Recently, I read an article by Whitney Millard called Create Something Beautiful with Your Disappointment, and I was so moved by it, I really wanted to share it with you, especially if you are someone who is dealing with infertility.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose finite hope.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
“You have to get out the whining,” my writing teacher told me, peering over a section of manuscript that dripped with self-loathing and pity. I swear I watched the words “Barren, empty, hollow shell…” fall flat to the floor and make the saddest plopping noise.
Those words haunted me for years; they still do sometimes when I get a baby shower invitation or walk by miniature sneakers at the GAP. Miniature sneakers dwell in the most emotional-scar-tissue-filled regions of my heart.
When I was twelve years old I learned that I would never be able to have children of my own. Thanks to a rare-ish genetic mutation of the second X chromosome, I had what the doctors labeled “premature ovarian failure” due to Turner Syndrome.
Turner girls may see all sorts of symptoms that range from barely noticeable to potentially fatal (though fortunately, that’s pretty infrequent).
Learning this was the result of many tests to figure out why I only came up to the seven-year-old line on the growth chart, or maybe why I hadn’t started my menstrual cycle, or had chronic ear infections, or excessive beauty marks—all tell tale symptoms.
When you’re twelve, having children is the furthest thing from your mind. Hover crafts and teleporting might be more of a reality than having actual human beings you are responsible for, with needs and desires and opinions all their own.
I wasn’t sad then that I wouldn’t be able to have kids. I thought by the time I actually wanted them (in twenty-plus years, jeez; I would be established and have my stuff together first, of course) medicine would be so amazing I could do whatever I wanted.
I was only worried that it would be embarrassing. I worried about what my friends would think. I worried that it meant I would die young. There were so many questions about who I was and what this thing meant for me, and the most dangerous question, why?
But I didn’t think much about the kids. I went back to Power Rangers and chocolate milk and crushing on the boy from science class.
Still, I grew up with this often ignored but deep-seated idea that I was missing something. I was missing something so big and so natural, something that just happened to tons to women when they didn’t even want it, something that was key to your identity as a person.
Reproduction is essential to the survival of a species. I was a good student; I paid attention. I knew about survival of the fittest, and I knew that didn’t mean me. So something in me never sat right. It was a feeling that was all elbows and knees, poking me just when I forgot.
Maybe I was being punished? Maybe I did something really terrible in a former life? How was I ever going to tell a man I loved that I’d never be able to have his children? Worse yet, how was I ever going to tell his mother?
I let this ruin several relationships and finally, after way too long, I knew I had to do what I had always done when I couldn’t deal with something. I had to write about it.
In getting it out of me—this sinking, sad feeling of intense and immeasurable loss—I could see it, know it. The not knowing is always the worst part.
The loss of something that never was and never will be isn’t like losing something you’ve held in your hands. It becomes mythology, the stuff of legend. It grows into this wild story without flaws or grievances or any of the complicated things that make the real so special.
It’s daydreamed and fantasized and holds no imperfection when it exists only in your memory, not like concrete loss that is nuanced and delicate and closer to a jabbing pain than a slow smoldering burn that won’t extinguish.
It requires special practice to heal from, whether it’s surrendering a dream you’ve worked long and hard toward, giving up a relationship that will never be what you would like it to be, or accepting seemingly unfair limitations you have no control over. The lack of choice is the saddest thing in my opinion.
About Whitney Millard
Whitney Millard is a writer in Los Angeles attempting to make sense of this crazy world and its wonderful people. She recently launched http://www.whittywords.com/ to have a place to put down her (perhaps too many) thoughts and feelings. You can usually find her at the theatre, bookstore, or any place serving potstickers and boba tea.