pearls of great price (part 1)
So. I have a common hormonal imbalance called PCOS. Not going to get into details here - you can look it up if you want, but it tends to be either dry statistics (roughly 1 in 10 women are affected by this, and probably a good number of those aren't aware they have it) OR "loud-and-proud" people who do nothing but talk about it - it has become their sole identity. I'm breaking character by writing this article and have been sitting on it and re-writing it for weeks (because this is deeply personal) and hard to talk about. The short version is, the older you get, the more difficult it's going to be for you to conceive. This is basic biology. But PCOS tampers with your fertility by wreaking havoc on your hormones, making your chances even more slim, so the only inexpensive and non-invasive way to determine your ability to conceive is to actually try to do so. Heh. Slim. When your hormones are off-balance, your body hangs onto weight, and won't let it go easily, even with a balanced diet and normal exercise levels. Ironically, one way to better your chances of conception is... to lose weight. Whatever.
The diagnosis came a number of years ago, on the heels of some routine medical tests. I had an ultrasound. I remember they let me keep my Led Zeppelin shirt on, which was nice because otherwise it's an undignified, invasive, humiliating, and cold process. When you're not pregnant, there's nothing fun about this.
My first time seeing my uterus on a screen! And it was empty (as it should have be), and the doctor pointed out the "string of pearls" - a row of tiny cysts that look like what they're called. This is PCOS. It doesn't cause me physical pain (although some women do suffer greatly), it's not dangerous, it just sits there, quietly. It's not cancerous, and it's not the kind of bigger cysts that burst. Honestly, I don't walk around thinking about the fact that I have this condition.
What I thought about, lying there and wondering how fast I could get out of there, was that scene from Juno, the realest part of an otherwise silly movie, where she's in the hospital, crying in the bed, after giving her baby away. Her father says, "someday you'll be back here on your own terms." I still think about that. The next time I get an ultrasound, I hope it's for happier reasons.
You may take as your premise that in order to get pregnant, I'd want to be married first. You may also correctly assume I want kids, a lot. And yet I won't know until I (we? Sorry, this is awkward!) "try", whether or not it's possible. THIS IS TERRIFYING. There are, of course, tests you can have done to determine the medical state of things (ruling out the miraculous, for the sake of this article). The typical response to this diagnosis is to put the subject on hormonal contraception, which regulates the hormones in your body. I chose to not go that route for a variety of reasons. I'm - perhaps obviously - not married, so neither the contraception nor the tests would be a prudent use of money, but not knowing the likelihood sucks. On the other hand - would I have any more peace about this if I knew what my percentages were? And knew, mathematically, that they were slipping a little every year? Biological clocks are real, and it's hard to not panic at this point. At what point do you say to a date "by the way, how do you feel about kids? Because I'm not sure I can have them, and what's your health insurance like, because this could be a really expensive process"? Probably you wait till dessert? Or maybe after he gets the check. Maybe second date. Maybe you just spring it on him after you're married! Ha! Good one.
Are there perks? Not physical. Not emotional. Perhaps spiritual. I've been made to think seriously about several things in a way I wouldn't have otherwise. My theory is this: we need to be around kids. Single, married, male, female, young, old, you need that. Kids are the best and also the worst, and I think being with them (whether they're yours, or if you're serving in your vocation as a teacher or a nanny, or if you're serving in Sunday School) aids significantly in our practical sanctification. Working with them, or having them, or raising them, pulls stuff out of you that you may not want exposed. It is my belief, then, that if you are single, you need to work with kids. I'm making an effort to be available to babysit my friends' kids. I can't speak to what it's like to be married and dealing with infertility, I think that's probably a whole different kind of heartbreak. I do know if I found myself in that situation, I would want to adopt, and if that were financially impossible, I'd want to be around kids in any way I could, BECAUSE IT IS NECESSARY. I can't do this for a living - I connect too much (see: INFJ problems), it becomes far too personal, and I lack the ability to leave that behind at the end of the work day.