How exactly do you tell someone, “Oh, by the way, my eggs got blasted from chemo therapy, and I will never be able to have my own kids”? And when exactly is the best time to bring this up? First date? Third date? Right before or in the middle of getting busy? As a 15-year-old dealing and reeling with the short- and long-term impacts of cancer, I must say the fertility card was a wild one. Having children was something I always assumed would happen, but I had never thought about it, and now I was being dealt the “infertile Myrtle” card before I had ever even had a real boyfriend.
There was a deep-seated fear that I was inherently broken. A big portion of my worth and my definition of what it was to be female were entwined with my ability to procreate. Who was I if, by evolutionary standards, I couldn’t get the job done? It led me to believe I was inherently unloveable and undesirable. I was damaged goods, and as my dating life naturally began in my late teens and early 20s, the effect of this line of thinking became more and more noticeable. I lacked any sort of depth when it came to intimacy. I was terrified to genuinely get close to someone but craved validation. My encounters with men revolved around pleasing them, working hard to gain their interest, and shape-shifting into who I thought they wanted me to be. I was the B squad, after all.
I had to work twice as hard to earn love due to my dysfunction. I was fortunate enough to land in some very kind relationships, but more often than not, I found myself with men who happily shined a spotlight on my insecurities and fears. It wasn’t until I began to dismantle my own definitions of maternal energy that I exited my unhealthy relationship loops. I decided to redefine what being a mother meant on my own terms versus what I was told within normal society because there’s nothing normal about the cancer experience anyway.
To be a mother is simply to nurture what grows around you, to create beauty from the bounty within, and to find your place amongst the ever-evolving cycles of nature. I wasn’t broken; I was of a different variety within the landscape of mothers. Cancer has the power to interrupt and dissolve our relationships because we must reexamine everything we’ve come to know about ourselves first. We will never be who we were before cancer, and that can harden us into versions of ourselves that are scared to let love in again. So we must rediscover safety and intimacy within our own garden in order to extend the invitation. As Nayyirah Waheed once wrote, “i am mine. before i am ever anyone else’s.”