lifestyle

I’m a 25-year-old woman and I don’t get periods.

Late last year Mamamia ran a story about a 23-year-old woman who wasn’t quite ready to be a mum. Sylvia Freedman was studying, she was single, but she was going through the painful process of freezing her eggs.

Women choose to harvest or freeze their eggs for a number of reasons. Some are trying to get pregnant or going through IVF while others, like Sylvia who suffers from Endometriosis, are depositing them in the fertility bank for safe keeping.

In my early 20s I was also told I ought to freeze my eggs. This is a story of why I didn’t.

But first, a little about me. I’m a 25-year-old woman and I don’t get periods.

Hi.

I suffer from secondary amenorrhea, which means that I was menstruating normally and then I stopped. At 19.

I was living out of home for the first time (so I wasn’t keeping it strictly Gwyneth Paltrow health-wise) and I got a stomach bug. I lost a week to the bathroom, 6kg from my waistline and my menstrual cycle.

I panicked. I took a bunch of iron tablets, ate a lot of vegemite, did a lot of sit-ups — just tried anything I thought might squeeze a period out of me.

Nothing worked. Obviously I’m not a doctor, so I went to see one.

Read Sylvia Freedman’s story here.

In the past 6 years I have seen many more. I’ve had innumerable blood tests and ultrasounds, gone on and off the pill, been told I had polycystic ovaries, told I don’t have polycystic ovaries. I have severe food intolerances, but not Coeliac’s disease. I’ve had a couple of bleeds here and there. I’ve now ruled out premature ovarian failure. Once I watched my GP google “is there a link between amenorrhea and snoring?” There isn’t.

But this isn’t about solving Jo Robin: medical mystery (I assure you, I’m all over it), this is about the problem I have with the idea that the way my body does or does not work, should be the focal point of my life. That my ability to bear children should determine the shape of that life or that I should feel like less of a woman because I don’t bleed once a month.

Just quickly, so you know I don’t hate children here is a picture my nephew Sami and I:

In 2012, I went to see a fertility specialist at hospital in Melbourne’s inner north. She ran a series of tests to check my overall fertility. One test measured my Anti-Mullerian Hormone, which is used to indicate the number of follicles, or eggs, remaining in your ovaries.

It is not an exact measure but at the time my result should have fallen between 14-25pmol/L. I scored a 2.4 pmol/l.

If it were an exam, I would have failed. Badly.

Click here for all the facts on fertility.

The specialist panicked, worried that I my eggs were too rapidly reaching their used-by-date. I can assure you I panicked with her, as did my mother.

That same day I was sent me down the corridor to meet with a counsellor and then with a nurse who explained the process of freezing my eggs; the painful daily hormone injections, the harvesting procedure, the high costs, the low success rates.

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An egg retrieval procedure.

Needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed. The more she told me the more panicked I became, until eventually I cracked (that was an egg pun, you know, to lighten the mood).

“I’m fucking 22,” I said. “This is not what I want to be thinking about.”

“Yes, but you’re a very pretty 22. Who knows you might meet someone in the next year!”

If I had known where she lived, I might have just egged her house. That’s when I decided not to do it (the freezing, not the egging).

I had a lot on my my mind at 22, much of it trivial, none of baby-related, less of it husband related.

Having children is not something that has ever been on my to-do list though. I mean maybe it is, somewhere way down there, but I would need a rather large magnifying glass to see it. It’s probably a little up from tying down that dream hubby.

My focus has always been on my friends, uni, work, a dad who is seriously ill, drinking beers, eating snacks, travelling, getting laid…

I retook that same blood test, and this time scored a 9.5. Not a great result, but better and a recent ultrasound confirmed there’s definitely some potential baby mes in those ovaries.

I don’t know if I want children. I want to be clear, I don’t wish to foreclose the possibility of having them. I would love my body to work the way it should —  not ovulating means I am at greater risk of osteoporosis, for one — but I am working on being OK with it the way it is.

See? I’m totally into him.

I made the decision I did because I didn’t want my 20s to be taken up ensuring I’d be able to do the thing every told me I was supposed to want in my 30s. I might still change my mind, but also I might not. And that’s OK too.

The experience of womanhood is a diverse one. I hate that it doesn’t matter how smart, successful, hard working or hilarious a woman is, people still think it is okay to judge her on her ability or choice to bring tiny humans into the world. (See Julia Gillard through Cameron Diaz through the entire history of humanity)

I hate the assumption that all women have periods because they don’t. Not all women bleed, just ask women in chemo, menopausal women or trans women. I get tired of the reductive periods: amirite ladies? rhetoric.

Motherhood is powerful and important and what I believe more than anything is that women should have the right to choose how they use their bodies and when. Just like the PIll, I think that egg freezing is a remarkable tool for women and I feel incredibly lucky to have such treatments available to me.

Sylvia’s choice was brave, it’s just not for me.

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