I wanted to preface by saying that this was a private ‘diary’ of sorts since writing is and always has been an outlet for me. You’ll hear me go through all sorts of thoughts and emotions which is what this entire thing has been about. What is supposed to be the most exciting, happy, natural and ultimate ‘surprise’ is not what we are experiencing. We remain optimistic but also realistic with results and the process. Prayers are appreciated and needed.
There are some personal details and possible triggers for some so please understand I am sharing to help others in our position feeling so extremely alone, lost and feel like they have no one to talk to. You are far from alone. You can talk to me.
This is a very personal and intimate process having to deal with biology. We are not ashamed or hiding our struggles but there are some things we won’t publish online but don’t feel like there’s something you cannot respectfully ask me in private. Thanks for reading and I wish you all the best.
Infertile. What a gross word, right?
I’m not a shriveling plant or some abandoned wasteland. When I was ‘classified’ as infertile at 26 years old I hated saying that word. Why so negative?
Instead of infertility appointment, I wanted to call it a fertility appointment.
Instead of seeing an infertility specialist, I told myself I saw a fertility specialist.
In my mind if I had to use the same word that describes soil for my hopes and dreams of having a family, I would err on the positive side.
I was never one to have baby fever and honestly still don’t. I think of the fever as something that aches, creeping up on you, overwhelming you and you need medicine (aka baby) to make it all better.
I am a complete person without a child, my husband is a complete person and together we’ve decided we’re ready to share all this love with a tiny, loud, possibly messier than our dog(s) version of half him and half me. That’s insane.
I have always wanted to be a mom. I grew up in a large family. I was the oldest cousin, an older sister, an aunt and a babysitter. I lead 4-Hers and taught swim lessons as a lifeguard. I coached young dancers and babysat I don’t know how many kids every week. I’ve never shied away from starting a water fight but I also never shied away from discipline. I have always been surrounded by kids, loved kids and knew someday I would be a fantastic mom.
I thought after years of being told to ‘be careful’ and avoiding any surprise pregnancy, maybe it was time to stop the pill I was on for 11.5 years and let things be.
That was May 2018.
We had dated, we were married, we had a nice house, a dog and the income to support a family. We thought it would be great to have at least one child before he deployed. No pressure, right? Because that was soooo weird to me that people would be that obsessed with having a child that they would get worked up.
Then it happened to me.
After a year of trying to conceive (officially), my doctor pulled out a black and white pamphlet filled with front to back numbers and names and started writing on it. There were instructions on specific days of specific things I had to do and who to call before I called someone else. There was a checklist for my husband and I to complete.
“Do all of these and then you will schedule an appointment to meet with an infertility specialist.”
But I shouldn’t need to do that? I’m not infertile?
I’ve been in for ultrasounds, blood work and examinations. They’ve found cervical ectropian and cysts and polyps but nothing that ‘should hinder or interfere.’ I had never had exposure to dangerous chemicals or diseases. I was normal. At this point.
That was October 2018.
We started ‘trying’ when I was 25 and now I was 26. I was young. I still had plenty of time. Everyone told me.
I didn’t smoke. I drank socially. I exercised – not too much, not too little.
I ate a healthy, balanced diet. I wasn’t underweight or overweight.
Minus a few curveballs, I had always considered myself normal, common, young and healthy. And now I was being labeled as something else.
About 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
I was part of the ten percent. I was 1 in 8. I was a statistic. And I didn’t feel like it.
I had taken prenatals and fertility supplements long before most people do and was praised by doctors. Gold star for me!
I ate pineapple core (never again), drank pomegranate juice ($$$), used a blossom cup (don’t ask) and learned all the TTC vocabulary. I had no idea the strict schedule and complexity it took to get pregnant and was dumbfounded this happened for so many people unplanned. They said the fun part was trying…had they even needed to try? I decided anyone who says that, didn’t.
The months kept droning on and I started to fall into the routine so many other women/couples know all too well.
- First thing when you wake up, don’t move too much, don’t open your mouth, take your temperature. Lay there. Record.
- Ok now go and pee into a cup. Test for ovulation or pregnancy. Negative? Again. Record.
- Afternoon rolls around. Don’t drink or pee for 2-3 hours. Repeat the cup thing.
- Do the yoga. Don’t buy those clothes because you won’t wear that next month when you’re bloated.
- Try the massage. Probably shouldn’t drink that alcohol, just in case. Only one cup of coffee a day. No lunch meat. Leafy greens.
