When she was a few months old, and not able to sleep, my first instinct was to pick my niece up and carry her around, against my chest, singing softly to her. To soothe her. I would walk for as long as it took because from the moment I saw her, I feel in love with her. She was the first baby that upturned (in a good way) my immediate family and my world, and I was very apprehensive about how I would feel. I dreaded her arrival, not knowing if I would shy away from hugging her. I would have flash backs to when I was first diagnosed, an anxious fraught girl of 17 not wanting to look at babies or pregnant women yet finding my eyes would seek them out anyway. They became curiosities; a world that I was barred from entering it would seem, without knowing if I even wanted to buy a ticket. Now, I know I would have bought a hundred and more if I had the chance. But back then, it was not so simple.
My niece, and then my two nephews brought a new awareness into my life, a seed of love that I’d been wanting to sow for years but hadn’t dared try. I’ll admit, I dived in. Head over heels in love, delighted by each of them. When my best friend, my sister, had her baby and I got to hold him within hours of his birth, it was one of the hardest things and best things I’ve ever experienced. Hard because I wondered if this is the space where my joy had to nest, the sister of a mum, but never a mum myself. And the best moment because when he curled into my chest and fell asleep, I felt proud of my sister and so very happy.
Grief as many people know is like undulating desert sands, one minute you feel like you are gliding through okay and the next, it appears like quicksand pulling you under. Happiness is almost as scary, because when we feel joy, we might be at our most vulnerable. When we are so open and let down our barriers, we step forward and hold out our hands for the joy. For peace, for whatever it is that makes our hearts happy. I have learnt over the past 13 years that it is okay to hold hope alongside the grief. What does this look like? For me, it was about asking the question, ‘who am i? Why am I not like other women? Why didn’t God give me a reproductive system? Why am I so chronically sick?’ alongside ‘Is there hope? Will I accept this one day? Will someone love me? Will I love myself? Is it okay to be a woman and not have everything society (note: patriarchy) deems ‘womanly’?’ Here – if you haven’t already guessed, curiosity sits alongside the horror. Or rather, it’s that small voice at the end of the days that says, “somehow, will I be okay?’. I used to dull that voice, ignore it, scratch it away. You see, there are many stages to hope. One – is feeling worthy of it in the first place. Long before you ever embrace it. It is born of the negative things we are told by others, but more so by ourselves. It can cause a lot of damage.
So here I sit, writing about hope. Hope beyond the grief. But really, it’s never gone. Instead, I have learnt that we can hold both the sadness and the happiness in our hands, in our hearts, simultaneously. One is never solely static, but rather it moves. The pain I felt when I turned 30 and realised I would have to get fertility tests, that I would be beholden to a biomedical system if I ever wanted a child of my own just as I have been for the past 20 years to keep me healthy *enough* so that I could have *enough* of a life. This pain sits alongside feeling more comfortable in my body, knowing that an empty hole in my stomach where a womb should (or rather, could) be is not barren. This social construct that suggests barrenness is a form of nothingness, fails for all womankind. It holds us up to a standard that we will always fall short of, in some way. So, I have decided to embrace my nothingness and see it as a way to cultivate connection with others who also have MRKH, but beyond. This pain, grief, and self-hope sit alongside another kind of hope. That I will one day hold a child in my arms and call them my own darling. A dangerous, beautiful, fragile strand of hope that no one sees, but I feel it. Some days, I even smile knowing it is there because it’s very presence lets me know that I AM worthy, of children, of love, that the body I live in is not a replica of anything else out there. And neither is yours. It is beautiful, and if you feel it is imperfect, then repeat after me: you’re beautiful because you are you.
A clique I know, but your story is part of you, your sweat and tears are your very mantel and you deserve to feel at peace with it. To allow the hope and the sadness to both reside without questioning them. More importantly, do not feel guilty when you do have hope, or even frustration when it seems all but gone. If you are anything like me, it is still there. You have become a warrior, you were born a unicorn not a horse and on bad days there is no way in hell that the hope you have in your heart has vanished. When the pain eases, it will be there.
About Hannah …
Hannah is a doctoral student in medical anthropology, exploring the topic of surrogacy within a New Zealand and global context. Besides this, she discovered she had MRKH at 17 and battles other complex health conditions. She is passionate about creating awareness, advocacy and sharing empathy with others through reflecting on her own experiences as well as the connections she makes with others.And she also happens to be a beautiful soul with a lot of love to give – the Sisters for Love MRKH Foundation continues to cherish this friendship.