I wasn’t supposed to be an only child. My parents wanted more kids, but after a miscarriage and a horrific stillbirth that almost destroyed my mother, she came to the realization that “God only gives you what you can handle.”
Photo via Emmalee Nother
I still find it hard to tell people that I’m an only child, because I don’t believe I am. When my mom had the stillbirth, I was five years old—so I understood that she was pregnant, but I didn’t fully understand the lasting impact it would have on her emotional and mental health. I knew my mom was pregnant, I knew she went to give birth, but no baby came home. I was told I had a sister, but she was in heaven now. My dad, the strongest man I will ever know, supported my mom through every emotion physically possible. He took care of the paperwork and the burial arrangements, as my mom did not have the emotional or physical strength. My dad stayed by my mom’s side and listened to her, supported her, and loved her more than ever before. My mom knew that traumatic experiences like this could tear marriages apart. But the strength of my dad and knowing I was at home waiting for her—that got her though it all. While in the hospital, my mom felt angry. What did she do in life to deserve THIS? The nurse told her, “Oh don’t worry. You’ll be back here in nine months!” It was the last thing my mom wanted to hear and she swore that because of what that nurse said, she wouldn’t have another child.
My mom had me when she was 32. My parents had been trying to have kids since she was married at 23—but to no avail. Ironically, my grandmother also had my mother at 32. So the joke was I would have my first child at 32 to carry on tradition.
And here I am, 33 and childless.
In part, this has to do with me not yet having a male partner that I want to raise a child with, although I know that shouldn’t stop me. But the other part? I may never actually be able to conceive or carry a baby.
On my 32nd birthday, I decided it was time to look into freezing my eggs. I didn’t know if I would find a man before my childbearing years were over and I knew I wanted the option of having children. My life has always been career first, relationships second. As I got to a stable place in my career, I started thinking about a husband and kids. But it’s not easy, ladies—the pickings are real slim out there.
After talking to my doctor and asking her for advice, she gave me a full gynecological exam. She told me that I may not have a “hospitable uterus for childbearing”—a half-assed way of saying my uterus probably won’t be able to support a baby. I was crushed. I came in worried I would never have the chance to have kids and I left hearing from a medical professional that I might not ever have biological kids of my own. It might be impossible for me to conceive.
As it turns out, I have polycystic ovary syndrome. I’ve lived with it my entire life and never knew until then. PCOS is a syndrome that can cause infertility in women. I always had heavy periods—painful to the point that a hospital visit was needed more than once—as well as hormonal imbalances and facial hair since I was young. I knew there were issues, but never had a label for it. I never imagined I’d hear, “You might not be able to have kids” when I was trying to do everything in my power to prevent a situation like that.
To add insult to injury, when I shared the news with some people, I heard charming things like, “Well you don’t have a husband, so you don’t have to worry!” or, “You don’t even have a boyfriend, so why worry about kids?” or my favourite: “Maybe you’ll marry a man who already has kids and it won’t matter that you can’t have kids.”
They all missed the point.
I want the option to have my own kids. My DNA. I don’t even need multiple children; just one will do. I loved being an only child, I would love to raise one myself. I know I don’t need a man to do this. I know I can do this myself, but I would prefer to raise a child with a loving father.
Knowing I might never have my own children is a burden I carry. I will never know for sure until the day comes where my future partner and I start trying. That’s difficult to live with. Excruciating, really. We are brought up in a society that tells women we aren’t fully a woman until we have stamped that “childbirth” stamp. What about those of us who may never be able to achieve that? Not by choice, but by nature? Are we less of a woman?
It’s emotional and frustrating for me to see pregnancy announcements come up on my social feeds. It’s difficult to watch my friends have kids and know that I may never have that option. It’s something I think about every day.
The beauty is that I saw my mother go through one of the toughest experiences of her life when it came to fertility. Knowing that she gave birth to me, and I have many of her qualities in me gives me the courage to know I can face whatever is thrown at me when it comes to my fertility.
And I know one thing is for sure. Whether I can have a child of my own or not, I am no less of a woman.
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