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‘I may have felt choiceless before, but I know I have choices now’: Lena Dunham on her plans to adopt


By Sarah Finnan
24th Jan 2022

@lenadunham

‘I may have felt choiceless before, but I know I have choices now’: Lena Dunham on her plans to adopt

Lena Dunham may finally get her happily ever after and is considering the ‘thrilling pursuit’ of adoption after years of IVF struggles endometriosis pain and having her uterus removed.

Everyone’s journey to motherhood is different. For actress Lena Dunham, it’s been quite a difficult one. Going from unknown filmmaker to TV royalty in less than a year, the latter part of her Girls career was marred by supreme uncomfort – some of that caused by the intense media attention that came with her newfound stardom, the rest due to debilitating endometriosis pain.

One year after Girls ended, she decided to have a hysterectomy. Far from an easy choice to make, Dunham was just 31 years old at the time, and had always wanted to be a mother. “The fact is, I never had a single doubt about having children,” she wrote in a personal essay for American Vogue. “Not one, since the day I could understand how families were made. And pregnancy was the glorious beginning of that vision. As a child, I would stuff my shirt with a pile of hot laundry and march around the living room beaming. Later, wearing a prosthetic belly for my television show, I stroke it subconsciously with such natural ease that my best friend has to tell me I am creeping her out.” 

“But I know something else, too,” she later added. “And I know it as intensely as I know I want a baby: that something is wrong with my uterus. I can feel it, deeply specific yet unverified, despite so many tests and so much medical dialogue. I just sense that the uterus I have been given is defective.”

Despite battling endometriosis for the best part of a decade, no doctor had ever told Dunham the real reason she was suffering. They told her she had a slightly higher chance of miscarriage, but that was it. In November 2018, she checked herself into hospital and announced she wouldn’t be leaving until they stopped her pain or took her uterus. 

“I have to admit I am really choosing this – I gave up on more treatment. I gave up on more pain. I gave up on more uncertainty… I made a choice that never was a choice for me, yet mourning feels like a luxury I don’t have,” she confessed. Later writing about “giving up on motherhood” yet again – this time for Harper’s Magazine the searingly honest memoir opens with the line, “the moment I lost my fertility I started searching for a baby”. 

Learning that her one remaining ovary was still producing eggs, Dunham found out that, if successfully harvested, they could be fertilised with donor sperm and carried to term by a surrogate. Unfortunately, doctors were unable to fertilise any of the eggs so that option was soon ruled out too. 

Four years on and Dunham has grieved the loss of her uterus – and the fact that she won’t be able to have her own child biologically – largely thanks to her recent project Sharp Stick which saw the lead character have a hysterectomy at age 17. “It was about trying to understand the impact [my hysterectomy] had on me,” Dunham told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was about processing my life. And then, obviously, it becomes about the characters – and not about you at all.” 

A month after Sharp Stick wrapped, she started working on Catherine, Called Birdy. Production on that ended back in May and now she’s writing a new HBO limited series called Mob Queens. There is “one more project in the works” as THR puts it though: Dunham wants to adopt.

Happily married to her new husband, musician Luis Felber, it doesn’t seem that there’s any definite timeline in place but it will likely happen soon. “I’ll be 36 this year. I don’t feel like turning 38 without a child,” she admitted. “It was like the last four years I’d been building a boat and now was my time to sail it and see if it sunk or not. And I was like, ‘Oh. It holds up on the water.’” 

Previously describing adoption as “a thrilling pursuit” she’ll “pursue with all [her] might”, it’s clear that Dunham’s dreams of being a mother have not waned. “I may have felt choiceless before, but I know I have choices now,” she finished.