A PCOS Diagnosis & My Struggle To Have Another Child
Baby making can be hard. And for me it is especially hard because I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS. Symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles, acne, more than usual body and facial hair, infertility, preeclampsia, and on and on. I was blessed to be able to conceive one child. However, it has been quite a few years and I have yet to successfully conceive another.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was in complete shock. I wanted a child but I knew, though I had not yet been diagnosed with PCOS, that something was wrong and the likelihood of having a child was probably slim. My PCOS, though still formally undiagnosed at the time, showed itself and complicated things near the end of my pregnancy. I was 2 centimeters dilated for about 2 weeks and nothing. No baby. No labor. Nothing. It wasn’t until my due date that I began to feel really sick. My blood pressure was very high, so they decided to induce my labor. Word of advice: If you can avoid being induced, do so. The contractions are awful. Unless of course you’re not opposed to epidurals, like myself, in which case you’ll be fine. It wasn’t until after I delivered my son that I was told that I had been suffering from preeclampsia during my pregnancy, which at it’s very worse can lead to seizures and even maternal or infant death. In retrospect, I suppose it was a good thing I didn’t really know that during my pregnancy; I didn’t need the additional stress. Nevertheless, my child was born healthy and is now a healthy school-aged terror.
After my son’s birth, I went on birth control for about a year before my husband and I decided we’d try for another baby. We figured we did it once, we could do it again. But after stopping birth control, I began to experience irregular bleeding. I would bleed for months at a time, and then not at all. The up and down really put a strain on my marriage and we hardly ever had sex because it was just too painful. I saw several OBGYNs in search of an answer. And then finally, after what felt like too many pointless visits, I found a physician that actually listened to me. Upon ultrasound examination, she informed me that I had groups of cysts on both of my ovaries and formally diagnosed me with PCOS. I was devastated, but also relieved, because after years of pain and heartache, I finally knew why. I had my answer. And while my husband tried to make me feel better, he didn’t. “Why can’t they just take them out,” he kept asking, referring to the cysts. Umm, because they’d have to take out my ovaries dear. Just go play your video games.
Last week I found out I was pregnant. I took two hCG blood pregnancy tests, two days apart, and they were both positive. Honestly, I didn’t know how to feel. I mean, I was happy because after 5 years of trying, I was finally pregnant but I was also scared. I threw a birthday party for my son several days later. It was a lot of fun and he really enjoyed himself. But the next day I had a miscarriage. I woke up that morning feeling very sick and as the morning went on, I continued to have severe cramping and bleeding. I spent most of the day in urgent care undergoing testing. If you are not pregnant your hCG level will be below 4; anything above 4 means you’re pregnant. Your levels are supposed to progress rapidly and by the time you’re between 4 to 6 weeks pregnant your hCG level should be in the thousands. When I finally got my test results, my hCG had dropped from 47 to 6. I had likely been 3 to 4 weeks pregnant but my hCG levels weren’t progressing as they should have. The doctor in charge of my care explained that this was due to either the rupturing of cysts, which may have disrupted the development of the fetus or the egg itself was not healthy. Before I was discharged, the doctor said to me, “At least you know you can get pregnant.” Thanks a lot doc. You should write Hallmark cards.
It has been 3 years since I was diagnosed with PCOS. We have been trying to conceive without fertility treatments ever since. The doctors have advised me to seek a specialist, but I am not sure if I want to pay for fertility treatments; it can get really expensive. And will it even work? What if I do get pregnant, will I stay pregnant? Can they ensure I will make it to term? I have one child. Do I really need another? Can my body handle another pregnancy? These are all things that people don’t really consider as legitimate concerns, especially when you’ve already had a child. The assumption is that if you’ve had one child, you can certainly have another one just as easily. But the thing is, conceiving the first time may not have been that easy and even if it was, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the second go round will be the same.
Some days, I am not sure that I can deal with all the “what ifs”. I’m not sure I want to do this again; the hope, the anxiety, the disappointment. It has already been a long journey, and I just don’t know if I can handle anymore. But then there are those days when I want to try again and even consider the possibility of moving forward with fertility treatments. The only constant has been that the process hasn’t been easy and nothing has been certain. But one thing I do know for sure is that I’m grateful for my health and my son, even if I may not know what the future holds.
Clarissa D. Jennings is a wife, mother, and an education specialist servicing incarcerated youth and young adults.
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