I never imagined I’d share this story with you. It’s one I’ve been trying to write for years and I’m still not sure I’ve found the right words. I’m not sharing this for pity or sympathy, nor am I looking for attention or advice. I’m finally hitting publish because I’ve come to realise how common and relatable this experience is for women the world over. If my words can help even one person feel less ashamed, it’ll be worth it.
When I was sixteen, my period failed to arrive and my mother booked me in for a specialist appointment. I hate to admit it now, but I was secretly proud of my flat chest and lack of hips. It meant that I didn’t need to wear a bra under my bodysuit and my figure was starting to resemble that of the ballerinas I admired. I practiced harder and longer and wore my boyish shape like a badge of honour, thinking that maybe I was one step closer to pursuing dance as a viable career.
As it turns out, things weren’t okay and I left the doctor’s office with an entirely new perspective and a pile of pills.
I’ve had 15 years to come to terms with my infertility and in some ways, I feel lucky. Many women my age struggle to get pregnant or go through miscarriages and I imagine it feels like your world is caving in. Hearing that your body is not doing what it is ‘supposed’ to do is confronting at any age, but it’s even harder when you’ve spent your whole life picturing yourself as a mother.
Still, when someone asks Nick and I when we’re going to start having kids, I always catch myself inhaling sharply and trying to come up with something clever to say. It’s a question I’ve always found to be deeply inappropriate and hurtful, but for some reason, many people still think it’s okay to ask. Should I smile and shrug it off? Should I answer honestly and worry I’ve made the other person uncomfortable or worse, feel sorry for us? Not only is it completely unacceptable to ask women about baby plans, it’s equally frustrating when people’s minds immediately jump to that conclusion whenever a woman says she has exciting news.
That’s not to say we’ll never have kids. Modern medicine is incredible and there are a myriad of ways to conceive, but many of these methods are emotionally, physically and financially draining. We’ve had years to consider all the options and to decide whether parenthood is the right path for us. I don’t think even we know yet.
Being faced with infertility at a young age, I’ve explored other sides of myself and imagined what life could look like both with and without children. I’ve talked to new mothers who felt like it was the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Conversely, I’ve met women who have felt distant and detached from their babies. I know couples who have adopted and others who have lived incredibly full lives without children. I’ve tried to develop an objective outlook on something that to some feels like a guarantee.
As women, we’re systemically taught to feel ashamed of our bodies, the same bodies that do so much for us. There’s also a lot of judgment surrounding sharing your story, we’re instructed that we should keep these things private. But if we ever want to escape the highlight reel that is engagements, new homes, weddings and babies (…and ticking all of society’s carefully laid out boxes) it’s probably time we opened up. By keeping this to myself (which I’ve done for many years) I’m only contributing to the stigmatism and belief that it SHOULD be kept a secret and hidden.
One story has the power to connect us; to make us feel less alone. Some of the women I love following online (like Eat Sleep Wear) have shared their own experiences with infertility and given me the confidence to share my own.
If you or someone you love is dealing with infertility, I wish I could reach out and give you a big hug. I know it’s one of the most difficult things to go through, but it’s important to remember you’re not alone. If you ever want to talk, I’m here.