I have a deep fear that flourishes throughout my body at the mere sight of a child—big or small, wandering or still, dancing or fallen; a fear that cripples my mind into believing it better to stop moving forward, choose stillness, and strongly consider the possibility of giving up so I might never have to know. This fear—the fear that provokes buried emotions that rarely come out to play—is the fear that I might not be able to create life.
I know that this is normal. In social work practice, I am often reminded of the significant value of normalizing a client’s concerns. For example, I spent a brief 3 months working at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility which housed women and children. Many of these women were in outpatient therapy from other organizations that focused on human trafficking or sexual assault. A large portion of the women were on furlough, spending their jail time in recovery so that they may resume life—back at jail or free—with a “clean” slate. Many of the women faced trauma, abuse, and neglect in their past. They were all addicts, and they all had children.
One particular woman brought to my attention a concern of hers when the winter holiday season came around. She feared opening up to her mom about the wrong that she had done. In response—with a focus on “normalizing the client’s concerns”—I explained that this is completely normal. To open up to anyone means to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is hard. She has been hurt, torn down, and left to survive on her own. To reveal the tragedy and weakness she has faced is unimaginable, and I understand that. She found comfort in my understanding, and because of that, she was able to move forward.
So I know that it is normal to fear not being able to have a child. However, I also know that millions of women face infertility. More than 1 out of 6 couples experience infertility. Female infertility represents approximately 50% of these cases. Rates of female infertility seem to be on the rise, and infertility can affect any woman. Worst of all, some cases simply reveal no cause or reason for someone’s infertility.
You don’t have to tell me the reasons why these thoughts are not necessary: “You’re only 21!” “You shouldn’t even be thinking about that right now” “You probably don’t do any of the bad things that could cause infertility”. And those are somewhat true. It’s most likely that I don’t have problems with ovulation, damage to my fallopian tubes or uterus, problems with my cervix. But, what if the unknown creeps up on my fearful understanding and suddenly surprises me with it’s collaboration with my deepest fears? What if I suddenly battle hormonal imbalances, develop a tumor, or fall ill to an eating disorder, alcohol, or drugs? What if I develop thyroid gland problems, gain excessive amounts of weight, or stress suddenly becomes an inevitable monster with the potential to destroy my dreams of a family?
I often question my fears because I often believe that they shouldn’t be present in the first place. Fears of infertility, never finding love, one day being hurt so bad that I’m never the same again—they haunt me. They tug at my gathered thoughts daily, trying to influence my choices to go out or stay in, or remain stagnant in my disposition. I question these fears because, why are they here?
Other fears remain constant because I know them. I met them for lunch at Fido, we shook hands, and I left with a pained expression, a guilt clawing at my insides, and a sorrow rumbling in my chest. I touched and kissed, and played with those fears, and I know them now. I know the fear of being bullied, called names, and tossed aside. That fear is clear to me—known. I know that fear because I was threatened, teased, and emotionally abused. I still fear that, but I know why it is there. I know it remains because I know what it felt like to have lunch with those things. Fertility, love, change—those things are unknown to me. So, why do I fear their possible existence or nonexistence?
Why do I imagine myself one day on my knees cherishing a garden, pulling weeds, and smelling the flowers, but crying when I see the neighbor’s children bike down the sidewalk? Why do I imagine myself alone at old age, dying crippled and isolated, sheltered by nurses and helping hands, but not the love of a child? Why do I imagine these things for myself?
Maybe the very guilt which develops through my memories of haunting times is what generates the fear inside me of the unknown. Maybe having known at all has damaged me to where I can no longer imagine a life without worry, damage, or pain. Maybe I imagine the worst for myself because I see myself in that way—with no dignity, no fairness, no just treatment for those who have overcome hardship. Or maybe there is no such thing as coincidence or fate. Maybe I am just here, along for the ride, and regardless of what I imagine as the possible twists and turns before me, my path cannot possibly be determined. The footprints I leave in the schools I went to, the sports I played, the drawings I created, are just footprints that disappear and can’t ever be predicted. The flowers I’ll grow are not even known.
Yet, I can’t help but think: Oh, but the flowers I’ll grow.