Before I had kids, the possibility of not having children never occurred to me. While I didn't want them at that particular time, I knew I wanted to be a mother eventually. When you're still trying to figure out who you are and what your purpose is, it's hard to think about the future, especially one that may not be what you imagined. All these years later, I have some questions I want to ask my child-free self about infertility because, honestly, I had no idea how challenging the road to motherhood would prove to be.
My pre-kid days were spent in and out of relationships. I married and divorced out of high school, then met my current husband shortly after. At that time, I was a musician, playing at clubs while (barely) holding a day job. I'd always been a dreamer with hustle, but as far as plotting a logical path towards achieving those dreams, I fumbled through years of uncertainty, unsure of what to do with my life. Even after falling in love again, becoming a mother wasn't anywhere near my radar. Why would it be? Life was fun when I didn't have any"real" responsibilities.
Then I became unexpectedly pregnant, and my husband and I found ourselves awkwardly navigating a new path until parenting felt like it had been part of our plan all along. We found a routine that works for us and eventually decided to have another child, only to realize life had different plans in the form of fertility problems. Every subsequent pregnancy was difficult, and I was forced to endure the loss and heartbreak of two miscarriages. So, knowing what I know now, here are some questions I'd love to ask my child-free self about infertility. Maybe, if I'd really thought about it, I never would've taken any of it for granted.
"How Long Do You Plan To Wait?"
There's no easy answer to this question, because having been in an unhealthy marriage straight out of high school, I almost couldn't think of the future. Why would I bring children into a situation I struggled to find my way out of?
While I'd love to ask my child-free self how much time I was willing to sacrifice (not knowing of my growing health concerns), up until age 22 children weren't a possibility. I needed to figure out how to deal with my failing marriage, where the rest of my life was going, and who the hell I was before getting pregnant. At that time, I'd probably have said I'd wait as long as I needed—until my marriage ended, until I knew my own journey first, and until found the right person to co-parent with.
"Are You Prepared For Complications?"
How would I know about possible high-risk complications for babies I didn't intend to have at the time? I was busy not thinking things through for the sake of keeping my marriage alive. At the same time, I knew there's be some kind of price to pay for all the wasted time. I just didn't know what that was.
When you're living your life through your late teens and early 20s, infertility isn't something you necessarily think of. Sure, I'd had irregular, painful periods since puberty, but I still counted on one day holding my own baby in my arms. The two things didn't connect. If I could rewind, I'd tell myself to pay more attention to those periods, despite having major marital and life issues distracting me.
"Do You Even Realize You Have Untreated PCOS?"
I wish I could sit my child-free self down and tell her to pay more attention to the warning signs. Stop going out every weekend night, stop traveling, stop ignoring the pains, and go to a doctor because, before long, it will turn out to be Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). With that diagnosis will come painful cysts and, as a result, getting pregnant will be more difficult. Maybe you can't prevent infertility (or PCOS), but with a diagnosis comes a treatment and manageability plan to better plan for a future with children.
"Why Aren't You Taking Better Care Of Yourself?"
Ah, youth. The days when I could eat chips and a soda for dinner, sleep only two hours a night, get up, and do it the next without so much as a ripple in my wave. I never thought about the long-term effects, or what all the mistreatment would do to my body and my reproductive system. Fertility causes vary from cysts, to weight, to stress (and a long list of other medical conditions) and, according to The American Pregnancy Association, infertility affects 1 of every 6 couples. This means even if I didn't yet know about the PCOS, I should've damn well taken care of myself regardless. Just in case. Now, I feel like I'm making up for lost time as I try to right all the wrongs I made before I experienced the cysts, miscarriages, and difficult pregnancies.
"Do You Understand The Sacrifices You'll Make Later?"
The short answer to this question is, of course, "no." You don't always think of consequences when you're young and child-free, because you're too busy doing what feels good in the moment. Maybe if I'd known about the future miscarriages and issues trying to conceive, I'd have moved on from my first marriage sooner. Would it have prevented the losses? Maybe not. It would've prevented years of stress, not taking care of myself, and discontent, though, and all of that maybe have prevented the losses.
"Are You Prepared To Grieve?"
Who's ever prepared to grieve, right? Asking this of a child-free me wouldn't have made much sense. I didn't know all I'd lose or how desperately I'd cry out for children because, back then, it all seemed as though it'd come easily. I had no reason to think otherwise and, honestly, my life was complicated enough.
Even if I'd prepared to miscarry and deal with infertility for an extended period of time, in no way would I feel ready for it once it actually happened. The death of a baby — no matter how far along you are — is one of life's cruel jokes. I also wouldn't know how long I'd blame myself, and my body, for putting me through such hell. My child-free self would've been saddened to learn of my losses, but she'd have shrugged it off as just another thing to stress out about that she had no control over.
"Will Your Child-Free Time Feel Worth It Later?"
If you'd asked me then if I was making the right choices for my life, I'd have naively said yes. For a long time, I lived in denial because it was easier than facing the hard truth. The truth that said, in no uncertain terms, that I'd made all the wrong decisions. I never thought infertility could happen to me. It happened to other women, sure, but not me. I was invincible, hoping to figure my life out before everything crashed down around me.
At the core of all these questions, I have to believe no matter what I asked my young, child-free self, nothing would've changed my thoughts, ideas, and choices regarding pregnancy and fertility. To do so would, in effect, change my journey as a whole, including my second husband, my two beautiful children, and the strength I've gained.