But this particular visit she said she wanted to do an extra test. So I was sent down the hall with a piece of paper and put into a gown and propped up on a special table. When the other doctor walked in I immediately went into my, "I'm nervous so I'm going to be completely incapable of not making jokes or speaking sarcastically" mode where a brick wall should be put up behind me and a single microphone placed in my hand for stand up. The tech was a male so there was a female nurse (bouncer, body guard, informant?) standing by the door. The machine was turned on, the screen illuminated and a whole bunch of clicking and clacking on the keyboard began.
Me: "Are you writing an email right now?"
Doc: "No. I'm inputting your information. It asks a lot of questions."
Me: "So do I. The machine is in good company."
Doc: "This is going to be a little cold."
Me: "Then why didn't you warm it up? You knew I was coming. By the way, why am I here exactly?"
Doc: "When someone like you has a history of their body making tumors we want to be incredibly proactive in anything we may see or suspect is present. So today we are just taking a closer look."
Me: "I'm looking at your screen and I only see static. What exactly is that supposed to be? My kidney? Spleen? Lung?"
Doc: "Your uterus."
Me: "Well, I was way off."
Doc: "And it's empty.... Let me get a picture of that here."
And his words hit me harder than I imagined they ever would. My eyes glazed over.
Doc: "Now let's look here... This is what we wanted to look at closely. That's your right ovary and as you can see it's covered in cysts or fibroids. To be safe though we need to make sure they're not masses. Let's get an image of this one."
Me: "You're all about taking those photos, huh?"
Doc: "Eesh. And the left one. I had hopes for the left one. But I think we can safely say the left one is out of commission. Wow. Let me capture that image too."
Me: "Listen. You're like the reproductive organ paparazzi over there. Stop taking so many photos. What are you saying? Are you saying they both don't work? That they are covered in things they're not supposed to be covered in? What does this mean?"
Doc: "We'll run tests and we will see what these come back as but I'm sure they are cysts or fibroids. But there is a lot of damage." [more clicking and photography]
Me: "Does this mean I can't have children?"
Doc: "From what I see... I don't think that's something you will physically be able to do. But your doctor can talk to you about that more in depth I'm sure. Right now we want to understand these growths. How much caffeine do you have daily?"
Me: "What the hell is up with everyone and my damn coffee intake?"
At this point I felt the tears in my eyes no longer holding back and they fell warmly down my cheeks and onto the paper gown.
Doc: "I'm sorry to have upset you."
Me: "Don't take it personally. You're a doctor. That's sort of your thing."
As he walked out of the room (taking his female bouncer with him) I swung my legs over the table and put my face in my hands. I kept asking myself, "Why are you crying?" I tried to reason with myself that I knew this was a possibility for a quite a while. Was it the way he said it? Was it the fact that my routine monthly blood tests somehow turned into something more? And then the realization hit me: He had taken so many photos during the ultrasound and I wasn't walking out holding one. Every time I had seen that machine in use prior it was with someone that was expecting a baby. And when the session was over there would be printed images passed around of little fingers and little toes and smooshed baby faces. Not only was I walking out with just what I walked in with but the words "it's empty" just echoed in my head. Obviously I wasn't expecting him to find a baby but the finality of his words and his tone hit me hard.
I got dressed. I looked in the mirror to make sure it didn't look like I had been crying too much. I said, "Pull yourself together O'Hare because you're better than having a comeapart in an exam room." And I heard my phone go off with a text message. I grabbed my bag, my phones, opened the door, walked down the hall, put my sunglasses on, said "see you in a month ladies" to the receptionist desk and walked into the corridor. I looked down at my phone and saw it was from my sister. And when I opened it there was a photo of my youngest nephew with a huge smile on his face covered in baby food. The text stated his love for carrots (the vegetable I loathe) and I frantically started texting back explaining the horrors of carrots and how she shouldn't subject him to such torture. And then I told her "thank you for the sweet photo by the way- I needed that smile." To which she responded with a video of my older nephew singing a Sesame Street song in his pajamas. I laughed with tears still in my eyes from the exam room. But the tears were from the sweetness in those boys and those messages coming in at the perfect time.
I'm 33 and not married. I work around the clock and I live in a shoe box apartment with two cats. Even healthy and capable, the reality of having children at this stage in my life would be impossible. But being a mom is something that I have wanted to be since I was given my first Cabbage Patch doll and told I was responsible for taking care of her. I loved every minute of it. And I looked forward to the day when my child wouldn't grow in a garden and then be delivered to me in a box. I know it's not my "biological clock" ticking away which everyone talks about kicking in when women want children and feel they're running out of time. No. Wanting children but being told you can't have them is a different kind of "ticking" inside you. It's like an emotional time bomb you don't know when it's going to go off but you know the pin has been pulled.
Maybe it will go off when you're standing with a bunch of moms at a kid's birthday party and as the little ones run around your feet the mom's starting having the "are you done?" talk. That awkward talk where they start discussing whether they want more children after their second or third or should they try for a fourth? And they debate amongst themselves which age is the best and how far siblings should be spaced apart and how if they knew what they were getting into with multiples they may have stopped at one. Their eyes glance to me and I reply, "Nope. I've got nothing. I'm just here for the cake."
