When I was 12, I went to the ice cream shop with my mom. We went there about weekly, before my dance lesson, which meant my mother got to know the servers a bit. That day, she was telling them about my 20-year-old sister’s premature menopause. I’m not sure if she realized I noticed it when she gestured toward me and whispered “Her too.”
Did she know? Did she just assume? Did she just want to make a story more interesting to a relative stranger? I’m not sure and I haven’t asked. I figure, if my parents did somehow know all my life and have kept that from me to this day, then they must have had what they felt was a very good reason.
I didn’t find out until my husband and I, impetuous as we were (are?), attended an appointment for a vasectomy reversal consultation that we had made about a month after we started dating. After listening to the doctor’s description of the procedures and efficacy, he asked me off-hand whether my cycles were regular. “It’s complete chaos,” I said, and he asked me to tell him how long my cycles had lasted during the past year. Hearing a range that spanned from 11 days to 90 days, he began to look concerned and suggested that we hold off on the reversal until I got a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist.
At the appointment with the RE, I described my history, and the doctor seemed to believe that I might have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). As she prepared to do an ultrasound of my ovaries, she told me that she’d expect to see a very large number of follicles – too large. However, she saw just the opposite – one ovary was abnormally small with no follicles. The other was weakly attempting to produce a single follicle. My bloodwork results suggested that my body was trying incredibly, absurdly, alarmingly hard to make me ovulate (high Follicle Stimulating Hormone, or FSH), but that the number of eggs I had to work with was so low, the level of the relevant hormone was undetectable (Anti-Mullerian Hormone, or AMH). My estrogen wasn’t incredibly low, but definitely outside the normal range. I saw the doctor write on a piece of paper: “Premature Ovarian Failure” and I was told that I would not only need to use IVF to get pregnant, but that the chances I’d produce any eggs to populate a petri dish was so low that I should strongly consider moving directly to donor eggs.
I went home, I cried, my husband hugged me while looking absolutely terrified. I think he was afraid I was going to truly go off the deep end. I never did that. However, I did invite some friends over to help me drink away the pain. I told them to bring a couple cartons of ice cream. I needed ice cream. The first time I found out, at least I had ice cream.