When are you going to have children? This is probably one of the hardest questions anyone could ask of a woman in her 20s, 30s, or 40s. It is such an uncomfortable and personal question, yet we get asked regularly from family, friends, even strangers driving us somewhere.
As a teenager, I was hoping to be married by 25 and have children before my 30s. Instead, I found myself divorced and being diagnosed with Churg-Strauss syndrome, a version of Vasculitis. As a lot of autoimmune diseases are, mine has been treated with prednisone, chemotherapy and a cocktail of other medications. The prednisone has made me gain over 50 pounds, while the chemotherapy put me at risk of ovarian failure each time I receive an infusion.
When my doctor first approached me with the idea of risking my ability to have children, I cried hysterically. He did find a biologic treatment that we could try first to see if it would work. It did for awhile. I got out of my first flare and felt like a normal person. I was thrilled…until my second flare less than a year later. We tried the biologic again, but unfortunately my second flare just got worse. There was not a choice… I had to go on the chemotherapy that would make my dreams of having children fade. I was absolutely devastated.
While there are services for harvesting eggs, they are expensive and not typically covered by insurance since it is not a necessary procedure. The stress that my body would go through if I did opt to have a child through in vitro fertilization would put me at risk for yet another flare. The maintenance medications for chemotherapy can also impact the child’s development.
So when I find myself in these situations of people inquiring on if I have children, and asking when I plan on having some, rather than creating an excuse or getting angry that they asked, I put on my bravest face and take it as an opportunity to educate them on my illness. While I may not have children, I have to stop feeling like I failed myself, like I failed my goals and dreams. Instead, I empower myself by bringing more awareness to my disease.