Infertility - the struggle is sooo very real.
We stand together on the front porch, watching the groups of little ones, laughing and running in their Halloween costumes. They giggle as they run together from house after house to call out, "Trick or Treat!". He slowly turns to me, takes my hand and says, "If we aren't pregnant by this time next year, we should move from here. Watching all of these happy little kids run through the neighborhood is just too hard."
"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart
go walking around outside your body"
- Elizabeth Stone
There is a quote that I have heard several times before about parenting: "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body". This astoundingly accurate quote is from Elizabeth Stone and has replayed in my mind over and over again for many years.
So, what about the journey to parenthood? For some, it's instantaneous. For others, it could be an "oops!" moment. But for some (probably more than many admit), it's a struggle beyond what the heart and mind can comprehend. It's infertility.
"When are you going to start having babies?"
"You better get cracking! You're not getting any younger!"
"What's the matter? Don't you know how to do it?!"
Interesting little comments that seem harmless enough, until you're the one struggling with infertility. And, typically, it's not something that you openly share with everyone you come into contact with. So, you take a deep breath, smile gently and try to think of something simple or witty to say.
I'm always reminded of our infertility journey around this time of year, since it was in July that we were blessed to welcome a beautiful, tiny, strong little girl into our world. I'm giving away the ending before the story, but I will never forget the long road to parenthood that we had to experience. On my worst days, I can easily remind myself to always be thankful for the blessing of becoming a parent. There's nothing like it and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But let me back up for just a moment.
We were late to the game of "trying", but never had any reason to think that once we started, it would be simple. Getting pregnant should be as easy as a couple glasses of wine and a fun night in, right?
Well, it was at first. After three months of trying, I discovered I was pregnant! BOOM! That WAS easy! We were so excited and overwhelmed and nervous, but sooo very happy! I was going to be a mom! Wow! At six weeks along, I was telling everyone I knew, planning a registry, thinking about maternity clothes - I was in pregnancy euphoria! When we told my mother-in-law, she looked at me with wise, loving eyes and said "Just be careful. You really shouldn't tell anyone until after 12 weeks. Anything can happen.".
That was a buzzkill. What was she talking about? I'm pregnant, just like we planned. Everything will be fine.
At eight weeks along, we went to our scheduled OB ultrasound, and there in the haze of a black and white screen revealed a little white heartbeat fluttering away. See, everything is fine. What was there to worry about? I was going to have a baby.
"Just be careful. You really shouldn't tell anyone until after 12 weeks. Anything can happen."
Fast forward to three weeks later, and I knew something was very wrong. It was a normal workday and I had quickly popped into the restroom in between meetings to pee, which seemed to be happening more and more frequently as the pregnancy progressed. What I didn't expect was to see blood. A lot of blood. This couldn't be happening. We saw the heartbeat. The baby is growing. What is happening?
I flew out of the bathroom as fast as I could, called my husband and the doctor, and the rest of the story? Well, it didn't end as beautifully as we planned. We lost the baby. Devastated doesn't even begin to explain the pain of losing someone that we were just getting to know. The days that followed were a whirlwind of hospital visits, procedures, medications, and tears.
We had lost our baby.
I quickly remembered the words that my mother-in-law had said and simultaneously felt anger and understanding. See, she had experienced this in the past and was only trying to protect us. The wisdom in her eyes and in her words rang true to my heart. She knew what this loss was like.
Devastated doesn't even begin to explain the pain of losing someone that we were just getting to know.
The months that followed were filled with ups and downs and a huge mixture of emotions. The pain of the loss would start to fade and then I'd open my email inbox only to be hit with a reminder from some pregnancy website that would cheerfully remind me how big my baby should be. And all those people that I'd told that we were expecting? Well, it was like ripping off a band-aid over and over again when I would have to awkwardly explain that we had lost the baby. Lesson learned.
Slowly, we began to move forward and think about trying again. I mean, it happened once, fairly quickly, so why can't it happen again? Oh, fate can be a funny thing. I could not get pregnant. Three, four, six months went by and nothing. Only this time, it wasn't fun. It was like I was trying to compete with myself and prove that I could replace what we had already lost. It was a nasty little game of pain. And I was always the loser. More pain on top of pain. Oh, and those annoying, innocent questions that were mentioned earlier? Yeah, they didn't stop either. No relationship heartbreak had ever prepared me for pain like this.
After six months of trying, we decided to talk with our doctor. The initial recommendation was a simple medication to help move things along, if you will. So, we entered the world of Clomid. A small little pill that would be the first step into the world of fertility medications.
