Here is a conversation I have been remembering frequently over the last few months. The year? 1998. The place? The clinic at the university where I was a fresh-faced first year student. I’d gone in for a regular physical.
(Picking up in mid-conversation)
Doctor: And when was your last period?
Me: Umm. *thinks hard* Gosh, I really don’t know. I don’t think I’ve had a period in eighteen months or so. It was always irregular, and then, I guess it stopped.
Doctor: *raising eyebrows* Hmm. We better look into that.
*A week or so later*
Doctor: Well, I thought it was PCOS, but your bloodwork and ultrasound all came back clear.
Me: What does that mean?
Doctor: Hmm. I’m not sure. Why don’t you try going on the pill and see if that fixes things?
Cue ten years (TEN!) of my body obediently bleeding when on the pill and refusing to do so whenever I took a break. Cue heavy and extremely painful periods when on the pill. Cue weight gain when on the pill. Cue better skin (ok, so there were some benefits). Cue me, oblivious to it all because I’m convinced for most of that decade that I didn’t want to have kids. Ever. And I most certainly did not want to be having those kids at that moment, and, after all, that was what the pill was for, so what was the problem?
There are days when I think that if time travel were invented I would give up the right to visit far more interesting points in history in order to go back and speak to my younger self. To say to that nineteen-year-old girl, “The pill is not an answer! Don’t be satisfied with this. Keep asking questions. This is NOT NORMAL!”
I think I did know that, even from the beginning. And with every “odd” pap smear result (that later was said to be nothing); with every episode of breakthrough bleeding that came when I tried to skip cycles with the pill to avoid the debilitating cramping for one more month; with every reminder of my family’s medical history (breast, cervical and uterine cancer), I, like the ostrich I clearly was, kept putting my head in the proverbial sand.
The sad truth is, for most of that decade the state of my reproductive system was not a priority. And why not? I didn’t want to get pregnant. I was still insisting that I didn’t want to have children. I went, obedient, to my annual physicals, confirmed that no cells were doing anything they shouldn’t be, and thought nothing more of it.
So what changed?
Well, I met Q. And gradually I began to realize that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to have children, it was just that I hadn’t yet met anyone with whom I wanted to have them. Children, for me, were never an instinctive desire. I wasn’t born wanting to have children the same way I seem to have sprung from the womb breathing horses and devouring books. As I got older (I still had to wait for the horses), I grew more and more comfortable with my skin. Content, certainly. Complacent even.
But when Q. came into my life, my perspective changed. Now I could understand that it wasn’t that I wanted “children”- a vague, somewhat dissatisfyingly generic term that referred to a concept I hadn’t quite grasped yet. I wanted HIS children. Now I could imagine them, could imagine our lives together, could imagine Q. as a father, somewhat bemused by the entire process, but immensely loving.
And then Q. and I got married, and decided that there would never be a better time, even if we still didn’t think we were quite ready (because how can you ever be ready?), and with great fanfare I went off the pill. And sadly, predictably, nothing happened.
Ok, I didn’t quite tell the whole truth then. There wasn’t much fanfare when I went off the pill. We’d suspected there might be a problem. But that’s a story of another doctor, and perhaps I will leave that for another post.