A lot of people have been asking questions about my fertility lately: “Can you still have children?” they ask. While some people have asked me this question directly, many other times they have not. Instead, my mother, and close friends of mine, have told me about the times different individuals have asked them whether or not I can have children. Usually afterwards, the person admits that instead of coming directly to the source—me— he/she has chosen to talk to my mother or friend because he/she didn’t want to pry. For those reading this blog post, thank-you. I want to preface the following with this statement and prepare you for the level of bluntness a blog post like this requires. If you are asking family members of mine, or any of my closest friends about my fertility, you ARE prying. And, it’s really none of your stinkin’ business. More on that later.
Next, I need to mention that the correct question is NOT whether I— or someone else— can still have children after a tragic event and subsequent injuries. There are many ways to form a family that DON’T involve bearing a biological child. The correct question would be: “Will Erin be able to safely get pregnant and carry a child to term? Need I remind you, though, that having children is not solely for the families who choose to have biological children. Next, we will talk about when the correct question should, and should not be asked. Just because it feels correct for me, for example, does not deem it appropriate necessarily in all situations, and for all people.
I heard a quote the other day that goes like this: “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad” – Wade Boggs
This quote is especially powerful because it makes the distinction between fatherhood— in this case contributing to a biological child— and what it means to move BEYOND contributing —or making a baby— and actually participating in the selfless act that fatherhood is: taking care of, loving, spending time with, teaching, and providing and sacrificing for the child. I am not a parent of human babies, and so I know there are so many other things that make a father a dad or a mother a mom. I am speaking specifically from what I have seen and know about parenting, not direct experience.
In response to the question everyone seems to want answers to, the first thing I will say is that I understand why someone who knows “of me” or my story would ask this question. I also think it’s normal to feel curious about this part of my womanhood.
But….and there’s a HUGE but….BUT the moment you chose to ask members of my family or close friends of mine —instead of me— whether or not I can have biological children, you also CHOSE to take MY choice away.
Think about that for a minute.
Your choice to seek out information and ask other people about matters that most people would consider highly private in nature, especially if you and I have not had a one-on-one conversation about my desire for children in general, then you CHOSE to take MY choice away. Your need to know details about my life prevented me from having a voice.
I feel very strongly about my choice being taken because I cannot control the answers other people give—especially because such questions are on the spot. I can only decide how I would have answered you if you had asked me directly. Maybe you and I don’t really know each other and I don’t want to get into the details of how my body was ripped apart and sliced open because a woman decided to get drunk one night and ended up driving on the wrong side of the EXPRESSWAY— hitting me head-on.
The reality is that that question you asked about my fertility feels invasive to me. It then prompts me to ask YOU this question: What is it about my fertility that nags you? For people who don’t know me, or know my wishes about starting, or forming my family, the question feels like a complete stranger asking about my sex life. Again, it’s none of your stinkin’ business.
What makes matters worse, is that those individuals chose to ask someone else, instead of me. I did confront one person who asked one of my best friends about my fertility. When I called her on the phone, in defense of her actions, she stated that she told my best friend she decided to bypass asking me directly “because we don’t know each other that well.” That statement says it all. Did she/you ever think that maybe if we don’t know each other that well, that I wouldn’t want either of you to know something so private about me? Or did your curiosity get the best of you?
The question about my fertility goes so much deeper for me and really deserves more than a yes or no answer. And honestly, in this day and age with many of my friends struggling publicly, or privately, with infertility, a woman doesn’t really know if she can get pregnant UNTIL she tries. And this is true for men as well. Even if a person passes all the potential tests that state that he/she is indeed fertile does not mean they are completely safe from having any bumps in the road when trying to conceive. I had a friend who passed all of the tests and yet still struggled to get pregnant.
When people inquire about my fertility, mostly implying that they fear the crash— and injuries sustained—damaged my female parts in some way feels like just one more thing that potentially could have been taken from me, or one more way my body was broken on November 9, 2014.
But if you had asked me, it would be MY choice whether or not to tell you the reality of my situation. And the answer is: “No one knows.” This answer is not because the crash caused anything obvious to happen that could affect my fertility, but because there are NO obvious reasons why I cannot have a biological child. The doctors told my family and me that women with full spinal cord injuries are able to carry healthy babies to term and deliver normally.
When the crash initially happened and everyone else asked the most important questions about whether I would live or die, and if I would be completely and permanently paralyzed, my sister asked the doctor if my injuries would affect my ability to have biological children. I know it was a sacrifice for her to ask because she has a lot of complex feelings about family formation— and the 153 million orphans in the world, according to SOS Children’s Villages’ statistics. The difference is that she knows that having biological children is what I would have wanted.
