Today, I share the story of my friend Elisabeth, on her struggle with a failing reproductive system, singleness, and not feeling like she has found a place to fit. She sent it to me after reading To All the Fat Girls, because she knows that there is power in sharing our stories. Last week’s post on vulnerability seems particularly applicable, too. So, listen to her experience and hear what she is learning; maybe it’s just what you need to hear today.
Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.
My ovaries are failing.
I have an autoimmune condition that’s mild enough not to be anything officially. My God-sent rheumatologist labeled it Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder, but that’s an awful mouthful that most people don’t understand. So if I need to specify beyond “joint problems,” I say it’s pre-lupus, since lupus is the closest match for the symptoms I do have. Lord willing, it’ll never become full-blown lupus; the version I have is bad enough. The trouble is, such conditions have a tendency to attack the organs as well as the joints… and premature ovarian failure is more common in women with autoimmune diseases.
The earliest perimenopausal symptoms, I now know, began at least ten years ago, and more cropped up during “The Semester from Angband” when massive stress stirred up the latent lupus tendencies—and my doctors couldn’t see beyond my anxiety and depression, which are co-morbid with both lupus and menopause. It took another two years for blood markers to get far enough out of whack that my most excellent rheumatologist was able to give me a diagnosis and actually start treating the root of the problem. That knocked the lupus symptoms down far enough that even though finances have prevented my ability to keep up with regular treatment, I can manage well enough without it. But even then, ovarian failure was still lurking, just off our radar, until about six years ago when I began to discover that menopause really is a form of organ failure.
Some sources say there are thirty-four symptoms of menopause, others thirty-five. I have over twenty of them, many of which are the same ones my mother had when she went through menopause at a more normal age. But because I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t have the most common symptom of all, and because my blood markers are still “normal,” there’s nothing my doctor can do.
None of this would be quite so discouraging if I weren’t still single. I’ve certainly made peace with never being able to have children of my own, since it’s not a subject on which I’ve had strong feelings and my health is such that I don’t currently feel capable of keeping up with a child. I have lots of married friends with growing families and am quite happy to silence scolds by saying that my friends are taking up my slack. On the other hand, I trust that the God Whose miracles have kept me on this earth despite the odds can give me a child and the health to be a mother if He chooses. He equips the called, after all, and there’s plenty of Biblical precedent.
Yet here I am, 34 years old, never been kissed, never even been on a genuine date. I would gladly marry, but the single guys of my acquaintance have all known me somewhere between ten and twenty years and never said boo to me. Wherever my future husband is—and I do feel certain that I have one—he hasn’t crossed my path yet.
So here I am, in the desert on a horse with no name, juggling four part-time jobs (translator, editor, author, English professor), none of which pay very well, to try to keep the lights on while my body tears itself apart, getting by on the grace and provision of God and the love and support of my family and friends. I don’t have the wherewithal to go aggressively promote myself or my writing, and when I’ve tried, doors tend to close.
No, but… Not now, but… I’d like to, but…
So my blog doesn’t get many hits. My books don’t sell many copies. My Goodreads page is sadly short of fans.
And the church doesn’t know what to do with me.
That’s not to say I feel unwelcome at church. Even though I can’t always attend regularly, I know my church family loves me. But I’m a single young professional with a Ph.D., no prospects for marriage, and swiftly diminishing chance of becoming a mother. I write Westerns and fantasies (and what’s a good Christian girl doing writing about Nazi necromancers, anyway?). I’m too broke to contribute much monetarily, and having ties to law enforcement limits the options for outreach ministries with which I could assist. Allergies worsened by menopause have stolen my singing voice; everything else has stolen my ability to commit to anything as regular as teaching Sunday school. I’m too young (under 50); I’m too old (out of college); I’m introverted; I’m overeducated and underemployed; I’m sick and in pain… I don’t fit.
And yet… there’s a library in East Texas, in a town where nobody knew me until this spring, where the patrons have worn out my books because they’re constantly in circulation. And there are a handful of students in Florida and Alabama who are thinking more deeply about the things of God for having taken my class. And that’s just what I know about.
More are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife.
I’m not giving up hope of getting married, mind you, or of getting my writing career where I want it to go. But I have to hang on to that promise on the days when, unwillingly like Éowyn, I have to admit the truth to my King:
What do you fear, my lady?
A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.
Thanks be to God that, like Aragorn, He has the answer:
You are a daughter of kings. I do not think that will be your fate.
In addition to writing beautifully about her experience, Elisabeth is the author of historical fiction (among many other talents). You can check out her latest work at her website, www.https://egwolfephd.wordpress.com, or visit her Facebook author page. Her new book, Loyal Valley: Captives, is the third installment in her fiction series about conspiracy and love in post-Civil War Texas, and comes out next week! You can grab copies of her first two books for only 99 cents with an offer from her website.
If you want to share your story with others, please start with me! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be honored to read it.