It was six years this month since I found out I would never conceive using my own eggs. Six years since I fell into a deep depression, had weeks off work, starting drinking at 9.30am and cried every day.
Next month, it will be six years since I started seeing a psychologist regularly to work through my struggle with being infertile.
For the next two years I declined invitations to first birthday parties, christenings and baby showers. At hearing the news in 2015 that my older sister was pregnant with her first child, I fled into the arms of another man and got rip-roaring drunk.
In 2016, I separated from my husband.
In 2017, my marriage was over. I had left out of tremendous guilt, both at not being able to give my ex-husband a child but because of all the terrible things I did during my depression to hurt him and myself. In 2017, I had an epic breakdown. I took myself to the doctor while still drunk and told her I needed help after contemplating suicide.
In 2018, my marriage was officially dissolved, and I was diagnosed with bipolar II. I had been living in a hyper manic state for the better part of six months. I partied, I took drugs, I drank, I went to the beach. I had quit my job.
In 2019, I was becoming accustomed to the idea I might never be a mum. I’d survived five Mothers’ Days, the birth of two nephews and a niece, and friends sharing the births of their second, third and fourth children on Facebook.
I was reaching that time in my life where I would have to decide soon. Go it alone. Wait and hold out for a partner. Push myself through the trauma of using an egg donor. Start and discard fostering applications. Talk myself out of five-year adoption wait lists.
Understand this: despite your best intentions, there is nothing you can suggest to me, no story you can tell me about miracle births, that I haven’t considered or heard before. I am not childless through lack of consideration. I am not childless because I have not given it enough thought.
I think about the fact I am not a mum every day.
I think abut the fact I may never be a mum every day.
Every day, it hurts.
Every day, there is a reminder – on the TV, on social media, on the street, in the supermarket.
Today a doctor (not my usual doctor) asked me if I had children. When I said I did not and could not, she asked me why. I sighed and explained despite knowing it was documented in my file on her computer.
She couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. “You’re 36, you need to start making babies” What about IVF? What about an egg donor? Actually, I have a patient who I think is an egg donor. It’s a shame you can’t go overseas and use a surrogate – it’s so easy over there.”
After she drew a breath, she asked if I had a partner and I explained I was seeing someone, but it was only new.
“Well don’t wait too long OK, hopefully he will be happy to use an egg donor. I have a patient whose father donated the sperm because his was no good. You can still make babies if you want to.”
Nothing about this interaction was acceptable. I had made this appointment for a cervical cancer screening test, not to ask about my fertility options. The only reason I was seeing her and not my usual male doctor was because he had recommended I use a female doctor at the practice.
She ignored my cues that I didn’t wish to talk about it. She dismissed the fact I was with a new partner as inconsequential and further reminded me that I don’t have much time left.
I am not a stupid person. On the contrary, I’m told I’m quite intelligent. But this doctor spoke to me like I have no understanding of my own body, my choices, my options, my biology. It was humiliating and it made me angry.
I was there for this woman to scrape out my cunt, get some cells and let me get on with my day. Instead, I left sad and shamed, drowning in the old feelings of failure that had wiped out my marriage.
So, here’s a quick check list for those who may find themselves needing to pass on advice to childless women: