Monday, November 28, 2011

Farewell, Fertility

Last night, I awakened at least four times due to tingling hands and feet and, frankly, stinky perspiration. As I live out my fiftieth year on the planet, I am experiencing that change of life that is the trade-off for the miraculous ability to nurture life inside me and give birth to children.

As a culture, we rightly celebrate women's fertility. A woman of child-bearing age is considered the most beautiful of all. Think Jennifer Lopez.  I've never looked anything like her, but the thing is, she is beautiful in this picture largely because she looks so fertile.

As for me, I never took my fertility for granted due to medical issues. It was miraculous that modern medicine had advanced enough by the time I was married to enable me to ovulate and thus, become pregnant.

The truth is, I haven't been pregnant in eight years; I suffered my second miscarriage on our second son's fourth birthday. Still, my husband and I held out hope we might have more children. For many years, I grieved over the children I would never raise - the two we lost before birth and the ones we never were blessed with.

It took several years of yearning, but I finally came to accept the blessings God has showered me with. Really, do I deserve any of this? The loyal funny husband?  Our bright and beautiful sons?

While I am delighted my two closest colleagues at work are pregnant with their first children, I no longer long to bear babies. I understand now there are many ways to express my deep desire for maternity, my need to nurture others and leave a bit my journey in this world. In fact, this was part of the reason I switched careers at midlife so I could teach special education students. 

From a medical perspective, my fitful nights are due to fluctuating hormones. From a spiritual perspective, I see this change of life as God's way of reminding me it is time to say farwell to my fertility.

Thank you God, for this beautiful gift. I hope I have used it well. Thank you for enabling me to give birth and for blessing my life with wonderful children - the boys I birthed and the children in front of me every day at school.


  1. Lovely, Allison. Thank you for sharing this reflection with us.

  2. Wait - that's NOT a picture of you? (ha,ha,ha!)

    Really nice post, Allison - I am so happy to be not fertile anymore, and delighted with my two kids!

  3. Well said, Allison! I love to hear how you don't say good riddance to your fertility, and yet you are embrace the new part of your life with hopeful eyes.

    I am certainly not looking forward to menopause and all its discomforts, but I thank God for women like you who courageously pave the way by showing how it can be done with purpose and grace.

  4. Thank you for sharing something so heartfelt Allison!

  5. Am 49 but don't seem to have any menopausal signs .. Though my last pregnancy ended in miscarriage when I was 44.. I found adjusting to no more children very difficult psychologically but am coming to terms with it. A gr8 post!

  6. Thank you Jackie and everyone else. I have been mulling this post for a while and it finally just came out.

    At least in my corner of the world, I haven't heard women talk about this so much. It's almost like a private embarrassment.

    Jackie: I am your age! I think peri-menopause is different for every woman. I would say my symptoms are mild. You might have none. Others, severe. It's kind of like pregnancy symptoms - a wide range of experiences. ( and all my pregnancies were different from one another in terms of symptoms.)

  7. I really enjoyed your post, Allison. Thank you.

    Fertile years are full of blessings and so much joy but they can be full of heartache and suffering too. They are not easy years but I wouldn't have missed any of them.

    I think to get to menopause and be able to feel content and ready for the next stage of live is a real blessing. This is where I am. I am happy to move on. I know God has other roles planned for me besides bringing children into the world. Other sufferings too, different from miscarriage and baby loss! More joys ahead.

    Menopause is not talked about much. Thank you for posting on this topic.

    God bless.

  8. I am not so sure JLo is beautiful b/c she looks fertile or because of the immodest seductive cut on the silky tank dress!

    Seriously though I am with you that it is sad to let go of the time and hope and anticipation of a future child. I have been blessed with 4 kids, and the last 2 were after my DH thought we had enough. I would love to have another but he is not there so even if I still have the remnants of fertility at 43 years of age, it might as well be that menopause started right after my now 6 year old was born. I will pray for you as you encounter this new stage in your womanhood. It seems some are actually good with it. I expect the change itself to have worse hormone fluctuations, but once through it, I am wondering if it is not more calm--no hormonal roller coaster, or cramps, or feminine products, etc.? My husband is not looking forward to it because his co-worker told him that "his lawn has never looked so good," meaning he spends as much time outside taking care of the lawn to avoid hormonal storms indoors from his wife. I am sure he must be exaggerating, right?

  9. Colleen: Thanks so much for your thoughts. I would posit that what is considered a "seductive" female is so because yes, her form evokes sex, but ultimately, sex is about procreation. Our culture has split the two, but the female form - ample breasts, wide hips, small waist - is considered attractive because it signals fertility.

    On a lighter note, I sure hope your husband's co-workers is kidding!

    I am a believer in brain medication if one needs it to regulate depression or anxiety. Brain meds - in partnership with therapy and prayer and a loving parish and town community - have been instrumental to my family recovering from 9/11 trauma and I would say someone subject to serious mood issues would benefit.

    Blessings to you and yours!