It's a cop-out but at least it shuts people up.
Seconds after revealing to a stranger that I don't have any children, I get the look. They don't have to say anything because the look is as if they say, "Are you missing the mothering gene? What's wrong with you, anyway?"
I couldn't just say that I had no interest in having children nor did I think my life was in order enough to have one. I'd usually just fall back on my "get out of having kids" card.
"I have endometriosis and I can't have kids," I'd say. Well, part of it was true, and at one time doctors believed that women with endometriosis were infertile.
Endometriosis used to be called the Career Woman's Disease because it was thought to be a product of delayed childbirth. Dr. Drew called it the garbage bag disorder, but those of of us in the know just call it endo.
It occurs when tissue that lines the uterus (endometrium) is found outside the uterus — usually in the abdomen, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the area between the vagina and rectum. The misplaced tissue develops into growths or legions with response to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the tissue of the uterine lining does: each month the tissue bulks up, breaks down and sheds.
Unlike the tissue inside the uterus, it has no way to leave the body, so instead it makes adhesions, scar tissue, and inflammation. Some of the symptoms of endo include horrible cramps, massively long periods, bowel and urinary disorders, vomiting, painful sex, and infertility.
Endometriosis is a painful condition that goes on and on.
I'd gone to the doctor for what I thought was a yeast infection that wouldn't go away, not knowing that I had a huge growth in my abdomen. My doctor, never one to sugarcoat anything, said, "You're either pregnant or you have a huge tumor."
I was between boyfriends at the time and knew there was no way I was pregnant. Awesome — a huge, possibly cancerous growth. I was quickly booked for surgery.
Once my doctor opened me up, she saw that a lot of scar tissue had already formed, and burned off as much as possible. But she didn't get it all — they never get it all.
When I came to, my doctor gave me the news: "You don't have cancer."
"Oh that's great," I said, feeling relieved.
"Not that great," She replied. "You have endometriosis." I didn't know at the time that my long and brutal endometriosis journey was just beginning.
In a weird way I was lucky, because on average in the United States it takes 10 years from symptom onset to an endometriosis diagnosis. Because of celebrities like Padma Lakshmi, Cyndi Lauper, and Hillary Clinton, awareness is slightly better than it was. 176 million women suffer from this disease around the world, yet there are still many myths surrounding it.
I don't have it as badly as some women. I've had two surgeries: one where they removed a cyst, and one where they removed my right ovary. I've had terrible pain before, during and after my periods.
I can't bend over or I get a horrible pain that feels like a reverse cramp. Sex is often painful, and sometimes just laying a certain way is excruciating. I've been on birth control pills, Lupron (which they give to prostrate cancer patients), but my doctor still says my insides are a mess.
Each month, I know my endometriosis is getting a little worse, causing a little more damage that will result in a little more pain. So can you blame me if I'll do almost anything to avoid additional pain in my life?
When I was first diagnosed, my doctor encouraged me to get pregnant, as it was believed that pregnancy could help cure endometriosis. Not true. Pregnant women can experience a reduction of symptoms because of increased progesterone.
Then, doctors thought that a hysterectomy was the way to cure endometriosis, but even after a hysterectomy women still experience pain. This is also true with menopause.
Endometriosis is relentless.
Endometriosis is the disease that just keeps going and affecting women's lives. I wouldn't wish it on anybody. There's no upside to the diagnosis I received that day except that it wasn't cancer; though, in the way it spreads, it's cancer-like.
I use my endometriosis as an excuse for not having children, but if I'd really wanted them, it could've been done. I just didn't want them and I felt ashamed and like something was wrong with me.
I like children, but I'm unsure of how to handle a baby — they're so delicate. It's not that I don't have a motherly instinct; I take very good care of my pets and the people in my life. I just never heard the tick-tick-tick of my biological clock and didn't feel any overwhelming desire for children.
I also wasn't up for the extra effort I'd have to make because of my endometriosis and so, I use my chronic illness as an excuse. Not many people are that educated about endometriosis, so they drop the subject of my having children once they hear the "E" word.
The truth is, if I'd never been diagnosed with endometriosis, I still wouldn't have had kids. I don't begrudge other people from having them; I'll celebrate at your baby shower right along with everyone.
Yet Rarely is someone questioned about why they want children, and they don't need to come up with excuses about having them. I shouldn't be made to feel I'm less than for not wanting them,and shouldn't have to use my condition as a reason.
Next time someone asks me why I don't have children or why I didn't want any, I should just quote my doctor.
"It's a mess in there," and vaguely point to my stomach.