Welcome back to a new week and we’re underway with a new story for the On Being Childfree series. There’s been a really overwhelming response too to sharing more stories from those living with illness in one capacity or another and this week’s poster Sophie actually crosses both categories as she has been diagnosed with PCOS. Please read on to see how this has impacted her life and how she’s moving forward. As always, I’m so grateful for everyone’s commitment because it is such a personal subject to open up about. Please do read, leave a comment and share as much as you can, I’m really willing this to grow and grow so that we can help as many people as possible who may be going through something similar.
I’ve also started to build a resource list, for those of you who are either childfree by circumstance or childfree by choice. A combination of blogs, communities, individuals who are doing wonderful things in this space. Please do let me know if there are resources you use I can add.
We Are : Sophie and Dylan, 29 and 27
Home Is: Shropshire
We Do: I’m a brand manager and Dylan is a maintenance technician
“When are you going to have kids then?”
“You’ll regret not having them…”
“Your life won’t start until you have children!”
In my early 20’s, I was quite happy to playfully counter these comments but, when I was diagnosed with PCOS at 25, the game changed.
I’ve always had issues with my hormones, my teenage years were fraught with a serious battle with acne alongside the usual chaos that our teens throw our way. But I had an inkling that something wasn’t quite right with my body. As my classmates were growing out of their acne phase, mine was getting worse. As my gorgeous friends primped their hair to perfection, I started losing mine. And, as most people’s teenage angst was channelled into getting their GCSE’s, learning to drive and parties at the weekend, mine developed into an everyday battle with depression, bad decisions and anger management issues that I couldn’t keep a lid on.
In early 2015 I finally discovered the cause of my discomfort with my own body. I was diagnosed with PCOS. I’ll be honest, although I was relieved to have some answers, the bottom of my world fell out. “You are unlikely to have children,” said the Doctor. I’d always nonchalantly said I didn’t really want kids, but when I said that, I was a flippant 20 something who had the luxury of kids being an option. Or so I thought. To have this potentially taken away from me at 25 was crushing. I’d spent 12 years battling my own body, 12 weeks being poked and prodded and in the space of a 12-minute appointment, my identity as a woman felt like it was being dismantled. I vividly remember sitting in the car park after my appointment, feeling like I’d been hit by the failure bus.
Following my appointment, I started medication and my hair stopped falling out. But, for the best part of 18 months, that was the only positive thing that happened following my diagnosis. I spent many moments in a dark bedroom, crying on the floor, with Dylan consoling me and reminding me that he was with me for much more than my womb! When you google PCOS, the classic symptom list appears, but, what isn’t discussed is the reality of living with these symptoms; the obsessive dieting as a result of trying to ‘fix’ your PCOS, the depression brought on by constantly fending off the well-meaning, but, unsolicited fertility/acne/weight advice and complex identity struggles.
When I was diagnosed with PCOS, my biggest battle was around my perception of my femininity. Not only could I not have children, the one thing a woman is biologically ‘meant’ to be able to do, I felt like my entire female identity was being called into question. I’d never been particularly confident in my appearance and my self-esteem plummeted even further after my diagnosis. So, I spent 18 months trying every fad diet under the sun, taking new-fangled vitamins that did jack diddly squat and exercising to the point of exhaustion. Why? I thought PCOS was my fault. I must have caused it through mistreating my body. Of course, that misguided assumption was completely wrong, but try telling 25-year-old Sophie that. I lost an excessive amount of weight, transformed my wardrobe to follow trends and the compliments flooded in. Little did these well-wishers know that I was hungry, tired and the saddest I’d ever been.
So, what changed? In late 2015, a tiny bundle of joy entered my life and it wasn’t of the humankind. A 9-week-old pug cross called Winston showed Dylan and I that a family member can have four legs, and this was the very unexpected start of me taking control of my new life. Winston needed me more than I needed to be wrapped up in my thoughts about PCOS. And with that, I started to discover life outside of my medical condition. A life outside of children and a new way to define the word ‘family’. I overhauled my lifestyle to find a healthy physical and mental balance, and as 2020 begins, Dylan and I have come a very long way. We have both realised that we are shaping a full life, even if it is likely going to be a child-free one. We’re renovating our first home, shaping our careers and loving life with our pug crosses, Winston and Minnie.
So, what has PCOS taught me?
- Your body doesn’t define who you are!
- Your worth as a human being isn’t wrapped up in the success of your reproductive system
- Do not plan your life around societal expectations
- Family is what you decide, not what outdated tradition dictates
I try to consider that maybe PCOS is just a road marker on my path to taking a different direction in life?
Maybe I was put on this planet to adopt a child?
Maybe I was destined to be content as a pug mama?
Maybe I’m going to be that cool Auntie who travels the world and turns up randomly from a 6-week stint in Aruba with fridge magnets for everyone? Who knows? I don’t. My doctor doesn’t. My partner doesn’t. But I do know that I will not let being childfree negatively impact my life.
Thank you so so much to Sophie for sharing her honest story as a guest poster and sharing her thoughts and views in this piece. As I’ve stressed from the very beginning, this is a warm, empathic platform for people to share their stories, hopes, dreams, fears. Please do read Sophie’s story and leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.