When I was diagnosed with PCOS three days before my 30th birthday, (a surprise I could have lived without) I thought a lot about the infertility aspect of the diagnosis. After all, the inability to regulate my cycles enough to conceive was what had pushed me into seeking further testing, and infertility is still the primary problem in my mind.
At the same time, it’s worth remembering that PCOS isn’t just a fertility issue. It’s a whole-body hormonal one that’s probably going to have significant impact beyond the infertility. There’s the sudden, new higher risk for diabetes and heart disease among other things. And now that I’m off the birth control that essentially regulated everything for around seven years, there’s a whole host of new symptoms that have cropped up.
In all honesty, I feel like I’m 13 again, for a number of reasons.
– My periods are irregular and messed up, just like they were when I first started.
– My face has broken out in a way I’ve never seen in my life. I found myself standing in the acne products aisle at WalMart the other day with two teenage girls trying to find some sort of over- the-counter wash or salve to calm my face down. I never broke out like this when I was a teenager, I was always fortunate enough to have clear skin. Well, that’s over now, and it messes with my self-image something fierce.
– The hormones. Oh, my goodness, the hormones. I am chock full of hormonal mood swings and as moody and confused as I ever was at 13 and all the hormones attacked then.
– Hair in unanticipated and unwelcome new places. Enough said.
– My body, in particular, my weight is changing. When I was actually 13 and in puberty, I started gaining weight at an alarming rate, and I’ve spent most of the rest of my life fighting it off. Thankfully, because of that, I have an established exercise routine and some good eating habits, but with the steroids from my treatments, it’s started again. Keeping the weight off has become an almost Sisyphean task.
– And what is 13 without friendship drama? I finally summoned up the courage to call a friend yesterday, who knows about the infertility situation but proceeded to ask me, all chipper, if I had “any good news yet?”. When I replied in the negative, she then happily told me that she did and was expecting again. I’m just going to say there are some issues in this friendship, so it wasn’t the easiest thing to hear. It was even worse because, just like the cliché, she finished with, “and we were so surprised!”. Yes, that’s just what I want to hear when I can’t get pregnant at all, that you didn’t even have to try *face-palm*. The adult, 30 year-old part of me reminds myself that some fertile people just don’t get it and that I need to think this through before walking away from a long friendship. The 13 year-old…bleh.
– At 13, I was totally trying to sort out what this “becoming a woman” thing meant, from periods to breasts, sexuality to femininity. Now, I’m stuck sorting out what being infertile means in similar contexts. There is a significant societal expectation that part of being a woman means bearing children and mothering. That’s an idea that’s changing more, but it’s still a factor in many places. There are also some powerful ideas and taboos surrounding sexuality. I cringe/get furious every time I hear someone talk about sex as being largely for procreation or how a sexual relationship that doesn’t lead to procreation is somehow unnatural, because at this point, there’s a reasonable chance my husband and I will wind up conceiving any children we have without actual, you know, sex (and that’s not even getting into the incredible insult such a statement is towards people who are LGBT). Thankfully, at 30, I’m much more articulate than I was at 13 in telling people how stupid those statements are, but just like at 13, they still hurt and I have to summon every bit of maturity I possess to remind myself that I refuse to let these idiots define the worth of my relationship or my self-worth and sexuality.
– The whole “I don’t fit in, I’m different” issue has reasserted itself. Didn’t most people go through that stage at 13 where everything seemed weird and embarrassing and there was nothing worse than standing out? Infertility makes me stand out from most of my peer group/friends. Most of them have children and are fertile. And even though friends are more mature at 30, it’s amazing how people can say the most devastating things that define you as “other” without even realizing it (though plenty of people have been wonderful and sensitive as well).
I hated being 13 the first time, for what it’s worth. It was one of the most miserable years of my life, and there’s a part of me that can’t believe I’m tackling so much of this stuff again. Isn’t 30 supposed to signal the onset of “real” adulthood where I’ve got things mostly figured out? Fortunately, at 30, I have a lot more understanding and emotional maturity than I did at 13. Hopefully, that will count for something.