I was only 25 years old when I found out my chances of conception were quickly dwindling. Totally single — and having previously thought I had all the time in the world — I immediately assessed any and all options to combat what was happening in my body. By 27, I had two failed IVF cycles under my belt, five surgeries, and the knowledge that I would likely never conceive.
I would never get the chance to “try” with someone I loved.
As someone who writes frequently about infertility, I tend to get a lot of emails from women in varying stages of treatments that have questions about their own journeys. I try to help when I can, and to point them in the direction of appropriate resources when I can’t. But recently, one such email brought me to my knees.
The woman writing was divorcing, and had questions about how the clinic would handle her remaining embryos. She expressed frustration to even be dealing with this at all, basically telling me it wasn’t fair because “he’s the one that’s broken.”
She was justifiably angry and hurt, lashing out as a result of frayed nerves and emotions. But that one line — it cut me.
“The one that’s broken.”
Now in my early 30s and the adoptive mother of a pretty phenomenal little girl, I like to think I am at a healthy and resolved place when it comes to my infertility. But then I think about dating, about finally trying to find a partner in this life, and I still struggle with feeling as though I am somehow “less than” because of my inability to conceive.
Because I’m the one that’s broken.
On a logical level, I know there is much more to who I am than my infertility. My friends shower me with encouragement that the right man won’t care about my empty womb. But then I think about the kind of man I want, the kind who loves kids and wants a house full of them one day. And I feel like it isn’t fair to ask that man to give up on his dreams of a biological child, just because I’m … broken. Particularly when there are so many women to choose from who have more to offer in the reproductive realm.
And so, it holds me back. Even when I know it shouldn’t.
I’ve had the conversation a handful of times now, with men I’ve dated to varying degrees, and they’ve all handled the news of my infertility incredibly well. Not one has made me feel “less than” because I can’t conceive. And never once have I been led to believe it was a deal breaker. Despite these assurances, it’s hard for me to imagine being the reason someone else might not be able to have a biological child.
Now, as an adoptive mother, I know in my heart that there is very little to biology — that I couldn’t possibly love my girl more, even if I had carried her beneath my heart for those nine months. But I also know there was a long period of mourning for me before she came into my life. A lot of grief that surrounded never being able to carry a child.
A part of me that still, even now, will probably always look at pregnant bellies with a bit of envy.
So I think it’s fair that any man who ends up with me might also experience the same level of grief. Even if he does eventually come to realize that adoption is also right for him, and even if we do fill our home with children brought to us through other means, there could still be moments, even years down the line, of wondering, “What if?”
I’ll express these concerns every now and again, and everyone is always quick to brush them aside. To remind me that I have so much to offer, and that the right man would never think of me as broken.
But then there it was, in writing for me to soak in completely — a woman who loved and married a man, but who still thought of him as broken because he couldn’t naturally give her a child.
“He’s the one that’s broken.”
I’m the one that’s broken.
I don’t think I will ever fully get over my inability to conceive. And while I would tell any other woman being so hard on herself that she was wrong, and that her infertility would never define her — I still can’t help but feel it about myself.
It’s funny how cruel we can sometimes be to ourselves.
But I don’t want that. I’m happy with my life now, more in love with my daughter than I ever imagined possible. I would go through those years of heartache and pain again and again, as long as I knew they would always lead me back to her.
So why isn’t it possible for me to believe a man could come along who would feel exactly the same about us? A man who wouldn’t see giving up on a biological child as a sacrifice at all?
I would like to believe he’s out there. I may just need to convince myself I’m not “the one who’s broken” first.More On