Learning I Was Infertile Gave Me Baby Fever
I was a few months into my marriage when my endocrinologist told me that my chances of ever getting pregnant were slim to none. After reviewing blood tests, my medical history and an ultrasound in my cervix and uterus as part of a checkup for my autoimmune disease, he told me the likelihood of my infertility was 90 percent. “Many women who suffer from your autoimmune disease also have infertility, and based on what I see here, you have it, too. There’s always IVF if you want to discuss it more,” he told me, as he swiveled in his maroon leather chair in his tiny Midtown office.
I thanked him for being so blunt about it, and immediately retorted back that I had no plans of being a mother. Some people have always had lavish fantasies of becoming a parent, but I’d never been one of them.
My doctor raised his eyebrow. “Who will take care of you when you’re old?” This is a question I’ve been asked ever since I first got married, and I had my answer finessed. I looked directly into his patronizing eyes, and simply said I’d hire someone to take care of me or my husband, should we not have the ability to care for ourselves one day. I explained to him if I’m not going to have a child, I will focus the hell out of my career and make sure I can sustain myself into my golden years.
He started to explain my autoimmune disease to me in medical jargon, as if I were an idiot. I probably had a dumbfounded expression on my face, but it was because I was honestly just shocked to hear that I might never be able to bear children, even though I hadn't planned on doing so before. A feeling of broken-heartedness began to develop while I was still in his office, but I kept it to myself; I could only imagine what he would say to me if I shared it. Maybe he would cheekily respond with a chuckle, "I thought you never wanted kids?" I looked down and clenched my fists. I wanted to mourn a loss, and it was difficult for me to remain focused on what my doctor was saying, when I had only thoughts of failure pervading in my mind.
Infertility is very common — according to the CDC, 6.7 million women in the US (about 11 percent of the female population) are unable to birth children, and 25 percent of couples also have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility — and I’ve always had an inkling that I am infertile (i.e. irregular periods to nonexistent cycles) and possibly just not inclined (i.e. sheer annoyance when babies wailed in public places). But hearing it from him was different.
My doctor shook his head and continued showing me the results of my sonogram. I had another nodule in my neck, but it wouldn’t need a biopsy this time. Ever since I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disease that affects one percent of the population, my life has changed completely. I used to be strong and able to carry a heapful of boxes or groceries; but now I push around a granny cart full of produce and easily run out of breath doing menial tasks. I used to teach yoga and Pilates, but can’t anymore since I can barely move these days. I am on a myriad of beta blockers, high blood pressure and thyroid medicine, and am constantly in a brain fog.
When my doctor explained to me my low chances of getting pregnant, I was a little heartbroken. Though I had never thought I wanted children, I found that my ego could not handle the fact that I could not bear children. I became obsessed over how that privilege was taken away from me because of my health. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine having a child when I can barely carry my own groceries from the bodega to my apartment a few blocks away.
But despite these mixed feelings, the next thing I knew, I had ultimate baby fever. It crept up slowly, first with me envisioning what my future kids could look like. I then began scouring Pinterest and finding mommy blogs until finally, babies were all I ever thought about. I was soon regularly spending hours researching about childbirth and parenting. I even asked my best friend, a birth doula, thousands of questions about the birth process and listened intently to everything she said.
I reminisced about the early days, before my husband and I were married; I never thought about having children until I met him. Back when we were dating, we always flip-flopped between wanting and not wanting to have kids. Realizing he would be an incredible father made me seriously consider it, despite the fact that I've never felt a maternal bone in my body (aside from what I feel towards my cats).
What my doctor said wasn’t truly shocking to me because he was reasserting something I’d already known, deep down. But while I had never wanted to become a mother, when I was told I couldn’t have tiny versions of myself, I suddenly wanted it more than anything else in the world.
I started reading mommy blogs and wondering what kind of mom clique I would belong to if I ever had children. Would I be just as an outcast, as I had been when I was a child? Or would I be a "cool mom," and lead mommy book clubs and stroller walks around the neighborhood? I wondered what it was like to take a prenatal yoga class, or how easy it would be to get a seat on a crowded train. I devoured the new information I found and excitedly told my husband all about it. I could see the sadness in his face and realized he wanted a child as badly as I did. He asked me if we couldn’t get pregnant whether I would ever want to adopt, but I just don’t see myself as an adoptive parent. Sometimes, despite my baby fever, I don’t see myself as a parent at all.
One of the symptoms of my disease is irritability and feeling irrational, which I feel like I've definitely experienced through these past few months. I went from never wanting kids to definitely wanting them, and now I'm in this strange in-between of not knowing whether I do or if it could even happen.
I've decided that if I ever do miraculously get pregnant, I will love that child more than anything else. But my husband and I are definitely not trying by any means. And if what my doctor told me (and my intuition has always told me) is correct, I still could be completely happy being childless, like I'd always envisioned for my life. I have true wanderlust and feel connected to random places around the world with a strange nostalgia, as if I’d been there before. I want to visit developing countries and develop reading programs for their children. I want to sleep in the mountains and watch the Northern Lights dance in the sky. There are so many things I could do without children, but right now I’m perfectly content with where I am in my life, child or no child.
Image: Pixabay (3)