- Ok, I can drink at my friend’s wedding and won’t get sick on the plane. Bright side!
Wait another two weeks.
Oh, that DEFINITELY worked!
Is it because I wasn’t praying enough?
Was I being taught a lesson in something?
Does He not think I’m ready or good enough?
For one year that repeated itself. Every day, Every two weeks, I was living my life this way. I quickly understood how ladies could get so caught up because you literally have to do at least two things DAILY, no matter what, and then you toss in a husband’s schedule and life. It’s a mental f***fest.
It’s not cute. It’s easy to see it as a duty or job needing done instead of the most exciting, life changing times of your life.
I tried for so long to be realistically optimistic. But this is something that wears on you and it is all too easy to get in a support group and mourn with others. It’s easy to get sucked in to this identity before you even realize that’s all that consumes you. All through the holidays I imagined telling our families the exciting news but it didn’t happen. I dreaded responding to questions or acting like people complaining about their kids didn’t stab me in the heart.
In December, I had gotten my first positive ovulation test and we were on vacation. No way we missed a thing. No way it didn’t work. I was experiencing intense, tell-tale symptoms. I purchased the items I wanted to surprise him with when I went to buy a pregnancy test.
My husband was gone and we had no communication so there I was, in a quiet, dark house and I bawled. If you could even call something that intense bawling. If that didn’t work out, how the hell was it supposed to work?
What’s wrong with me? What did I do wrong?
Is it because I was doing burpees and not enough yoga?
Is it because I had a few beers that weekend?
Why doesn’t God want me to be a mom?
How is this happening so easily for others? Did they struggle? Were they trying? Are they grateful? I was genuinely happy for each couple 1) Because they didn’t have to experience this and 2) Because this had nothing to do with scarcity.
I bawled and I just couldn’t stop. It was just a no good very bad day and I felt like a fool (like I had for many months) when I was obviously not pregnant but assumed I could be. I had been sad and cried before but this day was a pivotal difference.
I was distracted from work, exactly like I am now, so I did what I’m doing now. I wrote everything that was racing in my mind down on paper. Here’s a few lines from
January 14, 2019.
“…I don’t want to share with Mom, Dad or my sister because I don’t want to break their hearts.”
“I feel crazy when I try telling my husband this is the first time I’ve really broken down.”
“I know it’s still early compared to some couples but that doesn’t make the disappointment every month any easier.”
“I’m tired of feeling empty and failed. I want my body to do what it’s meant to do.”
“He has been so good to me. I know this will come. I know I’m doing what I can. I know I’m not being punished and he wants this for me and for us. I will try to repeat this to myself and remember it regularly. It won’t always be easy. I won’t automatically be happy but it’ll always be true.”
I folded up that four page letter and tucked it into the journal that holds our wedding vows and anniversary notes. I knew I would read it again someday with 20/20 hindsight and say what everyone kept telling me. “It was all worth it.”
And I walked by the empty room I thought at least once a month that we should clean out because….but we never did. Much like that room, my heart, mind and soul were filled with clutter that didn’t matter and there was a whole lot of hope and expectation built up, just waiting for something that
would never come wasn’t coming.
Then back to life. Real life. Not the one I had daydreamed in my head. Sometimes it feels better to just leave that door shut. It was the dark spot in our hallway we referred to as anything but nursery.
You haven’t failed God and God hasn’t failed you. Your pain and suffering will be used to showcase his glory.
-It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado
Those feelings built up along with frustration, resentment, and anger. Each time something came up, like having four pre-cancerous moles removed from my body, I decided it was a good use of my time to get all of these things out of the way. Let that be a reminder to get your skin checked!
Fast forward to my next (and biggest.. so far ;)) breakdown. Just to lay it all out there in case you feel like you’re the only one. Hey, girl. Let’s buy stock in Kleenex together.
It was June 2019.
According to the charts (ohhh, sexy!) I would be able to find out right before Father’s Day and surprise my husband. At this point I had been poked, prodded, tested, consulted and told to wait. What does the hospital do with my gallons of blood they’ve surely had by now? I felt the symptoms and optimism and hopefulness. I bought a card just in case.
I didn’t get a chance to see the negative test.
Yet again, I cried. I was upset. I was devastated. But I had done that to myself. Yet again, thinking everything differently I had tried had worked. Thinking the timing was perfect. Believing it would happen before we had to go any further with doctors with something that should happen naturally.
But there I was. Mind racing and blank at the same time. Wanting to talk to someone but no one who would understand. There is nothing that makes you more sick to your core than pouring your pain out to someone and hearing ‘It’s just not meant to be right now’. ‘It will happen when it happens.’
