On the dating profile where I met my now-boyfriend, I responded “maybe someday” to the kids question. I wasn’t one of those girls who carried around dolls as a child, feeding the imaginary baby and then putting it to bed. As I got older, I was terrified by the responsibility of carrying and caring for a tiny, fragile being that would be wholly dependent on me for survival. I would recoil at any reference to children. When I met my boyfriend at 24, that stage felt light years away.
The hands of the analog clock have since orbited their sun over 2,000 times. The clock is ticking. And I’m pretty sure it’s running fast.
Several weeks ago, I learned that I have few (if any) eggs left, due to an autoimmune attack on my reproductive system. I’ve since felt a small panic bubbling up. The more I suppress the buoyant emotions, the more forcefully they rise back to the surface. The decision I’ve diligently kept at arm’s-length for all these years may very well have slipped away from me.
I was just beginning to warm up to the idea of one day, possibly, starting a family. And then, poof! The magician name Life extends that elusive prize beyond my reach.
Last fall, I read Amanda Palmer’s best-selling memoir, The Art of Asking. I’ve watched her TED Talk by the same name and recently heard her speak on The Tim Ferriss Show about her miscarriage, deepest insecurities and most painful memories. It was so raw and so incredibly honest. While I expected to experience an overwhelming empathy, her opening up actually felt empowering. Talking is cathartic. Unloading our burdens gives us freedom. It felt like permission to do the same.
I’ve been experiencing some increasingly concerning symptoms since the initial “your ovaries resemble those of a post-menopausal woman,” which led to my gynecologist calling me personally to follow up on my messages. Whether it’s premature ovarian failure, cervical cancer or my body playing a cruel joke on my mind, I feel afraid.
I’m experiencing sadness, guilt, anger, loneliness and, most poignantly, fear. And I feel like this isn’t something I’m allowed to talk about. It’s a personal problem and, as a 30-year-old woman who never particularly wanted kids to begin with, what right do I have to feel the way I feel and–god forbid–talk about the emotional roller coaster I’m riding at the moment?
If I take the cue from Amanda, I have every right to be open, honest and transparent. While it may ostracize and offend some, perhaps others will view it as an invitation to do the same. In my teens and early twenties, I was so overwhelmed with anxiety that it’s a wonder I got by as well as I did. What if someone had given me permission to delve deep into my personal sludge, rather than casually making small talk on the surface? Perhaps I would not have suffered the traumas of incessant rumination.
And I think back to the podcast episode, particular the anecdote in which Amanda is going through a devastating miscarriage alone in a hotel room on Christmas day. Right there, in the middle of a wide-reaching podcast, this brutally (and beautifully) honest being poured out all of her messy, embarrassing sludge for all the world to see. And I imagine most people did not judge, but instead looked on in awe. There was the permission I needed to talk about my real life. Perhaps this letter is the permission you need to talk about something real too.