“I had an extremely difficult childhood. Growing up, my mother had a host of chronic health issues, physical and mental. When I was 13 years old, she took her own life by hanging herself in the garage of my childhood home. While much of the physical issues were visibly apparent, many were not. Much of it was believed by friends and family to be more mental health problems that convinced her of the physical issues imperceptible by those around her.
Shortly after my mother’s death, while going through the grief of losing my mother, I started experiencing horrendous abdominal pain multiple times a month. It was a burning pain, mixed with a constant pulling feeling in the right side of my pelvis. It became hard to get out of bed on the days the pain was at its worst. I think at the time the adults around me assumed it was a byproduct of grief and depression. While I was depressed, rightfully so, this pain was not tied into that. It was different and it was excruciating. Over the counter medications didn’t touch it. Heating pads, ice packs, and even at time trying heavier medications prescribed by our family doctor did nothing.
The pain eventually became near constant. By the time I was around 15, I had pain daily. It worsened around the time of my cycle and there were days I was vomiting 10-15 times a day. I was becoming constipated and my entire body felt toxic. One trip to the emergency room led a doctor to suggest to my father that the reason this was happening to me was because I was promiscuous. I have never seen my father so angry before. By this point, despite others not believing me, my dad knew something was wrong and he was not going to let me be treated that way.
After that appointment, I started seeing a new OBGYN and she put me on the Depo Provera shot to help with painful periods. This shot made things so much worse. I bled for 45 straight days. The doctor told me this could sometimes happen and when I got my second shot at the three months mark it shouldn’t happen again. Well, it did. I bled for 30 days straight the second time around. On top of the bleeding, the pain was nearly unbearable the entire time. I chose not to continue as I didn’t feel I could handle it much longer. She switched me to birth control pills that did help temporarily. I had a year where there was less pain. It was still present, but I was better able to function each day.
When I was 17, I started having some side effects from the birth control pills and doctors had to rule out blood clots in my legs. I decided that it was too risky to continue with them. Within two months of me stopping the pills, my pain was back and worse than ever. I graduated at 17 and had been living on my own for a while already. I was working two jobs to survive, and life was difficult. Taking care of myself was not a priority at the time. I would go to work, come home, and sleep. I had no energy. I was sick all the time. Doctors only wanted to give me narcotics, but my family has a history of addiction, so I refused.
There was a day where the pain got so bad on the way home from work, I can remember pulling over on the side of the freeway and calling my dad begging him to come get me. I became confused and disoriented. I couldn’t take a full breath because my stomach ached even worse when it moved from inhaling or exhaling. I remember thinking that day that I could understand why my mother took her own life from chronic pain issues. Those thoughts of dying made me realize I either had to fight for my own health or continue to feel as if I was fading away with no hope. I told myself I had to be stronger than my mom was. That very day, I convinced myself she did not die in that way only for me to do the same. Her death was a lesson for me to take care of myself and to never stop fighting, no matter how hard it got.
I found a new OBGYN and went into her office in tears, begging for answers. I was barely holding onto my jobs at this point. My sister had to come and pick me up off the floor of my bathroom and rush me to emergency multiple times because I was vomiting bile for hours and couldn’t even walk because the pain had started radiating down my legs. My periods had gotten to the point where I was a zombie. I couldn’t eat because of a feeling of fullness. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. If I took an over-the-counter pain reliever, I would throw it up instantly. I wanted to fight, but I didn’t feel I had much left in me.
This wonderful doctor looked at me and told me she was going to do exploratory surgery in my abdomen. She told me she would not stop until we knew what it was, but she had a feeling I had something called endometriosis. She explained she thought I had uterine-like tissue in my abdomen, where it didn’t belong. That this tissue functioned just like uterine tissue and that it caused bleeding at the time of menstruation, but it was not able to shed the blood because it was in the wrong spot, so it was like internal bleeding. She told me it could be extremely painful and fit my symptoms.
At 18, I finally got answers. While in surgery, my doctor found that my bowel had completely twisted around my appendix years earlier. It slowly strangled my appendix causing a pin-sized hole. In order to protect my body from the poison spilling out into my abdomen, it created a wall of scar tissue. On top of this, I had severe endometriosis near my bowels. They had to call in a specialized surgeon to help clean my abdomen out and remove my appendix, while trying to get as much of the endometriosis out as possible as well. They could not remove all of it because of the risk of nicking my bowels.
