Sunday, June 28, 2015

I’ve grown accustomed to receiving text messages and Facebook posts wishing “Happy Father’s Day”, even though I don’t have children and it’s widely known that I do not want children. However, by nature of the work I do, many people juxtapose the role I play in the development of young people with that of a father or father figure. I understand. I guess. Some of these messages come directly from these students and are heartfelt reminders of just how important the role counselors, advisors, mentors and others play in filling the voids so many young people are growing up with. Hell, one of my former students has called me “Dad” for the better part of ten years and he’s nearly 30-years-old. So, yeah, I get it. I’ve come to accept that those messages are going to continue to come each year and will likely increase the longer I stay in Higher Ed; what I reject are the messages encouraging me to have children of my own, imploring that I’ll be a great father or telling me that I have to want a son or daughter of my own.

Emphatically no.

I’ve known for quite some time that I didn’t want to have children and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more absolute in that thinking. There’s a litany of reasons I’ve never wanted to be a father and at the top of my list is my selfishness. I’m still at a station in my life where my wants outweigh the needs of others; I’m honest about that and okay with it. I’ve been married four and a half years and I still struggle with making sure I’m meeting all of my wife’s needs in the face of my whims and wants. I work at it daily; it’s a constant sacrifice and she has to compromise far too much to put up with me. There’s a freedom to being childless that I am not willing to trade. The ability to get up and go without pause is something I have enjoyed far too long to turn away from now. That didn’t change with marriage, because I found a partner who shares in my passions and the same freedom, who also doesn’t want children.
I think that’s the hard part for people to grasp, that my wife also doesn’t want to have children. There are people who openly ask if she made that choice because of me, but the truth is, she probably wouldn’t have dated me if I had or even wanted to have children. Not every woman wants to be a mother. Not every man wants to be a father. There are people who simply want to love one another and enjoy a healthy and successful marriage, accomplishing the goals they set, seeing the world and helping people along the way. We fit into that category, regardless of the designs people from the outside may have on our marriage. It’s always funny when we’re told that we’re going to change our minds or to wait a few years to decide, challenging our conviction on the issue.

Too late.

Two weeks ago I took the necessary step to ensure that Sharea and I wouldn’t have any biological children of our own when I got a vasectomy. The decision wasn’t hard for me to make at all; I flirted with the idea for a few years, mentioned it in a conversation with my wife and had an appointment and date for the procedure within two days. A vasectomy is the most effective birth control for men, short of abstinence and I felt it was my responsibility as head of my family to have the surgery. There are those who consider birth control a “woman’s thing”, but that devalues her and the partnership of marriage. We could’ve opted for tubal ligation, but I’m far more comfortable with surgery than my wife and the effectiveness of the vasectomy is higher. There was also the option of the having her remain on birth control, but why not free her body of the hormones distributed through her body?

The finality of the decision didn’t rest easy with my wife initially; I imagine a moment or two was needed to come to terms that this meant forever, but that’s her story to tell. I was ready, not because I was excited about not being able to have kids, but just anxious to get it over with. Having surgery of any kind generates those kind of feelings in most people, when you’re just ready to get to the other side of the anesthesia and start recovering. The pain was minimal for the first few days, more of an annoyance than anything and there was some uncomfortableness in my everyday actions for a week or so, but I’ve been through more with less at stake.

There was no change of my mind on the horizon; I’m closing in on 40 and the desire to be that old with a newborn or toddler is not appealing to me. I don’t judge anyone’s decision to have children (under ideal circumstances), so all I ask is the same consideration of my choice not to have any. I don’t feel like any less of a man because I’ve decided to remove my ability to have children. In fact, I feel more secure that I was man enough to remain steadfast in my decision and make a choice for my family going forward. It wasn’t a decision for you or your notions of the intention of marriage or anyone’s desire to be a grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle, this was based on the goals my wife and I made for our marriage long before we said “I do”.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:13

We met in 1993 through a mutual friend. We became friends instead of boyfriend and girlfriend. Years went by and we stayed close, but not so distant. He was there for the baby shower of my first born; gave the father of my child and me over a hundred dollars as a gift.

He was involved with someone, and I was too. We still kept in touch to see how each other was doing and how was the family. He never mentioned he had a girlfriend, but I mentioned, I had someone. Years went by and I happened to look in my Facebook inbox and see a message from him saying, “Hey call me.” I replied, “OK, give me a second, but first, “What’s your number”?

From then came the not-so-magical sparks. All I could think about was, what does Paul want with me? Why is he inbox me and want my number? What is so darn important? All I could do is laugh, and say to myself, I know what this fool is all about.

