This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Most people don’t like to talk about infertility. The topic is deeply personal and has the potential to be very volatile. It can make people uncomfortable, so most tend to stay away from it altogether.
I’ve never been one of those people.
I’ve always been very vocal about my struggle with subfertility. I won’t call myself infertile because my path to motherhood was so much shorter and easier than the vast majority of women with fertility issues. But however small or large my fertility issues are, they are mine and my feelings are very real. So here is my story.
The Mister and I decided that on my 27th birthday in November of 2007, we would ditch the birth control pills and “see what happens.” I had visions in my head of being pregnant by Valentine’s Day and surprising him with a cheesy card or a positive pregnancy test wrapped in a cute little package. Because all good Southern Baptist girls know that if you have sex without protection, you WILL GET PREGNANT. Right? True Love Waits girls, back me up here. So I thought by seeing what would happen, I would fall pregnant very soon. Well, what happened was a whole lot of NOTHING. By February, I still hadn’t even had a period. So I went to my lady doctor. She prescribed me progesterone to force a period, and also Metformin to try to get my hormones regulated so that I might be a little more regular.
During this time I also started charting, so I know that my next cycle after the progesterone cycle lasted 111 days. So back to the doctor we went in June. My Metformin was upped. Nada. She mentioned putting me on Clomid, and I was very anxious to get that ball rolling. So I got another round of progesterone and a prescription for Clomid, and I was to start it on August 1.
Also in the last week of July, my BWF (best work friend) dropped The Bomb: she was 10 weeks pregnant. I was devastated. She had gotten pregnant her second month off birth control after intentionally avoiding the first month. It took everything I had in me to stop myself from crying all day. Luckily the Mister and I were scheduled to go out of town for a long weekend, so I didn’t have to be in the office for the rest of the week to hear the congratulations and well wishes. I felt horrible. But I didn’t just feel horrible for me because I couldn’t get pregnant that easily. I felt horrible for feeling horrible. I felt awful that I made her have to consider my feelings when sharing the happiest news of her life. She said later that she intentionally told me that day because she knew I would be out of the office the next two days and she hoped it would blow over by the time I got back. While I was grateful for that, it made me feel about an inch tall that she was HOPING HER PREGNANCY NEWS WOULD BLOW OVER FOR MY SAKE. I was incredibly happy for BWF. But I was so filled with envy and jealousy. And the hits just kept coming. Our best friends from college shared the news that they were expecting, sending me into another tailspin of despair. All over Facebook and the blogosphere, people were sharing pregnancy news. And I hated it. Moreover, I started to not like myself very much for feeling this way toward my friends.
First round of Clomid (50mg) = BFN. So in mid-September, we did 100mg and began using a ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor in addition to charting. On Tuesday, October 14, 2008, I went to the doctor for a follow-up. Blood test was negative. We were crushed. The doctor said that it was still very early judging by my date of ovulation, so we shouldn’t lose hope just then. Whatever, it’s a bust, I thought. So I went to work after my appointment. That afternoon, I used the restroom, wiped, and saw the tiniest spot of blood on the paper. Oh great, I thought. Here comes my period.
Turns out that was implantation spotting. Since I never got a period after the spotting, I took a pregnancy test on October 23 at the direction of my doctor. I did the deed, handed the test to the Mister to put on the bathroom counter, and buried my face in my hands, resigned to yet another negative. The Mister looked at the test, smiled really big, and showed it to me. I was pregnant! After 11 months off birth control, 8 months of Metformin, 2 forced periods, 2 rounds of Clomid, countless pregnancy tests, and even more tears, I was finally pregnant.
And I was terrified. During my 11 months spent trying to get pregnant, I had become involved in message boards and started reading blogs of other women who were trying to conceive. Women who had been trying to get pregnant for years and years, had failed adoptions, miscarriages, still births, infants who passed away. I began to realize how lucky I was. How easily I got off. But instead of feeling joy and happiness, I spent the next eight months scared out of my mind that something was going to go wrong. Google is the Devil when you are pregnant or trying to conceive. First I convinced myself that I would never get pregnant, and then after I was pregnant I was convinced that there was no way this pregnancy would end well.
My pregnancy did end well, although labor did not go like I had planned and I ended up having to have a C-section. But I spent nine months worrying about the unthinkable happening. I had a perfect pregnancy, but I feel like I didn’t get to enjoy it. I feel like infertility robbed me of the happiness that women should feel during pregnancy. Such horrible things had happened to so many women. What did I do to deserve my little boy? A perfect pregnancy? ONLY 11 months of trying and two rounds of Clomid. People try for years and years and never get pregnant. Why me and not them?
My subfertility has taken away other things. I will likely never have a “surprise” pregnancy. I will never get to shock my husband with a “Guess what? I’M PREGNANT!” Our next pregnancy, should we be so blessed, will likely require as much planning and intervention as the last, if not more. But would I change things if I could go back? Yes and no. Of course I would like to spare myself the year of uncertainty, of emotional pain and doctor’s copays and hormonal fits of rage. But like my mother said, if I hadn’t gotten pregnant at exactly that time with exactly that sperm and egg, I wouldn’t have this particular baby. This baby boy that I love more than my very life, more than the air I breathe. So if that’s what it took to have this baby, then I would do it a thousand times over because I love this baby with every fiber of my being.
I have also learned so much through my struggle. I have learned more about my body than I ever thought I would care to know. I am in tune with every twinge and pinch, every ache and hormone fluctuation. I have learned patience. I have learned to let go of my plans and roll with the punches. I have learned how to be more sensitive to the feelings of others. I will NEVER tell a woman who is trying to get pregnant to “just relax,” as I was told countless times by well-intentioned but uninformed friends and family members. Relaxing would not have helped my situation, and nothing infuriated me more than being told that, not in so many words, that my inability to get pregnant was my fault because I was stressing out about it. I have learned to be aware of my audience and watch what I say, because I would be absolutely heartbroken if I hurt another woman still in the trenches with flippant words or actions. I have learned that my difficulty in getting pregnant was NOT a divine mandate from God that I not have children. It was a physiological situation that modern medicine and technology could rectify, not a judgment on me or my potential as a parent. The words “maybe it’s just not meant to be” can cut a woman to her very core, and I KNOW IT’S NOT TRUE.
So there it is. That’s my story, as scattered and disjointed as it may read. I will never be silent about this issue because it is so close to my heart. If women (and men) talked about infertility, then it would no longer be a taboo subject. So talk about it. What’s your story?