My Fertility Journey: Part I
TW: Pregnancy, PCOS, Infertility
From the time I was a little girl, we’re talking 2 or 3 years old, I knew I wanted to be a mom. My own mom was a pediatrician, so between everyone handing her a baby to being the oldest grandchild on my mom’s side, babies were everywhere. I learned to support a baby’s head by the time I was 4, and had the soothing baby bounce down by 8. Fast forward a few years, and at 18, I was ready to move to the burbs and have a family. Thankfully, I was able to be patient and wait until I was more settled in my life for me to act on that urge! Hah! When some of my older friends started having babies, I would always opt for a day in the burbs with them to get my baby fix over a boozy brunch or a night out. I guess I’ve always been an old soul!
When I was 25, I started noticing that my periods were super irregular and sometimes didn’t come for months at a time. Having been on birth control for years and years prior, this was odd to me and honestly quite distressing. To get to the bottom of it, I made an appointment with a new OBGYN to check it out. She had me do an ultrasound that day. Based upon the ultrasound alone, she diagnosed me with PCOS and let me know I would not be able to have children without some serious help, if at all. I was broken. I was devastated. The one thing I wanted most in life had turned into something I would not be able to accomplish.
At 25 and the fittest, healthiest, most fulfilled I had been in my entire life up to that point, this was a massive blow. I confided in my sisters and my closest girlfriends, but they didn’t get it. I couldn’t say anything about my diagnosis to my mom, whose health was deteriorating and was having palliative surgeries to reduce the pain caused by her cancer; I didn’t want to add to her pain. I was in the dark and felt completely alone. No one in my world knew what it was like to have the one thing you wanted most in life taken away from you before you ever had an opportunity to pursue it. To make things worse, this was 2013, and even then, the information on PCOS was not what it is now. When I spoke to my GP about it, he said, “you don’t look like someone with PCOS. They’re typically overweight and suffer from unwanted hair growth.” Cue the eye roll.
So, what does a single 25-year-old woman who wants nothing more than to be a mom do? Since I was single at the time, and not really thinking about trying to conceive, I started putting the PCOS out of my mind and focusing more on the other aspects of my life. I essentially ignored it as much as I could, which was certainly the easiest but least effective tactic I could have chosen. Though it always nagged at me at random, I was able to just be a twenty-something living in the city. But then I met Max.
9 months after losing my mom, on my first Mother’s Day without my mom, I met the man who would become my husband. As our relationship progressed, we talked marriage, kids, careers, and how we picture our future together. These conversations obviously triggered thoughts and grief over the fact that having biological kids may be extremely challenging or impossible for us. As a “doer,” in my attempt to control the unknown and the discomfort that came with these thoughts, I made us an appointment to get checked out by a reproductive endocrinologist.
We had not been trying to conceive, we were not yet married, and we didn’t even have a referral from an OBGYN. What we did have is a gut feeling that we needed to be seen by someone who specializes in reproduction. This gut feeling and my husband’s willingness to be poked and prodded along with me saved my life and our ability to have a family. After countless blood draws and ultrasounds, no evidence of PCOS was found. My weight was considered healthy, I did not have any of the outward symptoms of PCOS, nor did my hormone panels and ovaries show any sign of PCOS. While a diagnosis of no PCOS was a welcomed relief, what was found through the reproductive deep dive we did was far scarier and far more uncertain.
Continued in Part II