I have been dealing with the ups and downs of chronic illness for some time now. And while I have accepted the vast majority of my ever changing new normal, there was still one thing that I had not really faced. One piece that I had not fully processed — my infertility.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2014, after going to 13 different doctors and having two surgeries. Years after that, I was diagnosed with several other debilitating health conditions. I had a very different type of condition that needed a special light to be seen. However, I knew about my fertility issues well before my official diagnosis of endometriosis. Years before this, I had had a terrible pain and heavier than normal bleeding, but thought nothing of it. I found out later that it was because I had a fertilized egg pass and it couldn’t sustain in my uterus. I also learned at that time that having children on my own would probably not be possible. I brushed it off at that moment, but it really became real when I went in for my second endo-surgery and the doctor informed me that carrying my own children would be very difficult. The next year I had to have an emergency surgery where one of my ovaries and fallopian tubes were removed and I was told straight out, “Ms. Cobb, you will not have children of your own. The endo has ravaged your reproductive organs. Your uterus would reject any product of conception due to being septate.” The funny thing is at the time I did not even process it. It is like I had already prepared myself for it and filed it away as that was just how my life was going to be. I didn’t even think to care.
But it hit me many years later in the most unpredictable ways. It hit me seeing my friends on Facebook sending their kids to kindergarten, or seeing their kids graduate from high school. It hit me seeing them get their babies ready for dance recitals, school plays and sporting events. It hit me seeing photos of birthday parties and other celebrations. And seeing my friends bond as moms and over the things that moms go through. I realized I will never get to experience and of those moments.
I will not get to bring my baby home from the hospital. I will never get to put my baby on the bus to school. I will never get to take my baby to birthday parties, school functions or play dates. All of this hit me at once. It was then I realized that I had never took time to process the fact that I would not carry my own child. I didn’t deal with the emotions that come with something that is so heavy, so emotional and life changing. But I think in my own world, and in my own life, I needed time to experience some things and see life in a new light to process my emotions that came from it.
But my lack of dealing with the emotions has left some raw pieces and consequences that I have been working to heal. For example, I still cannot attend a baby shower because emotionally it is still too much for me to sit and see people doting over a mom-to-be, or the games being played. Seeing all the gifts being opened just opens wounds all over again, and reminds me of things that I won’t achieve. There are also women who are extremely insensitive and who don’t understand circumstances. They don’t understand the hurt that is stirred up when you ask someone when they are getting married and having kids, not knowing that it is not possible for every woman, not knowing the wounds they could be opening.
It is easy for me to be strong and be confident on the outside and cover up the wounds. However, I feel that me being open about my feelings about infertility and motherhood and chronic illness and the rawness it exposes makes me even stronger. Maybe one day I will get there to be able to attend such events, but in order to protect my peace, that is one boundary I need to keep in place.
Plus I always knew I could adopt a child, which is why I put my feelings on the back burner. But as time has gone on my health has declined and that dream of adopting fades more and more into the black, which is why I have had to deal with this final piece of acceptance with how my life has changed with chronic illness. Before I found out my fertility status, I had always dreamed and hoped of adopting a child in need. I felt that God has told me that it was something I needed to do because there were so many kids who needed a good home and so much love. But then my life took a different turn. A turn away from adoption as well, I now find myself being the cool “auntie” and “godmamma.” While I love this role, and anybody who knows me knows that my godson is my whole heartbeat, I still cannot help but to think, “I wish I had my own child to do these things with.”
I will say I am oh so fortunate to be included in milestone
events with my own godson and with my friends’ kids. I have been to recitals, plays, college tours, field trips, concerts and many other great moments. They were great times and I was so excited that my friends thought enough of me to invite “Cool Auntie Jae” along. And I am so proud of my babies and love them like they are my own. But I know deep down inside they are not my own, and I don’t get all the same privileges as a parent. I also do not have someone to take care of me when I am old, or to help me when my health steadily declines.
So why am I writing this piece? What does this have to do with reaching my final acceptance? Well, openly discussing my feelings about infertility and chronic illness needed to happen for my sake. I needed to speak my peace, and express how avoiding the issue has impacted being able to finally accept my new life with chronic illness. We talk about all the other ways that life changes: the meds, weight fluctuations, mood swings, loss of energy, hair loss, skin changing etc. But we rarely discuss this change. We don’t talk about how long it takes to work up to this, and how hard it is to reach this final piece of acceptance in living with chronic illness. So this is my final acceptance. I have finally put it out to the universe; I am releasing the hold and emotions that have come with my infertility and chronic illness.