This story is part of our End of the Childbearing Years series, exploring the experiences, decisions, and feelings of Mormon women around this pivotal transition. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.
My own childbearing years were, according to me, over before they began. I married at 23 and decided, with my husband, to get pregnant at 25, as if that were how it works—that I could make something happen merely by deciding to. I was never someone who just knew they always wanted to be a mother but the desire, in the beginning, was in me. So the years of infertility that followed brought a torrent and complexity of emotions unlike anything I had before faced. The initial hope gradually diminished, then eventually was all but lost. I grappled with the sensation of being crushed, over and over again by all the pain and bitterness and anger that accompanies loss.
Then finally I chose to take control of my life again. To act and not be acted upon. In order to do this, I had to reset the parameters of what it meant to have hope and faith. I reconfigured that new definition in an entirely new form of acceptance, and an awareness that I could not control all things—an illusion that, until this experience, I’d not yet seen for what it was. I set on a new and complicated mission as I made attempts to master the very fine but elusive art of letting go. I examined myself to discern what I could control, which led to a development of gratitude for the things I had instead of focusing on what I didn’t have. This ultimately became my saving grace and led to a return of my power. But in so doing, I had to come to terms with the fact that I might never have children, even deciding at times that I most certainly never would, just to have something concrete in my life and future. I found peace with this new knowledge, for to me it was definite knowledge and a fact I sealed up inside of me. I was never going to have a child and I was ok with that. Happy, even.
And then I became pregnant and all I knew to be fact and truth shattered to the floor. My complex emotions took on even greater levels of intricacy: I now simultaneously felt desire and non-desire for a child. And thus it has been ever since. I had that child at age 29 in spite of the science, but the feeling of being at the end of my childbearing years never changed. I had a child but I still thought of myself as someone who could never become pregnant. I think many people who go through infertility carry that with them always, no matter what happens in their life. I’ll never understand why or how I had a child. There are times where I accept him as the gift and miracle that he is, and other times where I feel certain God let one slip through the cracks, and we all just have to make do. I’m 37 now, and my son is eight. My husband and I sort of tried for another but I never really believed it to be possible. I never expected it to happen and it never did, a result most often met with relief. Relief because I wasn’t at all sure it was something I really wanted, and also because it fit well with my internal reality. I could not have children.
Having something be impossible and then having it happen anyway changes the way a person thinks about life. For me, one became more than enough. But I find myself wondering those silly things—what would it be like to have another? Would I do a better job the second time around, as I often hear? Wouldn’t it be nice for him to have a sibling? So here I am, dancing that difficult dance of happy acceptance with what I’ve been given and wondering if there’s more. I feel torn about it almost all the time and I imagine I always will. Most of me understands that I am and always have been at the end of my childbearing years. But there is a part that must wait for the science to catch up, and then I can move forward.