It all started in middle school when my parents became concerned with my short stature. It didn’t make sense to them that they, being 5’5” and 5’11”, should have a daughter who was barely 5’. Therefore, I was taken to many doctors, pricked by countless needles, and had numerous tests run. The diagnosis finally came back: a mild form of Turner’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder in which one X chromosome is abnormal or missing. Although there are outward physical symptoms of Turner’s (eg. short stature), my mild form meant that I was primarily impacted by the implications for my reproductive system. My doctors told me that my ovaries were essentially nonfunctional, and that I would never be able to have a child using my eggs.
As I became older, this issue of children and fertility started playing a larger and larger role in my life. My friends and I would coo over babies in the street and discuss how many kids we wanted in the future. They would carelessly toss out a comment or two about how they did not want to gain pregnancy weight or how using condoms and/or birth control were such hassles. I often felt isolated and distanced because I knew those particular experiences would probably never be mine. Out of a fear of stigmatization and of seeming “abnormal”, I did not tell my friends about my condition. It would only make the conversation awkward, and I wasn’t looking for pity. The worst was when the few people I did tell would make remarks such as, “Oh, you’re so lucky you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant!” or “That’s kind of convenient” and laugh or wink suggestively. I laughed along with them, but inside I was fuming. I wanted to scream, “At least you have the option! Don’t try and tell me how “lucky” I am!” Again, I did not want to be different, so I zipped my lips and allowed my resentment and sadness to grow with every forced smile, every baby’s cry, every barbed consolation.
My dating life was seldom better. After someone I was sort-of-but-not-quite seeing completely broke things off following a heated accidental conversation about adoption (believe me, I had not been planning to reveal my infertility during a whispered exchange in the middle of a church service), I became incredibly insecure about relationships. Every time I was on the verge of something wonderful, a nagging voice in the back of my head would persistently ask, “Are they going to leave you? What if they want children? What are they going to think if they find out?” Often, I fled before we reached the dreaded family conversation. I didn’t want to be left, so I left first.
Over time, I’ve acquired an amazing support group who has helped made an uneasy peace with my infertility. It is a part of me, and anybody who wants to be part of my life needs to understand and accept that. I am still reluctant to tell people about my condition, and I can’t fully silence the voice in my head warning me about hurt, abandonment, and judgment, but it is not all that I am.
I am not my infertility, and it does not control me. It simply is, and I am learning to live with that.