I still remember that phone call from the doctor like it happened yesterday, even though it happened 5 years ago. I was at a stoplight, on my way to my cousin's marching band performance, when the doctor called, so cold and unfeeling on the phone. I held it together until she hung up and then I couldn't anymore and my whole self was wracked with sobs. I even still remember the old man in the car next to me, watching me and mouthing the words, "Are you ok?" No. Premature Ovarian Failure. (POF) I was 23. It's like going through menopause. At 23. POF is a condition that quite literally causes your ovaries to fail and no longer work. I don't have any viable eggs. I have a less than 5% chance of becoming pregnant on my own. Without hormone replacement therapy, I experience all of the symptoms of menopause.
That first night, my mother drove 45 minutes to my apartment and slept in my bed with me. Because I couldn't stop crying. I felt like a failure. I felt like I couldn't do something that women are supposed to be able to do. I felt like an old woman in a 23 year old's body. I felt like no one would ever love me. I felt like I failed my mother out of having grand babies. I identified myself by my ability to have babies because I was a woman, and my entire identity got taken away. I didn't just lose my womanhood. I lost my Catholic faith, a faith I thought was so strong, and that I held near and dear to my heart for my entire 23 years of existence. I thought if anything horrible ever happened to me, I could just offer it up to God and I would be ok. I would be strong. Except when it happened to me, I wasn't. I could blame no one but God. I hated God. I would go to adoration and scream fuck you fuck you fuck you in my head as loud as I could. I hated mass. I have come to loathe the saying "It must just be God's will for your life."
I also lost a few friends, friends who were pregnant and having babies at the same time I was trying to wrap my head around having POF. I couldn't be around them. I couldn't congratulate them. I had to quit Facebook for 6 months so I wouldn't see their bellies or their babies. It wasn't their fault. We lost touch. I hated God and pregnant people and babies and myself for failing at something I was supposed to be able to do. They gave me anti-depressants. It's normal, the doctor said, as she pushed the box of Kleenex towards me, to sink into a depression after something like this happens to you. I tried to go to my friend's baby shower. My mother came with me. I held it together until they played a game where my friend exposed her belly, and all of the guests were to write sweet messages for the baby on her belly. I had a panic attack in the bathroom. My mom had to explain to everyone that we had to leave, and shuffle me out the door. She told my then boyfriend, my now husband, that I was never allowed to go to a baby shower again.
I hated baby showers. I hated happy people with families with stick figure babies on the back windshields of their cars. I hated people who told me that once I adopted a kid I would probably end up pregnant, because that happened to their friend's sister's mother's niece. I freaked out before my wedding because I did not want kids to come, and two kids were coming. I did not want kids to come, but not for the reasons most people expect. I cried to my poor future husband, that I did not want to have to look at kids on my own wedding day when I knew we'd never have any of our own. I didn't want anyone asking me that question or making those nonchalant remarks because it killed me inside every time. "So... when are you guys planning on kids? Just wait until you have kids. You won't be able to do that when those kids come. Pregnant yet? Have your parents been bugging you about grandkids?" I could go on.
I am lucky I am married to such a man, who loves me for more than my ovaries, and answers that goddamned question for me every time someone brings it up. He willingly listens when I rant about how ugly stick families are on the back of windshields, or when I cry in his arms on Mother's Day because I will never be a mother to my own biological child. If we ever want to have a baby, we will have to get an egg donor because I don't have any eggs. So I have to think about how our baby will really be my husband's baby with another woman, how our baby might have his smile and his eyes, but nothing from me. We'll never meet OUR kids, and we'll never know what our love is capable of, and I'll always have to wonder if our baby would have had my cheekbones, or my smile, or if she would leave her shoes all over the floor just like I do. But I'll never know, because it's like someone who never even existed has died, and I'm still mourning that loss, of that person who never even existed. “I am in pain someone just died. Who you say? Someone who never was.I am infertile. My period just came. I hurt so much.My own body keeps reminding me that I am incomplete. I don’t function properly. Why? Why? Why? Oh my baby, Why can’t you be?” -Anonymous