I ended up locking myself in an upstairs bathroom, turned the fan on so he couldn’t hear my uncontrollable sobs and it just kept coming out. I was overwhelmed with grief I didn’t even know was there. I tried to stop but physically couldn’t.
Every month for over a year I had felt every stage of optimism, hopefulness, anger, guilt and grief. Things a human experiences sparingly after huge life events and mine were changing on a daily and two-week basis.
And why should those feelings even come over me? I’m young and healthy. Right? That’s what everyone keeps telling me like it makes things any better. Nope. It only makes them more confusing because, if that were the case, then this wouldn’t/shouldn’t be happening.
There are people who go through a hell of a lot more than me for a hell of a lot longer so I don’t have it that bad and can’t be upset, right?
Wrong, btw, it’s fair for you to let this thought cross your mind but it absolutely does not diminish what you’re going through. Just because you have a stitch and they have a broken arm doesn’t mean the stitch didn’t hurt.
Pain is pain. No one gets to tell you it doesn’t hurt because or at least xyz.
Read this again. No matter how long or how short amount of time you have been trying, your pain is still valid. You can feel angry, disappointed, sad and resentful for a minute. No one can say they’ve had it worse to discredit what you’re feeling. If anything, that should make them more empathetic.
There’s no family history. Very few of my friends have experienced this yet. Anyone who had was states away or also fighting their own battles. One we couldn’t help the other with.
I felt as alone as I did sitting on the floor of my closet-sized bathroom.
What hurt me this time was knowing I would actually have to move forward, closer to the infertility appointment. What hurt me most was the fact that my husband; loving, caring, hopeful and always talking of a family we still had to wait on, someone I married with dreams of being the best father I had ever imagined…and we had no answers. Father’s Day would be a sad reminder just like Mother’s Day had been.
I finally let it out to him. No more keeping that spark alive, keeping the nitty gritty to myself or pretending to be as lighthearted as he was.
This is the same man who told me ‘Masterpieces take time to create.’
He is sympathetic, he can comfort and console, but there’s no way for any guy to really get it. Looking back I realized men want to be fixers and strong for you so they rarely share how this is affecting them. I mistook his optimism for nonchalance but it was really comfort. More on why that’s so important later.
They don’t temp every morning, they don’t pee and test it one to two times a day for days or weeks in a row, they don’t feel the sore, achy muscles, the blinding headaches, the cramping or the gutted feeling of getting a period you hoped wouldn’t show back up. The most invasive test they have is a good time in a sample jar they discreetly drop off. No invasion, no prodding, no poking, no pinching, probing, pulling. tracking or bad news. His blood draws- 0. My blood draws-couldn’t even tell you.
There’s no way he knew I had already purchased books which were now collecting dust on a bottom shelf and the surprise announcement gift stuffed away in a drawer. The way my decisions and life choices had subconsciously been altered.
When I said “It’s okay” in response to the disappointed “Awww”s, when I heard “Babies are a lot of work” and thought “Well no shit”, when people asked if we had kids and I stumbled on a response that would be socially polite (Not Yet) or one that would be uncomfortable but would stop the interrogation (What am I waiting for? Well, nothing, it’s just not happening. Oh, give it time? Thanks, Linda, haven’t hear that before. So helpful.)
Friday, June 28, 2019
The next step was an HSG. We’ve all got Google so go right ahead watching those videos and doing the research but basically it was my first ‘procedure’ toward fertility and the last step before I could make an appointment with the specialist.
24 hours before I had my blood drawn and labs worked up to prove what I already know. Tank was empty. As with anything on this journey, you feel bared to the world. It’s going in for a test you know you will fail.
You wear the open gown, place your feet in an uncomfortable position with strangers in the room and feel the ‘slight pressure’ (it’s never slight) of tools, the intense pinching of a catheter and then the longest, strongest cramp you can imagine and only hope is preparing you for labor. I have yet to meet a single woman who has had this done and said it wasn’t the worst thing she’s ever felt.
I was told if they were painful it could mean there were blockages that got cleared out. I was optimistic but wanted to remain realistic. Many people experience success after this procedure so I was relieved to be one step closer and I was hopeful. But not too hopeful.
