My first long-term boyfriend—and the first guy I ever had sex with—was the eldest in a family of seven. When we reached our second year together, we decided, in our naiveté, that we would build a large family someday. I had been keeping an unplanned pregnancy at bay with the use of Nordette, a combined oral contraceptive that you could buy without a prescription...until one day, when they discontinued the pill due to a Supreme Court order banning their manufacture and distribution (this was back in 2015). I was 19 and I had never been to an OB-GYN before. In short, I was fucked.
This is the story of how I found out about my heart-shaped uterus.
Because Nordette was no longer accessible, I had to scramble for an alternative since I was due to start a new pill pack the next day. That meant having to see an OB-GYN so I could get my first pill prescription. After enduring the typical slut-shaming I’ve now realized is the norm in local reproductive health clinics, I was advised by my OB to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound so she could recommend the right pill for me. After the procedure, I was told to wait because the ultrasound technician had seen something strange and needed to talk to my doctor. I thought for sure that I was pregnant. They’re gonna tell me they saw an embryo. My life is over! What’s my dad going to say? were all that was running through my head. I took the pill at 9:10 p.m. on the dot every single day. Why was it failing me now?
My uterus is heart-shaped, which is cute on paper but, as I quickly found out, has plenty of implications for my chances of having kids.
After two hours of agony, the OB calls me into her office and utters a word I’ve never heard before: “bicornuate.” My uterus is heart-shaped, which is cute on paper but, as I quickly found out, has plenty of implications for my chances of having kids. Some studies report that fertility rates tend to be lower, and that I am more likely to have high-risk pregnancies resulting in one or more of the following: miscarriage, breech babies, premature birth, a C-section, or a baby weighing less than they should because they didn’t have adequate space to properly develop. I got my pill prescription and left, confused and angry at my body for being born this way.
While I received the news painfully at the time, my then-boyfriend and I have since broken up, and my desire to have kids has long been snuffed out. The more expensive I realize it is to simply be an adult, the less inclined I am to bring another human being into this world. And it’s not just financially—I just don’t see myself as the type who would spend her twenties and thirties child-rearing. My personal goals are to see the world with my current partner and make something out of myself as a writer, and kids just don’t fit into that picture. That’s me at 23. But then I remembered me just four years ago at 19, who cried after she found out about her heart-shaped uterus. Which made me think—what if someday, I change my mind again, and it will be too late?
My personal goals are to see the world with my current partner and make something out of myself as a writer, and kids just don’t fit into that picture. That’s me at 23.
My OB told me that my pregnancy risks would climb higher as I aged due to my uterine complications. If I were to have kids, the best time would be in my twenties, but I know for sure I don’t want them yet. I get relatives who ask when I’m settling down and having a baby, and it just adds to the already mounting pressure. I’m afraid that by the time I realize I want to have a family, the door will have already closed, and I’ll regret it forever.
Women everywhere are put under pressure when they decide to remain childless. You’re called selfish, and you’re asked why you refuse to do “what women are biologically intended to do.” I want to come to a decision about having a child on my own terms. It’s too soon to be thinking about kids at my age, but my body simply doesn’t allow me the luxury of time. Still, I don’t want to have a baby for the sake of exercising my body’s ability to have one.
My child wouldn’t deserve a mother who had them only because they felt they were up against a deadline and didn’t want to have regrets.
But in my many years of discernment since the “heart-shaped discovery,” I came to realize all of my thoughts have been about me, me, me. But what about this baby? What about this completely hypothetical but hopefully cute baby I keep hoping to have or not have? My child wouldn’t deserve a mother who had them only because they felt they were up against a deadline and didn’t want to have regrets. I had been too caught up in my own issues that I forgot that having a baby really isn’t about me. It’s letting go of everything to someday be the best mom I can be.
So whether I have kids or not, whether I have them five years from now or in my late 30s, I’m not going to think in terms of “too early” or “too late.” Scores of women have survived high-risk pregnancies before, and many women with bicornuate uteri enjoy healthy and successful pregnancies (reading up about my condition in trusted medical journals has stifled my paranoia by a large margin). I know now that my decision will come naturally, once my emotional readiness and financial capacity meet harmoniously for me to consider conceiving. And any risks I might have someday may be scary, but they shouldn’t be the reason I completely rule out the possibility of having kids. (Until then, though, I’m going to pop these pills.)