"However motherhood comes to you, it's a miracle." -Valerie Harper
Inflamed tissues sent shockwaves through my abdomen. The invisible culprit would only receive a name after I was sedated and lying on a metal table. At age 20, my doctor announced "you have endometriosis" ("en-doh-mee-tree-OH-sus").
That is how it was diagnosed---with laparoscopic surgery. My doctor removed the scar tissue but she warned it would return. She also cautioned that endometriosis could lead to infertility.
As a young woman, I was single and children were not a top priority. Still, I knew that I wanted children. So, I sought answers but there were few. Even now, the medical community strives to better understand what causes endometriosis. The most common form of treatment is birth control pills and hormone therapy.
According to the University of Michigan Medicine, endometriosis is a problem many women have during their childbearing years. Complications can arise as the tissue that lines your uterus grows outside your uterus. It is not always accompanied by symptoms and it usually is not dangerous. However, it can cause pain and other problems.
In my case, endometriosis affects my uterus and intestines, and it can cause immense pain. The birth control pills did not help---they only made me sick to my stomach. So, I stopped taking them.
Early in the diagnostic process, my doctor performed an ultrasound and discovered two additional medical conditions. The ultrasound revealed that I have fibroids, which are usually noncancerous tumors. It also revealed that I have a bicornuate uterus, which is a congenital abnormality that renders the uterus a heart-shape at birth.
It is estimated that three percent of women are born with a defect in the size, shape, or structure of their uterus. While this condition does not usually cause infertility, it can lead to early labor and miscarriages for some women.
For me, the news was unexpected. Honestly, I don’t know any woman who expects to receive this news. If I had not experienced pain from my endometriosis and fibroids, like many women with the same congenital uterine abnormality, I probably would not have known so early on.
Many women don’t learn about their endometriosis, fibroids, or bicornuate uterus until they are pregnant or trying to conceive because some women don’t experience any pain associated with these conditions.
While I understood the diagnoses, I remained unclear about what it would mean for me later in life. When I was ready to start a family, I knew that I would have a high-risk pregnancy but beyond that, there were many unknowns.
Today, at age 36, I am happily married and my husband and I would like to expand our family. Still, we have to walk through the process with caution because it could be life- threatening. In addition to endometriosis and fibroids, I have other existing health concerns that need to be taken into consideration when planning a pregnancy, and timing is everything.
Over the past four years, my husband and I have gone to multiple specialists. We have a top-ranked team of physicians at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So, I am confident in my doctor's ability to guide us through each step of the process.
Still, in this maze called my body, as we jointly consider the best way to expand our family, it can sometimes feel like a minefield. It seems like there is one thing after the other to consider. At a certain point, you start to wonder, 'Is this truly the way for me to go?’ I want to have children and I want to be around to enjoy them.
In my house, there is a serenity prayer that hangs on our wall. It reads: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
When it comes to my body, I cannot change the shape of my uterus. But I can be intentional about what I eat and how I care for my body. I can pray and ask God for wisdom. I can be disciplined and proactive about my health, and I can talk to other women for support. These are some of the things that I have done to heal physically and emotionally.
Even now, I am going through a health transformation. Last year, I became vegan and I maintain a whole foods plant-based diet. Lately, I have been reading Hope Beyond Fibroids by Gessie Thompson, a woman who faced challenges on her journey to motherhood. Now, she has a beautiful daughter named Nia. She wrote about her experience in the book to encourage other women.
Currently, I am doing many of the things that she and so many other women have done to rid their bodies of fibroids. I am following a meal plan to reduce estrogen dominance in my body. Certain foods contribute to estrogen dominance in the body and medical research has shown that estrogen feeds the growth of fibroids. So, I have continued to educate myself and taken a holistic approach to rid my body of fibroids and eliminate the pain that stems from them and endometriosis.
I am hopeful that I will be able to have biological children. However, there is more than one way to become a mother. It does not have to look the same nor should it look the same for every woman. Becoming a mother is a blessing regardless of how the child becomes a part of your family.
It takes incredible strength to physically birth a baby. In my view, all women who undergo this rite of passage into motherhood deserve to have their names recorded in a golden book. But so do the mamas who adopt or use other means to become a mother. They are strong and courageous, too. I don’t know if I will physically birth a baby into this world. Rather, what I do know for sure is that children are a gift however they come into your life.