I deeply struggled to accept and explain the pain of infertility - zero chance of becoming pregnant - after my hysterectomy. At 28 years old, I'd elected to have a surgery that made me infertile for the rest of my life. No turning back, the decision was permanent.

Why I became infertile

Initially, I pointed to surviving colon cancer at age 17 as the cause of my infertility. Not only did I assume the cancer treatments would cause problems with conceiving, but I’d had an ovarian transposition surgery prior to radiation therapy. I still had ovaries, but they were tacked up into my abdomen, away from where the radiation was going to hit.

The procedure was a success in that it saved my hormones; my ovaries still worked. I wasn’t concerned about childbearing at that time. But years later after I got married and began to discuss family planning, my ovarian suspension surgery came back to play a role in our fertility decisions. Although I was, by definition, infertile, we could have explored IVF. But at this point, we weren’t interested.

Two cases of colorectal cancer had led to enough needles, pokes and hospital stays for me. Plus, I have Lynch syndrome. So, as soon as possible, I wanted to remove my uterus and ovaries. At the time, the decision came quickly and easily.

Our daughter’s adoption story had unfolded a little over a year earlier, and so I didn’t think it would phase me. She was a major motivation to stay healthy and cancer-free.

The hysterectomy surgery was fairly simple and minor compared to my other surgeries, and doctors were able to go in through my existing abdominal scar. Recovery was pretty simple, too. But, something happened in the weeks following my hysterectomy that I didn’t expect: It hit me. The permanence. The finality. Infertility began to wreck me emotionally.

Depressed about infertility

I thought I had accepted that my path to parenthood looked different from most of my friends. In fact, as a little girl, I’d dreamed about adoption, so it was never a Plan B for me. When we’d gotten married, my husband and I knew we faced infertility, so it wasn’t a surprise and it’s all I ever knew. For years, I thought I’d faced the pain of infertility and the awkwardness of being on a different path.

But when it became final, and I had a hysterectomy in my late-20s, something changed. Infertility loss hit me on a whole new level. I had to offer a final farewell to any secret hope of a "miracle" pregnancy, and it stung. The grief was deep and it cut to my core and rocked my identity. I faced an invisible, silent grave, yet I had no condolence cards in the mail nor a funeral to plan. Acceptance that my body would never, ever give birth to a child was hard. I felt depressed about it on many days.

Facing infertility loss

At its worst, and at the lowest point, infertility had broken me. The strange peace I’d once had about being infertile and having a unique path to parenthood was gone. The loss was one I’d never felt or experienced before, loss of a dream I’d barely ever shared.

In the back of my mind, I had carried my doctor's words with hopeful caution, "Pregnancy is possible but not probable... miracles happen every day." I second-guessed my decision to not call the reproductive therapy team and explore IVF. I didn't realize how much I'd hoped for a miracle until after I’d undergone the procedure that permanently killed it.

I could hardly put words to the pain of infertility, nor did I feel safe to vulnerably express the emotions that followed it. Few at my age understood what a hysterectomy was like. Add on top of it the pain of infertility, I felt so alone.

I fumbled through a few attempts to explain what I was going through, but few of my friends could hold the loss with me, much less understand the full extent of my suffering. I didn’t blame them, especially when we were in a time of life where pregnancy announcements and baby showers were the norm.

Painful surrender

The inner critic in my head kept telling me to be thankful I wasn't dealing with cancer again, and to be happy with adoption. How could I feel so sad with a bundle of joy in my arms? So I tried so hard to keep going until one day, I just stopped.

I was a defeated, barren woman who never got her miracle.

A lump appeared in my throat, burning tears I’d kept pent up for years began to stream down my face. For once, I couldn't stop them and I didn't try. I'd finally reached my breaking point.

Healing from the pain of infertility

I'd love to tell you I let myself cry for a bit over the pain of infertility and then I stopped, stood up and everything was better. Or I wish I could share that although infertility had broken me and I felt depressed, in a few weeks it went away.

But infertility doesn't work like that (or any situation involving grief and loss).

I can say that as I gave myself permission to grieve, I found that light at the end of a sad, dark tunnel does exist. With time, prayer and encouragement, healing eventually came. Friends who wanted to understand just listened. Mentors prayed healing prayers over me. Hope eventually returned. I became open to other ways I could bring things into the world (like writing my book!)

Do I still wonder what my biological children would have looked like? Sure, sometimes. Do I mourn over never being pregnant? Yes and no. But do I believe that there’s a divine reason I'm a barren, infertile woman?


How and why? Faith. Faith says look beyond what I can see. Faith says find the world where bad turns to good, death can bring birth, and barren can bring forth life.