When You're High Risk and Kind of OK with that
Part 1 of 2 We were at a midwestern, suburban roadhouse eatery. My husband, myself, and his buddy Keith—whom I had just met—were enjoying the Minnesota Vikings game on the restaurant’s television and enjoying some appetizers when suddenly the conversation got derailed and entered uncomfortable territory. Keith and his wife are welcoming a new baby in just over four months. Keith is older than my husband, his wife is older than me. They both have mitigating factors that would make you assume it was difficult for them to conceive. Those preconceptions don’t mean a damn thing—cuz this couple has a baby brewing, and she’s almost halfway cooked in there. Inevitably, the conversation steered to my husband’s and mine own personal family planning. See that qualifying word I placed before “family planning.” That’s right. Personal. As in, not really anyone’s business. But we were able to brush it off at the time as, “Oh we’re trying, we’ll see.”
But the truth is, it’s been over a year. I’m 36—beyond this being a potential geriatric obese pregnancy (oh yeah, I’m clinically obese), it would be extremely high risk. I don’t say that to scare anyone over 35 trying to get pregnant. Look at Keith’s wife! Older than me and one on the way! I just happen to have a string of health issues that makes pregnancy terrifying and motherhood quite daunting. I have literally had an OB/GYN once say to me that “the idea of getting [me] pregnant absolutely scares the pants off of [her].” But I had blinders on. I was getting married and getting pregnant and that was going to be the rest and the best part of my life. Nothing was going to stop me. All of 2022 I went to every specialist I needed to tick off the list for the high-risk pregnancy I was about to embark on. The number of specialists didn’t faze me at the time. I was used to jumping through hoops to get things done, I’d been sick for well over fifteen years at that point.
Cut to the last few months of our fertility journey, where I have been coming to terms of being a childless woman. Not childfree. I always wanted them—yes, I wanted more than one. Such a masochist. Regardless, the more I thought about the health risks, the more scared I became. It wasn’t just one doctor telling me it was a bad idea, it was multiple. My primary physician, my gynecologist, my pulmonologist, my gastroenterologist, hematologist, psychiatrist, endocrinologist, acupuncturist… the list goes on and on. They all said it would be difficult to impossible to conceive and carry a child, that it could kill me or the baby or both in the process. The tunnel vision let up and I could see the periphery. The fact I could actually die just trying to fulfill a lifelong dream seemed counterintuitive. I began to walk back my determined attitude. And I slipped into a place of grief.
To be fair to Keith, he didn’t know about all my background information, my health history. Sure, let’s give him that. But when my husband got up to go to the bathroom and it was just me and Keith eating burgers and watching the Vikings win for a change, Keith got really intrusive about our conception efforts.
“You guys tracking ovulation and everything? So you know the best time to do it?”
Yes, Keith, thank you for the lesson on how a woman’s body works—or is supposed to, I should say.“How long have you been trying?”
Over a year now.
“Oh that long, huh. Have you had any testing?”
Yeah, we did an HSG. It hurt like hell. Turns out one of my tubes is blocked and the other one isn’t communicating with the ovary because of all the scar tissue from my previous abdominal surgeries. I have ulcerative colitis so they removed my colon when I was 21 years old and the scar tissue just kind of took over my abdomen and pelvis. I haven’t been healthy for a long time.
What do you think guys? Was that enough to weird him out, to get him to back off? Enough of an overshare, one that’s a “Polite Minnesotan” (read: passive aggressive) way to tell him to STFU and back TF off?! Of course not, so he concludes the conversation just as my husband is heading back from the bathroom and says, “Well ya know, from what I hear you just have got to stop trying, that’s when it happens.”
Why is a woman not allowed to not want a baby? I mean of course little Kelsey did, she was so nourishing and had nothing but love to give. Of course(!) young adult Kelsey did, she had her whole life ahead of her, she was healthy. She was going to bounce back from what we were all so sure was just one minor health issue and go on to live a normal happy life with a career and children and everything she dreamed of.
I don’t even know what to call myself now. Let’s go with mid-thirties Kelsey. Mid-thirties Kelsey is grieving. She is heartbroken and devastated that the little girl and young woman inside of her saw s