This week I saw one of my fertility specialists (the one I like) for a follow-up appointment. We were to discuss the results of my cycle monitoring and their implications for my future as a mother.

 By: Robin Harry

“He grants the barren woman a home, like a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!”
(Psalm 113:9)

This week I saw one of my fertility specialists (the one I like) for a follow-up appointment. We were to discuss the results of my cycle monitoring and their implications for my future as a mother. The results were as follows: my antral follicle count (the number of eggs maturing at the beginning of the cycle) was low average. My FSH levels (follicle stimulating hormone) was high, which isn’t a good sign either. It’s kind of like when you’re tired and need an extra shot of espresso in your coffee to operate at a normal pace. The FSH being high means my aging, tired ovaries need an extra push just to keep working. The egg that did show up at ovulation was small, smaller than it should be. And to top it all off, my AMH (Anti Mullerian Hormone) was low. Extremely low. AMH levels are an indicator of ovarian reserve – how many eggs remain. Well, there ain’t much left.

In summation; I have about a 5-10% chance of getting pregnant right now. In a couple of years, I’ll likely be in menopause, unable to conceive. And since I’m not having any children right now, the gist of it is that I most likely will never have biological children of my own. Chemotherapy turned my 29-year-old ovaries into 42-year-old ovaries.

I guess I was kind of hoping that I defied the odds, but part of me knew this was coming. However, that feeling didn’t make it any easier to hear. I still believe that I made the best decision that I could at the beginning, forgoing IVF to start my treatment, and I try not to live in retrospect. But I will say, this was the first time I felt that I let cancer take something from me. I feel like damaged goods, really. I feel like I have one less thing to offer this world. I may never give my parents grandchildren. Someday, I’ll have to look a man in the eye and tell him I can’t have his children. Somewhere, on some playground in the future, some kid will be running around saying that Superman is cooler than Batman, or that Jennifer Lopez was one of the great singers from the 1990s, and my kid won’t be there to tell them that they’re out of their minds.

But maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe I shouldn’t be having children. I would hate to be a mother whose child comes home one day and says, “Mom, I have the same cancer you did.” How could I handle passing that down to my child? On top of that, I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The rate of recurrence is relatively high. Not to mention the secondary cancers I’m at risk for because of the treatment, heart disease, stroke, etc. There’s always a chance that my children would have a very sick mother, or would leave them motherless at a young age.

I’m pretty sure my doctor could see how tortured I was with the options I was given, and so he recommended something that I never thought I’d go for; a counsellor. I saw a social worker/counsellor to talk about my options. She was great – she really helped me figure out what I wanted and was right for me. What we came up with is this: since there’s no way I’m having a baby now, since my eggs aren’t good enough for freezing, and since I don’t want to freeze embryos with a sperm donor – embryos that to me are potential human beings and I don’t feel right discarding if I never marry – I will have to let nature take its course.

I don’t want to have children just because I want them or because I can. I want a family. A nice little nuclear family. All or nothing. So that’s what works for ME. Should I be fortunate enough to have a family in the making, I have the option of using donor eggs to get pregnant, adopting an “embryo”, or adopting a child. Thankfully, those options will remain no matter what happens.

So here I am, a young woman with old ovaries. But as that verse says, God’s got a place for the barren woman. Thankfully, God doesn’t mind damaged goods.


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