My name is Ashley Aldape I am a wife of almost 10 years, an aunt, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and not a mother.
Since I went through puberty, I have struggled with insane periods. I get physically sick a few days before, vomiting, light-headed, feverish, etc. Once that subsides, the flood gates open, and I bleed profusely for weeks, even months. Along with the blood, there is pain, mainly in my right side.
My mother pulled me from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with me. No one could figure it out. They said it was because I was overweight and had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that causes cysts to develop on the ovaries. Women with PCOS have difficulty conceiving because the syndrome effects ovulation.
Okay, but why was I in so much pain? Why would I bleed for months at a time? Why would I go through a box of super plus tampons in a day? One doctor even went so far as to say, “What is heavy bleeding for one person, is not heavy for another person,” basically telling 17 year-old me that it was all in my head.
I was on tons of different medications: birth control, progesterone, metformin, etc. Yet none of it alleviated the pain and heavy flows. Then the infections started. I had urinary tract infections and yeast infections constantly. This came on around the time I became sexually active. I thought maybe I wasn’t cleaning up properly or maybe the guy was giving me a STD or something. I was young, and no one had ever talked about bodily functions with me. All I knew was it must have been something I was doing wrong.
I was going to a nurse practitioner (I refused to go back to the OB/GYN who had written me off as crazy), and she told me flat out that she didn’t know what was wrong with me and referred me to a specialist a few hours away.
It was the summer before my wedding when I met Dr. Tatpatti. She runs a fertility and women’s health clinic. She sees people daily who struggle with infertility. I went in not even thinking that she could help as I wasn’t trying to conceive. I told her my story, and she ordered a sonogram. I had had hundreds of sonograms at this point, so I was skeptical that she would find something that others missed. I was right. She confirmed that I did have PCOS but couldn’t pinpoint the cause of my symptoms.
Then she did something that NO ONE had thought to do. She ordered an MRI. As simple as that: an MRI. Why didn’t anyone else think to do that? I went back a few weeks later and had the MRI. I hated it. The little tube smelled funny, and I wasn’t able to move for what seemed like hours. I just kept telling myself, After this we’ll know what’s wrong with me.
We went to her office to go over the results. My mom was on one side of me and my soon-to-be husband on the other. We were all nervous. Dr. Tatpatti dropped a bomb on us all by starting out with, “Did you know you only have one kidney?” We were all shocked! No one had ever told us this! She then told me that I had a bi-coronate uterus. She explained that I had two uteruses and two cervixes and a nub of a second vaginal canal. The blood was just sloshing back and forth between the uteruses which was causing me to bleed for months and in heavy amounts.
My first thought, and everyone’s first question, was if I was supposed to be a twin or something? That’s not the case. Dr. Tapatti informed us that I have a rare genetic condition that I was just born with. (We had no idea that this ran in our family because my dad was adopted, and we don’t know much of his biological history.) It was as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I believed with all my heart that I would be cured since we figured out what was wrong with me. We had a plan of action and steps to take to fix me. She prescribed me progesterone, so we could kick start my period because I needed to be on my period for an exploratory surgery, so she could confer with some peers to figure out what needed to be done. We would need to do a partial hysterectomy and remove the “extra” uterus and cervix.
A few months after my wedding, I went in for the partial hysterectomy. Surgery went as expected, and they were able to remove the smaller set of organs. I’m left with a “working” set but my uterus and cervix are smaller than others. She told me to expect difficulty getting pregnant, and IF I was able to get pregnant, it would be questionable if I would be able to carry and deliver a baby. I hadn’t even considered this. I thought I would be “normal” after the surgery.
I was a newlywed, and I was getting questions non-stop about when we were going to have children. For the first few years, I was able to laugh it off and say, “It’ll happen soon.”
I don’t know when that changed. I’m no longer able to laugh it off. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. Most of our friends and family know the story, but strangers (why are strangers even asking me about children?) and new friends are the worst. Once they ask, I feel like I have to explain my condition to them which inevitability leads to more questions and comments. Comments about so and so’s third cousin who went through IVF or your sister’s mother-in-law who adopted a kid and then miraculously got pregnant after they stopped trying. I know they don’t mean to upset me, but they do.
Commercials for pregnancy tests piss me off. I have taken hundreds of pregnancy tests over the years. I don’t have a period for months sometimes, and I can’t help but to get my hopes up. They are always negative. The commercials always portray a positive test and a happy family. It’s unrealistic. People always reach out to me to go to their doctor, try this weird herbal tea, and try acupuncture because, “It worked for (fill in a name).” I have to say that I have tried a bunch of weird stuff because it couldn’t hurt right? Well every time I subconsciously think that it might work, and every time I get my hopes crushed.
I can handle when friends or family tell me they are expecting because I know that they will be good parents and love the crap out of the kid. I mean, it still sucks, and it’s hard to hear, but generally I’m happy for them. But there are others. A few years ago a friend of my husband’s got his girlfriend of a few months pregnant. They were both drug users and not in a stable relationship. This was by far the worst one for me to handle. When the baby was born, we went to the hospital to congratulate the new mom and dad. They were dealing with some family drama (as always) and gave the baby to me to hold. I just stared down at her little face, turned my back, and cried. I cried for her–her life was going to be so hard–and I cried because I was mad and sad that my husband and I were not able to have a child. I quietly wiped my tears, we said our goodbyes, and left. We walked out of the hospital, and my husband just held me. That was the last time I saw those “friends.” Later, I heard the little girl was taken away from them and put into someone else’s custody.
I have undergone several rounds of progesterone and Clomid. It hasn’t worked. Dr. Tatpatti told us that if the Clomid fails to work then our next step is IVF. I’m scared of IVF. Since my uterus is smaller than others, she recommends that we don’t implant more than one embryo at a time. This cuts our chances of it taking in half. And IVF is expensive; I worry that I’ll spend all this money that I don’t have and won’t end up with a baby.
My husband and I have talked about adoption. We are not against it at all, but we would like to have a child with our DNA.
We have been struggling for NINE YEARS. We are going to start ANOTHER round of Clomid this winter. If that doesn’t work, I guess we’ll move onto IVF. I guess I have drug my feet because what if the IVF doesn’t work?
I wish I could just get pregnant on my own.