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Babies Not Guaranteed (W&F III)

This is my story.

From the time I was hardly more than a toddler, I knew I wanted to be a mother. I have loved babies (and kids) for as long as I can remember. Having babies of my own was always an assumption in my life. Until I hit 25. And was still unmarried. And I started thinking that maybe I would never be in a stable, long-term relationship.

And then there was another factor. The biological one.

A friend of mine had stopped getting her period a few years earlier; when she finally went to the doctor, she discovered she was in danger of developing osteoporosis.

When I heard her story, I grimaced internally. My own period had been on the decline over the past few years; I'd never been "regular" and by 25, I was maybe getting it twice a year. To be honest, I didn't mind too much. It's not like anyone I know enjoys having their period. In the back of my mind had been the fear of infertility, but it seemed so remote, so far off. I hadn't thought about other health complications.

Eventually, I decided to take care of my own body and look into what was going on and why... by the time I went for my first ob-gyn appointment, I was 27. I recorded it later the same day:

If you ever want to make a doctor's appointment more stressful, here's a great idea: external construction on the building, so that the ongoing soundtrack to every thought and conversation is the drone of a jack-hammer.

The doctor is a small man who speaks very, very fast. He skims through my file as I sit in front of him and asks if I have any symptoms other than irregular periods. Top contenders are acne & facial hair, but he determines with a glance that my skin is fine, and apparently my errant neck and chin hairs are not located in the danger zone.

A brief medical history follows; Have I been pregnant? Sexually active? Major surgeries? History of cancer? Height? Weight? Has my weight been consistent in the last few years? What is my period typically like? 

One pre-testosterone hormone shows a tiny elevation from my last bloodwork, but nothing to worry about.

In fact, this is his ongoing refrain, "There's nothing to be concerned about regarding your overall health... Irregular periods are very common and you can choose to treat them with birth control if you want to regulate them, but some people choose not to..."

My ultrasound images (which indicated the possibility of polycystic ovaries) were not sent over from my doctor, so he decides to do another one right now. He sets me in the antechamber while the current ultrasound finishes. 

I didn't have the chance to ask the doctor about cancer risks. I've read that missing more than two consecutive months increases the chances of Ovarian cancer. Or is it other lady-specific types? I think, Maybe after the ultrasound, there will be a pause in his thoughts or he will ask if I have any questions.

As he splays the wand through the belly jelly, he has trouble finding my ovaries.

Dressed and back in his office, I barely have time to sit down when he begins speaking, "I don't think you have Polycystic ovaries. In fact, based on what I've seen, I think you are on the other end if the spectrum,” he motions towards his left, “and you don't have enough drive. Your brain is not telling your body to produce an egg every month.”

“Ok,” I nod, taking it all in.

“This has no effect on your overall health – there is nothing to worry about for either diagnosis. If I am right and you’re on this end of the spectrum,” he motions at the not-enough-drive side of the room, “and you meet Mr. Right and decide you want to have children, you’ll need to come see us then because it will be difficult to get pregnant if you’re not producing eggs regularly. But there is no impact on your general health with either diagnosis.”

He stops for a breath.

“Yes,” I say, agreeing with the need for eggs in a pregnancy equation. The middle part of what he said is hanging in front of my face. The speed of his delivery and the incessant construction vibrations have maybe slowed down my brain’s ability to process.

I think he just told me I’m likely infertile. Or on the infertile end of the spectrum. “Not enough drive?” What does that even mean? Is he saying that I have a low sex-drive? If that’s the case, does that mean my entire sexual experience is abnormal? Does everyone else think about/want sex more than I do? Is that what this means?

“I want to take some more blood to confirm things either way, so if you’ll follow me across the hall, we’ll get that out of you right now. I’ll have the results back tomorrow, and by the end of the week, I’ll give you a call to let you know.”

He is already at the door, and I pick up my jacket and cross the hall in twelve steps.

“Have a seat here,” he motions into a closet of a room.

“Thank you,” I say, although I’m not sure why.

He leaves. There is a desk radio, but I can hardly hear it under the ongoing DRRRRRRRR-DRRRRRRR-DRRRRRRRRRRR of invisible renovations.

“Hello! How’re you today?” the technician reaches for an iodine swab as he steps into the room.

“Ok, thanks,” I answer instinctively.

Does this mean I’m infertile? And what about the cancer risks? I just wanted to know about the cancer risks.

My body never gives up its blood easily and happily, and I repeat these questions to msyelf in five different ways as I wait for the little vial to fill up. 

He leaves with my blood. I press the cotton swab into my arm and try to count to sixty, the full minute I've been instructed to wait. I give up at twenty-five, gather my jacket and purse and walk down the long corridor.

No one addresses me as I pass reception. No "Have a good day" on my way out.

I stare at the red elevator button, my mind entirely focused on the slightly fainter thrumming of renovations. As the door closes me in, the incessant drilling is muted and I finally manage to exhale.

--

I never returned to that doctor. A year later I went to another ob-gyn, who did another round of blood tests and ultrasounds and concluded that there is no obvious reason for my non-existent period. She strongly suggested I begin some form of birth control so that I decreased my chances of a "massive hemorrhage."

As for fertility; "You won't know until you try."

All of this happened while I was still flying solo. I was processing it, letting it settle into me, and I carried it with me on every first date. As I wondered whether each man across the table from me had a future, I wondered when I would tell him that I might not be able to have kids. I wondered how I would phrase it. I wondered whether he would understand its weight for me, and yet be able to say, "It doesn't matter."

--

I'm married now. On our first date he asked me about a line in this blog post, and I told him my story (in an abbreviated form). He responded well. We went on more dates. And here we are.

We talk about building a family, about creating life together. We talk about timing and numbers and names. And we talk about if. We know that there might be more grief than joy in our childbearing journey. We know it might never happen.

--

This is my story. And each woman has her own. Her own level of wanting (or unwanting) of children. Her own relationship journey. Her own body, with all its complications.

Each woman has her story, and you might never guess it. You might never know; she might not want to share. But her story is no less real, no less respectable.

I was naive as a child. Babies are not a guarantee. They're not a standard for good womanhood. And they're not the only way to build a family. Which is what I'll write about next time...


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