Ever since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed that one day I would be a mother. It is my oldest ambition in life. While I was deciding upon what sort of college course to go with, my mind changed every other day. But not this, I always wanted a gaggle of children of my own. But as long as I have had this dream, I have also had this nightmare, this fear, that I might not be able to have kids. There was, of course, no basis for such fear, but I just couldn’t quite shake it.
When I started dating my husband, Pierre and we started planning our life together, those fears seemed to dissipate. He was so sure, so confident. He helped me see things in a different light, a more positive light. As soon as we had got engaged, we decided that we would start trying to conceive when we got married. I mentioned maybe to start the year after we married but he was like, why wait? In preparation for this, I consulted with my doctor, stop taking the pill and started taking the pregnancy supplements, downloaded a period tracking app and even read “What to expect before you expect”. I was so ready for it and Pierre was too. We couldn’t even wait to be man and wife to start trying. I was so sure that it would happen. I knew the chances of conceiving straight away were unlikely, that it might take a few months.
But the longer it took, those old fears slowly came back to the surface. It affected my whole life. It was an obsession, it still kind of is. Each month my stress levels kept rising. I snapped more and more at this man that I loved because he still had this positive attitude that I was losing. My mother and older sister were trying to give me advice. But I wouldn’t listen because I thought “what did they know?”. They had not experienced this, trying to get pregnant and failing. It had seemed to be so easy for them. What could they possible know about what I was feeling, about what I was going through. I just refused to listen, convinced I was alone in this, that they and Pierre didn’t really understand what was going on and how I was feeling. But I kept those little fears to myself. I dare not say them, as if not saying them would stop it from being true. Instead, I snapped at those who cared about me and were only trying to help. I retreated back into myself.
After trying for what seemed like eternity (nine months in reality), I had become a shell of my former self, completely obsessed by my desire to get pregnant. This uncontrollable need to mother something. I had so much love to give and I needed an outlet. I avoided going out and meeting people. All around me, friends and family were having babies, and it hurt so bad it wasn’t me. When one of my closest cousin’s announced her pregnancy, it was all I could do not to burst out crying. I hated feeling like that. I should be happy for the parents to be. But the first thought was not a joyful reaction. Why wasn’t I? When will it be my turn? What was wrong? Were those little fears of mine true?
I knew I couldn’t go on like this. My heart breaking at such good news like this. Every time it happened, I was disgusted with myself for being upset of someone else being pregnant and not me. So one rare sunny weekend, when both sisters and I were up in Carlow, I voiced my fears to them and my mother. I did what I had been refusing to do, listened to what some else had to say about it. I realised that while they may not have gone through the same thing, they did have an understanding. They even have an idea at what my problem, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). The general consensus was that I should go see my doctor and not wait the 12 months all the books said to wait.
So I went spoke with my doctor, did the tests and received confirmation that my hormone levels certainly indicative of PCOS and that I also had an underactive thyroid. PCOS is the most common fertility issue. 1 in 10 women of childbearing age has PCOS and a lot go on to have kids with little or no trouble at all. Simply what PCOS is, I have overactive ovaries. More potential eggs go for maturity in each month when only one egg should each month. This combined with the hormone imbalance, no egg one reaches that required maturity level and so it doesn’t get to be released and those eggs become cysts. If no egg is release, there is no chance of conception. Also because my hormones are out of whack, my body is tricked into thinking I have a high blood sugar content and the food I eat is turned to fat instead of being burned as energy. Whether it is a carrot or a chocolate bar. Whether I am full or haven’t eaten all day. So it makes gaining weight really easy and getting it off extremely hard. My body is essentially working against me. Funnily enough (depending on which way you look at it that is), the effect of the underachieve thyroid has the exact same effect on ovulation and weight as the PCOS. So I get double teamed by my own body… Nice.
Once I was diagnosed and learnt about what was actually happening to me, it all made sense. While I do like to eat and tend to stress eat a lot, I do also eat well quite a bit and all my meals are made from scratch. I don’t use ready made sauces, I make them myself. I did try Slimming World while trying to slim down and even dragged Pierre with for moral support. But it did not seem to work for me. It just annoyed me that the weight fell off Pierre and I had to work so hard for every gram lost. But now, I knew why. It didn’t matter if I eat healthy or unhealthy, my body treated it all the same, it became fat. That was the reason I felt tired all the time, it wasn’t converting food to energy just to fat.
It has been a long 18 months since my first diagnosis. You could be here for days reading this if I went through it all with you. I have been to see a few specialists, underwent a number of cycles of ovulation induction as well as extremely painful and invasive scans. On a good note, the lining of my womb is apparently perfect and Pierre past all his tests with flying colours. I was told that if I got an egg to release I probably wouldn’t have much trouble conceiving. But no egg, no conception. And I still can’t seem to get my body to mature an egg. The treatment was cancelled after the failed fourth cycle, with the doctor simply recommending I need to lose weight and then I may not even need any treatment. I left there at half past nine on a Friday morning, crying uncontrollably. I was due back in the office in fifteen minutes. I rang my boss and she very quickly told me to go home. She later told me that she had no idea what it was I was trying to say to her, I was crying so bad.
At my most recent visit, only a couple of weeks ago, with a specialist in endocrinologist, he advised me that it is all well and good trying to lose weight but from what he can see I appear to have one of the more severe cases of PCOS and I could spend a number of years trying to get to that perfect weight in hope that my body would revert to a natural cycle but it may turn out the IVF is still needed anyway. So why wait. “Think about it with you husband and see me in 6 months,” he tells me. But the first stage of IVF is the same ovulation induction that failed before. If didn’t work before, would it work now? So without some sort of weight loss, it might continue to be unfruitful.
It has also been a super stressful time at work due to factors outside of my control and it all does not help my problem. Stress also had a damaging effect on a woman reproductive cycle. I have now adopted a rescue kitten with has been a great source of stress relief as well as an output for the overwhelming needs to care for something. I also started doing yoga with two of my friends, one of whom is going through the same thing as me. While obviously, I wish neither of us has to go through this for that baby we so desire, it is nice to speak to someone who is going through exactly same thing. Both Tyrion (the kitty) and the yoga has helped me loosen up and come back out of my shell. I even had no trouble spending hours in the pub at Pierre’s work Christmas drinks.
So that brings up to now, this moment. This the moment I say enough is enough. Where I take control of my life into my own hands. This is where my journey to a new me begins, a journey to a fitter me. My body may be against me on this and it won’t be easy to overcome, but something has got to give and I have decided that it must be this excess weight and my lack of fitness.
My beloved little sister has challenged me to do the VHI Mini Marathon. I, for better or worse, have accepted the challenge as well as a challenge from her to run a 5k in March (as practice for June.)
It is doable, right? I have got to stop hiding behind this illness and beat the bloody crap out of it instead.