If you’ve been in this position you will understand that balance of wanting to be optimistic but not getting your hopes up. When I book something on my calendar and think ‘Oh, I could know by then.’ I quickly remind myself ‘Or not’ because I’ve had 12+ months of decisions influenced by possibilities. When my husband would create a story about ‘When our kid…’ I instantly shut down. I know someday we will be parents because we are meant to be; even if it can’t happen naturally.
No, I never assumed it would happen first try but I also didn’t think it would go on this long. The best thing I can learn from this is that not more people than you think experience this but it feels like none of them exist for you to talk to. I would have never understood what those women were going through until I went through it myself. And I know I still have a long way to go.
When you’re going through this and it seems you have no one who can relate to you, it can be boldly obvious when you’re speaking to friends and family. They mean well. But they more than likely have no idea what you’ve experienced or felt.
Maybe you are a friend or family member of someone struggling with infertility. Maybe you’re one of my friends or family members reading this and realizing you said something. Don’t worry. I know your heart is in the right place. Unless you’ve been there, you haven’t been there. It is not your place to say much. Your job is listening and supporting.
Let me tell you. It sucks.
You can just say that sucks. Say you’re there to talk.
Don’t say Just Relax, Don’t Stress, Don’t Worry. Just say you’re sorry.
Don’t say there are other ways we can have a family, ask if he wears boxers or briefs or that we shouldn’t have to do that much… because we already think about these things constantly. Also, you’re not a doctor and all of those things are super weird. It’s not one or the other’s fault. We’re in this together.
Sometimes it’s hard to hear you complain about being pregnant or about your kids. Sometimes we’re back to thinking it’s funny. Be mindful.
Don’t minimize what’s happening with comments like ‘Well, enjoy this time to sleep/travel/save money/etc.’
Don’t say how we are young or healthy and have plenty of time. What’s happening is medically considered for more intensive measures. Sure, it might increase our chances but it obviously doesn’t guarantee success.
Don’t say I need Vegas bombs or what helped you or what helped someone else.
Don’t ask every time we talk if ‘We’ve got a baby yet.’ If I have something to say, I will reach out. Just let me know you’re willing to listen.
If a friend who is struggling tells you they’re having X diagnosis or Y procedure, it’s super likely they don’t want to nor know how to answer your questions. It’s also not your business. Expect they will tell you what they want to tell you and GOOGLE or research what they say if you’re curious to learn what they’re going through. Don’t ask. Just look it up. And support.
*This is a crowd favorite.* It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. Just stop trying. (Nothing shows more ignorance than to tell someone trying to conceive to stop trying. You obviously have no idea what it takes.)
Don’t say how it could be worse or with miscarriages at least you can get pregnant, etc. etc. Stick to the damn script.
- I’m sorry to hear that.
- What can I do to help?
- Do you want to talk about it?
- I’m here to listen, whenever you need me.
- I wish I knew what to say to comfort you.
- I wish there something I could do or say that would make it all better.
There are tons of other articles and resources online to learn about specific conditions or how you can help. Again, Google. We’ve got to keep them in business.
July 18, 2019 I had my first Infertility Specialist appointment. I really liked the nurse and each doctor I spoke with. I was optimistic. We were dealing with me and we found out the first answer in an abnormal sperm analysis.
This would mean we would have to go through ICSI-IVF in order to have children of our own. Even though I’m writing this hours after the appointment and a super long blood draw and urine sample (more, more, more) I feel okay. I feel like I am still in shock that something so intense that my mind was so far away from considering has now been moved to the front of the list.
I feel relief that we finally found an answer and that my mind can have a break from the mental torture it’s been going through.
I feel dread for having to break the news to my husband and the emotions he will feel from this news.
But if I ever get disappointing results back I know it might be ‘me’ but you’re both in this together. It wouldn’t be possible without both of you and that includes support and encouragement.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
I had my blood drawn Thursday or Friday and had my ‘day threes‘ drawn Monday. I had more blood work done yesterday (only one vile this time) which was great because I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. It was also the first time I had it drawn from the side of arm near the outside of the elbow, too. It didn’t hurt at all so I don’t know if she had done this because she knew that secret or because she was trying to avoid the other healing needle-entry holes and bruising.
But today we got answer number two. Even though it was ‘bad’ news it was a good day. I had a SIS done (also called a SHG. Again just click the link to learn more) and while I had some PTSD from the HSG I was hopeful this SHG wouldn’t be near as bad based on what I had watched and heard from the internet.
In my opinion, the catheter is still the worse part but at that point, it wasn’t bad at all.
