Note: Let me start by saying my story is not your story. I am keenly aware of this. You may have just found out you were infertile and are trying to figure out what to do next. You may already have biological children, but getting pregnant again is looking more and more unlikely. You might be single and eager to have children with a spouse, but you’re not even dating anyone. All of our stories and sorrows are different, and there is really no point in comparing our suffering. As Jerry Sittser says, “The right question to ask is not, ‘Whose is worse?’ It is to ask, ‘What meaning can be gained from suffering?’” (A Grace Disguised) For this reason, everyone’s story is important. And now, I’ll go ahead and share mine.
I had an inkling something was wrong with me when I was 16 years old. I hadn’t started my period yet. For a while, I’d chalked it up to the fact that I was an athlete. But I wasn’t exactly a work-out-for-six-hours-a-day type of athlete. I played volleyball a lot and went on a run once in awhile. Nothing out of the ordinary. I eventually faced the fact that my athletic endeavors were probably not the cause of my hormonal delays.
My mom agreed, so she took me to the doctor, who told me to come back in two years because maybe I was just a late bloomer like everyone in my father’s side of the family. (Legend has it my uncle grew 10 inches in college.) So I waited. For two long years. In my waiting, I would rush to the bathroom every time I had to pee a lot because I thought maybe that extra pressure on my bladder was all the blood wanting to stream out. In my waiting, I remained aloof as all my friends talked about the horrors of cramping, who wore tampons and who wore pads, and which pain meds worked best during their cycle. In my waiting, I felt worse and worse about my body: my half prepubescent, half pubescent body. I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t put much time into my appearance. I never went out on a date. I rejected the body that was rejecting me. I started doubting the God who had made me this way.
After two years, my mom took me back to the doctor and they ran lots of tests. Turns out, I didn’t have pituitary gland cancer, my chromosomes were normal, and I was not a hermaphrodite. (Good to know.) But we did discover that my estrogen count was extremely low, and it was hard to see my ovaries during the ultrasound. The doctor said, “You are one in a million.” He was most likely trying to encourage me somehow, but all I heard was, “There’s something wrong with you.” My worst fears were confirmed.
Then he suggested a simple hormonal treatment: birth control. Apparently, if I didn’t start bringing my estrogen and progesterone levels up, I would find myself suffering from memory loss and osteoporosis by the age of 40. Well nobody wants that. So at 19 years old, I agreed to take the pill.
It didn’t take long before my breasts filled out, my hips expanded, I gained 15 pounds, and most importantly, I started my period. Finally,. I moved from childhood to womanhood. Finally,. My body had undergone “the change.” In truth, I wasn’t happy or grateful. More than anything, I was relieved. There was no longer anything wrong with me. My cycle’s arrival might have been artificial and medically-induced, and it might have been a long time coming, but it had come nonetheless. I was finally a normal woman.
I was finally a normal woman. Or so I thought.