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I'm Not 'Too Young' to Worry About Infertility

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Already by the age of 21, a fair amount of my friends and girls I went to school with are having babies. The women who surrounded me as girls are producing their own little ones and making families, and I want to feel happy for them. Life is a miracle and should always be celebrated, in whichever form it comes, whether it was planned or accidental, fast or years in the making. But the truth is, when my Facebook feed is filled with happy families, a part of me becomes sad, because already by 21 I have endometriosis. Which causes infertility.

I grew up knowing grown women who had had their own struggles with infertility, so I was never completely ignorant to the topic. I knew I wanted a family of my own from a young age, and I simply told myself that if I struggled I would adopt, but already I know it isn’t that simple. I have seen women with my illness struggle through the pains of egg collection with bloated stomachs, suffer the distraught of miscarriages and whilst all of this is happening we have our symptoms that mimic pregnancy. Symptoms that mock the infertility they cause.

I have learned endometriosis is particularly cruel in this way, it pulls the chance of a child out of your grasp while forcing you to constantly think about it. I hadn’t thought much about pregnancy even after my diagnosis. I had been able to put it out of my mind as best I could and thought “that’s something I can worry about in a few years,” but then it forces you to acknowledge it. Endometriosis, like pain, demands to be felt, to be acknowledged. My stomach bloated to the point I had to wear loose clothes, and even maternity clothes as it stretched to the size of a six month pregnant stomach. My breasts grew two sizes at least from the hormones alone. I was constantly nauseous, and my diet was restricted.

It’s very strange to go outside with a huge great stomach of pain, barely able to walk and having people ask you how far along you are when you aren’t pregnant. To have friends rub your sore stomach and laugh and jest about how it mimics that of pregnancy. All of this is bad enough, but on top of all of this, it just hurts so much more than you could imagine if you hadn’t felt it. The pain is there with you every day, even on good pain days it’s there. It flares up as and when it chooses and wreaks havoc on your life. It would be hell enough to live through without the repercussions it causes to the dream of having children.

But then I am just 21, and I am supposedly too young to think about these kind of things. People tell me I am too young to be scared of infertility, as though age had anything to do with it. I have family and friends ask me, “So when are you thinking of children?” and wonder why I seem to have suddenly “gone off” the idea. It’s not that I don’t want children, it’s that I don’t want to talk about it because it scares me. I don’t want to think about that pain, that nagging fear.

People try to comfort me by reminding me I haven’t tried for children yet, so I can’t possibly know how my illness will impact me yet. They think this phrase helps but the uncertainty is what strikes fear into my heart. I am an endlessly practical person, if I knew where I stood I could prepare, but I don’t quite yet. And I think it’s OK to be fearful of infertility at a young age. It’s OK to admit it’s heartbreaking. It’s OK to talk about and I wish it was something that was more acceptable for women my age to discuss.

I wish I could just calmly explain this to other women my age, this fear. I wish it was spoken about as a normal part of life. I wish it wasn’t assumed that I am fertile because I am young. I wish infertility and the fear surrounding conditions that cause it were normalized. A little compassion and thought could go a long way, rather than assuming such intimate details about me based on my age.

Photo by Lewis Parsons on Unsplash

Originally published: November 11, 2020
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