I Wanted To Be a Mother, and Endometriosis Wasn’t Going To Stop Me
I have endometriosis. For the longest time, I let this define me.
I have finally decided that I will not allow this disease to control my life. I will not make decisions to please my disease. I will make decisions to please myself. If not for me, then for the 176 million other women who suffer from the effects of endometriosis.
What is endometriosis exactly?
“Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus (endometrial implant). Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond your pelvic region.
In endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions — abnormal tissue that binds organs together.
Endometriosis can cause pain — sometimes severe — especially during your period. Fertility problems also may develop.” -Mayo Clinic
As a woman, there is one thing I have always wanted out of life more than anything else. I wanted to conceive, carry, and raise a child. In short, I wanted to be a mother. This is a goal that most women find easily achievable; after all, procreating is what we are biologically made to do.
Although my mother was unable to conceive naturally and chose to resort to the use of in vitro fertilization to become pregnant with me and my triplet siblings, I never imagined in my younger years that I too might someday have to worry about whether or not I would be able to conceive naturally.
As a young teenager, I began to experience immense pain and cramping that accompanied my periods. My menstrual cycles were irregular and heavy. At times, the pain was so intense that it would cause me to vomit and faint. There were many days when I could not get out of bed which resulted in missing time from school, work, and social events. Pain consumed me and I had no idea what the cause was.
In an effort to provide me with some sort of relief from the pain and irregularity, my gynecologist put me on birth control pills at the age if 16. I felt like I was doing something wrong.
After two years, the pills were no longer providing me with any sort of relief. Rather than extreme pain and cramping only occurring around the time of my period, I was in pain all the time. I constantly felt like I was suffering from a urinary tract infection, and never felt like I could empty my bladder completely. I would wake up numerous times throughout the night with sharp pains in my abdomen, which resulted in me always being tired and having trouble concentrating on the simplest of tasks. Sharp shooting pains, which to me felt like lightning bolts shooting through my uterus and bladder would wake me up at night and cause me to double over in pain during the day.
I was tired, depressed, and frustrated. I had discussed the symptoms numerous times with several different doctors, and it seemed that no one had any insight as to what might be causing my symptoms. I felt hopeless. I began to worry that I would never find relief from whatever was causing this awful pain. I felt like I was being consumed by constant pain, fatigue, and depression.
After talking with my mom, I found out that she had suffered from endometriosis. As I researched the disease and spoke with my mother, I began to wonder if this could be the root of my problems.
I made an appointment and discussed this theory with my gynecologist. “Oh no, that wouldn’t be the cause of your symptoms. You’re too young,” she said.
I met with another doctor. “Your body is so small, that your insides are literally fighting for space,” she said.
I met with another doctor. “Perhaps this is in your head and you could benefit from antidepressants,” he said.
Still no answers.
Finally I couldn’t take it any longer. I was taking pain killers every day just to function. I begged my doctor to do a laparoscopy to see if we could find out what the cause of my tremendous pain was. She agreed.
On the day of my surgery I was nervous, but also very hopeful. I wanted answers. I had waited long enough and I needed to get better.
After the surgery was performed, my doctor informed me that I did in fact have endometriosis.
Now that I had my answer, we needed to discuss treatment. I was told that in order to “kill” the tissue that had built up and temporarily prevent more from forming, we needed to starve the disease of what it needed to thrive … estrogen.
I was 18 when I got my diagnosis. I had been married to my high school love for less than three months.
What!?! I thought to myself. Estrogen is what makes me female, right? My doctor proposed putting my body into an induced menopausal state with the use of a drug called Lupron.
I felt I had no other option, so I said yes. Every month for six months (the effects of which lasted just over a year) I would receive an extremely painful hormone shot that would keep my body from producing estrogen.
I began experiencing everything that a woman experiences when her body naturally enters into menopause.