I was lucky enough to never be one of those women that experienced large shifts in my emotions during that time of the month. Cramps always seemed to be my biggest issue but never mood swings or shifting emotions. Clomid was my first experience with this and let's just say it was interesting. I was bloated and hungry all the time. Hello, elastic waist pants! Sometimes I would be on the verge of tears or get a case of the laughs and giggle at everything. And making a baby just wasn't fun. It was all about temperature taking and ovulation schedules, and so methodical and medicinal. And with no luck. Three months in, and nothing. What was going on?
It was finally time to be referred to a reproductive specialist. The big guns. No more messing around (pardon the pun!). We had to figure out what was going on. I mean, we had gotten pregnant before, so why wasn't it happening now? Frustration was building, feelings of sadness and confusion were swirling, bellies were bloated but not with a baby, only wildly, unpredictable hormones. Getting pregnant was really becoming a bummer.
We were nine months into trying again for a baby and it just felt like it was never going to happen. The sadness of losing the first baby was mounting on us like a gray rain cloud that just wouldn't let up. The rabbit hole of emotions had been mounting and I was beginning to run out of hope. Maybe I wasn't meant to be a mother? Maybe this just wasn't for us? Maybe I would be a horrible parent and this was the universe's way of subtly saying, "Nope, not for you.". I felt like a failure. I'd let my husband down, I'd let myself down, and all those people that said things like "What's wrong? Don't you know how to do it?". Well, maybe I didn't. Maybe I didn't know how to handle the terrible-twos and potty training, and breastfeeding and chore charts. Maybe I just wasn't cut out for parenting.
We were nine months into trying again for a baby and it just felt like it was never going to happen.
See, there's so much more to infertility than just popping a pill and getting a blood draw. There's a whole emotional side that no one can see or begin to understand unless they've gone through it. The self-doubt, the blame game between partners, the physical and emotional exhaustion of just wanting what seemingly everyone else can have so easily. It's confusing and heart-wrenching. It's running a marathon and not knowing when you're going to reach the end of the race. It is one huge question mark.
Yep, infertility sucks.
So, after many more appointments, examinations, medical histories, blood and other fluid samples, we were told we had "unexplained infertility". What. The. Hell?
Basically, there wasn't a defined conclusion as to why we couldn't get pregnant. He was fine. I was basically fine (Endometriosis, be damned.). But no answers could be found. So what was the resolution? More hormones! Yay! As if I hadn't been bloated or emotional enough, they decided that we needed to pull out the big guns - literally, injectable hormones right into my belly and butt, multiple times. So romantic. So hot. So, not like I imagined making a baby would be.
Side note, here: I recently watched the first season of Friends from College. There's an episode where the main couple decides to go through IVF. The bruises on her belly - spot on to my experience.
So romantic. So hot.
So, not like I imagined making a baby would be.
What is strange about going through any type of fertility treatment is that at the beginning of the cycle, you're filled with this amazing sense of hope and positivity. That THIS time, it's going to work! This time we're going to be parents! THIS time we will get pregnant!
Basically, we were given two options: we could try IUI (intra-uterine insemination), or as my husband lovingly calls the turkey-baster method, or IVF (in-vitro fertilization), where basically egg and sperm meet in the perfect environment and the magic happens outside of the uterus. We opted for option #1. First of all, the cost is much lower and second, we just weren't ready for that huge step of IVF. However...once again, fate has a funny way of intervening.
We followed the instructions for the hormone injections, faithfully showed up for all of our appointments (it became a 2nd job for us!), and patiently waited for our extraction day. This is the day that we find out how many eggs, if any, are produced on the injections. For some, it is a struggle to produce one egg, depending on the diagnosis. We needed just a few eggs for our first round of IUI. We were hopeful but nervous.
To our surprise, we were able to produce 28 eggs. Good news - we have eggs! Bad news? We have too many eggs for IUI, but if we switched to IVF, we would increase our chances of conceiving but the process would be a) more expensive and b) more physically intense. In a matter of 24 hours, we went from what was supposed to be a simple, relatively inexpensive attempt at conception to draining our savings and investing in well...hope. And maybe a little science.
I sit very still as she draws the blood sample. I've done this over a dozen times so far between the Clomid treatments and the initial evaluation of our fertility. But this blood draw was different. This held the answer to the ultimate question - did it finally work? My mind is racing - stay positive, this is meant to be. We were supposed to produce that many eggs. It insured that we were meant to be parents. We are going to be pregnant!
The next four hours are the longest of my life. I go to work and sit at my desk, anxiously awaiting the phone call that is the answer to our prayers!
The phone rings and a quiet, female voice asks me to confirm my name. This seems odd. Why isn't she happy? Why does she sound so automated? Why...oh, wait...of course, I understand.
I'm not pregnant.
Oh, this fertility bridge is endless.
To be continued...
Till next time - xo,