All of my worries came to an end on July 29, 2014 when we got married and vowed to love through sickness and health.  Through sickness and health, I shall repeat for all once again. Before we got married, we talked about kids, I explained to him my struggles and even the struggle with my very own daughter. He understood and BAM I get pregnant before we got married. Not once, but twice.

The first time was planned, but unexpected (go figure). It was in April 2013. Now let me take you all back to what’s about to happen, I have hyperemesis gravidarum. This is a condition in which a mother can conceive a child but has difficulty in carrying a child. This condition can be life threatening as well. For me it was. I have been pregnant a total of seven times before him, many of those pregnancies ending in either it was a miscarriage or an abortion. Was the abortion by choice, yes and no, it was a decision I had to make due to my condition. Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) symptoms are crucial and unbearable at times. I would start to get sick at four to five weeks of conception and then just go downhill from there. I couldn’t eat, drink, or even stand the smell of my very own self. I would throw up until I started to see blood dripping in my very own vomit.

The pregnancy advanced and the sickness began. We went to the doctors, they didn’t offer me anything, I wasn’t eating, drinking, and if I tried, it came back up in seconds. I couldn’t take it, the doctors didn’t want to help, I was miserable, couldn’t stand who I was as a person, and just wanted out, even if it meant, death. This condition plays 60% on the mind and the rest physically.

I explained this all to my husband, and he understood, at least I thought he did.

I started bleeding and landed in the emergency room. My husband had to return home to retrieve his wallet, leaving me alone with the doctors. The doctors advised me that I had a high chance of losing the baby because I was bleeding and they could only find a vague heartbeat. I called my husband to explain, to tell him that I couldn’t do this anymore. He was furious, mad, pissed off, didn’t want to talk to me, he thought I was killing his first child. I thought he understood my condition, but truly, he didn’t. He blamed me for everything, even going as far as to accuse me of sleeping with someone on the side. I was already down about what was going on, feeling alone and like crap inside, but keeping it hidden with a smile each and every day.

Two weeks passed and it was time to talk. He still wasn’t trying to hear it, everything was my fault, “Why did I do that? Why him? Was it someone else’s baby and not his?” I was getting tired of being the bad guy when I had already explained my condition. I understand he never saw anything like this, but that’s not my fault.  He finally calmed down, but still didn’t understand.

We search for solutions, but they all seemed so one-sided; I was told to get my tubes tied, because I was the one with the issues not him. This was all coming from my soon-to-be husband. He calmed down and apologized, but I knew he was still hurt, this was his first time having a child at 40 years of age and by someone he truly loved.  Not to mention he’s an only child.

We worked to get over this hurdle and things were getting back to normal. It was time to start planning our wedding. Months passed and we are living a beautiful life once again and I get pregnant again. You ask why not use protection? Well, I have high blood pressure and at my age, no doctor will give me pills with this condition. I can’t do hormones, it makes me sick, so we used the ovulation method and had sex when I wasn’t ovulating.

We prayed that this will be the one, but the sickness started immediately. The nausea, the vomiting, it all came back. This time the doctor gave me medication, but none of it worked at all. I was back in the hospital, IV in my arm and a different medication that didn’t ease the sickness. I was sent home and started to get sick all over again. A few days later, I ended up aborting.

The reason why was different this time; I went to sleep and stopped breathing. I saw something bright and thought my husband was telling me to come towards him. He explained I wasn’t breathing for a few moments. I woke up and knew it was a sign. My body just can’t take this anymore. This medical condition has gotten to my body and won’t allow me to carry a baby at all.

Now, I’m about to get married to a man who has no children and is 40. What do I do? I cried most nights, thinking that he would leave me, find someone else who can carry his child, because I couldn’t do so.  But that’s not what he did. He married me; he came to understand that he didn’t want to lose his wife, that my condition was life threatening. He knew he was going be there through thick and thin, through sickness and health. I was the one regardless of not be able to have the one thing he always wanted. He did end up with the best wife ever and a great friend.

We’ve decided that my daughter is all the kid we need. We both decided that we don’t want kids, and my daughter is enough. We can now cruise the world, complete the goals we always wanted to complete and just love each other infinitely.

This was truly hard for me to share, because the pain is fresh and brings back memories. Often I would question myself, I’m a woman, why can’t I have a child and why did God punish me? No, he didn’t punish me, he gave me a beautiful daughter who I love more than anything. I almost lost her as well, but God granted my wishes and she was born healthy and on time. 

To learn more about hyperemesis gravidarum, please visit the American Pregnancy Association.