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.

By Gail

When I was a teen I suffered pain every month my period came. I’d miss school, stay home, take medication and wonder why I had ovaries. It wasn’t fun. By 18 I had said more than once that if I’m not married and don’t have a child by 28 I’ll take it out when I’m 30.

When I was 20 I made an appointment to talk with my G.P. Could I as a disabled woman have a healthy child without the disability I had been born with? She told me I could. That visit gave me some peace of mind.

I developed violent PMS and the mood swings were terrible. My family thought I was nuts. In a very real way I was, and it was all hormonal. It scared me. Being on the pill didn’t help and I was told that there was nothing to be done. I lived with it.

30 came and went and at 31 I did take it out. I had it out the day after my sister-in-law gave birth to my new nephew. When I returned from the hospital we went to visit the family. “Do you want to hold him?”  No, I couldn’t hold him. I’d had the entire kit and caboodle yanked and it hurt.

My body stabilized and for the first time in years without PMS I was calm and happy. I mourned quietly over my state but tried to move forward. The fact is that it wasn’t okay to talk about it in my family. I was in grad school at this time and the surgery had been scheduled so that I wouldn’t miss any class time. Life just went on.  

Three years later I met the man that I would marry. We’d have to adopt and he was fine with doing so. We were married after four years of knowing each other and by this point in time we were both in our late 30s. He had a son who was not in his life on a regular basis. It has never really felt right to be called a stepmother, even though in technical terms that is what I am.  

Once after a sacrament meeting I was asked by a woman when I was due. I cried all the way home. (I’d gained just enough weight that I looked slightly pregnant.) The question hurt me deeply and by this point in time we had decided that children might not happen. It was a painful choice, but the right one.

Mother’s Days are hell as I’m not a biological mother and my stepson doesn’t think of me in “mother terms.” Being told that I can mother is a slap in the face. I don’t attend church on Mother’s Day.

I don’t celebrate my womanhood. Writing this feels cold. It shouldn’t matter: it matters. And now at almost 60 and widowed there is not one soul to carry on when I’m gone.