They told me the entire right side of my abdomen, from belly button to back bone, rib cage to pelvis was nothing but scar tissue. I was so confused and didn’t understand what they were telling me. The doctor later explained how severe it had been. The scar tissue would eventually grow back, and I would need to have more surgeries and/or medical interventions to keep it from getting worse. She regretfully told me my chances of having children was drastically reduced due to this and that even if I could get pregnant, I most likely would not be able to carry to term.
So here I was, 18, finally knowing what was wrong with me which I thought would help, but mentally I felt even worse. I wasn’t sure I wanted to have children due to the dysfunction I grew up in, but having that option taken away before I made my own decision felt like being stabbed in the heart. Luckily for me, God had other plans.
Within 6 months, I was pregnant with my first miracle baby. It was sooner than I wanted, but my doctor told me it was most likely because I had just recently had all that scar tissue cleared out. It was the most prime environment my body would ever have to carry a pregnancy. My relationship with her father ended quickly and I was alone at 2 months pregnant.
There were a lot of late nights full of fear and tears, but luckily for me I had a great friend named Scott who would talk me through whatever I was feeling in the moment. He had been my boyfriend on and off since I was 13 years old. He worked the night shift and didn’t sleep at night. We had remained close as our families were very close still. I would call him crying and would tell him I didn’t think I’d be a good mother. He would tell me he knew I was wrong. He told me how great I would be and always told me that if I needed anything, he would be there for me.
At 3 months pregnant, Scott and I were both in a wedding. We saw each other in person for the first time in a long time at the dress rehearsal. We had talked on the phone constantly, but this was the first time we saw each other face-to-face in over a year. I hugged him and it felt like all my stress went away. He told me he was so happy for me, but was surprised by everything. He told me, ‘I always thought it would be me you ended up with.’ I told him there was a part of me that had always thought that also.
Right before the wedding, the heat in my little efficiency apartment went out and they needed a couple of days to fix the problem. I was telling Scott about how cold it was. He told me that after the wedding he needed a designated driver, so since I obviously wouldn’t be drinking, I could drive him home and just crash on his couch at the house he just bought until my heat was back on.
In about 2 months, it will be 13 years since that day and I’m still right here, on the couch next to him, in a different house we bought together last year.
When our oldest daughter was 3 months, I found out I was pregnant again with another miracle. My second pregnancy was very complicated. They told me at the beginning that I miscarried, but our little fighter proved them wrong with a strong heartbeat on ultrasound before scheduling a D&C. The scar tissue had come back and I ended up on bedrest most of my pregnancy.
But, as we sit here now, writing this very story, I can hear both of my daughters, now 11 and 12, playing in the next room together.
I since have been diagnosed with multiple autoimmune issues. I’ve had more surgeries than I can count. I was on a medication that put me into menopause 4 different times in my mid-twenties. I no longer can have children. I have arthritis in my hands and pelvis. Some days are harder than others, but I tell myself that God chose me to be a mother despite it all. I know so many women struggling who want children, and here I am so broken and imperfect, yet He chose me. I was left alone to raise a child, and He brought the most wonderful man I’ve ever known back into my life and has allowed my marriage to flourish along with giving us a second child. My oldest daughter’s father passed away two years ago due to cancer and God stepped in and helped see us through my husband officially adopting our daughter.
Everyday I wake up and tell myself, I am not my mother. I do struggle with physical and mental health issues, but like I told myself that day in the car on the side of the highway, I am going to continue to fight.
Keeping a job is hard. I am lucky to be able to be home on our small farm raising kids and animals while homeschooling. Some days I must take it slower than others. I have a very specific diet I follow and cannot stray from it without my sickness getting worse. I am medication and surgery free for a few years now. I am going to be 33, am pursuing two bachelor’s degrees, and simply refuse to let my life go to waste because of medical issues.
I write this in hopes of letting others know, life can and does get better if you are willing to fight for it. Finding gratitude for my wonderful life saves me over and over again. To anyone suffering in any way, hold on. Keep fighting. There are people who believe you, understand you, and want to help you. Find those people and try to enjoy your life. Pain has robbed me of so much, but I won’t let it rob me of my passion for living.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Monique Nash of Farmington Hills, Michigan. You can follow her journey on her blog here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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