Meet The Seven-Year-Old Girl Going Through Menopause
When Emily Dover grew four centimetres at just four-weeks-old, her parents started asking questions.
But, Tam Dover and Matt McAuliffe from Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast are both tall and were told by medical professionals their baby daughter was just reaching her genetic capabilities.
A year-and-a-half later, Matt pulled Emily out of a bath as an 18-month-old and noticed a little pimple and the smell of body odour.
Soon after, Emily started complaining of discomfort in her chest area.
"When she was two she started complaining that she had a sore chest and we thought, 'well that's a little bit different'... and she was breast budding at the time and that came with cystic acne," Tam told 10 daily.
Tam and Matt started investigating why their child's hormones were at such an unusual level. During this time they also discovered Emily had autism and a sensory processing disorder.
"When Emily was about two or three she had such a yearning to have a child that there was a child at her daycare who called her 'Mum' and ... you see the yearning and the nurturing because the hormones are driving it," Tam said.
"We all have had time to grow into our hormones and have life experience and know what is appropriate and what is not appropriate, and then you have someone who says I feel these things and then the joy of autism on top of it is that there is no filter."
The next shock came when Emily was just four years old. Tam and Matt had already started with hormone testing for their little girl when she got her first period. They had to teach their toddler how to use a menstrual pad before she was old enough to go to school.
Both Matt and Tam were both incredibly anxious when it came to Emily starting her education because they were aware their little girl knew she was different from other children.
"It's not like another kindergartener is going to have to go to school with their own little personal pack like what we would take in high school ... we had enough trouble explaining to our child who is going through it. How do you explain to any other child ... who doesn't understand?"
One way they explained Emily's condition to her was to frame it as a 'superpower'. They hope this will prevent Emily from seeing her condition as a disadvantage as she grows up.
"When she goes through the teasing at school ... we are trying to make her resilient to it and say she's got a superpower. What's your superpower Emily?" Tam asked her daughter.
"Growing up faster," Emily replied.
"Emily is nurturing and so her personality shone through every adversity she has anyway, so we are really lucky that she coped that way and it's just a matter of educating everyone else," Tam said.
The financial burden of Emily's treatment, which required her parents to pay $1,500 each time she had an injection, added to the pressure they faced. The injections, which were very painful for Emily, aimed to stop puberty until she was old enough to undergo the changes.
The injections failed to halt the growth of her pubic hair, her breasts or prevent periods.
The injections were stopped and now Emily is going through menopause. She will be treated symptomatically going forward, leaving her parents without concrete answers or a clear management plan for their daughter's condition.
Despite her intense medical journey, Emily is a happy and vibrant seven-year-old who loves drawing and thinks school is a little "lame" sometimes. She also wants to be a mother in the future.
"I want my own children," Emily told 10 daily.
Tam and Matt hope sharing their story will raise awareness for other families and their children who might be going through similar things.
"It's important if parents have a gut feeling about their kids ... get it checked out," Matt told 10 daily.
"It's your kids. Don't give up finding answers."
Contact Siobhan at firstname.lastname@example.org