Lena Dunham has never shied away from sharing her ongoing health battles with her fans, but this may be the most personal and intimate view into her life yet.
The Girls creator shared all about her experience with in vitro fertilization and infertility in an emotional new essay for Harper’s Magazine. Lena had previously revealed that she’d had her cervix, uterus, and one ovary removed in connection to her chronic endometriosis, surgeries which lead to a debilitating painkiller addiction.
While she thought conceiving a child was off the table, a new doctor gave her hope that eggs from her remaining ovary could be harvested and fertilized — a revelation that lead to an arduous journey of hormone injections, obsessive surrogacy searches, and joining online communities… only to ultimately learn that none of the eggs were viable.
In a supplementary interview, the 34-year-old told People that she suspected her infertility all along. She said:
“I think women often have a keen instinct about what is happening with their own bodies — and I had an instinct that it probably wouldn’t work. I had hopes it would, but to be honest, I’d already made my peace about becoming an adoptive mother. But then when everyone got so excited about there being this possibility that my one ovary could produce eggs, and with IVF and surrogacy, I could maybe still have a biological child, it pulled me away from what I think I already instinctively knew.”
The experience was both financially and personally costly (“[My] body broke. My relationship did, too. In the process — because of it? — I became a functional junkie.”) but on the other side, the Once Upon A Time In Hollywood star felt no shame about sharing her story. She said:
“My entire career, the thing that has felt like a driving factor for me in many ways has been this thought of, ‘What can I do to normalize challenging topics that many women may feel like they are alone in experiencing but are actually universal and yet women have been made to feel shameful about?’ Never has been that truer than in grappling with my infertility and the loss of my fertility, and the pain and the shame that came with it.”
Interestingly, the writer noted that being white and privileged leads to entitlement even regarding fertility — that “we’re going to get what we want, how we want it and when we want it.” She now views accepting the reality of infertility and moving on as a hard-won lesson — albeit one that was accompanied by depression and addiction, and a “feeling like you’ve lost your sense of your own role in the universe.” She explained:
“[I] had to really untangle all of that to realize that I was still going to become a mother, but I was going to do it on my own terms. But I could only do it by untangling all these strands of trauma and realizing we don’t all get what we want.”
Today, Lena expressed an optimism for her future motherhood, with adoption in mind. She told People:
“I decided I am not going to let myself mourn a set of children that weren’t ever mine to begin with. 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.”
And though she’s currently experiencing “moments of joy and grace” that come before having children, she added:
“When I’m lucky enough to be able to have a child in my arms, I will not take for granted how many stops, twists and turns it has taken for that child to be in my arms, and to be in my life. I hope that whatever I do is a testament to the fact that the modern journey to motherhood looks different for every single woman, and I hope that every woman who sees me on my journey recognizes that there are moments of joy even before a child enters your life.”
Wow. What a humbling journey. We hope Lena’s story reaches other women who have struggled with infertility, and that it might offer some comfort to those who need it.
You can read her piece in Harper’s HERE!
[Image via Joseph Marzullo/WENN & Lena Dunham/Instagram]
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