This very personal and in-depth account of a woman’s journey with PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) has been generously authored by Meagen R. When I asked her to share her story with Surrogacy Mama, she graciously agreed and provided a very real and raw account of her life experiences living with PCOS. It is my hope that by sharing her story, Meagen can help other women who are experiencing the same symptoms and diagnosis. She also provides personal advice for women experiencing infertility, which is how many intended mothers end up working with surrogates.
What exactly is Polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It is characterized by the presence of enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. Symptoms include irregular periods, excess androgen levels (male hormones), and polycystic ovaries.
Common symptoms are weight gain, acne, excessive hair growth, and fertility issues. PCOS is also associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and may include lifestyle changes, medication, and fertility treatments if needed.
Meagen’s PCOS Journey and Timeline
The Teenage Years
In my teen years there were not many signs that I had PCOS. My weight fluctuated, but never to where I was considered overweight. I had regular periods. However, the periods were so heavy and painful that I would miss days of school. When I was 19 I was put on birth control to help with the painful periods. This is where the trouble seemed to begin. I began putting on weight.
At first it was a little here and a little there. Soon I had put on sixty pounds in about a year. My doctor and OBGYN at the time blew it off. They thought it was because I had gotten out of college and was working full time. They figured my eating habits changed and that I was more stressed from being in the workforce. The sad thing is that I was still eating very little and exercising a lot. I found out I was probably doing the wrong kind of exercise for PCOS.
When you have PCOS, you want to do gentle exercises. Most people with PCOS will probably have a little extra Cortisol in their systems. If you are doing any extreme exercises, that could exasperate the problem. Well, I was definitely not moderately exercising. I was exercising to the point of nearly passing out.
PCOS In My Twenties
Around the age of 23 things really changed. My periods became more erratic. I would go up to three months without a period and then get one out of nowhere. It would be very heavy and last more than the usual 5 to 7 days.
This went on for a couple more years. At the age of 25, I ended up in the ER with a period that was so heavy that I was feeling weak. My OBGYN finally ordered some tests to be done. I did not have the usual ultrasound to see if I had cysts on my ovaries. They did a fasting test to see if I had insulin resistance. It turns out that I did and then and there I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was immediately put on Metformin. I was on an off Metformin for years. In the PCOS community we tend to joke about Metformin and the sickness it causes. People who are trying to conceive joke that they do not know if they have morning sickness or if it is just Metformin sickness. Meanwhile, my weight kept ballooning upward.
PCOS In My Thirties
When I was 30, things took a scary turn. I had not had a period in about 8 months. When I did get a period, it would not stop. After 2 months, I ended up in my OBGYN’s office pale and barely able to stand up. They checked my blood levels. After they drew my blood, they scheduled me to have a D and C in a few days to stop the period. While I was at lunch afterwards, I got a call from my OBGYN that I needed to come to the hospital right now. A normal hemoglobin level for a woman is 12 to 16 g/dl. I was at 5 g/dl. By the time my mother got me to the hospital, I could no longer walk. I was too weak. They had to get a wheel chair for me. I had a blood transfusion that afternoon and a D and C that night. It was very traumatic. Because I had not had a period in so long, my uterine lining had thickened to nearly 10 centimeters thick. After all of that, I had an IUD placed so that what had happened could not happen again.
I was 30 and had never been pregnant. There were times where I was not careful and should have been pregnant. My future of having children was looking even more bleak than it had before. See, when I was 23, I was in an abusive relationship. My leg was broken and I had a blood clot that traveled from my leg to my lung (called a pulmonary embolism). Once you have one blood clot, you are more susceptible to having another. This meant that any hormone therapy to help me get pregnant was out of the question. This also meant that if I were to ever be able to conceive on my own, I would have to immediately be put on blood thinners.
