Some things are too personal to share, but then I think about all the women who may feel isolated in their pain and I feel compelled to share my story. The whole point of this is to normalize infertility and the struggle some experience in their attempt to start a family. With this in mind, I want to add to the growing list of bloggers covering this topic from an anecdotal perspective.
According to Wikipedia, infertility is “the inability of a person, animal or plant to reproduce by natural means.” Basically, this means that otherwise healthy humans are unable to make little humans.
Over the past five years, I’ve received the equivalent of a shrug from multiple doctors regarding my inability to “fall” pregnant. While this hasn’t really deterred me from living my life or pursuing a rewarding career in hurting cats (more on this later), it has made me ask the question, “What’s it all for?” Something primal tells me that I need to make little me’s, while the intellectual part of me says I’ll save SO much money by restricting my family to two. Somewhere in the middle lies my desire to share this crazy world with a little person, to shape the future by shaping a little one that will eventually replace me on this earth.
In my pursuit to grow my family, I’ve taken a range of prescriptions which have, at times, jeopardized my marriage and my sanity. I’ve taken shots in the stomach and had ultrasounds in places I would prefer not to have had. I’ve fought with my insurance and paid the equivalent of a few months salary only to produce no results. I’ve watched my friend welcome one, two, three and even four beautiful children into the fold, while I call my dogs my kids. I’d love to say that it doesn’t get to me, but I would be lying. And! I don’t think it is fair to me, or other who are suffering from infertility, to brush my feelings under the rug. Yes, I love my friend and their children, but there is something irritating about how easy it is for some and how hard it is for others. I’m not here to say I am upset with those who can, I’m here normalize the struggle and to provide a safe space to have an open discussion on how hard it can be to conceive.
There are many reasons why we have trouble: stress, weight, Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, the moon being out of alignment; the list goes on. My favorite is the “unexplained” category. This is where I fell for many years – Dr. after Dr. (dollar after dollar) said there was nothing wrong, that I was most likely stressed out or that I just needed to be patient. Let me tell you, there is nothing more infuriating than having somebody tell you to relax and be patient when you’ve been f’ing relaxing (no, the irony does not escape me) for years!
Fast forwarding to the past few months, at the ripe old age of (almost) 34, we got fed up with our highly rated Reproductive Endocrinologist (thanks, yelp!) and decided to change specialists. My initial visit was great! Our new doctor’s bedside manner was something of myth and legend. He patiently listened to my whole story (which took a while), he asked the typical Dr. questions and finally asked something I wasn’t prepared for … he asked me if I had ever been check from Endometriosis. Well, the answer to this was complicated: No, I had never been check for it, but yes I suspected it. I mean, my mother had a full hysterectomy at the age of 40 due to Endometriosis, so I suspected it might be something of concern, but no other doctor had taken it seriously, so I had always shrugged it off as being “non-hereditary.” When I explained that no other doctor has taken my concern seriously, he was quite surprised. Nevertheless, after a pelvic exam, for which I nearly FLEW off of the exam table due to the pain, my doctor immediately diagnosed me with endometriosis and a shortened uterosacral ligament (USLE).
Finally, a diagnosis! Finally, something that helped me to realize that my inability to procreate wasn’t MY fault. This diagnosis was a weight off of my chest – it was a medical condition with a treatment plan. Being diagnosed with Endometriosis was the first step in moving forward, something I could actually work with!
According to the Mayo Clinic, Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. In other words, all that pain that I was feeling during intercourse and during my yearly exam was not in my head, it was real. I wasn’t a hypochondriac after all.
Two weeks later I arrived at the surgical center for my procedure. I was both excited and nervous, I mean, I might actually be able to have children after this surgery. I have to admit that a little part of me was resigned to the idea that having a child just wasn’t in the cards for me. Now I was faced with the idea that this may not actually be my reality, talk about a swing in fate. As for the surgery itself, the hardest part of the whole thing was the initial IV; the nurse gave me a bit of lidocaine to numb the area, so I didn’t feel a thing! Off to la la land I went …
The procedure took about an hour with an additional 30 minutes to wake up from general anesthesia. Once I was awake enough to speak with the Dr, I was provided with about 16 photos and a full report. I don’t remember much of this as I was pretty drugged up at the time, but I’m told that I showed a marked level of surprise at the findings of the surgery.
I was diagnosed with stage III Endometriosis with a few “chocolate cysts,” about 75+ spots and a single fibroid; all of which were removed. Yeah for medical advances and lasers!
After about three days, I was up and moving around; I still felt pretty slow, but definitely more alive and less zombie-like. All in all, I would say the recovery wasn’t too bad, the worst part were the pains from the gas attempting to escape my body. At one point, it felt like I had a bubble under my should blade, which was pretty weird and quite uncomfortable.
Currently, I am about a month post-op and feeling 100% back to normal. My follow-up appointment went well and it looks like all my bits are back in working order. The most immediate result of this medical experiment has been a lack of pain. As for the rest, only time will tell. For now, I’m happy with my delightful husband and my four legged children.
I hope that by sharing a bit of my story I have helped open the door to a larger conversation on fertility and the struggle that some are facing. I would love to know your story! The more we share, the larger the community becomes, the less isolating the experience is.