by Meredith Harris
Published in Resolve for the journey and beyond, Spring 2011
My husband and I have been married for nearly 18 years and have been happily childfree for the last three.
My infertility journey began when I was 18, before I married my husband, with abnormal cycles and severe pain. For almost two years, I was being treated for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). However, this was an unfortunate misdiagnosis that was not discovered until sometime later. Shortly after my husband and I started dating, I was admitted into the hospital for rather dramatic treatments. After four days of treatment and multiple examinations, the doctor decided to perform my first laparoscopy in 1992. The finding was that I did not have PID, but I had endometriosis and a large, grape-sized cyst.
In 1994, I experienced my second surgery for endometriosis. I lived with the pain and aggravation for four more years, until I could stand no more and had my third surgery in 1998. During this time, my husband and I went through infertility testing. Other than my problem with endometriosis, we could not find any problems. On a few occasions, colonoscopies were performed to see if the endometriosis had spread to the colon. Luckily, that was not the case. However, the pain and problems persisted.
In 2002, I had my fourth surgery for endometriosis. At this point, my doctor thought it would be a good idea to give me Lupron shots to put me in menopause after the surgery. Okay ladies… menopause at 30? It was the opinion of my doctor that the endometriosis could regress during the time of menopause and hopefully not return. This was not the case.
After a couple of more years of trying to get pregnant, we scheduled some more testing, one of which was a tubal x-ray (Hystopingogram) and was the most painful procedure I had ever been through. The tubes showed no sign of blockage, but the doctor did see some other suspicious looking things,and we scheduled my fifth surgery in May 2005. This time, there was a small amount of active endometriosis, a cyst and a lot of scar tissue that attached my colon to my uterus.
We chose childfree living as a resolution to our infertility... It was not an easy decision.
During this same time in 2005, I was approached by a woman to adopt her unborn baby. Scared, we moved forward towards adoption. A few weeks before the baby was born, I received a call from my attorney who said the mother did not want us to have the baby. She was still making an adoption plan, but wanted a stranger to adopt her baby instead of us — she said it would be easier for her. I was devastated. I think I cried every day for a month.
After the surgery and during the time of the adoption disaster, a miracle happened. For the first time in 12 years, I was pregnant! Unfortunately that weekend, the stress of losing the adoption had taken over my body, and I miscarried. Oh the heartbreak. I had now lost two babies in two months. By late 2005, I could not see even living anymore. Many days I contemplated suicide.
It had been about a year since the miscarriage and the pain returned, gradually getting worse with each month that passed by. A decision had to be made. Do I want to continue this path that I have traveled for the last 14 years? I really felt that at age 35, it was time to move forward and focus on my husband. I just couldn’t see either one of us continuing to put ourselves through the trials and pain of more infertility testing, more money, more surgeries and possibly another failed adoption.
My doctor suggested a hysterectomy right away, but I ended up doing the Lupron shots again as a last ditch effort. Of course, menopause at 35 is not any better than menopause at 30! After another month of bad pain and entirely too much pain medicine, the day had come. In December 2007, I would have my sixth and final surgery…the hysterectomy. I remember the overwhelming relief I felt the morning I woke up and realized it was over. The pressure I had placed on myself all these years to have a child was gone.
Since the adoption process did not work well for us, and due to my physical and mental health concerns, we chose childfree living as a resolution to our infertility. This allowed us to gain control of our lives again. It was not an easy decision. There was still some grieving to do for the loss of the children that might have been. There are times of sadness on occasion, but we couldn’t be happier. Our decision to live childfree saved my life.
MEREDITH HARRIS is a peer-led RESOLVE support group host in Richmond, VA.