20 Apr 2023

Miriama Kamo’s difficult journey to parenthood with endometriosis

7:22 am on 20 April 2023

Broadcaster Miriama Kamo has a decades-long story of struggling with undiagnosed endometriosis, lost pregnancies and working to overcome the awkwardness of talking about "the four Ms" of women's health.

Two tiny, fluffy dogs greet us as we walk into Miriama Kamo's Auckland home on a warm Wednesday evening.

In the kitchen is Kamo's husband Mike, busy making tonight's dinner. One of the dishes on tonight's menu is eel that Miriama and daughter Te Rerehua caught on a recent trip to the South Island.

Family members and a close friend file through the front door during the evening and it's clear this is a busy family home.

But Kamo's journey to expand their family has been difficult.

She was 31 when she received laparoscopic surgery confirming she had endometriosis.

It was then that she was told to have children very soon.

"I remember walking out feeling appalled. Because I was like: 'I don't know if I found the right person yet. Do I really want to have a baby right now? How could they tell me to have a baby before I'm ready?'

"And now I can see why they were suggesting that."

Kamo is sharing her story as part of an RNZ In Depth series, The Deadline, which aims to speak clearly about the realities of endometriosis, especially its impact on planning for parenthood.

Read more from this series:

  • The Deadline: I was told to try for children before 30 - what if I'm not ready?
  • When Ruby Rowe got the diagnosis she'd been searching for, it changed everything
  • The difficult journey to parenthood

    Kamo's diagnostic laparoscopy found that one of her ovaries wasn't functioning properly and had a large cyst. The surgeon also lasered out a lot of lesions.

    At the time, Kamo knew she wasn't ready to have a child, she wanted to travel and had other goals she wanted to achieve first.

    But when she found out she was pregnant at 35, she was over the moon.

    "I remember feeling such excitement, like, wow, I didn't know I wanted this until I was pregnant.

    "I lost that pregnancy and that was just devastating."

    During that time, Kamo kept a diary where she wrote messages to her unborn child. It helped her through her loss.

    Re-reading those diary entries in her dining room now, Kamo fans away tears, an echo of the anguish felt during that time.

    She bravely shared those intimate messages in Metro Magazine a few years later.

    "I knew that other women felt like this and just didn't talk about it. And I wanted other women to know that there was somebody that understood them."

    illustration of female faces

    Photo: RNZ

    Confusing emotions

    The experience left Kamo with a lot of difficult emotions to process.

    "My two sisters in-law were pregnant at the same time and so I was really looking forward to having a baby with them.

    "Part of the confusion afterwards, after losing that baby and the embarrassment and shame that came with it was the sense of jealousy that I had, that their pregnancies were progressing, and they were beautiful."

    Kamo says she loves all her nieces and nephews like her own, which added to the inner conflict she felt.

    "I was so thrilled and happy that I was going to get two new nephews. But at the same time was like, oh, I would so love to have a baby too."

    She didn't go through this loss on her own.

    "Mike was amazing. I remember when I miscarried. I sent him a text from where I was, saying 'bleeding a lot, please come.' And so he came, and he picked me up. And we went to the doctor.

    "I remember months later, we're having dinner out and we started talking about that pregnancy. He just said 'I've kept the text' and I said 'what text' and he said, 'the one that you sent me when you were losing the baby' and he showed it to me.

    "It was really a moment of clarity, and love and respect for him."

    Their next pregnancy brought their daughter, Te Rerehua, into the world.

    Plans to further expand their family a couple of years later led to another five miscarriages.

    "I really do feel so lucky that I had her because clearly, my body wasn't cut out for carrying babies.

    "Somehow, I managed to get her and that's what I kept saying to myself every time I lost a baby."

    Miriama was 42 when she had her last pregnancy.

    "So, it was kind of a miracle pregnancy to get pregnant. And that was a very strong pregnancy, I really thought that I'd have that baby, whereas I wasn't quite so convinced with the others.

    "But he didn't make it."

    illustration of female hands on hips

    Photo: RNZ

    18-year journey to diagnosis

    Like a lot of women with endometriosis, Kamo waited many years for a diagnosis.

    She was 31 when she was finally diagnosed, but her problems began with her very first period at 13.

    It was something she was initially looking forward to, because she wanted to have her period before starting high school. That soon changed.

    "I had terrible, terrible pain, and had no idea that there was anything clinically wrong.

    "I thought it was completely normal. I thought that my pain was normal and that I was a wuss."

    Kamo had been to the doctors, but again was assured it was "just a woman's problem."

    It wasn't until a conversation she had with her sister asking if she too had pain with her periods that she knew something wasn't right.

    "I remember asking and feeling stupid to ask because I knew what her answer would be and I knew that she would say 'yeah, of course.'

    "She blew my mind when she said, no, I don't … [she said] just get a little bit uncomfortable from time to time."

    Miriama Kamo

    Kamo is an ambassador for Endometriosis New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Luke McPake

    Opening the conversation

    Kamo is a respected, and experienced broadcaster. She uses her public profile as an ambassador for Endometriosis New Zealand and gives talks on what she likes to call "the four Ms": menstruation, miscarriage, motherhood and menopause.

    "These are things that we haven't really spoken about, and a lot of people still feel uncomfortable to talk about.

    "But the conversations are happening in a way that I haven't seen before. And it's really exciting to see that because for me, they are sacred experiences of womanhood, but they're too often treated as taboo, and they're not taboo."

    Kamo's hope for the future is everyone can speak openly about those experiences, not just those with periods.

    "I would love to see boys and men, dads, feeling able to be a part of a conversation, to feel open to listening and understanding what the people in their lives who have periods are going through."

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