Plans for Motherhood

This is part 1 of a 3-post series about motherhood.  Our regular bloggers, Melissa Abbott, Ellie Hamilton, and Sarah Ellen Edwards, will be contributing to each post.

Today’s blog post contains content that may be difficult for people to read who have had infertility, suffered abuse, and have trauma related to these events.  

Q: What were your plans for motherhood early in life, before you got married, or in the early days of marriage?

Sarah Ellen
I always just thought I would get pregnant. No big deal.  I would get married and get pregnant and life would go on.  
Jeff and I met in my first year of teaching and were married 2 years later.  We had originally said we would wait 5 years before trying to get pregnant.  
Thinking back, I remember in premarital counseling talking about children and the future.  The pastor that married us was divorced and remarried so he was really big on having open discussions about the big things that cause division and divorce in families:  kids, finances, your extended families and deciding on holidays, etc. He was very adamant that we say “this is what we plan to do.”  He wanted to make sure that Jeff and I were on the same page about children.  The pastor also asked, “And what if you can’t have children? Is that going to be something?”  Jeff responded with something like, “I really don’t want to do in vitro [fertilization]...I just feel like if we need some assistance or need a procedure, that’s fine, but if we have to go full-on, I don’t really want to do that.  I would rather adopt if we are in that scenario.”   I was just like “oh, that is so sweet…aw, he wants to adopt children…that is so cute!”  I thought that was so precious and that we would never have to consider anything other than just getting pregnant (stay tuned for how that turned out).   
In all honesty, in vitro fertilization scared me because that affected me and my body.  Fast forwarding to our first anniversary and Jeff and I threw our 5-year plan out of the window and decided I should go off my birth control.  Jeff is 5 years older than me and he always said he didn’t want to be the old dad at the football field.  So we started trying right around our first anniversary.  

Prior to dating Justin, when I was in high school, I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to  physically birth kids.  When I was 15 or 16 years old, I knew I wanted to adopt.  When Justin and I started dating I was 17.  We were babies ourselves, but we knew we eventually wanted kids.  
We got married 9 years after we started dating and my mother-in-law was at our reception saying, “you can have me some grandkids now!”  I was like you already have grandkids…what’s the rush.  I had lost a bunch of weight and continued to lose a bunch of weight so I was like not right now!  I remember walking by Louis Vuitton or Prada on our honeymoon and Justin trying to bribe me with a new bag to start trying to have a baby.  I was like “no thank you.”  We had dated forever and I just wanted to enjoy being married.  I knew we would eventually have kids.  Around the time we turned 30, 4 or 5 years after we got married, I was ready.

I don’t know that I had the ability to think about motherhood early in life because from day one, my cycle was abnormal far beyond what one would expect in early puberty.  I was anemic, had nearly constant, heavy, and painful cycles.  As a result, I was prescribed many forms of hormone therapy and had many invasive diagnostic and surgical procedures before I was even out of middle school.  I often felt very isolated from my peers, who had never even had a pelvic exam and none of whom were facing these experiences.  I also felt alone, afraid, and carried a deep shame and mistrust of my body. I was not yet aware of my trauma history, as I was enduring ongoing abuse during these years.  As with many survivors of abuse, my brain’s way of protecting me meant suppressing these memories from my consciousness. So, I think there was always a big question for me if motherhood was even an option. My parents and doctors kept reassuring me that with time, my body would likely regulate, but this was not to be my story. 
I wasn’t able to tolerate most (if any) the hormonal interventions because they would cause severe migraines. I would land in the ER 2-3 times monthly for IV medicines with chronic and intractable migraines caused by the medicines that were not even effective in preventing my anemia or alleviating my ongoing cycle. I was chronically ill from sixth grade until I had a hysterectomy at age 22.  That surgery itself was meant to be exploratory. The doctor and I agreed in advance that if he saw a need to, he would perform a hysterectomy despite my age, as I was so weak and anemic after years of illness that I was in need of a blood transfusion and all other medical interventions had previously been explored with multiple specialists consulted.  I would learn after the surgery that the muscle tissue of my womb had become scar tissues, a rare condition that occurs in women who have had multiple traumatic births. From that point on, I knew motherhood would look different for me.

Part 2 of this series will be published next week.