The F Word
I have written, deleted, and re-written this first paragraph several times now and the feelings of apprehension and uncertainty still haven’t left.
This is when I accept those feelings probably won’t subside anytime soon, and I am not going to make a poor attempt at self deprecating humour to try and lighten the mood, so here goes.
The F word………
It’s unavoidable and it’s everywhere. I’m talking about fertility, mine in particular, and this is normally a topic I like to avoid altogether. It’s not that fertility is a shameful subject that’s shrouded in secrecy for me, quite the contrary.
Here’s what wikipedia has to say about fertility:
“Fertility is the natural capability to produce offspring.”
It sounds straightforward and uncomplicated when it’s explained in the dictionary, and for a lot of women it is that simple. But personally, I’ve found that once I reached a certain age the word ‘fertility’ suddenly became the dreaded “F” word. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this occurred, all I know is I dread it being brought up in conversations and I don’t like the way it makes me feel about myself.
To clarify, I am not trying to get pregnant at the moment. Do I want to be a mum? Yes I do and I think I’d make a good mum one day.
But this is where the black and white in my life really gets blurry.
Let me explain, I am turning 34 in July and according to statistics that’s when a woman’s fertility really takes a big hit, and from there things start to decline rapidly. I am often alerted to and reminded of this brilliant bitch face of a factoid by friends, family, and total strangers who feel obliged to let me know – spoiler alert, I am very much aware of my fertility odds and don’t need reminding. I know that 9 out of 10 people are well meaning and are not aware of the can of emotional worms they are opening up inside of me at the time. I try to tell myself this every time I feel backed into a corner, having to come up with polite ways to fend off what feels like a million questions pertaining to the ‘F’ word.
“Jessie, why haven’t you and Adam had kids yet?”
“What’s wrong with you? Why haven’t you started a family yet?”
“You do realise you’re running out of time don’t you Jess?”
“Hurry up and make babies already!”
“Don’t you want to be a mum?”
Even typing this I can feel my chest getting tighter and my face getting hot.
The honest truth is that I find it so insensitive and intrusive when people feel that it’s completely appropriate to ask me such personal questions. This is where I struggle because I can excuse someone who doesn’t know me personally, the battles I’ve had with my health and the impact these struggles have had in all aspects of my personal and professional life as a result. They get a pass card because they are completely clueless and don’t know any better. But it’s harder when it comes from a friend or family member because they do know better, or at least they should. I would never dream of asking another woman about her choices regarding pregnancy and her fertility. My rule is that unless a person brings it up themselves it’s none of my business. I know that to a lot of people I will be labelled as being ‘over sensitive’ and perhaps they are right. But I cannot change the way I feel.
I’ve had three very long and complicated surgeries for advanced endometriosis where my female reproductive organs, bowel, bladder, and pouch of douglas (what the hell even is that?!) were covered in chocolate cysts and endometrial tissue growing everywhere. My third surgery involved having to remove cobweb like scar tissue which had completely covered the earlier sites of removal. This caused part of my bowel to flip and attach itself to my left ovary and abdomen wall. Endometriosis isn’t something that goes away, so you have to adapt and create a lifestyle that helps you manage the pain and symptoms as well as possible.
So I have been doing just that, ‘managing’ as best I can and I’m not going to lie, there have been many times over the last few years that I could’ve managed better in hindsight.
Living abroad the past four years has been incredible but the constant organising, packing, moving and unpacking does take its toll on my health. In the last 4 years I have moved my partner and I to Tokyo, Brisbane, back to Tokyo, to Melbourne, back to Tokyo and now New Zealand (currently standing by for the next move somewhere tbc)
My partner Adam and I will have been together six years this October and we have had our share of challenging times that have tested us big time! Haha
But oh my goodness I do love him and thank my lucky stars that I found someone equally – if not more weird than me to do life with.
Adam never gets bombarded with questions about his fertility or when he’s going to have kids. Nope, he has a penis and apparently zero expiration date on his swimmers. Sure his sperm count might decline a little as he ages but his ability to play ‘his part’ in reproducing means he has all the time and not a care in the world. Lucky bastard.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, that I sound a little bit bitter right? Maybe deep down I am a bit, I honestly don’t see how mother nature thought this one through properly. Giving me a body that comes with a ticking time bomb in and amongst my lady parts, that seems to tick louder and louder as each year passes, is kind of a dick move if you ask me.
Why did she decide that a woman in her mid twenties gets the best odds of becoming pregnant over a woman in her mid to late thirties? In my twenties I was busy discovering myself, figuring shit out, stuffing up, and shunning common sense in favour of impulsive adventures. Since turning thirty I have started to grow into my birthday suit and it fits a lot better. I can’t say I’m a grown up because that concept is still something I associate my parents with. They are the grown ups and I am just ‘adulting’ a lot more these days than when I was in my twenties.
My point being, I was definitely not ready to be a parent in my twenties. I was far too reckless, selfish and insecure. But, now at 33 after being in a stable relationship for almost six years with a person I can see myself continuing to build a life with, I feel a lot more confident in my ability to pull motherhood off. Don’t get me wrong, I know so many women who became mothers in their twenties and are like superheroes the way they manage to juggle all that parenting throws at them. Some women choose to become young mums, whereas for others it was unplanned. Yet regardless of how they arrived at motherhood they all do the very best they can and I will forever be in awe. Being a mum is easy they say, but being a good mum is the most selfless act of love a woman can make in my humble opinion.
So, as I’m about to take my 34th trip around the sun I am making a promise to myself that I will no longer avoid the ‘F’ word, it’s time for me to front up and make an appointment with a fertility specialist. Ignorance is not bliss in this particular case, and I need to find out what the deal is with my lady bits so that I can start making some informed decisions.
Perhaps I will discover I have already waited too long and that is something I will just have to deal with and learn to accept if it happens.
The word ‘Fertility’ for me has been one associated with ‘Fear’ and ‘Failure’ for so long now, and I refuse to allow myself to continue to feel this way anymore.
As much as I have felt hurt, offended, mad, or frustrated at someone asking me about my fertility in the past I must acknowledge that a lot of those feelings stemmed from self guilt. The guilt of choosing to continue to ignore my body, my set of unique circumstances surrounding my health, and just being too afraid to find out incase the results were really bleak.
But either way, I owe it to myself and my partner Adam to find out one way or another what our options are moving forward. What better gift to give myself than the ability to take control of my fears, face them head on, and get the answers to the questions I’ve been fearfully avoiding for too long.
Knowledge is power ladies!
A gentle word of advice to those reading this, you never know what another woman might be going through in her own personal life. Please, next time you feel yourself wanting to blurt out a question relating to her fertility, or making a joke about her childbearing years getting close to expiring, stop yourself. Unless she brings it up herself, consider it something that is personal and off bounds.
To any of my fellow ovary goddesses out there struggling with fertility related issues of your own, you are so NOT alone. Please feel free to reach out to me via instagram, facebook or comment below – you can DM me if you don’t want it public. I’m a firm believer in women empowering women. So any tips you may have regarding specialists, clinics, alternative therapies etc. Please feel free to share with us.
I will keep you all updated on my progress, wish me luck!
Lots of love,