I hate to say that it took me years of shame and pain, both emotional and physical, to realize my worth is not found in my ability to procreate.
Growing up I never thought about my ability to have a child or lack thereof. I was the last of my friends to get my period and as much as I wanted to fit in, I was happy that I didn’t have one more thing to worry about. But when that blessed day arrived, so did another set of struggles. From day one I always had cramps, something I thought was normal, but later on I learnt that no, cramps should not be that excruciating. At the age of 14 I experienced an ovarian cyst rupturing, and let me tell you that gave me an unwanted taste of the pain associated with childbirth. This was the beginning of a long journey of doctors, treatments and unanswered questions.
Fast forward 6 years, lots of pain and many doctors later and I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis, a disease where the tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of your uterus, normally on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and tissue in the pelvic area. This tissue continues to act normally; it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each cycle but it has no way to leave the body which leads to scar tissue and needless to say, extreme pain.
Before I was diagnosed I was suffering from extreme bloating and cramping, roughly 20 days a month I was in pain. Over the counter painkillers weren’t able to manage what I was feeling, so I started taking prescription pain killers to keep my pain at bay so I could make it to work and school. And then all the appointments with specialists, weeks of tests, invasive tests and doctors thinking having a normal day to day conversation while their examining your cervix.
The biggest thing that stuck out to me wasn’t the years of pain I’ve suffered or would continue to suffer but rather the chance that the damage may have already or could cause infertility. I love children, not that I wanted to have children anytime soon, suddenly the idea of never carrying my own became too real.
As a woman we are raised to find a man, get married and of course, have children. Those are standard boxes we are told to check off our life to-do list while men aren’t pushed as hard down that path.
When I shared this news with my then boyfriend his response is something I’ll never forget. All while trying to be supportive and encouraging, he went on to say that I was everything he’d want in a wife and a mother to his children, but if I couldn’t give him children of his own, then he couldn’t marry me. Again, not that I was looking to get married but all of the sudden all these things I had planned to do where being ripped away.
Looking back I’m glad that my then boyfriend, clearly now ex, said those things. It took me years, and I mean that with no exaggeration, to realize that he was wrong and that my disease did not define my worth. Around the age of 25 I started sharing my disease with friends, something I was ashamed to admit before I started opening up about. Thanks to my amazing doctor who has found a way to treat endometriosis without surgery but rather medication, I now don’t get my period. While I make light of this situation, it still weighs on me. When I joke that I save so much money not having to buy tampons, I leave out the insane cost of my medication and that twinge of fear that I will never have my own children. Not to mention the fear of all the pain coming back when I stop my medication when I’m ready to have children.
Now at 26 I know whether I can have my own children or not, does not mean my value is less than the woman standing next to me on the streetcar. That the man I decide to spend my life with won't look at my disease as something that has tainted or devalued me, but as something that he loves. He will see the strength that it took to deal with pain on all levels, and want to celebrate how it’s made me who I am today. And most importantly, I know my value is not found in my uterus but in my heart, my mind and my character.