I have planned to write this post for a really long time but I have been really resistant to actually completing this. A few weeks ago Jenna Farmer bravely posted here about her low egg count and it gave me the courage and push to talk about this subject regarding myself.
What does ‘Non-Mum Status’ mean?
"Very simply this means anybody that is not a mum whether this is through
their own choice or the option has been taken away"
The first time I heard this was last year when I was going through a bad patch regarding not being able to have children. On Linkedin, I came across this post by Samantha Jane Walsh and it was like a hug for my heart. Everything she wrote I identified with and I felt somebody finally understood that aspect of my life. Also, I realised there was a group on Facebook just for women that could not have children for whatever reason to connect with called 'The Non-Mum Network'.
I have always wanted to be a mum, from a very early age I imagined what that feeling would be like holding your baby for the first time and seeing them blossom through the years. This was always part of my life plan and to be honest I never even thought back then that this would not be an option in the future. I wanted the career and family, however, I did not encounter that at 21 I would be hit by chronic illnesses and these dreams would be taken away.
When I was first told I could not carry?
I had an incline before about 4 years ago with my issues that were going on. My colorectal surgeon kept drumming into me how important it was not to get pregnant. We decided on a Mirena coil because he did not feel I would be able to carry full time without major health problems. However, I still held an element of ‘hope’ that this may occur in the future.
In 2015 I had a cystoscopy (bladder investigation) and after 7 years of having a Supra-Pubic Catheter (SPC) it was revealed through a biopsy that the cells had started to mutate and my bladder was to be removed quickly and a urostomy formed.
When I was called into the office I was asked to bring a friend with me which looking back now I am so glad I did. After taking in everything that was said I was quiet on the bus. My friend who was a counsellor got me to repeat what I understood from the consultation which I did. He turned to me grabbed my hand and said ‘Rachel do you remember the surgeon saying you cannot carry a child due to the way they will remove your bladder from the uterus’ when my friend said these words it was like a punch to my stomach. I completely missed this aspect of the conversation and I was devastated. I do not know if I can conceive but I know under no circumstances can I carry a child full-term.
How does that make me feel?
In my gut, I knew this would be the case but to have this said very seriously and for this to be on my notes that little hope I always had diminished in that moment. I also feel a bit of a fraud in a way because I do not know if I can or cannot conceive but unable to even give it a go and to carry full-term.
I have realised I will never fully accept 100% that I will be childless. When I think I have I will see a newborn baby or the start of school pictures and my heartstrings feel a pang. Sometimes the heartache for a child can be so strong you have to find other ways to fill it. I have found I am an auntie to lots of children which really helps fulfil that need in me. Some days it will not cross my mind but others it consumes me. On those days I nurture myself a bit more and try to find gratitude in my situation.
How to answer the question ‘Do you have children?’
I must say I have got better at answering this question. Now I have a prepped answer saying ‘No I don’t but I am an auntie to lots’ at first I used to over-disclose then sometimes I would say a frustrated no which usually ends the interaction. Even though I have this prepped answer I still struggle with this question and it can get me deep. I also find when you answer strangers will decide to give them their input and say you can try IVF, adopt or foster. I know they are trying to help but they do not know my circumstances. I would love nothing more than to be able to foster and adopt but I looked into this years ago and due to my health issues and continuing admissions, living on my own I would not be able to do this and meet the criteria. Again, an aspect I do not really want to tell strangers when I find this subject very hard to talk about with my close friends.
My prepped answer has a bit of humour which then helps change the subject so we don’t need to go into the depths of it. When you are in your 30s it is sometimes expected that you should have children. I am unable to but some women part of the non-mum network choose not to have children and that is an individual decision but again seems to be judged by society.
The non-mum network
This group has been my saving grace a ‘club’ just for non-mums where we can share where we are at and get support from other women in similar situations. When I found this group I believe my healing started regarding not being able to have children. Now it is a small pang in my heart not like the huge void it felt like a few years ago.