Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Am The Face of Infertility, And This Is My Story...

Part 1

: not fertile or productive : incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy : barren

I am the face of infertility and this is my story.

I grew up in a small Texas town, the oldest of 3, and the only girl. There was nothing particularly special about me, I was just your typical kid growing up, played soccer, did dance, tormented my brothers, had sleep overs with my girlfriends prank calling boys we had crushes on, calling radio stations begging them to play our favorite songs so we could tape them on our cassettes while we sat around playing Girl Talk and reading Bop and YM magazines. I was like everyone else. Until one day I wasn't.

Last day of 5th grade

Somewhere around 6th or 7th grade I started to become keenly aware that one by one, all of my friends were getting visits from lovely mother nature. We didn't hold meetings to discuss who had and who had not and when and where or any of the semantics of it all, no it was very casual, like in the girl's locker room after PE sitting in the dark playing "light as a feather, stiff as a board", and someone would whisper, "hey do you have a pad?" Or, when switching classes, the quiet question in the ear of "do I have anything on my butt?" Slowly, I began to notice more and more that I was somehow being left out of this secret club, this female alliance. It appeared that this right of passage had come to my door step but left before I could answer the door. On the outside, I looked like everyone else, but on the inside, a worry began to fester. I often wonder what my mom must have been thinking. Was she worried? In denial? In blissful ignorance?

Middle school is an evil, evil place. Truly, you are lucky to get out unscathed. So of course, the thought of being "different" in any way from your peers strikes terror in your heart, so you do what ever is necessary to keep the status quo, and for me, that meant stealing my mom's panty liners and tampons and stashing them in my backpack, lest my inadequacies be detected by my friends. This became my shield, my protection, my lie. With these items in hand, no one would ever know what was really going on, or rather what was really NOT going on, I mean could you even imagine the ridicule? The endless teasing? No, no. Not me. I was prepared. It even got to the point that I would ask for feminine products from my friends, just to be sure that there would be no suspicion on their end. It was so pathetic. Can we all agree, girlfriend needed some therapy?!

Not so funny story... I distinctly remember one April Fools Day. I was 12 years old. Maybe it was wishful thinking, maybe it was just a dumb idea in poor taste, but I took it upon myself to put a couple drops of red food coloring the toilet and call my mom into the bath room (I told you it was dumb). I will never forget the relief and almost joy that was on her face as she started to talk to me about menstruation and blah blah blah. I think that's when I knew, when I really knew that something might really be wrong. It would still be a few years though before I would find out just how right my gut was that day.

Middle school passed. I survived. The transition from middle to high school was really a non-event. You see, in our small town, grades 6-12 were all in the same school, so there was no big ceremonial "welcome to high school" hoopla about starting 9th grade, other than having the power to ridicule the 8th graders and pretend that the few months that separated our birthdays somehow meant that we were FAR superior and more mature than they would ever be. Clearly. But it was another year older for me, and the idea of me being a "late bloomer" in regards to my period or lack there of, was quickly losing ground with each passing day. Finally in my sophomore year, at 15, my mother broke down and made an appointment for me with our family physician. I should note that I was seriously NEVER sick growing up. In fact, I didn't miss a day of school until the 5th grade, and that was to attend a funeral. Then I didn't miss a day of school until I got a car, and realized I totally could. I digress. So, small town doctor determined that I was just athletic and that was probably the reason for the delay and that we shouldn't worry just yet. After all, I seemed to have been developing in every other way just fine, so we should just give it a little more time. Let me just clarify here, I played volleyball, basketball, and ran track, ranking somewhere between average and less than average at all of the aforementioned sports. I was in no way going balls out with my dedication to sports. I played sports because my friends did and because it was fun to be part of a team. And let's face it, the pep rallies were awesome AND you got to leave school early, hang out on a bus with your friends, French braid each others hair and talk about boys on the way to play a game - um yeah, sign me up. Nonetheless, my mom bought the "possibly anemic, over trained athlete" story. Again, perhaps it was hopeful denial?

