Mahina Wahine. In tribute to Women's Month, Papa Ola Lokahi presents a series of authentic stories that are profound and personal, intimate and inspiring. *
It seems like such a bad word. Spoken in hushed tones as if no one should hear it. Not only is it hard to speak, but all the reasons one is infertile are just as troubling. The process to get to a place of acceptance has been a long one that has involved many questions, numerous tests, pills and shots, and above all, countless tears of doubt, anger, frustration and defeat.
My name is Sheri and I am infertile. Which just means that I am not able to bear children.
I heard many times that once I “relaxed” it would happen. So much advice, mostly unsolicited, that I eventually stopped saying anything when asked if we were trying for a baby. I cringed at every doctorʻs office visit, because I'd find myself sitting in a sea of pregnant women. Instead of feeling excitement for them, I was usually plagued with self-doubt as a woman, wondering why I “lacked” this seemingly easy ability to procreate. I was smart, college educated, married and had the means to afford it, yet with all the “right” going for me, I could not achieve this one important thing that I truly wanted.
I don't remember being immediately diagnosed with Infertility. That comes later when all options are exhausted. Over the years, I took tests that measured my uterine lining and tracked my ovulation, resulting in some conditions being ruled out. My first tick mark was a diagnosis of hyperplasia.
Getting pregnant was really my only goal. There were times when I felt like I lost all control of my actions and emotions in my relentless pursuit. Looking back, I am pretty sure my husband would have sold his soul to achieve this, to bring me back from the edge.
As each month passed with no success, further and further I fell into looking at other options. The pot of gold for me was in-vitro fertilization, or IVF. When my doctor informed me that the cells in my uterus were becoming more “abnormal,” meaning pre-cancerous, the option for IVF leapt to the top. With the goal of "re-starting" my body, we started with hormone injections, which replicates menopause that might impel my body to naturally re-start, an early step in the IVF process that would determine the viability for my body to eventually take to IVF. A potential plus was that my own body might respond positively and I might even be able to get pregnant without the IVF. We were so hopeful. Unfortunately my body refused again to cooperate and after a few crazy (literally hot flashes, mood swings) days, it was evident that this plan wasn't going to work.
Back to the drawing board.
Years passed and I was blind to reason. I wanted a baby at all costs. Sitting on the exam table listening to the doctor speak of my “projected success" with IVF (which wasn't good) and ignorning the warning of potential setbacks, ranging from total bedrest at the onset of pregnancy to hemorraging at birth where I, the baby, or both may not survive. In my fervent desire to be pregnant, I wanted to dismiss these scary scenarios that I knew they were required to lay out. My husband, on the other hand, had heard it all and was quick to agree to explore surgical options.
No! That was not in the plan! I was red with anger. It was my body that was not responding. It was my body that was failing me. Auwe, it was my body that I could not reason with or control. My only hope had been IVF and that now was gone.
Surgery was scheduled and my anger subsided to numbness. I was operating on pure emotion, logic no longer part of my equation. Although I knew it was the best option for my health in the long run, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life – then and even now. Today, I know I was grieving. I was losing this power I believed I had as a woman to bear and nuture children. I lost the ability to make that choice.
Surgery was a blur and so were the days, weeks, months and years following. Life went on. I never spoke of the full hysterectomy I had at the age of 26. It's only in the doctor's office when I leave blank the question “the date of your last period” that I feel awkward. Worse are the looks of pity from the nurses who hear my story.
Almost 20 years later, I don't even bat an eye. In some existential shift, it feels more like a badge of honor than a death sentence.
Perhaps when you relax and let go, things do happen. When I did accept my body "malfunction," the most amazing and unimaginable happened. We had a BABY! In fact, we had 4 of them. All have their own stories and full knowledge of who they are and why they are so valuable to me. Adoption provided us the avenue to be parents in every aspect except that they did not grow in my belly. Thankfully, an aunty did that for me. At some point, we contemplated surrogacy, but my husband and I didn't want our already-adopted keiki to think that they weren't enough.
Infertility is part of me but no longer defines me. Hi, my name is Sheri.
Sheri Daniels, wahine, wife, daughter, aunty, mother