Lar's Infertility Story

Lar's Infertility Story

I was hesitant to write this post for Infertility Awareness Month this June. Infertility is such a painful topic and so many people have experienced harder journeys than me. I don't fall into the "childless by choice" category or not by choice.

I've never been absolutely sure I needed to be a (biological) mother, but I never purposefully decided motherhood wasn't for me. 

So not having children has been painful at times, but not soul destroying like I know infertility can be. 

I hope by sharing my story, it can help those who feel ambiguous about having kids feel less alone. We are complex beings and have the capacity to hold opposing ideas or a continuum of ideas in ourselves. Though it is easier for society to categorize and delineate, that doesn't have to be your experience. 

Painful Periods Made Me Wary of My Body

When I was little, I had a vague idea that one day I might have a family, but also living in an artist studio by myself in New York City sounded equally appealing. I never felt the pressure from my parents to get married or have kids. And I'm so grateful for them not making me feel like I needed to follow any specific path into adulthood.

As a teenager and into my 20s I had really difficult periods and hormonal shifts. Testing out hormonal birth control when I was 16 for my cystic acne resulted in weeks of morning sickness. Already dealing with period pain and nausea made me think that pregnancy would be 9 months of torture.

I felt like my cycle and my period, were inconvenient at best and excruciatingly unnecessary at worse. I couldn't trust my body not to "betray" me with pain and heavy, irregular periods. Adding pregnancy to the mix sounded like more of a headache. I pushed off thinking about children until my late 20s.

I've never been a wedding person, so Matt and I got married in the hallway of a courthouse with our immediate fam by us.

After getting married to the love of my life (and one of my cofounders -- hi, Matt!) when I was 27, that still seemed young to me to have children. For the next five years, Matt and I would say "we'll think about it in 2-3 years." We wanted to travel and get to know each other first before we considered starting a family.

We did get to travel, live abroad, and really get to know each other and fall in love more deeply. But that happened because of a harrowing health journey and not as care-free/child-free adults entering their 30s together. 

Diagnosed with Endometriosis

Almost right after we got married, my severe period pain turned into something sharper and meaner. It wasn't just bad cramps and heavy bleeding, it felt like I was sitting on a bouquet of knives while also feeling this heavy pull down in my pelvis.

These turned out to be classic symptoms of endometriosis. Endometriosis is not a death knell for fertility, especially if it's caught early. My diagnosis happened 15 years after the onset of symptoms, and the endo scarring had infiltrated my intestines, colon, ovaries, and pulled my left ovary behind my uterus. 

I learned all of this after an endometrioma ruptured on my left ovary, leading to a two week stay in the hospital where I almost died. It took me many months to recover and I felt completely physically and emotionally broken by the experience. The surgeons didn't mention fertility at this point, and I couldn't think about pregnancy for a few years after this surgery and follow-up excision surgery.

(Left) Ironically in the hospital I looked 6 months pregnant because of the ruptured endometrioma. (Right) In the hospital I lost 20 pounds in two weeks and my recovery took months. 

Meeting with a Fertility Doctor

A few years after my endo surgeries, and now at the "ripe old age" of 34, doctors kept saying that I would be a high risk mom (because of my endo) and would need to try getting pregnant now if I wanted to have a baby.

Also, for the first time, my biological clock kicked in. When friends would tell me they were pregnant, I'd smile and congratulate them (and truly be happy for them), and then run to a bathroom to cry. I was so confused because I'd never felt strongly pulled to be a mom before this point. It helped push me out of my health fears and make an appointment with a fertility doctor.

I wasn't sure if after the pervasiveness of the endo scarring and scarring from two very invasive surgeries if it was even possible to get pregnant. And I wanted to know how IVF (if we went down that route) could interact with my endometriosis. For instance, could the IVF help another endometrioma grow and rupture? 

The doctor I saw said my uterus was perfectly healthy and my right ovary was still functioning, but if I tried to get pregnant naturally, I'd be at high risk of an ectopic pregnancy because of the scaring on my fallopian tubes. IVF would be far less risky although the doctor couldn't tell me if the IVF would make my endo come back with a vengeance (very few OBGyns know much about endo and I haven't found one doctor who knew the impact of IVF on endometrial regrowth).

Matt and I sat together with all the information and even though it had been five years since my emergency surgery, we were both still traumatized by that experience. I still remember seeing the love and absolute fear and helplessness in Matt's eyes while I was in the hospital bed trying to get better. I didn't want to put him or me through that again.

We never followed up with the fertility doctor, and that appointment was 5 years ago.

Not a Clear Choice

I don't feel I can say I'm childless by choice. It might seem strange, but we still haven't made a firm decision. At 39 and probably heading into perimenopause early because of my endo, the window might be shut already, but we don't know for sure. And I'm so grateful that I'm with a partner who feels the same ambiguity about it all. I can't imagine how hard it is to go through infertility when you both know unreservedly you want children OR that you don't agree "yes" or "no" with the same intensity.

If I didn't experience what I did with endometriosis (the trauma, even more than the physical pain), I would probably have children now if it had unfolded naturally.

I turn 40 in exactly a month, and I feel at peace with the ambiguity. I no longer feel the same overwhelming sadness at friends' pregnancy news and I'm so grateful this amazing life I have with Matt and all my family and friends.

I've always felt I'd lead a slightly unconventional life—I just never knew in what way. And that's the beauty of it: learning to let go of expectations and conventional standards because I had too. After a walk through fire, to come out of the other side is still hard but so life affirming!

Moving forward without expectation but perpetual wonder counteracts any lack that society or cultural norms would project on a childless person or couple. I hope if you are experiencing childlessness for whatever reason, you can feel the same. 

 And thank you, Matt, Cath, and the rest of my fam for always supporting us through this health journey that has lead to the creation of Semaine!

Matt, Lar, and Cath
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