Abbie Waters talks about PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) in her posts “Obesity Raises Risk of Miscarriage” and “Study Links Obesity to PCOS Infertility in Women.” This post, I hope, adds something missing from those: the human experience.
Let’s call my friend Mary. Mary got her period at 13 and it was never normal, although she never mentioned this even to her doctors because she was embarrassed. Although stocky for a considerable number of years before she began birth control, she gained weight after beginning use and no matter her exercise or diet had great difficulty maintaining it, never mind losing it. She also tried varying types of birth control: the patch (which induced clotting), the shot (which caused her to bleed daily for six successive months), the ring (which caused severe cramping and light clotting during the off week), the pill (bleeding again), and full IUD in 2007. The next year, her physician took blood from her and an ultrasound of her ovaries; she was diagnosed with PCOS.
Meanwhile, early in 2008, she married a United States Marine who promised himself on the day he met her that he would “marry that girl one day.” Since Day 1 of their marriage, he wanted children. Mary, herself, used to go on about having a brood of children with her future Marine husband while I rolled my eyes and insisted I would never bear children before 35. Perhaps it’s a cruel twist of fate that left me a single, divorced mother and her a happily wedded woman unable as of yet to bear children.
Mary’s Broken Heart Living with PCOS
Mary was diagnosed with PCOS while Max (as we’ll call her husband) was stationed in Iraq. She bawled through every keystroke while they chatted on Skype in her new home in a new town, where she felt not only scared, upset, and hurt, but also alone.
When asked how she coped, Mary says that it comes into conversation usually because women talk about dieting. “I usually get the ‘then stop eating, fatty’ look, but then I open up about my condition and how it’s linked in both directions to weight. It’s both a cause and effect. Then, they realize I’m not fat and lazy, I’m just fat.” She laughs, and I wonder at her self-deprecation and her strength in the face of hardship and hurt, no matter how feigned. That her self-esteem has taken daily beatings need not be said.
Moreover, even before Max returned from Iraq, Mary endured self-imposed guilt; she feared she would not be able to give her husband what he wished—children—when he already asked for so little.
Max continues to be selfless and supportive, even if PCOS increases their chance of miscarriage to 60%, and despite difficulties, Mary is working harder than ever to lose weight and increase their chances.
Although more frustrated these days than frightened or sad, Mary considers herself lucky that her cysts do not cause her much pain. Both she and I have friends whose cysts have ruptured, and the pain is equated to the worst one can feel in life and usually entails an ER visit.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” she admits. “But I’m young and of course there have been more women out there who have experienced much harder things. I’m used to people rolling their eyes at my story.”
And I, who took fertility for granted, hide my face in shame.
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online colleges & blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.