While they were there I could see everything working and growing properly except for a 2 cm endometrial polyp. This was large, filling up a majority of the cavity where I was supposed to have an empty black space. Not only was this the cause of my constant battle of pain and spotting but it could also be something that interferes with implantation. We made a plan for a surgery August 20 (hysteroscopy) and I started birth control that evening. Nothing worse or more ironic during TTC than being put back on birth control.
I was excited we found the answer to a personal pain point but also optimistic that if this were fixed, and if my husband’s second round of testing improved this could mean all we’d need is medication…if not, at least I would be ready for the IVF cycle.
For months I had asked if this was the problem and for months I was ignored, shrugged off or rejected. I don’t want to play the ‘what if’ game at this point but I hope in reading that you realize to keep pushing, asking and advocating for yourself. You know what you’re experiencing.
Fight for an answer.
Another thing I noticed this month were more ‘God’ signs. My church offers live streams online but there’s also something powerful about physically sitting there surrounded by the congregation’s energy. This month’s messaging revolved around marriage and families: two things that desperately needed our attention at this time.
Each service I attended I was the first to take my seat in an empty row with plenty of space around me for others. Then, toward the start of the service, a mother with an infant sat in front of me. The second time this happened a couple with twins sat to my left. That was right after the news we would more than likely have to do IVF. Multiple pregnancies (aka twins) are very likely with IVF. I felt like these were nudges even if they were simple coincidence.
During the sermon they were talking about the six reasons and purposes marriage serves. One of them was to ‘multiply, fill the earth and protect children.’ He made a side note that couples who want children but for one reason or another are not able to have them that God is not disappointed in you. I cried in church, trying to hide these triggers from strangers. My head space was much better this week but I still teared up. And I still left the door to that room closed.
Considering this is a fundamental human function, conception isn’t as simple as you think.. A couple with no known fertility issues has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving each cycle (month). This means they have a 75-80% chance of coming up empty. – What To Expect Before You’re Expecting
People who say ‘Just relax’…do you get it now?
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
For the last few weeks I have been seeing signs. Not like the creepy movie! The kind you look for when you’re seeking hope in a higher being, expecting the right things to happen at the right time…wishing, praying and clarifying what’s really important to you. If you look around your room right now notice everything that is red.
Do it. Look around and find every red thing.
Now close your eyes (or, okay don’t look up from the screen) and tell me what was blue.
Our blessings and signs are like that. We’re looking for the one way we know of to get there, the one way we expect it to happen, and maybe don’t see that our path could look different. Our blessings are disguised in the mundane, the unexpected…and out of the blue.
We recently took a trip to Savannah, GA and noticed several ‘signs’. One was that we could enjoy this trip in the first place, carefree-ly downing great food and drinks. Utilizing a one-bedroom apartment in downtown up several flights of stairs. Things that are convenient for us at this stage still. We were wondering around town and noticed a storefront called ‘Harper’ which is our longtime favorite pick for a girl’s name. We ate at The Grey and received a cute postcard with a family and a dog that resembled ours. We felt reaffirmed and optimistic about the appointments and surgeries the next two weeks would hold.
Then today. Today I was sitting with my counselor and we were talking about the recent news of moving to a location that wasn’t our first choice. A little bratty, right? Why did people who suck at their job get their first choice, yet we were being sent to a place we specifically hoped we wouldn’t get?
She said “I’m not sure why but I just got this really positive, overwhelming feeling that this will be a good move for y’all. I feel like that’s where you’ll meet your family. Not just your biological kids but you’re chosen family. I’ve heard they have an amazing FRG.”
Flash forward to 2021 when I am re-reading this. She was right.
I started crying.
Maybe it was because I had been stupidly emotional all day from these hormones I was on but I also felt like that was an angel or voice sent to tell me that. It lined up perfectly with things my husband and I had talked about and most of which I had never mentioned to her.
Including a story my husband had told me.
When we were a few months new, still talking, he was heading to see family while they were stationed at this same location we’re moving to next year. As he placed his little sister into a highchair he got this mega-flash-forward of that being him and I with a family, also traveling home to visit for the holidays, with our own family. It was a full circle. It was meant to be.
At this point things are getting a little long so I’m probably going to make another section for the surgeries, procedures and treatments.
As I sit here writing this, waiting for the next answer or next step, the next negative or the first positive test, I want to let you know I see you. I hear you. I feel for you.
I’m not saying baby dust because WTF is that? The stuff that makes unicorns?
Instead I will say
I know this sucks.
I’m always here to talk or listen, whenever you need me.
I am you. I see you. I am with you. I cry with you.
I love you.