For so many girls growing up in America, from the minute we saw a Disney movie or had a bedtime story read to us for the first time, the institution of marriage was embedded into our psyches. Fairy tales always seemed to involve a damsel in distress getting discovered by a prince who saves her from a life void of purpose. After tying the knot, moving into a big house, and procreating, they continue to create a prosperous life together.
Sorry, but that's not my idea of a happy ending.
Even as a young girl, I never saw the appeal of marriage. However, the attraction to having a family of my own constantly stayed in the forefront of my mind.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune vasculitis. My team of doctors informed me that, in order to prevent the rapid deterioration of my health, I would have to immediately be placed on chemotherapy. As most people know, this comes with some serious and often irreversible side effects.
One day after receiving my diagnosis, the IV was given to me along with a large packet of long-term risks in accepting my treatment. At this point, my vision and the feeling in my legs were completely shot. I was forced to make a rash decision, signing on the dotted line without having much time to think things over. Following that week-long hospital stay, I came back every four weeks to continue chemotherapy.
Over the next year and a half, I had a lot of free time to dream.
Although I was in a convenient relationship with someone who provided bedside assistance, we both knew we weren't actually in love. The little bit of energy either one of us had during that time period was fully spent on aiding in my recovery. After my health returned to a condition that was safe enough for me no longer need 24-hour monitoring, we moved out of our shared apartment and apart from each other. It was not on bad terms.
With a new sense of freedom from both my relationship and my illness, I still held on to the wish for creating a family. Once I got back on my own two feet, becoming a mother remained in the forefront of my mind.
Even with no companion, I still longed to share a lasting bond with someone whom I could (literally) see myself in. Getting diagnosed with an incurable, chronic and little-known disease gave me a dramatically different outlook on the reality of life and death. Now I understood just how short each day was, and how the next day was not promised to me. There was more urgency behind my desire to get pregnant, and I wanted to learn as much as I could about my options for motherhood, partner optional.
My life became all about nurturing my own needs and wants but still seriously entertaining the idea of one day passing off that same love to another human being which I helped create.
After some further research, IVF and surrogacy became my top motivation for saving money and returning to work. There was no way I could allow my health to slip back into a state of uncertainty after coming so close to death just a couple of years prior. A reality check from my doctors about the seriously dangerous potential risks of me carrying and giving birth assured me that there were other options in being a mother if that's what my heart truly desired.
In 2013, I started dating someone whom, to this day, I consider one of my soulmates, but no matter how caught up in the spell of love and infatuation I can sometimes fall under, I maintain that marriage only puts a set of boundaries and regulations that are not realistic to our growth process as humans. Being legally bound does not allow us the opportunity to answer our heart's true calling once we are no longer fulfilled and our desires have changed direction.
I believe we are meant to have many soulmates and partners throughout the different stages in our life. A pack of papers and a flashy wedding ceremony would never determine my ability to love one person unconditionally and exclusively. I also never viewed my being against marriage as an obstacle in me having a child.
In May 2014, my health had a pretty terrifying relapse, which led me to another series of hospital visits. Fortunately, I had a loving partner by my side the entire time. Still, I never once thought about running out and getting a piece of paper or the state's stamp of approval to solidify our commitment to each other. Today my health is the most stable as it ever has been since receiving my diagnosis some years ago. I live life to the fullest each day with an understanding of time and death, but not a fear of it.
Although I do not plan on getting married, I am confident that I will get to be a mother someday. Whether it be through in vitro, surrogacy or adoption, this dream of mine will come true in due course, and my happy ending will prevail, knight in shining armor not required.