Maybe when you're checking out at the grocery store on Mother's Day and the cashier says, "Happy Mother's Day, ma'am" and you say, "thank you." And it stings and it hurts but you know they were just being polite and meant no harm whatsoever.
Maybe when someone at work asks why you don't have kids and you feel like you need to explain yourself and justify the reasons why you're almost 34 and not picking out day cares or waiting in the carpool pickup line.
Maybe on April Fool's Day when the fake pregnancy announcements are posted and everyone laughs at the humor behind the flippant remarks because what is simply a joke to someone is an unattainable dream to someone else.
And yet... all of these things have happened. And they happen repeatedly. But I have never felt like I was going to fall apart. I have never felt that rush of anger, resentment, or even the "why me?" feeling take over. There are times when I have said to myself, "Kristen, this isn't fair" and like clockwork I answer myself back with, "It is what it is." And honestly the only time I truly resent those people that can have children are when they do and they don't love them. But it doesn't take infertility to instill that anger within someone. Any human with a beating heart would feel the same way.
Now that I'm in my thirties and my friends are having children on purpose I come face to face with baby showers and birth announcements all the time. I wait for that overwhelming rush of "why not me?" but it doesn't come. I expect a twinge of jealousy but it's not there. And I think I'm starting to realize why...
Perhaps it was determined long ago that having children wasn't in the cards for me. Perhaps I was dealt that hand to begin with and in return I was given the kind of heart that loves children unconditionally. A woman that can be a biological aunt, an "aunt by affiliation," a babysitter, a nanny, a mentor and a humanitarian. A woman who's heart can love a child like it's her own because the chance to love one that she grows for 9 months isn't an option.
Because of this heart... there are some kids in Nashville that I walked around the house with on the nights when it was Colic-1 and Tin-Tin- 0. I watched one of them take their first steps... and he will soon start driving. I watched one give up all her pacies... and she will soon lose her braces. And all of the times I spent with their friends and their cousins are precious memories when I was able to open my heart and love a child like it was my own. There's a family in Nashville that taught me what 2am feedings and 3pm carpools are like and my heart is always going to be grateful for the opportunity to watch these children (and all the children that came with them) grow up.
Because of this heart... there is a niece in New England with a Boston accent and blonde hair. She looks nothing like me but she is starting to love women's history and she has quite the sweet tooth. She loves to read and she is vivacious, outgoing and has a beautiful soul. She was the first child that shared any blood relation to me and I remember holding her for the first time in the hospital thinking, "A little bit of me is in this little tiny human." My heart was full. She was born just a month after the Flood that changed my life. She brought laughter and happiness into a time that was uncertain and chaotic. I don't see her nearly as much as I would like to but when I do I know how blessed I am to be her Tin-Tin.
And just over two years ago this heart was introduced to a new title and a new way to love unconditionally when I became "Auntie" but also "Godmother" to a sweet little boy with the biggest cheeks. The word "mother" was not lost on me then but in light of the news from the doctor recently I cherish the title more so now than I did just a couple of years ago. I remember my nephew being placed into my arms for the first time. My heart was so overcome because this was the little baby I had seen in every ultrasound image at
And this heart... this heart that somehow must have known a long time ago that it would not have the chance to be a "mommy" watches in awe as her best friends from childhood and college have beautiful, funny, smart and loving little girls and boys. One is already going to school in Washington... and one was born just a couple of days ago in Indiana. There are beautiful little girls in California and a sweet little Irish boy in Boston. And their mom's and dad's let me into their lives to love these children and share in the special moments they celebrate together. And for that I am grateful.
And then there is my heart every day. The heart that is driven by empathy and wants to save the world one person at a time. It's a lofty goal but I have been blessed with the opportunity to help others. I am able to provide help and hope- on the good days- and I always find that I am drawn to the heart of a child. I don't have much to give but I will give whatever I can when needed. It's almost as if my heart has made extra room for other's children to fill the void that would inevitably be there because I won't have my own. And if that's how God wants to use this heart then I will happily give that over to those who need love the most.
Every morning I pour the ONE cup of coffee that I have been restricted to and I take the medication that is supposed to treat some complications I have during a six-month treatment plan. The irony of this daily dose is the awful morning sickness it causes and the blatant reminder not to get pregnant while taking it. I pour my coffee and open a pill with a warning that obviously doesn't pertain to me and never will. I feel like I should be angry at the daily reminder of the future I am being denied. I feel like I should be jealous of those that have what I really want. But the reality is the only thing that I will ever "be due" with is the rent. And yet I have a life filled with children that I love unconditionally and make my life more whole than I could do on my own. And while I didn't walk out of that doctor's office with an ultrasound picture in my hand... I walked out with two photos sent to me on my phone- at the perfect time- with the sweetest smiles and a lot of love.
I believe the old rhyme is "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, She had so many children, and loved them all, too." But that was 1790 and this is now. Now she lives in a tiny shoe box apartment and although has no children of her own has a life filled with so many children she adores. She may not have given them life but they fill her life with love and purpose. "And she can only have one cup of coffee, too."