I stayed single until I re-met my husband when I was 38. I dated around. When you are overweight, people tend to look at you like you are doing something wrong to be that way. People don’t tend to take into account that you may be trying everything that there is to try. Unfortunately when you are dating, there can be some very mean people out there. When I was around 35, my OBGYN said that she would no longer be comfortable with me every getting pregnant. It would be a risk to my life. Dating men who wanted to have a natural family was not going to happen for me. When you tell people that you cannot have children, there is so much stigma around it. I do remember one person saying I was cursed.
Infertility from PCOS and Finding Family Through Adoption
The heart break that comes with being told that you will not be able to have children is immeasurable. Baby showers became too hard to go to. Don’t get me wrong, I was so happy for my friends and family who had babies. I went to these showers, but each time it hurt a little more. It was especially hard to see women get pregnant over and over and have healthy babies. I began to distance myself more. I stopped holding babies. I began to see babies as nuisances. I know that this sounds terrible, but it was the only way that I could protect my mental health at the time. I stopped interacting with little kids. I began telling myself that I never wanted kids anyways.
Then something wonderful happened. My husband and I went to high school together. We were friends. We ended up reconnecting. His wife had passed away (that was not the wonderful part, it was very sad). My husband’s first wife was an addict and sadly overdosed. He had her oldest daughter living with him as the biological father was not in the picture. They also had a son together. Unfortunately, when she passed away, since my husband was not the daughter’s biological father, his insurance would no longer cover her. A few months after we got married, his daughter came to us and asked us if we would adopt her. She had no ties to her biological father. Unfortunately he was also an addict and was barely a part of her life. We began the proceedings to adopt her. Even though she was an adult at the time (20 years old), we still had to have her biological father sign over his rights. It was a bit of a fight, but he finally signed them over. During this process, my husband’s 16 year old son asked me if I would adopt him also.
Addiction is a hard thing to battle. I had to sit down long and hard to ask if it was the right thing to do. I was already doing all of the mom things with these kids. These kids did have a hard childhood because of addiction. In the end, I adopted my daughter in March of 2020 and my son in July of 2020. I went from pushing people away because of PCOS. I was not thriving with it. At one point PCOS was winning the battle with my life. I went from trying to avoid life to fully living life. I had to show my kids that life was meant to be lived. I went from running away from relationships to having the perfect partner for me. Don’t get me wrong, I did try to run away from them. My son would sit on my legs for me to stay the night at their house before my husband and I got engaged. With both of my kids it was an immediate bond.
Living Life as an Adult Woman with PCOS
At this point, I have had a failed bariatric surgery. I am not on Ozempic and Metformin. I have learned how to deal with the nausea. I know that some days are better than others. I have also been diagnosed with endometriosis on top of PCOS. I switched OBGYNs about three years ago as I didn’t feel heard with my last one. I still have my IUD in and will probably continue to get them switched out when needed until I go through that change of life.
My Advice for Women Who Have Been Diagnosed with PCOS
If you are diagnosed with PCOS, don’t lose hope that you can never get pregnant. I have been in a wonderful community and have seen so many women get pregnant. Some needed help and some have not. Do not let PCOS control you. I spent so many years of my life beating myself up about it. I am turning 43 soon and I am just now starting to actually live my life. If you do look into adopting, look at more than just babies. There are older children in the system that need good homes. Sometimes they can be a challenge, but I promise you that it is worth it. Seeing my kids blossom after going through so much trauma makes my heart sing. They have so many of my traits and even look like me. My son jokes all the time that I gave birth to him but I just didn’t know it.
Before I started dating my husband, I was finally in a good place. I was honestly okay if I didn’t have kids. I was okay if I never met that special someone. Then they all came along and showed me love like I have never known.
One little more piece of advice. If you are someone who doesn’t want to have kids, you are not selfish. As women, it feels like we are pressured that we have to have kids to be worth something in life. You can make your life worth living no matter what your situation is. If you do struggle with infertility, you are not cursed and you are so worthy of every good thing in life. Find the joy in the little wins.