I am terrified.
I am terrified that I am in perimenopause.
I am terrified that I will never have a baby with my own eggs.
I am terrified that if use a donor egg, I will always feel like I missed out.
This terror is cold and hard, like an enormous metal sphere, sinking deep below my diaphragm. When I feel it, it isn’t like panic, it is total and absolute despair. My brain has this mechanism, though, and this is relatively new, because when I was younger I actually would relive deeply painful childhood events in my mind several times a day the way some with PTSD might do, so this is a newer thing my brain does now where it just changes topic quickly. And the scary thoughts come back to nag and then I’m suddenly planning my pregnancy announcement, or my nursery, or my gender reveal.
Dr. M assured me that just because I have diminished ovarian reserve, and just because I have the genetic variant for premature ovarian failure, does not mean I am going through menopause anytime soon. But I have possibly been having hot flashes for years. See, I don’t know if I am because when menopausal women have described them to me, like my step-mother, I’ve thought to myself, well I must not be having those since I’m so young but I can’t imagine feeling any hotter than I do when I get really hot sometimes. Because I do get really hot sometimes, and when I ask everyone else around me if they’re hot, they say no, and I feel like the heat has gotten under my skin. My heart doesn’t race and my face doesn’t flush, however, which is what the internet says a hot flash feels like, so I’m not sure. But my arm and chest and face feel like they’re on fire. Also, I definitely get night sweats. I haven’t gotten them in a while but I’ve had bouts of them and I just figured they were normal. Because no one ever tested my hormones before. No one ever told me I had the eggs of a woman who is forty years old, before.
Now for the second cycle in a row, I’m pretty sure I haven’t ovulated. I went from being clockwork normal to having 35 day anovulatory cycles literally the month I find out I have severely diminished ovarian reserve. Of course, last cycle was following a chemical pregnancy, so maybe that was normal, and maybe I’m wrong about this cycle, but when I talked to Dr. M on the phone, she said, “Sometimes as we get older our cycles change and this just might be a normal thing.” I’m 34 years old! I’m not older, yet.
Families are made in different kinds of ways, yes, okay. That doesn’t help me let go of my own genetics. It’s not like I’ve got great genes or anything, and there’s plenty of commenters on every article about IVF out there that would call me a selfish egomaniac for wanting to reproduce my genes, but I can’t help it. I’ve spent years thinking about what if my daughter looks like me, or my grandmother, and wouldn’t that be so wonderful to see, to look at the face of a person who is related to both me and my husband. And at family gatherings when people inevitably pick apart children’s features, no one would say, “Where does she get her nose?” or “Did she get that from her father’s side or the egg donor’s side?”
Here I am, weeks away from an IUI I do not believe will work, followed by round of IVF I’m not even sure will make it to the egg retrieval stage, and I’m planning a pregnancy announcement. That’s because I can’t even swallow the cold sinking fear that I will end up using donor eggs. I know that if I have to, I will come to terms with and make peace with that (as will my husband) but it doesn’t make the fear I feel right now go away.
I went to a university I didn’t particularly want to attend. When I bought my car, I didn’t buy the car I really wanted, which we could afford, because we didn’t want to waste the money. I didn’t even buy the vacuum cleaner I actually wanted. We didn’t go on the honeymoon I wanted, or my consolation choice, and I’m not even sure why. We didn’t buy our dream house because we wanted to live in the part of town with the best schools. When I think about using donor eggs, which is really close to what I really want the most in the world, but is not actually what I want, I think, are you kidding me? As though life were a series of balancing choices in which I have given up so much so I deserve to have a baby with my own eggs, as though any of this is based on rhyme or reason or who deserves what. I’ve never thought that life was inherently fair, but here I am, wondering why my life can’t be fair this once. Wondering why I have been handed one of the worst infertility diagnoses right at the tail end of my own fertility.
This terror has informed my entire life since January. No caffeine or alcohol, no carbs except what occurs in fruits, vegetables, or legumes, no added sugar, almost no dairy, regular sleep schedule, daily wheatgrass smoothies with royal jelly and acai berries, pills and supplements adding up to 22 pills a day including my Chinese herbs, plus acupuncture weekly, castor oil packs, fertility massage with fertility oils, guided fertility meditation.
I have one family member I have been speaking to about any of this, and I recently told her, “I feel like one of those people who go crazy trying to cure their own cancer.”
She said, “They do it all the time though, they cure their own cancer.”