*As featured in the BritMums Newbie Round-Up on 9th March 2016*
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is probably the most common hormonal problem to affect women across the country with estimated cases thought to be in their millions. Yes – you heard right – millions, can you believe that? Isn’t that shockingly high?
It can be easy to feel like you’re the only one battling with the condition and the bloody annoying symptoms that you can end up dealing with.
I was officially diagnosed with PCOS when I was sixteen following an ultrasound at the local hospital. I’d been on a host of medicines throughout my teenage years including a number of different contraceptive pills intended to try and control the range of issues I was experiencing together with tablets to curb the excessive bleeding and excruciating pain I ended up with when my period decided to turn up completely unannounced and without any regularity in the slightest (which, in itself, is so annoying and very inconvenient!)
“Isn’t that just classic?” exclaimed the consultant as she ran the wand across my pubis and peered at the garbled image on the screen. I had no idea what she meant at the time but she later explained that my ovaries were a textbook example of what PCOS typically looks like. Basically, they were (and probably still are) covered in small cysts.
I had most of the other symptoms aswell including irregular menstrual cycles, spots, weight gain and slight hirsutism. I had a series of blood tests too which showed that some of my hormones levels were higher than they should be and that was it, my diagnosis was clear as day and suddenly I had a legitimate reason for being such a moody cow! 😉
Just a year later, when I was seventeen, I started seeing my first ‘proper’ boyfriend. Things moved on very quickly (we were living together within a matter of weeks) and I thought I’d better mention it to him as it was possible that we could end up having a harder time than your average couple when it came to starting a family.
He was the comforting, reassuring man that I knew he would be and I didn’t dwell on it any further at the time as his positivity about the issue seemed to have temporarily whisked away my worries.
However, I actually spent the next seven years or so delving deeper and deeper in to a depressed state when it came to thinking about conceiving and trying for a baby. We didn’t talk about it all that often other than a hopeful wish that one day, when we were ready, we’d have a family of our own.
We’d both been upfront about wanting children and even chose a boy’s name and a girl’s name within the first few months of our relationship. To think that we might not be able to go down that route, and that it would likely be due to an issue with my body, was heartbreaking and the negative thoughts spiralled through my mind washing away any hope of what might be.
I’d never really taken to any particular pill all that well and a few years in we both knew that I’d stopped taking anything all together. We had a ‘if it happens, it happens’ attitude knowing that we would be absolutely over the moon and completely confident in the stability of our relationship and financial situation.
Unfortunately, nothing did happen and we both avoided the subject for the most part, probably not wanting to admit that it was becoming apparent that it wasn’t going to be easy for us and there may be problems ahead. I would let it build up and suddenly blow my lid, exploding in to a tirade of anger before collapsing in to pure despair. It was hideous in every way.
A few years later, in the summer of 2014, I stood watching Aerosmith at Download Festival, the last band to play that weekend, and cried silently as I was bowled over with emotion. I’d been crazily over-emotional for the last month or so and the more I thought about it, I became convinced that I was heading for early menopause. The problem I’d been trying to keep out of sight and out of mind was coming to smack me in the face. I’d have to take that long-avoided reality check and accept that I was infertile. I felt like it was a dirty little secret that I’d been trying to hide from the world.
I used to get so angry with my Mum, in particular, for telling me ‘not to worry’ and that she was sure that I could have children. She had no idea, how could she even say that? Was she mystic sodding meg or something? It felt like she was papering over the cracks with false hope and unfounded optimism.
The popular saying professes that our mothers are ‘always right’ and growing up didn’t we blooming well know it? 🙂
Well, I’m more than pleased to say, as you probably know if you’ve stopped by before, that our story has a happy ending as after years of doubt and uncertainty we ended up with one of these…
You see, that ‘early menopause’ was actually ‘early pregnancy’.
I’ve taken what seems like hundreds of these tests over the years and that glimmer of hope that you reluctantly let yourself feel had always been snatched away when the results showed up.
The day we came home from the festival we took a trip to Tesco and picked up a test ‘just incase’. It wasn’t a big deal and I took the test whilst Mike was next door thanking our neighbours for popping in and seeing to the cats whilst we’d been away. We had no expectations whatsoever and just wanted to be sure before I rang the Doctors to investigate what my hormones were playing at and why I was this blubbering mess all of the time.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw that blue line.
It was an experience that I’d always dreamt about but never expected to be lucky enough to see.
It’s true what they say, when you relax and ‘stop trying’ it is more likely to happen.
I took test after test, different types, different brands and they all said the same thing, they all came up positive.
I still couldn’t let myself believe it and it wasn’t until a week or two later when we went for a private scan to confirm the pregnancy that it suddenly began to sink in. There she was…
Like most expectant mums, I spent my entire pregnancy a bag of nerves constantly worrying about my little ‘peanut’ and whether we would all be OK.
I’ve always had a degree of obsessive compulsive disorder in that I have counting compulsions. I have do things a certain number of times to feel safe or to stop ‘something bad happening’. I know it is completely irrational but I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember and as I’m writing this I’ve just been in to comfort Lily and blown her exactly sixteen kisses before closing her bedroom door. Throughout my pregnancy and until recently it had been just eight so it’s annoying that my messed up brain has decided to double this now but what can you do? Everybody has their own little ticks don’t they?
I also started counting magpies in my pregnancy and I’d freak out if I could only see a single bird by itself (you know the song don’t you? ‘One for sorrow, two for joy…’ etc)
A colleague of mine at the time eased my fears by saying that if you saw just one magpie you should say ‘Hello Mr. Magpie, how’s your wife?’ and that would be OK. I still do this now if I can’t find a group of magpies together!
So, here I am, nearly two years on and I’m the very proud mama of our little one-year-old cherub. She is the light of our lives and we call her our ‘miracle baby’.
I know it’s hard (I really, really do, I promise) but if you’re where I was a few years ago please know that it’s not completely hopeless.
If you’re worried then please do go and see your Doctor and see what he/she can do for you. There are so many options available from tablets that can offer a helping hand to assisted conception. Don’t just suffer in silence! They can also help with counselling and the mental side of living with PCOS if needed.
If you’re actively trying and it’s taking a little longer than you think it should (and do bear in mind that the ‘average’ couple can take up to 2 years to conceive) don’t put yourself through the misery of presuming that your chances are up. It is just unnecessary pain, truly it is.
Realistically, it probably took us about 5 years to conceive but we got there in the end! 😀
I know that we have been incredibly lucky and I am so thankful for our beautiful girl but just remember that we’ve been through those darker days.
Every woman with PCOS is different – our bodies aren’t the same, our symptoms vary in type and severity, the medication we take (if any) is tailored to suit our needs and whilst fertility problems are higher in women with polycystic ovaries, remember that this isn’t a certainty and, like I mentioned above, the condition is increasingly common.
Our bodies are incredible homes, tools and wonders of nature. They can do amazing things and so don’t be so quick as I was to dismiss your body’s breathtaking abilities.
If you’re struggling with PCOS you can visit NHS Choices for support and information and I’d also recommend Verity (they are the leading UK charity for the condition) for additional advice together with details of local groups and online forums.
Have you battled with the symptoms of PCOS?
Has anyone else managed to conceive after years of trying for a baby?
Please, share your stories and let’s spread some hope, empowerment and happiness around the realities of living day-to-day with PCOS 🙂 It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.