I was a newlywed teenager, and I felt like I had the body a woman in her 50s. I was tired, moody, and irrational. I had hot flashes and night sweats. I would cry for no reason. When I looked in the mirror I swore I barely recognized the person staring back at me. I didn’t look like myself, I didn’t act like myself, I didn’t even think like myself.
I began to have irrational thoughts. How can my husband want me? I am defective? I am undesirable? I am broken?
I feared he would tire of the constant complaining and emotional meltdowns. Fortunately, my husband was and is very supportive. His love and support helped me to endure my yearlong state of menopause and gain a new perspective.
When I finally started to menstruate again I started to wonder if this was it. Will I be pain free? Will I ever be able to have a baby?
We were young, we are young … but I knew that if we wanted to have kids, sooner was better than later when it came to endometriosis.
Finally the day came where I realized that I had not had a period in a while. My cycles were still not normal so I didn’t expect much but I took a pregnancy test anyway. I was pregnant!
I was shocked, scared, and excited all at the same time. Really I don’t think I ever expected this to happen. I had come pretty close to convincing myself that I would never be a mom; not naturally, anyway.
As my pregnancy progressed I began to fall more in love with the tiny life growing inside of me. As far as I was concerned, she was my miracle baby. My sweet prize. My most precious gift.
On the day my angel was placed in my arms, my heart threatened to explode from the volume of love I felt for her. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and fills my life with more joy and love than I have ever known.
About a year after having my precious daughter, I began to experience painful symptoms again. I refused to go back on birth control and will never go through induced menopause again. My doctor said that my only other options were pain killers or a hysterectomy.
I knew there had to be another option. One that was not so drastic. I am 23 years old. I will not give up my body or my ability to potentially be a mother to another beautiful child. I will not hand over my reproductive organs to a team of surgeons without putting up a fight.
The more I learned about endometriosis, and the more people I talked to, the more I realized that our culture is so quick to throw out drastic medical procedures and drugs as being the best option.
Many women suffer for years before finally receiving their diagnosis. Then in an effort to get the relief they are so desperate for, they willingly grasp at whatever treatment is being offered in order to live a life without pain.
The most prominent treatments for this disease are:
- Laparoscopic Surgery
- Hormonal Treatments
- Contraceptive-Based Hormonal Treatments
- Pain Killers
I was so tired of the invasive and expensive options whose side effects were sometimes just as bad as the disease I was seeking relief from.
I began to research other options. I began to educate myself. With my newfound knowledge, I found the freedom I had been searching for.
There are plenty of natural, non-invasive, healthy options for endometriosis relief.
- Massage therapy
Acupuncture and massage can get expensive, but many women do find relief. Personally, I adopted a diet and exercise plan that has virtually eliminated my symptoms.
I changed my diet to exclude things like dairy, red meat, sugar, and processed foods. I find that if I eat very healthy and stick to my endo diet for several months, I can even splurge on old favorites like pizza and chocolate without a problem. I still drink my beloved red wine and can do so without issue, however other women have reported that any alcohol consumption causes a flare up in their symptoms. Every woman is different, and when you find what works for you, you stick with it. I have found this book to be very informative.
I have also had tremendous luck with yoga. I practice daily and find it very beneficial in easing symptoms when they occur, and greatly diminishing the frequency and intensity of any endometriosis related pain.
I feel better than ever. I feel healthy, happy … normal.
I know there are so many women who are suffering out there. Some of their stories and cases are far worse than mine. I just hope that my story and my success with more natural treatment approaches can provide them with some sort of hope and ultimately relief.
Endometriosis used to define me. It used to control me. Now I have virtually eliminated it from my life. I have my body and my life back. And most importantly, I have one awesome little beauty queen who lights up my world with every breath she takes!
Written by Jillian Amodio
Jillian is an author, writer, wife and mom. She enjoys being a stay at home mom and loves coffee, wine, and yoga. See more about her work at www.JillianAmodio.com