Usually, a number we associate with the sweetness of that young age. When we are so close to adulthood. Most of us learn to drive a car, get our driver’s license and finally get the opportunity to give in to that unrelenting sense of impending freedom. We aren’t yet able to vote or drink or be classified as a full-fledged adult (at least by antiquated societal standards), but we can drive a damn car. Albeit, probably recklessly, but still that age means we’ve reached the apex of our short-lived existence. At least for the time being.
For me, sixteen was the age I lost my virginity. A family friend and I were mostly bored, and I always heard the first time was a lackluster experience of discomfort. So I thought, maybe if I just got it over with, that when I finally found someone I loved it would be 1) much less awkward and 2) much more enjoyable.
Boy, were they wrong about discomfort. It was a horrendous ten minutes of poking and prodding, causing me pain I hadn’t felt before. I kept my eyes open and wished for it to end. After, we went to see the new Spiderman movie and I pushed it to the back of my mind that I was no longer a virgin. I was brought up in a very strict Christian family and I loved pushing the boundaries as much as I loved Jesus. Throughout the entire movie, I kept thinking that maybe sex was so painful because I went against God. I didn’t know for sure. All I knew was that much like my self-esteem at the time, my vagina seemed to be very broken.
At sixteen, just a few weeks after my dibilitating deflowering, I met my first love. And I started the birth control pill shortly after. This, I recently found out was a saving grace for my health, which is discussed later on in future posts. I never remembered to take my pill and despite numerous irresponsible pregnancy scares, I never ended up pregnant. I assumed my boyfriend was infertile. But I didn’t want kids until much later in life, so I didn’t focus on it too much. I made a lot of bad life decisions during the three years I was with him, including coming home from college, and the culmination of it all was him cheating on me. I was devastated. Now, I’m grateful. Hindsight truly is 20/20.
Sixteen, or rather the sixteenth of March, is the day my son was born. It was not quite two years since my first major relationship ended. At the time, I was 21 and alone. I didn’t hear my baby’s first cry because I had an emergency c-section. It took me three months to bond with him, but, when I did…I haven’t let go of that feeling since. I can and most definitely will write posts dedicated entirely to my sweet, freckle-faced little love with the most gorgeous chocolate brown eyes I’ve ever seen. But for today, all I need to tell you is that I got pregnant on the pill. The same pill I forgot to take regularly. Except that I was taking it now. Every day. Right on time. Because I was just having fun, experiencing the sexual freedom that being in your early 20s allows you. I never imagined ending up with a parting gift that had 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes. I never imagined hearing 8 years later that the same pill I thought was preventing my pregnancy was actually helping me to get pregnant. That this baby, although unexpected, was a miaracle considering I should not have been able to get pregnant.
Sixteen is also the number of months my fiance (now husband) and I tried for a baby before we knew something was seriously not right. After a medical scare he had in the summer of 2015, we went ahead and tried our damndest to have a baby. We weren’t ready, but then again, most babies aren’t brought into this world with one, let alone two, parents who are absolutely ready for the job of raising a tiny human. At the time, my Mirena IUD needed to be replaced or removed. It had been five years since I had it placed. My son was one at the time and shortly after I had given birth, my monthly cycles resumed and were ghastly. Pain. Cramps. Blood loss like I was an extra in a Wes Craven slasher flick. Something straight out of a horror film, yet, I was told by my ob-gyn at the time that c-sections often caused mischievous menstruation. He was an old school doc. I can’t say I blamed him for telling me the IUD was the best way to go. Actually, his words were:
“It could make it better or it could make it worse. We’ll find out soon enough.”
He had no clue. I didn’t either.
Sixteen. The number of years….years, folks…sixteen years of having my period, of having my womanhood, before I got a diagnosis. Sixteen long years before I heard the word endometriosis and my uterus mentioned in the same sentence. I had been in all those months of pain and depression over not having a baby with a man I love so much. My ob-gyn had retired and I started seeing a new doctor, who told me he could tell I was in pain when he palpated my ovaries, but my periods were regular so he didn’t think it was serious. He handed me a temperature chart and told me to come back in three months. He had no clue.
It took another WOMAN to diagnose my symptoms. She had been keeping up with my fertility struggles for a while and were matching my symptoms with her own. Most women do not even know something is seriously wrong until they aren’t able to conceive. She realized the new doctor I was seeing was the same one who misdiagnosed her years before. She referred me to her endometriosis specialist at The Women’s Hospital of Texas.
Two thousand sixteen. 2016.
The year I sat in a room with a medical professional who finally lifted a weight off my shoulders. I had been told by people my entire life that I was a hypochondriac, a drama queen; I was too young to feel so bad all the time. He spent most of that appointment wiping away my tears as he hugged me.
“This isn’t in your head,” he told me, “It’s a real medical condition. We’re going to take care of you.”
A few weeks later I was on the operating table. My uterus was riddled with endometriosal implants. They had spread to my bladder. He couldn’t remove some on other organs without causing too much damage. It was my very first laparoscopic procedure for a condition I will battle for the rest of my life.
The sixteenth of December (2016) was the day after my surgery. My fiance was at home with me. I was taking my pain medication and moving forward with finalizing our wedding plans. I was two weeks away from marrying a man who promised he would be by my side no matter what this new diagnosis meant for our life together; more surgeries, perpetual pain, kids or no kids. I recovered enough to share a first dance with my new husband on the last day of the year. In that moment, I had never been more confident that I could battle this condition….this one word that not nearly enough people know about or talk about unless you are one of the over 176 million women who suffer from endometriosis.
March is endometriosis awareness month. My battle is just beginning. I hope you’ll join me. It will be raw, honest and mostly a giant overshare of my anatomy. But it’s all for the women who may not yet know they have this condition. It’s for all the ones who have a diagnosis, but don’t have a voice to discuss the impact endometriosis has on their life and the lives of their loved ones. Above all else, it’s for me. To figure out a little bit more about who I am and to be able to look back on how strong I’ve become because of, not in spite of, endometriosis.
Thanks for tuning in.