Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I am writing to you because I am 2- years old and infertile.
I don't really know what to do with this information when it comes to dating. Obviously I'm not going to bring it up on the first date, but when is an appropriate time to say something?
I just feel like I'm pulling an unintentional "bait and switch" on any man I date. If asked, I just say I want a large family because I don't want to get into anything more complicated right off the bat. Yet even though I do indeed want a large family, I am not able to bear children. I would want to consider adoption, but my husband would need to be open to that as well. This is not exactly an immediate issue since I am not currently dating anyone, but I would be lying if I said that it didn't weigh on my mind.
This is especially frustrating because all of my friends are 20-something undergrads with no immediate plans for children in their future. Admittedly, I am too, but they have the option of pregnancy someday and will never have to sit down with a potential husband to have the 'Children' talk. Many of my friends don't understand why my inability to bear a child causes me any concern at all. One girl remarked that I should consider myself lucky because I'd "never have to remember to take a pill every day". Augh.
Any advice or thoughts you might have on this matter would be greatly appreciated!
Infertile at 20-Something
Dear Infertile at 20-Something,
First, most men don't go around consciously looking at young women as potential mothers. If they are good men, they see them as people, attractive people, they might like to meet and be friends with. If a man falls in love with you, he falls in love with you, not with a dream of healthy, eggy ovaries.
In general, in the USA (at very least) women are more interested in children then men are. Many men are unsure if they even want children, and for many Catholic men the idea of having close to a dozen children, because they are faithful to Church teaching, is a very scary one. So I don't want you going around thinking that no Catholic man will ever want to marry you just because you can't conceive and give birth.
How soon you tell a man that you can't conceive and give birth is up to you. This is very private, personal information that so far you have shared with girl friends, and their "helpful" comments haven't helped you very much! And my policy is that women should never be as informal and chatty with guys as they are with girls. Men are not the same as women, and they chat more to exchange information than to create emotional bonds or work out feelings about difficult issues. If you tell them stuff you only need to tell a potential husband, they may feel a bit panicked that you are discussing marriage stuff so soon in your relationship.
I believe that women shouldn't discuss our BIG ISSUES, our illnesses or tragedies or sins that still haunt us, with men until they have become our really good friends, men who we think might be in love with us, and might want to marry us, and whom we want to marry. At that point, we tell them the things that will affect them as well. It is not a bait and switch. It is saving very personal information that belongs to us (and no-one else) until the appropriate time, the time in which we feel comfortable explaining something very personal to us that it is now obvious that the man should know. I did not tell my husband my BIG ISSUES until he began talking marriage.
One terrible example (not from me--this is not one of my Big Issues) is herpes, which apparently many, many people have these days. I know a beautiful woman who got herpes from an abusive boyfriend, and after she dumped him, she married someone else. Obviously her herpes was information her fiance had to know, and that had implications for him, and was not something she would tell just anybody at any time! And yet he married her. He married her because he loved her.
So I think the important thing is to say that you are not tricking a man by keeping your personal health private. The only man who deserves to know about your infertility is the man who loves you and has made it clear he wants to marry you. Only then do you have to make it clear that the children you have together, if you do, will be (barring a miracle--I don't know your circumstances, but sometimes women who were always told they were infertile turn out not to be) adopted.
In short, a man who falls in love with you will fall in love with you, and he will not feel ripped off if you explain to him about the baby situation at the right time. If anything, he will feel concerned for you, and feel compassion for your own suffering in the situation. That's how true love works.
On a personal note, I would love to have babies with my husband--not babies in general, just HIS babies. But we married when I was 38, and I'm 40 now, so we only have a slim chance--if HE is fertile--sometimes men aren't either, and you don't know unless he gets tested. I care about this more than my husband does; he just loves me for me.
I hope this is helpful.
Grace and peace,