“Your tubes are fine, you can still have babies”, my gynaecologist announced with ripe enthusiasm. Just three weeks ago I’d arrived in recovery after my first laparoscopy for endometriosis - a painful condition where lining similar to that of inside your womb grows outside, causing pain.
At that moment it occurred to me, that despite all my problems “down there”, we’d never frankly discussed my (non) desire to have children.
How does one explain to a man (and a very kind one indeed) whose entire career is focused around helping women have babies that you’re not so sure that you want one?
That the goal of this treatment isn’t to preserve my fertility.
That all I want is the pain to stop.
Let’s rewind to a couple of months ago.
It’s the middle of the night. I wake with an ache in my lower back and a cramp in my abdomen.
I’d never had the desire for motherhood. I want to be able to swim and run. All I need is a good night sleep.
I start to consider what might get me through the night. I could take a painkiller or a sleeping tablet. But painkillers are no friend of an upset stomach, and I need to wake in a few hours.
To pass time, I start to Google my symptoms and enter a slippery rabbit hole. Thirty minutes later I’ve diagnosed myself with bowel cancer, bladder cancer, irritable bowl syndrome and cystitis.
This is how it went most nights before I had a name for what I was experiencing.
Like the one in ten Australian women who suffer from endometriosis, my pain was sporadic and indiscriminate. I’d be fine one day and in tears the next. I reasoned with my body and put it down to ‘bad periods’, stomach upset, change of diet or stress.
Until one day, when the pain came and stayed. It could no longer be ignored.
After a series of tests, which came up blank, diagnostic laparoscopy was the next logical step.
Six weeks later, I had a name for my pain, but no cure. This was a short time to reach diagnosis in comparison to other women.
All because I was lucky to see a gynaecologist that was skilled in the diagnosis and removal of endometriosis, and I had the finances to pay for it.
But in all this time, my gynaecologist and I hadn’t discussed fertility as an issue, or my non-childbearing goals.
His quick reassurance of my inner workings post surgery, confirmed fertility is at the forefront of most women’s mind when it comes to endometriosis.
But it isn’t the goal for us all, and this needs to be brought to light.
I’d never had the desire for motherhood. I want to be able to swim and run. All I need is a good night sleep. To go to work without pain. To be able to make plans and keep them.
I’ve never wanted children but my whole experience with endometriosis has always been focused around fertility rather than my pain.
For childfree women (those who have decided not to have children) a hysterectomy can seem like a good choice, within a limited bucket of options to manage the pain.
“I’ve never wanted children but my whole experience with endometriosis has always been focused around fertility rather than my pain,” says Jo, 35. Jo has a double whammy, and also suffers from adenomyosis, endometriosis in the uterine wall, a condition only diagnosed by partial hysterectomy, which doctors refuse her.
“No doctor will do it while I am of childbearing age”, she says.
For other women fertility is still pushed as the end game, despite an often-traumatic road to diagnosis and the potential to disrupt a delicate ecosystem of treatment, reached after years of trial and error.
“For me to decide to have a baby, I carry all that trauma and pain from my past, and my current medication regime, like a lot of other new mothers don’t”, says Krista, 31.
I’ve just had to let it go, it’s too much pressure”, she says.
And me? I’m still at the very beginning of navigating this new life of mine. And my lovely gynaecologist? Well, we had a little chat.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to help you with the pain”, he said.
Amen to that.
Ashleigh Mills is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleighbmills.