Lena Dunham‘s chapter on in vitro fertilization (IVF) has recently come to a close.
In an essay penned for Harper’s Magazine, the 34-year-old recounted her struggles and how she discovered she would “never become a biological mother.”
Dunhams started to recount her health journey since undergoing a hysterectomy in 2018.
“The moment I lost my fertility I started searching for a baby,” she recalled. “At age 31, after almost two decades of chronic pain caused by endometriosis and its little-studied ravages, I had my uterus, my cervix, and one of my ovaries removed. Before then, motherhood had seemed likely but not urgent, as inevitable as growing out of jean shorts, but in the days after my surgery I became keenly obsessed with it.”
Dunham considered adoption but faced a “few obstacles.” In addition, she also battled with her addiction to benzodiazepines and entered rehab, which she said put “the brakes on the baby plans.”
It was in this time she began looking for community online. She discovered it through the hashtag #IVFWarriors, not knowing that IVF could be an option for her. A doctor then told her she still might have a chance of harvesting eggs and she “flushed with an odd and unearned pride.”
“It turned out that after everything I’d been through—the chemical menopause, surgeries by the dozen, the carelessness of drug addiction—my one remaining ovary was still producing eggs,” she continued. “If we successfully harvested them, they might be fertilized with donor sperm and carried to term by a surrogate.”
Dunham shared her unnamed boyfriend at the time offered up his sperm. And when they split, she believed she’d “lost the chance to change my life forever.” But, she continued on her IVF journey. And while she sought support from a group chat she had started a few years ago, she eventually saw the members “sign off, one by one.”
“I was the guest nobody wanted to talk to at the party,” she wrote. “There was no place for me in polite company. Back, again, to the strangers, who always seem to expect you.”
Then, on Memorial Day of this year, Dunham received a call from her doctor, Dr. Coperman, and discovered none of her eggs were viable.
“‘We were unable to fertilize any of the eggs,'” Dunham wrote, recalling the doctor’s words. “‘As you know, we had six. Five did not take. The one that did seems to have chromosomal issues and ultimately… ’ He trailed off as I tried to picture it—the dark room, the glowing dish, the sperm meeting my dusty eggs so violently that they combusted. It was hard to understand that they were gone.”
While the doctor alleged they could discuss her “remaining options, Dunham “knew that there really weren’t any.”
At one point, Dunham touched on “how far you can drift from yourself in the process of trying to get what you want.”
“What started as wanting to carry the child of the man I loved became wanting to have a child with a man who was willing to help me have one,” she continued. “Soon that became hiring a lawyer to draft a contract for a sperm-donor friend and calling a surrogate who came highly recommended by another celebrity. I was forced to admit just how much of it was about finishing what I started. I tried to have a child. Along the way, my body broke. My relationship did, too. In the process—because of it?—I became a functional junkie. I had lost my way, and a half-dozen eggs sitting in Midtown promised to lead me home.”
Towards the end of her journey, Dunham accepted how “you can’t force the universe to give you a baby that your body has told you all along was an impossibility.”
“The irony is that knowing I cannot have a child—my ability to accept that and move on—may be the only reason I deserve to be anyone’s parent at all,” she ended. “I think I finally have something to teach somebody.”
Currently, Dunham is trying to stay positive.
“I decided I am not going to let myself mourn a set of children that weren’t ever mine to begin with,” she told People. “Whether it’s adoption or foster-to-adopt, I love the idea of becoming a mother in the way that’s right for me, and I’m committed to it. And a lot of the work I do on myself now, in therapy and sobriety, is making sure I deal with my past trauma. And I push myself toward the best version of adulthood I know, so I know that I’m going into motherhood with the greatest set of tools that I can possibly have — so that Lena 3.0 is the best version I can be, the motherhood version.”
You can read her full essay at Harper’s Magazine.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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