Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST: Killing the Dream by Amy Wall Lerman

On October 5th of this month, I put an end to my reproductive life.

Having lived through thirteen years of abnormal bleeding which has always taken a toll on my health and quality of life, I came to the painful decision that it was time to take care of myself and stop fantasizing about having more biological children. So after months of deliberating and internal struggle, I decided to have an endometrial ablation which effectively put an end to my ability to bear children. It's a procedure that removes the lining of the uterus so that the endometrium can no longer develop. And, of course, without that valuable lining, a fetus cannot survive and periods cease for good. I'm 46 years old, I'm not menopausal, and while there are many women out there becoming pregnant at my age, either naturally or with the help of medical technology, for me the dream had to be put to rest.

Here is why I made the decision and why it was so hard to get there. When I was 32 years old I started to bleed erratically – spotting for six weeks at a time or heavy bleeding for several days straight – sometimes hemorrhaging to the point of missing work and spending a lot of time on the phone with my doctor. My cycle was never regular and when I did bleed it was almost always heavy and painful.

I was in a relationship when I was 32 but it was a rocky one, and my boyfriend was not ready for kids so I worked very hard with my doctors to keep my reproductive health in tact until I was ready to have a child whether with him or without him (preferably the latter). I always knew having a child would require the aid of reproductive science so I made it my job was to keep my uterus intact and keep the dream alive. Even then I wasn't 100 percent sure I wanted children, but there was no way I was going to let my body dictate my choice.

When I was in a stable relationship at 40 years old my husband and I were told if wanted a child we would have to go directly for IVF and we had no time to waste because age was against my eggs. What? No Clomid? No IUI? Straight for the hard stuff, huh? So we took the doctors' advice and went for it; a couple of times. When I was 42, after IVF with PGD (Pre-Genetic Diagnosis) I gave birth to my beloved Evan – a miracle and a blessing because things were not looking good for us. Out of 9 embryos, only one had normal chromosomes and that turned out to be my little boy.

My story is not unlike many of yours – at least those of you who underwent fertility treatment. What may be different is the level to which I fantasized about becoming pregnant again despite the fact that I did not want to go through IVF again; or the level of grief over the death of a dream, or maybe even my level of masochism at not knowing when enough is enough. When I really thought about it – and oh I really thought about it - I didn't want any more kids. Evan is perfect, and I love being his mommy. He's enough for me. He's my dream come true. But I wasn't ready to kill the fantasy of having a house full of kids; of having a Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by a big family; or of having twenty-five grandchildren 30 years from now. How do I put an end to a dream I've worked so long to preserve?

You'd think I would have made up my mind this past August when, in the ladies room at Disney World, I watched blood run down my legs as I dug for one of my son's diapers so I could make it through the "electric light parade." After cursing-out my husband and going into a funk for the next few hours, I should have called it quits right then and there. I should have realized that if I continued on that path I would not be able to be the kind of mother I want to be, the kind of healthy woman I should be, and the kind of wife my husband would prefer. No, instead I thought I could keep going – keep the dream alive. I wasn't ready to let go even if my health was at risk. Even when I was told I was severely anemic, I still thought I could keep my options open.

What made me change my mind in the end? I think it was something my mother said. She reminded me that when I was 10 years old, she took me for my first bra – much against my will. This was not an exciting day for me. I was a "Tom-Boy" and I did not want to wear a bra. And sure enough I was teased at school and had to tell the little girls snapping my strap that it was a bathing suit for after-school swim class. At 11 years old I got my period. I cried and cried. How would I play kickball now? How would I ride my bike? How would I hide this horrible secret from my friends? I was a shy kid and my developing body would not let me hide. My mother reminded me that I had always felt betrayed by my body - that it had always had a mind of its own and never did what I wanted it to do and things were no different now.

But there is one significant difference this time – and that is that I have control. I can stop my body from doing what I don't want it to do. While it involves a death of a dream, it also involves the birth of renewed life – for me. My quality of life will improve. I will be happier. I will be healthier. I will be the person I want to be – for the first time in a very long time. Periods be damned. This is my time and I'm making the best of it. My family will be a small one, but my new dream is to make it a happy one.

Amy Wall Lerman, Editor the Motherhood Later...Than Sooner eZine, Baby Bloomer, is a television producer, freelance writer and editor. She is the author of several books including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Critical Reading and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Family Games. Her poetry has been published in the online literary journal Patchwork. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband and 4-year old son.

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