Childless Not by Choice – A Personal Journey

By: Elizabeth Johnston

As I sit here and think about where to begin to describe my childlessness and infertility it is so overwhelming.   As far as I can remember I have always dreamed of being a mom.  I never thought that being able to not have children would ever interfere with my life.  Boy was I wrong.  

When I was a teenager, doctors told me that I would probably never conceive a child.  I never really believed them.  Then one day I when I was about 18, I found out that I was already going through menopause and that I was definitely not able to conceive.  I was totally devastated.  When I told my parents, I wish that I had cancer because that is easier to describe.  How do you describe infertility?

I felt that I had been robbed and that the thieves took all of the important parts that made me a woman.   I used to compare myself as less of a woman because I could not conceive. I will never be able to have my own child and never be able to tell my parents that they would be grand-parents.  Why I am on this earth and what is my purpose?

Even though the doctors told me I would not be able to physically conceive a child, I never believed them.  Then one day I was so tired of the constant pain that I was having from my monthly period.  My monthly period turned into a minimum of 6 months and then I became very tired.  I went through many tests to determine what was causing this unusual bleeding. I had to have several blood transfusions, iron transfusions and a large amount of medication to help me feel better.  None of this had a lasting impact on my quality of life.  When my GYN stated they wanted to retest me, I said no I have had enough. I need to take out all of my physical parts.  My doctor and I had this conversation a year before this decision was made and I had enough.  

I will NEVER forget the day I called my GYN to tell them I would like to schedule a hysterectomy.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  The weekend before I went to the beach to think and pray.  I was at peace with my decision.   After talking with my GYN, she called me a few hours later to tell me that my surgery will be schedule in 2 weeks.  Wow!  Really, my doctor listened to me!! How exciting!  Maybe for the first time ever I will have my life back whatever that means.  At the same time, I felt very scared and frightened because this means that I will never physically give birth to my own child. I will never be able to carry the family name.  I felt less of a person and felt like I should have never been allowed to live like this.  Why would God cause this much pain to such a young person.  

August 3rd, 2003 I had my hysterectomy.  This was a very peaceful, frightening and exciting time in my life.  Have you ever felt uncertain and certain about a decision?  My mom was very supportive and she was more nervous than I was about the surgery.  However, I was unprepared for the emotional turmoil that I would be facing for the rest of my life.   Infertility, losing my female parts and questioning why I was even allowed to be on earth is something I face every day.  Did I mention that I was only 21 when I had my hysterectomy? Eleven years later I finally realize why I am here and I am at peace with my decision to improve my quality of life over quantity.   This was the day that made me realize I will never be a mom!  This is something I face every day. 

As I woke up from my surgery, I had some intense pain from the surgery.  I remember being in so much physical pain that I can never describe.  I was on morphine for a few days.  When I was on that medication, it made me hallucinate and in fact it made me very nasty.  Wait, that could have been the hormones talking since I was physically thrown into menopause.  

Even though I was told I was going through menopause, after having the surgery it immediately threw me into menopause.  Before the surgery I told myself that I would not use the hormones, once I had the surgery in changed in an instant. I was having severe hot flashes, severe mood swings and so much more.  It took almost a year to get my hormones correct.  However, my doctors have told me that long term it is not good to be on the medication because it can cause things like cancer.  

I had my surgery in August and I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster that I was going to be facing.  First, the feeling of permanently never being able to have a child sank upon me very quickly.  Other than the hormone issue, I felt so much better physically. I kept telling myself that is all that mattered was physically feeling better.  However, my emotions quickly sank in and my depression took over.  

I was very angry and bitter that people that did not take care of their kids were having kids and that I could not have them.  In fact, I started questioning God and faith because why would he allow kids to be brought into families that did not take care of them and not allow me to have kids.  I have always dreamed of having kids.  
My first Christmas after my surgery brought up emotions I was not prepared for and it turned the holidays into something I wanted to avoid. I quickly realized that most holidays are for kids.  I started turning down family and friend events because I wanted to avoid kids and pregnant people.   I remember the “kids” getting all the gifts and attention that it really upset me.  

I ended up going to counseling and she told me that I was going through PTSD. I thought really? That only impacts military people.  She said no you can have it too and it is normal because you went through an extremely traumatic experience.   

I think what really bothered me about all of this is that no one asked how I was doing after my surgery.  I felt that it really did not matter what I was feeling or that I even mattered because no one asked me how I was doing and how I was getting along after having such a major surgery that changed my life forever.  No one ever asked how are you?  Are you handling not being able to have kids?   I just felt invisible in a world that caters to kids.

I have learned that I am important and that I do matter but it took a lot of time for me to realize that.  Plus, even though it has been almost 12 years it still hurts and I still get angry because I can’t have kids.  However, I am trying to channel that energy into creating awareness about being childless not by choice.

Until my next post, thank you for reading my story about how I became childless not by choice.  I am making a difference by being a school teacher.

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