When you asked my mom or best friend about my fertility was it because you know that I DO want to have biological children, or because you just couldn’t cope with your lack of knowledge about my life?
For those of you who do not know my wishes about family formation, the question of whether I can still have biological children feels very violating. Not to mention, invasive. Why does it matter? Am I less of a woman because I may not be able to have a biological child? Infertility is becoming more and more common, honestly. But, to think that there is some judgement formed about a woman based on her ability to conceive is ludicrous. I didn’t get married to secure a father for my unborn child. I got married because I love my husband and I want to build a life with HIM. I want to make it clear that Dennis and I also strongly desire to form part our family through adoption, in addition to trying for biological children. We are both also painfully aware of the 153 million orphans in the world. There are approximately 438,000 children on any given day in the U.S. foster system alone, according to Childrensrights.org.
I stay up at night thinking about animals and children, those who have been abandoned whether by choice, war, or another reason; those given up for adoption, and even aborted—and the impossible choice that some of these situations are for so many. I stay up thinking and crying over children and animals who are abused, and there is never an excuse for abuse. When thinking of these situations, I am reminded of the scripture that says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” –James 1:27
The above scripture is evidence that God thinks about, plans for and mourns over the same children and widows that we do. God says that part of true religion is to not forget about the orphans and widows, but to care for them in their distress. This is a huge reason I have considered forming part of my family through adoption because caring for orphans brings honor to God.
When talking about my fertility, I also need you to know one more thing: My womanhood is not defined by my ability to make babies. Honestly, I struggle every day with the question if even trying for a biological child makes sense for me or for the child? In today’s political climate, I wonder if it would be wise to bring another baby into the world, especially one who will be half-white and half-black. I don’t need, or want, to get into racial issues in this post, but consideration of all factors is important when bringing another life into the world.
Let me be clear: The doctors NEVER indicated that the surgeries I have had, my injuries, or anything else would prevent me from being able to get pregnant and carry a child-to-term.
While the following is true, however; I also need you to know that there is significant risk with me having a biological child unrelated to the act of getting pregnant. So, the short answer is yes, I am able to have biological children, and I will address all of the risks in a future blog post.
I have spent a long time thinking through what I would have felt if God had allowed my fertility to be taken along with the other functions of my body as a result of the crash. The conclusion I have come to is that I could be fine with the idea of not having a biological child. If, however; the ability to have biological children had been taken—or was severely impacted as a result of the crash—what would hurt more would be that my CHOICE would have been taken. Either way, it would be another loss, but the reason I have not focused more on the former is not because I don’t think about biological children. Instead, it is because I don’t NEED to pass down my DNA. I don’t need to have a child who walks, talks, or looks like me. I’m not saying anything about those who want biological children. I am saying I absolutely DO want biological children, but I don’t NEED them to make me feel a certain way about myself or my life. The other part of the story is that I do have a lot of concerns and I am mourning some of those losses now while even thinking about future children at all.
For the women who can’t conceive biologically: You have not failed. You are not less of a woman because you can’t carry a biological child or have a biological child at all, even with the help of a surrogate. You should not have to carry the shame of other people’s expectations of what family formation should look like and be made to believe that if you don’t abide by those expectations, there is something wrong with you. There is most definitely NOTHING wrong with you. Instead, I would challenge that those individuals who are so stuck on societal norms that they can’t think for themselves, or allow other people to make decisions for themselves, are the ones who have something very wrong with their thinking patterns. People cannot, and should not, be put into a one-size fits all box to suit the comfortability levels other people.
Remember, whether you meet the expectations of other people, you are still beautiful. You are allowed to feel whatever you feel. You are allowed to want or not want biological children, or children at all. You are allowed to be your own person and make whatever decisions you want for the formation of your family. And I would highly encourage anyone to think through this issue as a single, so that whoever you choose to marry supports whatever dreams you have, or don’t have, for a future family. Having different values surrounding the desire for children in many cases is a make-it or break-it in relationships, per the research.
If you like this post and want to read more, please check out the previous blog post in the series: To the Woman Who Chastised Me for Parking Legally in the Handicapped Spot. Also, please follow me here and on Facebook at God Sends Me Hearts (I need to change this to “The Miracle Patient”) and IG at The Miracle Patient. If you are interested in my story and the page dedicated to the documentary we hope to release this year about my story, please follow me at Peeing Is Overrated on FB and IG. You can also find me on YouTube at Erin Rollins.
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