As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Mari has been through the wringer, specifically the wringer called stage II endometriosis. While it’s considered a “mild” condition, its effects on fertility can be devastating and cruel.
As I read about Mari’s journey, I, like Mari, wondered how many other LWBers have been suffering from this. Is endometriosis part of your childless-not-by-choice story? If so, I hope you’ll share some of your experience in the Comments.
When asked “What’s the best advice you’d offer someone like you?”, Mari replied: “Follow your gut, do whatever you need to do to get answers. Explore all your options. And most of all, take care of yourself.”
Here’s how Mari took care of herself.
LWB: Describe your dream of motherhood.
Mari: My dad died when I was 14, so my dreams of motherhood included having a boy and seeing my father in him. My husband has red hair, and I always imagined we would also have a little girl, with wavy red hair and freckles. We’d dress them in knit hats with animal ears and witty onesies. We would go camping, carve pumpkins, find a great sledding hill nearby…every season would have special moments.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Mari: By chance and circumstance. My husband and I had a lot of anxiety about parenthood, so we left it up to nature the first year. Much to my surprise, it didn’t happen. So I got in the game and tracked my basal body temperature, etc….still nothing. Meanwhile, everyone around me seemed to be getting pregnant without trying. When was it going to be our turn? What was wrong with me? Maybe this delay was just the universe telling us to go have an adventure while we can. So we took a trip to Japan, something we always talked about doing someday. I had hoped to conceive a “souvenir” while we were there. Shortly after our return, I decided it was time for fertility testing. We passed everything with flying colors except for what my doctor thought was a fibroid on my HSG [hysterosalpingogram] X-ray. I scheduled hysteroscopic surgery for removal, but it turned out to be just an air bubble on the X-ray from the contrast fluid. I felt like such a fool for getting my hopes up that this would be our fix, and for paying several thousand dollars for NOTHING. We tried IUI [intrauterine insemination] once after that, then decided to keep trying on our own since we couldn’t find anything wrong. A few times I wondered if I had endometriosis, but my OB/GYN wasn’t concerned since adhesions didn’t show up on the X-ray or in the pictures they took with the hysteroscope.
LWB: What was your turning point?
Mari: This spring I was at the outlet mall for a girls shopping trip. We went into a kids clothing store for my nieces and nephews, as we do every year, but I couldn’t bring myself to walk around and be reminded of my broken dreams, to feel my heart sink each time I saw clothing I would pick for my own little ones. So I hung out by the door, watching glowing mothers parade in and out, feeling so many awful feelings. Then the tears came. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to move forward until I had answers. I went to see the fertility specialist again who recommended laparoscopic surgery, since endometriosis makes up about 40% of unexplained infertility cases. My OB/GYN advised against it, saying I could put that money toward IVF. But I went with my gut and did it anyway, based on my history of painful periods and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. And I was right: Surgery revealed stage II endometriosis, with adhesions near my bowel and appendix.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Mari: We’ve spoken with adoption agencies and have had an IVF consult, but can’t bring ourselves to commit to what would be an even more expensive and emotionally draining journey. Stage II endometriosis equals mild endometriosis, so we’re back to leaving it up to nature, even though our chances of conception are slim. I’m fed up with hope, with bullshit miracle stories about a friend of a friend who conceived a unicorn by eating a rainbow. I just want to “be” for a while. To sum it up, I would say we are taking a break until our Plan B becomes clear to us.
On your journey, was there a turning point moment when you listened to your body and defied an “expert’s” advice? Perhaps you pursued a test that confirmed a barrier you suspected, or perhaps it was that moment when your body announced it was DONE trying to conceive and nudged you forward into grieving and acceptance. We’d like to hear from you. Please visit the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire, and consider sharing your story with women who truly understand what you’re going through.
Did you know Kathleen Guthrie Woods is getting ready to tell her own story? The Mother of All Dilemmas follows her journey of pursuing being a single mother then embracing a life without children, and explores the reasons our society still presumes to calculate a woman’s worth based on whether or not she’s a mother. Keep an eye on LifeWithoutBaby.com for announcements about the book’s release.