Editor’s Note: Pregnancy mentioned.
I was 19 years old when I found out I had endometriosis (“endo”). At the time I had never
heard about the condition before, but I soon learnt that it was a disease of the reproductive
organs that was the second leading cause of infertility in women. The lining of the uterus is
called the endometrium, and endo is a condition that causes this lining to grow in other places within the abdominal cavity.
In some areas, the diagnosis provided clarity; in others, it muddied the waters.
When I was 14 years old, I had been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, and placed on the
contraceptive pill as a way to deal with that. So, my diagnosis helped to explain the cyst.
But it left me with so many questions. And despite the doctor’s assurance that “endometriosis is not a sentence of infertility”, from that point onwards, my life became overshadowed by the prospect.
The doctors told me I should go back on the pill – taking it for 3 continuous months, then a
one week withdrawal bleed, at a time – in order to suppress the growth of the endo. They said I should only come off the pill when I was ready to start trying to conceive.
Right from the beginning, I assumed that fertility would be a problem for me. I grieved
a little bit about what that might mean. But I wasn’t really close to experiencing fertility
problems firsthand at that point, so I always thought of it in a vague, future sense. I gave my concerns over to God and, for the most part, I didn’t think about it.
That is until I started experiencing abnormal spotting about 6 months into my marriage. At first I thought I might have been pregnant – I knew of a woman at church who had conceived while on the pill. And the thought of a surprise pregnancy was exciting and relieving, in a way – it would mean that we wouldn’t have fertility problems.
We ruled out pregnancy, and after another 5 months of abnormal spotting throughout my
cycle, I began to look at other options. After all, my doctor said there was actually no
evidence that the Pill minimises or suppresses the growth of endo, it is just widely thought to be the case.
During that time, I felt a lot of anxiety about having endo and what it was doing to my
reproductive organs. The spotting seemed to be a symptom that the endo was getting worse and I felt like I was just sitting there doing nothing. I prayed to God about it, but I didn’t feel comfortable with outright praying for pregnancy and it didn’t even occur to me to pray for healing. So I prayed that God’s will be done, and that we would have children in His timing.
It was around that time that I came across the Fertility Awareness Method of birth control, and I joined the CFPN. I wasn’t sure about whether going off the pill would allow the endo to grow more while we were still trying to avoid a pregnancy, but I really liked the idea of going off hormones. And it was amazing how much better I felt after all those drugs left my system!
I really enjoyed charting as a way to avoid pregnancy, but to be honest, it didn’t last long. We ended up taking it easy with a “come what may” attitude. Again, I think I preferred the idea of getting pregnant without trying rather than having to face infertility.
Slowly our attitude morphed from “not really avoiding” into “kind of trying to conceive”. It
was a little bit scary for me. For the first time, I had to place my desires squarely into God’s hands. I had to admit that I wanted to be pregnant, that we were actively trying to conceive.
Previously, I had been able to shrug off our lack of conception with “well, we aren’t really
trying anyway.” No more. We were definitely trying, and every cycle we didn’t achieve
pregnancy was a reminder that something was wrong.
My struggle with endo so far has taught me some important things.
For example, that every pregnancy is a miracle created by God. Getting pregnant is not
simply a matter of flesh and blood (and eggs and sperm). Each little baby ever to be
conceived has been carefully planned and brought into being by God.
And that God doesn’t always give us what we want and ask for. I think knowing this was the scariest thing about actually praying for pregnancy. I knew all along that God had made no promises to actually do it for us.
After about 8 months of well-timed love making, I stumbled across my laparoscopy report
from 2008, when the doctors had discovered my endo. I read about the locations they had
found the endo back then – around my right ovary and in the Pouch of Douglas.
While I knew that the endo could have grown and spread since 2008, I reflected on the fact
that in 8 months of being off the pill, I had only ever felt ovulation pain on my right side. I
wondered if the endo had caused problems on my right side – distorting the fallopian tube so that it was not able to receive any eggs.
And I felt God leading me to pray specifically for ovulation on the left side. I told my
husband and my pastor’s wife my thoughts and asked them to also pray that I would ovulate on my left side (even I felt quite strange putting it into words!).
As my body geared up for ovulation, I spent much time in prayer on this issue. I knew that
God didn’t have to do it; I knew that even ovulating on my left side wouldn’t guarantee
conception, but I felt compelled by the Spirit to pray. So I did.
The day came when I felt those familiar short-lived ovulation pains – but this time they were on the left! I couldn’t believe it and I could hardly contain my excitement!
I spent the luteal phase praying some more and telling myself that even this didn’t guarantee anything. But I felt like it was the first good chance I had ever had.
That was the cycle we conceived.
Looking back, I can see now that God lead us to pray that very specific way so that he would be all the more glorified by our pregnancy.
Knowing that endo puts us at a higher risk of miscarriage is quite nerve-wracking. But we are leaning more into God’s arms every day, trusting that he will do what is best.