A Different Kind of Infertility Story
“So, you mean you don’t have any kids of your own?”..This question is usually accompanied by a surprised or condescending tone of voice. And then usually followed up with something trite such as, “Well at least you have 3 stepkids!”, or “Want to watch mine sometime?..Haha!”, or the worst, “So what do you do with all of your time?!” (I keep plenty busy, thank you very much.)
Let me explain. I was born with a heart condition known as Transposition of the Great Arteries. It means that my pulmonary artery and my aorta are switched around. It changes the way blood circulates throughout the body, and leaves a shortage of oxygen in the blood. It was discovered 3 days after I was born and turned blue one night while my mom was feeding me. I had my first open heart surgery at 4 days old, my second surgery the next day, and my “big” surgery (where they opened up my chest and re routed the vessels and arteries in my heart) when I was 11 months old. I had a pacemaker implanted when I was 19 and have had that redone twice. If you would meet me, you’d think I was pretty normal and healthy until you saw the big scars across my chest. (And you’d notice them too; I’m not shy about wearing a tank top or a swimsuit.) Having TGA isn’t easy. I have to think about it every time I workout and make sure my heart isn’t beating too fast, every time I get sick (Any sort of flu like symptoms could put me in the hospital if I’m not careful) and every time I weigh myself as my doctor doesn’t want me getting too heavy. (And you thought you had it rough just hoping you’d fit into your favorite pair of jeans!)
All of that is easy compared to the way TGA has impacted my life the most. I can’t have kids. I’ve kind of known about this all my life. (Thanks for all those safe sex lectures, Mom!) Being pregnant would be too hard on my heart. When I was 21, I had my tubes tied. I know a lot of people thought my mom was crazy for letting me go through with it, but I’m glad she did. After that, I had a lot of female problems and got a hysterectomy at age 29. While in the operating room, the surgeon found varicose veins behind my uterus. If I had taken the chance and gotten pregnant, the pressure on those veins would have been too much. I probably wouldn’t have survived (Thank you Mayo Clinic!) .
I always assumed I’d get married and either adopt kids or have them through a surrogate. When I was 28, I married a man who had 3 kids from his first marriage. Being a stepmom was challenging, and I was starting to have “baby fever” and wishing for one of my own. After my hysterectomy, I got depressed. Like, really depressed. I was turning 30, most of my friends were pregnant or had small kids, and I had just had a hysterectomy. I’m sad to say, I started taking it all out on my husband who definitely wondered what had happened to his normally happy and content wife. I finally went to my doctor and asked about antidepressants. She said that with the changes in my body and the circumstances, she didn’t feel the medicine was warranted. She explained that even women with 5 babies grieve after a hysterectomy because of the changes in your body. She also suggested (much to my husband’s dismay) that I get a dog or another pet so I had something to nurture. Being an animal lover, I was thrilled that a doctor told me I needed a pet! On Christmas morning, my dear husband surprised me with an adorable Shiba Inu puppy who has provided a lot of love and has been known to drive me crazy from time to time.
We looked into adoption and I wanted try surrogacy, but my husband wasn’t as easily convinced. Plus, have you looked at the costs for that stuff? Wow- I’d have to give up shopping and eating if I wanted to save up that much $$! (Neither of those will be happening!) And, as my stepkids grew older, I found myself enjoying them at their respective ages and questioning whether I’d want to have a little kid again. I didn’t love the idea of diapers, car seats, and being woken up in the middle of the night to soothe a baby.
I can’t pinpoint the exact date or time that I decided I wouldn’t be having children. I know it was sometime between my 34th and 35th birthday. Maybe it was when my oldest stepdaughter turned 18 and was getting ready to graduate and go to college. Maybe it was when we bought a Harley and I realized having a baby would mean we couldn’t go on trips as easily. Whatever it was, I had always assumed if I didn’t have children by age 35, it wouldn’t bother me as much because most of my friends would be done having babies. I figured as I got older, I’d feel more “ready” and be pushing toward adoption or surrogacy. But then I turned 34 and didn’t feel the urge as strongly as I’d felt before. I was happy with my life as it was and didn’t feel the need to change it.
Do I ever feel sad about not having a kid of my own? Not as much as I thought I would. I have a pretty great life. I have 3 stepkids and I’m fortunate to be involved in their lives and even have a good relationship with my husband’s ex . I have an awesome husband who loves me like crazy and is always up for a spontaneous date night. People ask me all the time if we are going to have more kids or if I regret not having any. I really don’t. Once in awhile, I wonder about “what if?”. Sometimes when I hold a friend’s baby, I think it would be fun to have one to snuggle. Sometimes my dog wakes me up at 3:30 AM and I’m glad I don’t have a baby to wake me up!
If you are reading this and you want to have kids, by all means, go for it! If you don’t want to have kids, then don’t. And if you’re not sure, that’s ok too! It’s a personal decision and it’s a bigger decision than some people make it out to be. But know this; having kids or not having kids doesn’t make you any less of a woman. I hate the idea that we have to procreate to earn our “woman card” or not to be looked down upon. (That’s a whole ‘nother blog post!) What matters is that you’re a good person and that you’re happy with your life- however you choose to live it.