We went back a couple months later, and I was referred to a gynecologist. Needless to say, I didn't dare tell any of my friends what was going on, and I'm fairly sure I was the only one of my friends going to a gyno at 15! You may not believe me, but very few people in my grade were having sex, and trust me when I tell you, it was a small town, and everyone knew what everyone  else was doing. Except my secret. No one knew that. Again, I digress. So, we go to the gyno, and after the initial exam, he, yes HE (I could write an entire post on this little nugget alone - I mean seriously mom, a guy gyno, for your 15 year old daughter who at that point had never had a "serious" boyfriend - sheesh!) went on to suggest that an internal exam with a vaginal sonogram would need to be performed. Ahem, excuse me? You're telling me you want to put that thing, in there, when absolutely NOTHING has every crossed that sacred threshold? Um yeah, good luck with ALL THAT. So yeah... he tried... I cried... and it was like Fort Knox down there... ain't nobody gettin' in if you know what I mean. So, unless they sedate me, this little experiment was not likely going to happen. So, off we go to yet another specialist. This time we enter the wonderful world of Reproductive Endocrinology.
Um yeah, NO WAY IN HELL!
After the traumatic experience with the other doctors, it did put me a little bit at ease to learn that this doctor was actually a woman. She was very nice and had a great bedside manner, and took the time to talk with me and my mom, in her office, with my clothes ON for a change, before she did any kind of examination. She explained everything that she wanted to do, asked me if I had any questions, fears or concerns, and was so patient with me and calming my nerves. I felt so much better this time around. I'm pretty sure God put that doctor in my life exactly when I needed her. So, she does the vaginal ultrasound, explaining what she is looking at the whole time, but not really giving us any info good or bad about what she is seeing. I get cleaned up and dressed and we head back into her office to discuss her findings. This day, this hour, these minutes, will live in my brain for the rest of my life. This was the day I sat in a chair, holding my mom's hand, looking into the eyes of my doctor, as she told me that I would never be able to have children. In a split second, in all of my teenage immaturity, my heart broke and mourned for all the children that I had always wanted to have someday but now never would. In a moment, my world came crashing down. From that point on, everything she said sorta sounded like the teacher on the Peanuts cartoons. Nothing was being processed. All I could think about was, why me? Was this because of the April Fools prank? Is God punishing me? Why would God make me if I wasn't able to perform the one thing that makes a woman a woman? Who is ever going to want to be with someone who isn't even a "real" woman, who can't even bear children? Who would ever want to marry someone like me?

I was 6 years older than my younger brother and 9 years older than my youngest brother, so I grew up helping my mom in the mothering/care taker role and I loved it. I was the type of person that when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my first answer was always, a mom. Through countless games of MASH, I knew that I was going to have at least 4 kids, heck I even had all their names picked out. The floor had literally dropped out from under me. I was diagnosed with primary amenorrhea and unexplained premature ovarian failure. Basically, all my eggs were gone. Disappeared into space. Just a basic anatomy lesson here, you can't ovulate/menstruate if you have no eggs. You also cannot have a baby if you have no eggs. No amount of IVF in the world can recreate or reproduce an egg once it's gone. In the womb, your DNA is formed with the exact number of eggs that you will have in your whole lifetime, and we aren't sure if I ever had any, why I developed completely normally without them, or where they went if I did indeed have any to begin with. It's all a mystery that only the big guy upstairs can answer. I have never met/read about anyone that has exactly what I do. There have been many that have similar stories, but every one's infertility story is a little different.

My next course of action was to start taking some hormone pills to keep my levels in the range that they should be for a girl my age (so as not to lose the function of my uterus). A few days later, I was elated when I actually started cramping and started my period for the first time ever. I guess a tiny piece of hope was still alive in my brain which let me actually think for a minute that that meant that maybe something had changed and I could actually have kids, you know cause period=babies. Apparently, in all my sobbing at the doctor, I had missed the little tid bit of info when she discussed manipulating my body into menstruating - that it wasn't real. Crushed again. Shortly after all of this, I turned 16. I was the only one I knew of that was on birth control. That would be my new secret. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel some weird sense of pride that I had finally joined the ranks of all the other girls that get to bitch about their periods - and really mean it. Looking back, I have no idea why my mom did not get me into some kind of counseling. How can you expect a 15/16 year old girl to go through all of that and have the emotional maturity to process it when grown women can't even process this kind of news? I guess she just didn't know what to do, and thought if she did nothing it would just go away, or I would just figure it out - who knows. All I know is, I carried a darkness, an extreme sadness inside me for a very, very long time. This whole experience affected me on such a deep and emotional level and it manifested itself into some major feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and self-worth. I was too afraid to get into any serious relationships until I was 19. I was too afraid to tell anyone, even my best friend. Who could possible understand - I was an island. The only way I knew to get passed these feelings were to completely suppress them and not think about them. Ever. Which was easy to do when you have no one to talk about it with. And that's where those emotions and fears and sadness hid for several years. Until I met Jason in the spring of 2001.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

1 comment:

  1. I did not experience all of that as a child but I can say that now at 24, I have barely ever had periods unless I am on birth control and it is killing me when I have been to 4 gynos and nobody see's the problem with it since I am not wanting to have babies just yet. It breaks my heart and I am sorry you are dealing with that.