Because every woman has her own journey.
January 2016 in Dover, Vermont. Snow is falling, it’s 17 degrees out, and my husband has two layers of pajamas underneath a thick wool blanket to keep warm. Somehow, I’m drenched in my own sweat, chugging my bedside iced water, and my fresh blow-out has completely frizzed up in a matter of hours. Heads up-- I’ve had anxiety my entire life: anxiety about everything. School, money, family, friendships, and work. Yet this anxiety is borderline unbearable.
Rewind to my earlier years. I’m originally from Bellows Falls. My parents struggled with alcoholism, my younger brother followed in their path at a very early age, and undoubtedly, I was trailing very close behind. My brother and I are 2 years apart, and in our neighborhood, we rolled with the same folks.
Here comes Matthew. Matt’s parents owned a small Maple farm. My dad worked there in and out over the years. Some days I would stop in to sneak those in-progress little maple candies I loved so much. Mmmm maple syrup—something I could easily drink like water. Matt was badass. He was 8 years my senior, and really knew everyone around town. He and I dated for a few years, even though he openly cheated on me with whoever and whenever. Dad wasn’t the biggest fan of Matt, but if he had access to endless moonshine, he didn’t care.
Over the course of our so-called relationship, I had two miscarriages. Half of the time we were belligerent, so I barely understood what was really happening. Looking back, I would have never gotten my associate degree or lived a normal life had I stayed with Matt. Good riddance.
While visiting Stowe one year for a girl’s trip, I met Jay. He led the Guest Services department at the resort we visited. He was just charming, but out of my league. My crooked teeth and adult acne were no match for this guy; his strawberry blond hair and pearly whites beaming from across the room. Jay’s family invested in ski resorts throughout the state and operated three family-run businesses since before I was born. Jay was in a long-distance relationship at the time, and once that ran its course—into my arms Jay fell.
We married, and here we are today, operating a small Dover, VT bed and breakfast.
Back to my anxiety. It’s just a thing and has always been. After marrying, Jay and I had a tough time conceiving. This didn’t come as a surprise to me because my mom and grandma both struggled with fertility. Having unintentionally conceived earlier in life, I always held onto optimism. By this point, we stopped caring, and waited for things to happen naturally. My college mentor married at 38 and conceived naturally right after- so I had nothing to worry about.
Waking up sweating, missing my period for months at a time, and having unreasonable anxiety wasn’t something I was comfortable with anymore. I’m now 34, have my better years ahead of me, and needed to muster the courage to seek medical attention for something so debilitating. After several doctor visits, and various anti-anxiety prescriptions, nothing helped the physical symptoms. Subsequently a series of bloodwork revealed my estrogen levels were completely off, my follicle stimulating hormones were super high, and my ovaries were producing miniscule amounts of estrogen. 111 was my FSH count. For context, 111 is a number common for women aged 60+.
Later, an endocrinologist diagnosed me with perimenopause; and my only chance of pregnancy was to take an AMH blood test to investigate the quality of my remaining eggs – and act ASAP. What was a week-long wait felt like an eternity. My doctor asked us to come in, so she could explain the results in person. In person is usually not a good sign, but optimism always wins, right? My optimism was bright and alive.
The news: The few eggs that I had remaining were of inferior quality, and I’d never be able to conceive with them. Shortly after, I was menopausal. I had to begin hormone replacement therapy and will continue for the next 15-20 years. Without this, I risk life-threatening illnesses down the road due to lacked estrogen.
My hot flashes have come to an end, but the emotional toll feels like it is only beginning. As many my friends go on to have baby #1, #2, and sometimes #3-- I cannot help but wonder: how did I get so unlucky?
I refused to give up on my journey to motherhood. It didn’t feel right. Jay and I later hired a gestational surrogate with an anonymous egg donor and my husband’s sperm. Throughout the selection process, I chose a donor with physical characteristics very similar to mine. We now have a beautiful baby girl. We were very fortunate to have close friends and family with us throughout this emotional roller-coaster of a journey. I finally feel good, wholeheartedly. When we are together as a family of three, countless people say our daughter looks exactly like me. Then again, she most definitely does.
Amanda, Dover, Vermont