Written By: Lissa Lavey
Upon first meeting one of my husband’s coworkers, before I had even gotten their name, they asked why we didn’t have kids yet. A complete stranger asked me about something so emotionally charged I had to react viscerally.
“Crotch goblins? No thanks!”, I said loudly enough to summon my husband from the next room. Thankfully he came at full speed. In disbelief, his coworker looked at my husband.
“Your wife just called kids crotch goblins!”, his coworker said incredulously.
My husband replied, “Yeah, and I usually call them worse. See you later Phil.” Ah, his coworker’s name finally appeared.
“Okay, nice meeting you, we have to go now!” I said, dragging my husband away so the conversation didn’t go down the all-too-familiar rabbit hole.
“When are you having kids?”
“You say never, but accidents happen!”
“You’ll change your mind.”
“Does your husband know?”
Loaded glances shared between others in the conversation and condescendingly cheerful verbal pats on the head were the norm. I could hear the internal thoughts, layered under their southern honey twangs. “Twenty-six and no kids? Something must be wrong with her!”
Plot twist: there is. It’s called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) Type 1, named after four long-named scientists, and it’s a birth defect that affects 1 in 4500 women. I was born without a uterus. Type 2 includes kidney issues and skeletal abnormalities on top of a missing or non-functioning uterus. Like many medical conditions, I look perfectly normal on the outside. I didn’t get a diagnosis until I was sixteen. Since I was active and skinny it was easy to dismiss my lack of a period. I counted it as a blessing until the doctor’s visit.
You would never know unless I told you. But even when I told others, the questions didn’t stop. The judgment didn’t stop. I felt like I was on the wrong side of the glass at a zoo, a medical anomaly standing on stage.
“But you look normal!”
“Can’t you just have a surrogate?”
“It must be so nice not having a period!”
“Oh, well, you can just adopt.”
It took me ten years to become comfortable with my diagnosis. It took me ten years to be comfortable enough to speak up, to tell others that yes, I have a birth defect. That no, I do not want to adopt. That no, I really don’t want to devote pieces of my life to children instead of myself. That no, despite the dubious perk of not having a period, I would rather have had the choice. That the difference between an accident and an adoption is an average of $20k -$45k, per child. The innocuous question so often served with the same regularity as comments about the weather, “So, when are you having kids?” hurts.
One in five couples in the US have infertility issues. Hysterectomies, birth defects, low sperm counts, miscarriages, and more hide under that question, waiting to strike those who suffer with a sharp reminder shaped in the form of a friendly question.
I’m happy with my condition. It gave me an avenue to explore that I otherwise would not have seen: childless, enjoying my life to the fullest with my husband. However, it took me a decade to get here. Many still struggle with their diagnosis, with the implications, and the weight of other people’s expectations. Instead of casually asking others “When are you having kids?” consider asking broader questions like “Do you have any plans for the future?” or “What are your goals?”
When in doubt? Ask about the weather.
Meet the Author
Elissa Lavey, Lissa, is a copywriter who uses her skill with a keyboard to bring compassion and awareness to topics often uncomfortable to discuss, especially fertility issues. Content in the role of Critter Mom and mentor to young creatives, she uses her personal experiences to break the silence around infertility so others can be more compassionate too.