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I woke up disoriented, and blurry.
The anesthesia worked and was wearing off. My soon-to-be husband and mother stood next to my hospital bed holding my hands.
I had just undergone laparoscopic surgery for cyst removal. The cyst wasn’t cancerous and was mostly liquid-filled. But once inside, the doctors did a little more poking around.
“The doctors cleaned you out. They got the cyst,” said my fiancé.
“You have severe Endometriosis. They thought you had it, but they didn’t know how much. You’ve likely been dealing with it since you were a teenager,” my mom said.
Feeling groggy, I asked, “How did I not know?”
“Maybe you have a high threshold for pain?” my mom suggested.
“I mean, my periods were always painful. Sometimes I had to stay home from work. I just never thought… ugh, I’m hungry,” I said.
I leaned back, feeling dizzy, nauseous, and light-headed. I hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours.
They found Endometriosis. It’s a condition that causes tissue to grow outside of a uterus. Because the displaced tissue has no way of exiting your body during your menstrual cycle, it becomes trapped and can form cysts or scar tissue and bind organs together.
“Where did they find it?” I asked.
“Everywhere,” said my fiancé. “Your doctor showed us the pictures from inside. The Endometriosis was all over. And she doesn’t think you’ll be able to get pregnant.”
“Really?” I said.
Thirty to 50 percent of women with Endometriosis experience infertility, a fact that’s just as painful as the physical pain for many women who suffer from Endometriosis.
I was 24 years old — what did I care about infertility? I didn’t want babies. I didn’t want to talk about babies; they made me squeamish. Anytime someone held out a baby for me to hold, I’d put out my arms like a zombie and act like the baby was the vilest creature I’d ever seen.
This wasn’t devastating news — this was freeing.
The weight of accidental pregnancy was suddenly lifted from my shoulders. I’d never have to worry about getting pregnant again. I’d never have to take birth control. I’d never have to sit through another pregnancy test again, waiting anxiously for one line or two.
I had already gone through an abortion a few years back. While the abortion was my choice and not a medical necessity, I didn’t want to go through that again.
The news that I could not get pregnant was the sigh of relief my ovaries needed.
As I lay half in and out of grogginess, my fiancé went on to explain my barren status.
“Yeah, it might not be impossible to get pregnant, but it will be really hard. She suggested we start talking about having babies, sooner rather than later,” he said.
“Babies? I thought we were going to wait until I was 30. You know, get my career on track and then worry about kids,” I said. That was my usual line to stall the “baby talk.”
My professional life was flourishing. I just got a big promotion as a TV producer at work. I was getting married in three months. I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body.
Thinking I might be upset, my mom added, “Maybe you talk about it with the doctor. See what she says. See what your options are.”
“Okay,” I said. I left the hospital that day, not giving a second thought to my sudden infertility.
My recovery went well. I was back to work in a week. I was feeling like a million bucks after my surgery. No pain, no bloating, and no constipation. I was excited to be feeling good, and getting married.
It seemed the baby conversation had been tabled, at least temporarily. But the closer it got to the wedding, I started freaking out. Maybe we really ought to discuss this issue before we get married.
“You know, if we want kids someday, maybe we could adopt?” I said as my fiancé and I brushed our teeth together.
“I won’t do adoption. Either it’s my blood or no kids. I’d be open to surrogacy or something like that,” he said.
The thought of going through IVF or surrogacy seemed like a nightmare. I’ve seen women go through it; the thought of injecting hormones in my behind, constant doctor’s appointments, an intimacy schedule, pregnancy tests, and ovulation tests seemed too daunting. Especially for something I never really wanted: a baby.
“I don’t think I’d be open to anything other than adoption,” I said. “I just don’t want to be one of those women who’s driving herself crazy trying to get pregnant.”
There we were, talking about hypothetical children we hadn’t even dreamt up yet until the possibility existed that we couldn’t have them at all. But a month before my destination wedding in Italy, I was pregnant.
I shrieked like a Scream Queen at the sight of two lines. I was horrified. I bellowed loud, deep sobs.
My fiancé yelled from the living room couch, “You okay? What happened?”
I flung the door open and yelled, “I’m pregnant!”
“No, you’re not… you’re not serious,” he said laughing.
I stood in front of him with tears streaming down my face.
“Holy cow, you are serious,” he said, his eyes as wide as quarters.
After a challenging pregnancy and delivery, our daughter was born. And as if that wasn’t shocking enough, eight months after giving birth to our first daughter, I was pregnant again.
I know there are women out there who think I’m ungrateful. That I should’ve been happy because there are women who can’t get pregnant. But please understand, it’s not what I wanted.
Let me break it down for you, in a very over-simplified example.
Say you get chicken nuggets in your fast food order but you don’t realize it until you get home. By then, it’s too late to drive back and change your order. You’ll eat the nuggets anyway, but you ordered a hamburger. You wanted the hamburger. But there you are, with chicken nuggets.
Some people are dying to have some chicken nuggets. But that fact alone doesn’t make me want the chicken nuggets. That doesn’t make me grateful for them. I’m angry — I wanted the hamburger.
Nature got the wrong order.
And don’t you dare say to me, “Well, if you didn’t want to have children, why didn’t you get your tubes tied?” I was 24 years old. Good luck finding a doctor who will perform a tubal ligation for a woman so young who’s never had children.
Or, “Why weren’t you on birth control?” I’ve had an adverse reaction to pretty much every birth control I’ve tried, two of which have landed me in the hospital. So, no thanks on the birth control.
Women who have never had a desire to have children take the news of infertility as a blessing. Phew! One less thing to worry about.
In those years after the back-to-back births of my babies, I struggled. I was jilted by this new reality.
I will insert the obligatory “I love my girls so much, I’d never have it any other way” so you don’t think I’m completely heartless. And it’s true: I do love them more than words could ever say.
But at the beginning of motherhood, it was really hard being excited for kids that I never wanted. It was difficult to hide my disappointment.
It was hard to fake it to everyone who asked me, “Isn’t motherhood wonderful? Aren’t babies so beautiful? Enjoy the time — it goes by so fast!”
I wasn’t suffering from postpartum depression; I just didn’t like babies. I didn’t like being a mom, even though everyone expected me to.
It’s hard being excited for babies you never wanted. It’s hard to emotionally and physically surrender to children you never intended to have.
It’s challenging to self-obliterate the way mothers do so naturally when you only wish to be selfish. At least I was self-aware enough to admit that.
I wanted a life of personal selfishness, but I got a life filled with the ultimate sacrifice: Parenthood.
Eventually, I accepted my new life and moved on. I needed to. For the sake of my sanity, and my kids. So much about being a good parent is dealing with your stuff so you can be a better parent.
I grieved the life I would no longer have and started enjoying life as a mom. Truly embracing it and loving it purely.
Now, I know that the real gift in all of this is that the doctor was wrong. She was so wrong.
Sarah Hosseini is a writer, speaker, and teacher. She has been published in Cosmopolitan, Redbook Magazine, Good Housekeeping, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Bustle, and many more.