1 in a 1000
By Brie Keysmash on May 21, 2014
Last week, Shutterfly.com mistakenly sent out a mass email to their subscribers wishing them, "congratulations on your new arrival", with pictures of families and newborn babies. I was one of the people who received this email, and as someone who doesn't have kids, I was wondering why I got it before they issued their retraction and apology. Awks. Their Facebook page was filled with comments from upset women who suffer from infertility and were offended by the email. So, why am I bringing this up? Because like those women who commented on their Facebook page, I too suffer from infertility.
Time to get TMI. I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (also known as premature ovarian insufficiency, or premature menopause) almost a year and a half ago. Approximately 1 in 1000 women between the ages of 15-29 are diagnosed with POF . I was suffering from what my doctors thought were some auto-immune related illnesses (and to be fair, I'm not in the clear from those yet either), and I hadn't had a period in a really long time. My doctor thought I may be suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, so sent me for a bunch of blood work. What my tests showed was a extremely high FSH level, which is the hormone that tells your body to deliver an egg.
Long story short, it means I am no longer releasing eggs each month because there is a dysfunction with the ovarian follicle. And it's irreversible. There is no cure, and no genetic or medical reason (for me at least) for why it started. What does all of this mean? It means I get the joys of experiencing the symptoms of menopause 20 years before I should. Oh yeah, the hot flashes (HOLY GOD MY MOTHER WAS NOT LYING WHEN SHE SAID THEY ARE AWFUL), the lack of estrogen. fatigue, and all that great stuff.
I supplement my hormones with estrogen and progesterone which I take daily and they help minimize symptoms. However, it also means the chances of me having a biological child are between 1-5%.
The silver lining: I no longer get a period so I can wear white without fear. I feel like a Tampax tampon commercial. Someone cue the field of daisies and a wind machine.
For some reason, okay I probably know the reason, women are scared to talk about an ability to have children naturally. I mean, who can blame me, them, you? Who wants to say, "oh yeah, I haven't had kids yet because I can't" or "we've been trying for ages and nothing is happening". For a woman to be told she can't have a child on her own, it's heartbreaking, embarrassing, and most of all confusing. You ask, "why me?"
My doctor suggested I see someone to talk about it. But that didn't sound appealing to me. What was I going to say, "I never thought I wanted kids until someone took away my option for me?" Nah, I wasn't feeling it. And honestly, I searched for information online, and there was a lot, but it was all very clinical, and didn't really help me understand what I was feeling because people just didn't want to seem to talk about it on a deep and personal level. I am in therapy now for a variety of reasons, this being one of them, but it took me a long while to get there.
In fandom, and in my timeline on twitter, I am surrounded by moms. I see moms talk about their kids all the time. I see us all watch shows where mom's play a big role, like on Teen Wolf. I see my friends on Facebook having babies, and building families and I'm not going to lie, it sucks to be surrounded by moms and kids sometimes. It's like a constant reminder of what you can't do.
Though as time went on, I realized getting a diagnosis like this means you end up going through the stages of grief whether you want to or not from denial, to anger, to bargaining, and finally acceptance (I know, I skipped a few). Sometimes I get so angry about my health I want to scream and punch a wall. Other times I am just sad because though there are so many ways to have a family if I want one, I know I will likely never have my own biological child. But most days, I'm okay. Most days, I don't even think about it, and I go about my life as though I'm whole, because though I have broken parts, I am not broken.