Once upon a time, I sat in a specialist’s office being told that becoming pregnant was almost certainly unlikely any time in the future, for me.
I got up and left, and wondered if it really mattered, since I had never felt desperate to be a mother and I had enough life plans in place to bridge the gap of being a Barren Woman.
I had no idea what I was missing either, since I had no little people in my life, even amongst my friends.
The cause of this inability to conceive was a very common disease called endometriosis. Despite how common it is becoming, it is still not being picked up in my Word spelling auto-check. Come on, even Eminem is in there.
Endo is many things but most of all it is, like all diseases, pointless. If a woman’s primary biological role is to reproduce, then endo is surely the cruel joker, since it causes unspeakable pain during her fertile years, and can render her sterile.
A woman may menstruate from when she is 10 through to the age of 50 or beyond. The whole point of that menstruation is fertility! In effect, an infertile woman therefore copes with a life of painful menstruation for no outcome at all.
There are many theories about endo and how it manifests. My specialist presented the retrograde menstruation theory, when menstrual fluid flows the wrong way back out the wrong end of the fallopian tubes. There should not be menstrual matter goin’ that way at all. This then lodges itself onto other organs in the pelvic cavity and apparently can have its own little menstrual life up in there based on the hormonal rhythms of the host’s body.
The pain experienced is a little bit like labour, but not as intense. I well remember labour. They all said you forget but you don’t. Guys, it’s like a broken bone with no pain relief. Burning, tearing, but no cute wriggly thing at the end.
The pain medications are varied. I was heavily (and legally) prescribed the popular Tramadol, an opiate commonly used as a recreational drug in the Gaza Strip by disillusioned Palestinians, I read. A few times I had to have it injected at an A + E to get speedier results.
The next step after that is morphine. Morphine worked great – just don’t drive, operate heavy machinery, walk, remember anything…
If none of this band-aid approach works, surgery is another step (and we are only talking about orthodox approaches here). I had two rounds of surgery between 2004 and 2005. The second procedure took five hours. Things were not good. Can I just suggest that some organs had become adhered to others that they really shouldn’t have. After that, I remember my specialist shaking his head and giving me the ‘unlikely’ talk.
Of course, many couples are managing the pain and treatment while desperately trying to conceive. And the final nail in the coffin of romance for a couple is rounds of fertility treatment.
This is where my heart truly breaks – it does – for the couples who must pay to experience sex as a function, almost a system, rather than the spontaneous Saturday night knee-trembler like the good Lord intended. I always listen and look when I hear of a couple who want nothing else but a baby, but can’t.
And of course, I feel guilty.
Because the twist in this story is that somehow by the grace of the Goddess, I have three beautiful, perfect children. Like, perfect.
How did this happen? Well firstly, the man loves the woman very much. They lie down together…
Actually I don’t know. It has made me wonder about the theory that the harder you try, the less luck you have. I’ve heard of many couples who are on a tight sex schedule, starting at ovulation, and ending five minutes later, until next month. The theory is to allow the quality and um… ‘richness’ of the ‘man release’ to build up so that the swimmers next time round are gold medalists, if you get my drift.
No one can live like this, unless you are some kind of Protestant couple, like the people off Blackadder II.
And I was never trying as such. I had all the symptoms of endo from age 16 and found out through physical demise rather than trying for babies.
I think endo is causing a lot of genuine distress to women and their partners. Major stress. It’s not just a silly round of period pain during a full moon.
It’s full-on-pain that over the counter medications can’t touch and a lifetime of woe if you can’t conceive either.
I am ever grateful I was able to have children. They complete me. I want to now support and root for, if you’ll pardon the expression, other couples who want those babies, but can’t because of endo.
I’m now on my 1,000th attempt to deal with endo symptoms.
Life doesn’t have to be so hard.
There is a lot of research going into this, and you can conceive and get better.