Hi, it’s me again,
I think this is a question many of us have asked ourselves, is my fertility normal? Am I different from every other woman out there, despite the overwhelming facts proving to us how many women actually struggle with fertility issues we always blame ourselves and think we are alone? I am no different!
From the moment I hit puberty, I have always been told that my body was a little finicky—not necessarily normal. If anything, I was a bit of a freak show. By the 3rd grade, I had been ordered by my doctor to begin wearing a bra (which for a 9-year-old is a bit of a self-esteem killer, as well as strange to hear from a grown man. My period showed up at 11 years old, during a normal day at school, and had me fleeing the bathroom in terror and shrieking that I was dying! to both my teacher and my frightened peers.
Next was the mysterious treasure trail that appeared down my abdomen one day, a constant yo-yo-ing of extra weight, and acne—which was resistant to all chemical intervention but had the added benefit of burning my skin, treatment defeating Super-acne I was also lucky enough to experience extremely irregular periods that would sometimes not come for two months and then last for two to three weeks at a time. The pain was always excruciating and usually meant a day or two off from school along with a heroic dose of ibuprofen. If this sounds like you as well, then I am sorry to hear that because it was a real pain in the ass.
At around the age of 14, after moving to a new town and getting a new primary care physician, I was finally told that all my symptoms were from an underlying cause, and it was there I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Of course, I also had blood tests and an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis, but it was easy to connect the dots once it was explained. For those who are unaware of this syndrome, it is a hormone imbalance where we women produce higher levels of male hormones. This hormone imbalance can cause us to miss periods and even make it harder for us to get pregnant. Honestly, at 14, pregnancy was the furthest thing from my mind, especially when you coupled it with the fact that the male anatomy, in general, was repulsive to me from an early age. No, I was not aware at the time that I was a lesbian; however, even at 14 I clearly knew enough about myself to stay away from the opposite sex. So, as I said: babies were not on my mind. While I always knew I wanted to be a mother, marriage and other activities related to making babies (the one-eyed snake for one was always the vernacular that stuck out to me as a teenager) were way off my radar.
Obviously, after my diagnosis, I tried to make some lifestyle changes and was put on birth control and metformin to regulate my cycles and prevent diabetes, which is common with PCOS because of how our body processes sugar. I later learned these are just temporary fixes and can actually do more harm than good in the long run. Still, that was my method of control for a few years. I continued to struggle with acne, body hair, and most importantly, my weight.
My weight issue tends to stem from years of psychological abuse from both of my parents in regards to my body. I don’t necessarily blame them for this, though. My Mom had grown up thin and pretty, so she expected me to be thin and pretty. My dad had grown the fastest in his family, and although he was not ridiculed for this, he had developed his own self-hatred, which led him to want to combat my weight issues with harsh words and tough love. Predictably, this did little to deter my problem, as it was a medical issue, and only fed my own self-loathing and insecurities.
I was put on countless diets by my mom, including Slim Fast in my lunch box, crash diets of eating less than 1,200 calories a day, and even diet pills that caused a fainting spell when I was walking up a flight of stairs. Finally, when I got this diagnosis, they seemed to realize that belittling me for my weight, or constantly commenting on it, was not helping and was actually damaging me quite a lot. They didn’t necessarily stop, but they did curtail their name-calling and their careful observation over every piece of food I ate. Years passed and nothing really changed. I would have bouts of eating extremely healthy and others where I slipped up more often than not.
I started to really get "baby fever" around the age of 23. Like I said: I had always wanted to be a mom, and I loved babies a ridiculous amount. But until then, it had always been more a passing thought than having any basis in reality. This all changed because of one little boy, Ethan, who was the cutest button of a 5-month-old I had ever seen. I was his nanny for over a year, and although it was extremely tough—10 hours a day with a squiggly baby who was not the best conversationalist—I grew to love him so much. I hated having to leave him. It hurt my heart more than words can say. After this practice run, I knew that I was not just dreaming of becoming a mom anymore. I needed to make it a reality.
I ended up moving around quite a bit after this, but at the age of 25, I visited my first fertility doctor. I had long since stopped taking birth control pills because, although they regulated my cycle and even made my periods quite a bit less painful, I knew they were damaging to my body. Here is a little advice for all of you PCOS sufferers out there: Birth control and metformin are a doctor’s go-to treatments; they would rather treat the symptoms than the underlying issue. I do not have a medical degree, so I am not saying “take my word as the new gold standard and follow it no matter what.” What I am saying is, if you are newly diagnosed, discuss other options with your doctor, like a healthy diet that excludes gluten, dairy, and sugar, as well as an exercise regimen that does not cause too much fatigue but helps regulate your blood sugar and make you feel better overall. You may still need the medications, or who knows? There may be an amazing doctor who wants to experiment with you and monitor your progress, taking a more holistic approach. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, do not think I am one of those people against western medicine or against getting my baby the shots he needs. I am just saying if you can manage your PCOS naturally without medical intervention or chemicals being pumped throughout your body every day, why not do that?
At this point my period was as regular as it had ever been, I had been off of metformin for about four years and had been off of birth control for the past two. I ate dairy-free, mostly gluten-free, and avoided sugar unless it was naturally occurring. I still struggled with my weight, but I felt better overall because I was exercising at least 5 days a week and feeling pretty good about what I had accomplished. Then, let’s just say shit hit the fan. I had a bit of an emotional breakdown which led to my hospitalization and a whole bunch of drugs being prescribed as part of my daily routine. So, although a baby was still on my mind, I was nowhere near ready to take on the responsibility, nor could I risk getting pregnant and having to stop my medication when I was in such a delicate place mentally. This is obviously only the beginning of my journey. As I sit here typing this, I am currently 6 months pregnant. However, even though I am pregnant and happy now, it took some effort. There were many tears, and a whole lot of hours debating with myself whether or not I should continue on the road of fertility, but I know now I made the right decision.
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Signing off until next time,
The Mental Millennial Mom