I always pictured myself as one day being an old woman who had grown old gracefully and embraced grey hair and wrinkles as part of being a crone.
Now, what I have to share with you today is not really a big deal in terms of serious life problems, but it has brought up for me another of those “Really, life? You’re throwing this at me as well?” moments.
One of the loveliest parts of growing old was that I thought I would have long grey hair which was in a plait down my back, or in a bun on my head, or even free flowing over my shoulders. I even have some of those grey hairs now – although being honest I still hide them under a covering of henna from time to time.
During these past few weeks I went to a dermatologist to have some dodgy looking moles taken off and assessed in case of skin cancer. Fortunately there was nothing to be concerned about. But, in the process of looking at my other moles for any suspicious ones the dermatologist mentioned that my hair was quite thin at the crown of my head. I knew it was thin, but it wasn’t until I came home that night and looked at it with a mirror that I realised just how thin it had become.
The dermatologist did a puncture biopsy of my head and a week later we had the results. I have alopecia, which is a genetic thinning of the hair over time, and another thing which I can’t remember the name of where my hair follicles are dying and I will lose my hair.
The dermatologist was keen for me to go on medication – like three lots of it – to try and stop my hair loss, but I have decided not to go down this path as I am already on five medications for epilepsy, clinical depression, and high blood pressure. I don’t want to add to that mix really and the side effects of the hair loss medication and the monitoring of levels of different things like potassium are fairly full on. Instead I’m going to use scarves and hats, a thing called a topper that would go on the top of my head and blend in with my own hair to create the look of a full head of hair. And eventually I guess I may use a wig.
So, what has this got to do with not having children? Well, it is a reminder that I am getting older, albeit in a way I hadn’t expected. It is true that some women have babies in their forties, but the chances of this are very, very slight through both natural conception and IVF. And for Kirby and me it is particularly remote.
I have realized that somewhere in deep down I believed I could still change my mind and we could try IVF one more time. We were young. We were still in that “baby bearing” age group.
The reality has hit that this is not so. We are being taken out of the realm where trying IVF one more time is a choice we truly have. The choice is gradually being taken away from us.
Even though we know we won’t ever try IVF again it is still hard to come to terms with. We have not got as much control as we once did, although I guess we never did have that control. Does this sound all mixed up?
I feel like I am entering another stage of having to say “farewell” to our children. I could hold them here, my fingertips could grip theirs and keep them here, but now letting them go completely is on the horizon.
I don’t feel ready to get older. I don’t feel ready to have grey and thinning hair. I don’t feel ready to accept that the choice, that perhaps we never really had in the first place, is being taken away from me, from us.
There is a scar in my heart from not having our children, and this sudden certainty that I am moving beyond child bearing years, is a splinter that has wedged its way into the tissue that lightly covers the wound I have. And I feel like I am bleeding.