing?”
She said, “Ahhh…I’m back.”
To Yoni, I yelled, “No wonder I locked you up!” and to Matt, “Get me pregnant, NOW!”
Let’s just say it was a confusing, exhilarating, and surreal time. I know I’m not the only woman who feels this way about her fertility. For many of us, fertility can be a hot-button trigger. Sure, our bodies signal fertility readiness when we’re in eighth grade, but many of us aren’t emotionally ready until we’re pushing forty.
Not to question the Divine, but …
More and more, we delay even thinking about childbirth until our ticking biological clocks turn up the volume. In my opinion, something is seriously wrong with evolution. With advances in women’s rights, greater professional opportunities for women, and an epidemic of commitment-phobic guys, many of us simply aren’t ready to reproduce in our twenties, when we’re most fertile. And if you’re one of those women in your late thirties or forties who is still waiting for Mr. Right, you may be in tears by now. It’s just not fair. Why must women fit fertility into such a tight schedule? I mean, seriously. Not to question the Divine, but couldn’t we work on fixing this little kink in the system?
If your fertility elicits strong feelings, you’re not alone. Maybe you found yourself a young mom, long before you were ready, and now it’s time for you to spread your own wings. Maybe you put off childbearing in order to pursue your career, and now it’s too late. Maybe you got pregnant when you weren’t ready and chose to terminate the pregnancy. Maybe you got pregnant but lost your baby. Maybe you popped out your babies right on schedule, but you’re so caught up in being a mother that you’ve forgotten who you really are.
Regardless of your relationship with your own fertility, spend some time with yourself to get in touch with the quiet inner voice of your heart. Instead of second guessing your fertility decisions and yourself, listen to the guru that lies within you. Keep in mind that every decision we make informs who we are today. It’s easy to slide into feelings of regret, but how can we regret what made us who we are?