• Emily Osborn

Painful Periods and Infertility

Updated: Jun 26, 2019

What happens when you can't have kids but still have to face your period every month?

Trigger Warning: This is real talk about menstruation and feelings of #childlessness.

Every month—well, more like every 3 weeks—I play the waiting game. You know what I mean…will I get the visit from Aunt Flo? Will the Crimson Wave come crashing down on my shores? Will I get the Girl Flu?

Okay, enough with the cliché slang….

Here I am, preaching the positivity that can come from accidental childlessness (or childfree by chance, however you’d like to label it), yet sometimes I slip back into old patterns and feelings…and the reality of what it means to be a woman who is not childfree by choice.

Once a month I live in a delirious state of denial and hope that my period won’t come. That I will somehow be graced with a miracle baby, even though I have no eggs, a scarred uterine lining that won’t let anything implant, and am on enough anti-depressants to turn a fetus into a three-eyed, six-toed, eight-armed monstrosity. But still, I hope. Any every month, I’m let down. Every month it comes. Every month. Every. Damn. Time.

I first got my period when I was 10. I was home alone with my dad and brother when I saw blood in my underwear. I freaked out—something was very wrong! I ran to my dad (my poor, defenseless dad) and shoved my underwear in his face, screaming, “Ack! What is this?” My dad responded with a perplexed face and a “Go ask your mother,” as I think any father from the 1980s would’ve done. But my mom wasn’t home. Why wasn’t he rushing me to the hospital? Why wasn’t anyone calling 911???

When my mom got home, she gave me “the talk,” and downloaded all of the information on what it was to “be a woman” at the too-young age of ten. My mom hadn’t explained this stuff to me yet. She thought it was too soon; this wasn’t supposed to happen for at least a couple more years. The videos and counselor discussion wouldn’t happen in school for another two weeks. Mom gave me a giant menstrual pad to place in clean underwear. I remember that night vividly, as I tossed and turned in bed, trying to adjust to the new, cumbersome, uncomfortable thing between my legs…not to mention the terrible cramps. When I found out I was going to have to go through this every month until I SUPER OLD (well, you know, 60 is old when you’re 10) made me burst into tears. The cruelty!

I have never been a normal girl with a normal cycle. I had the worst pain of my life every period—especially during those first few days. When I was 16, I bled for a month straight. It was excruciating. I got put on the pill to regulate my cycle. It worked for a while, but the hormones from the pill made me a little whack-a-doodle, and I took myself off in my mid-20s. I don’t have endometriosis. I have many friends who have it and have suffered multiple surgeries to try and help the pain. These surgeries have left them infertile and dealing with the emotional rollercoaster that is grief of losing something you never had.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have a super fibroid, which I learned this past March that, after multiple surgeries to remove it has grown back…AGAIN. The location of this giant mass of muscle and tissue in and of itself is enough to prevent embryos from successfully implanting and growing inside me…but yet, I still live in a delusional land where miracle babies can happen. Since my chances for a successful IVF are so low we skipped this idea altogether. (I mean, I think success percentages are already low for people, but I think mine were near to impossible, and the cost would only add to the whopping student loan debt my husband and I have.)

The intellectual side of my brain knows that natural pregnancy is a no-go. That it’s nearly impossible. But logic also dictates that I still get a period every freakin’ month (sometimes twice) and so there’s still a chance it could happen….right? RIGHT????

Not so much. In August I get to see how large my fibroid has grown, and based on that information and my pain levels I get to decide if I want to do a hysterectomy (as if “want” is the correct word here…). I suppose the silver lining to that would be that I would KNOW I couldn’t get pregnant from then on…for realsies. No delusional thinking or false hope.

I think the toughest part of all this is that I started dropping eggs 26 years ago…before I had even officially become a tween, filled with angst and acne and feelings. I had to deal with becoming a woman way to soon, before I mind even knew what it meant to be one—the caring, the nurturing, having to work harder in a man’s world, society’s assumption that we should multitask, and do everything, and do it perfectly…all while wearing heels, makeup, and carrying a giant purse because none of our pants have deep pockets (have you ever shoved your hand in men’s pants?! Seriously—go out to a store and do it now! You will be SHOCKED as to how deep those pockets are! I swear, Big Pocketbook is in cahoots with the trouser industry! But I digress…). [*GIANT DEEP BREATH.*] Women carry a heavy burden. And it all starts with that little drop of blood in your underwear.

The “reward” for the years of cramps, suffering, tears, and stained jeans from “oops” moments and overflows is that one day, you get to be pregnant and be a mother. (I say this for the women who WANT to be moms…I know there are many #childfree woman out there that may be reading this, and I know you don’t feel the same way here, and I envy you more than you will ever know.) I cried curled up on the bathroom floor from the pain of menstruation on many occasions because one day I’d get to look down at that little stick and the two lines will show up, either side-by-side, or in a little plus shape…but they’d be there, cheering me on to the motherhood finish line.

So here I am, two days late, and my mind begins to wander...and wonder: What if…?

What. If.

And then it comes. And so do the tears.

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