Infertility has been the umbrella we’ve lived under for the past 4 and a half of our 7 years of marriage. It’s strange to think that we have lived with this burden longer than without, as husband and wife. It’s also extremely difficult to adequately describe the impact that this journey has brought, in absolutely every single area of life. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best.
I’ll be writing about how all of this started, up until today, in this and my next post. That way, future posts can be current, and function as updates 🙂
Get cozy, this is a long one!
After almost three years of marriage, I was starting to yearn for the next phase of our life – definitely a struggle for me. I’ve always placed too much value in moving, moving, moving. Resting in one state has been really difficult for me. This is something I know the Lord has been teaching over these years. Be still! And yet, I’m incredibly rebellious and have not weathered this part of the storm very well. In fact, the primary reason I have stayed off Instagram and Facebook is because I stand no chance at remaining sane or content, with images of “perfection” in my face all day long. Honestly, I don’t know how people do it.
Christmas came in May that year because Sean told me he thought we were ready, financially, to try for a baby. Well, as “ready” as twenty somethings can be, really. Finances had been the only thing holding us back from trying at that point, and I’ll never forget him telling me “let’s try.” My heart exploded. The idea that it wouldn’t actually be very easy, literally never entered my mind.
The next day (seriously, I move quickly), I had scheduled an appointment with the OB/GYN to get “checked out” as healthy and ready to go. I also stopped at the bookstore to grab a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” That book was devoured within a week, and my appointment went perfectly. I was told we’d probably be pregnant by Christmas (worst thing she could have told me, it turns out).
Seven months later, Christmas morning, and there’s no baby bump. No “surprise!” baby shoes as our gift to my parents. No cute Christmas tree silhouette bump pose. Just us and Luna Bear. Now let me say this – I was being so ungrateful. I mean, I had an amazing husband, lovely home, food in our fridge, etc. Things were not actually “bad” for us. It was more that the great blessing of never wanting for anything as a child was turning into a rather confusing collision of unmet expectations as an adult.
My eyes were being slowly opened to happily-maybe never-after, and it was completely rocking my world.
The stirrings of “oh gosh, are we doing something wrong?” and “Um…she said it should’ve happened by now!” began creeping into my mind at this point.
One year in. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” said I should make an appointment with the doctor at this point. You better believe I was scheduling an appointment the moment we were at the year mark. This waiting stuff was awful.
After my visit, which again showed all was well, I had a referral for blood work (came back fine), instructions for taking my Basal Body Temperature (BBT), and encouragement to use ovulation tests for a few months. “Let’s just see if it’s a timing thing, rather than something serious.”
This began the research phase for me. “What to Expect” was child’s play. It was time for medical journals, .org’s – the big guns. Pretty soon, the lingo was pouring out of me. Poor husband did such a good job of keeping up with all of this, and letting me work through it all in my own way. This was uncharted territory for both of us.
I had so many apps for tracking, and was CONSTANTLY on support forums and participating in temperature chart comparison groups. For about six months, those stranger-friends were an incredible source of comfort. We’d commiserate when “Aunt Flow” came, and rejoice when someone triumphed with a BFP (Big Fat Positive – pregnancy test reference). We’d post pictures of our temperature charts to determine if we’d actually ovulated (something my body always did), and then read way too much into them to see if we could be pregnant earlier than a test would tell us (elevated temps after ovulation have been linked with pregnancy.). We would even recommend bizarre ways of ensuring fertilization and implantation – eat fresh pineapple the first five days after ovulation, use Soft Cups after sex to hold the sperm in, use PreSeed for faster sperm travel, and more.
The TWW (two week wait) was agonizing. Two weeks of analyzing my temperature, wondering if this twinge or that smell or my blasted insomnia were early pregnancy symptoms. The rush of hope as I waited for the line to show, the bloodied fingers as I would tear the test apart to see if there was even the faintest line on the strip. The complete and overwhelming disappointment when it never showed. The hot, burning tears when the cramps increased and I knew what was coming…
My word, the whole thing would take my breath away.
Every month. On repeat. The rise of hope, the crushing sadness. The grieving of loss, missing of one I haven’t even met.
From the May appointment until August, I tried these new timing tactics. FX (fingers crossed) that this was the solution.
In August, I called the doctor and shared that it still hadn’t worked. What do I do? To this, she said we should try Clomid for three months (an ovulation inducing fertility medication and go-to for OB/GYN’s in these situations).
The next three months, I put my body through the ringer. Oh my goodness the hot flashes were horrid.
Clomid tricks your body into thinking it’s going into menopause, which stimulates the ovaries to produce more eggs than normal. Thus, your ovaries run the risk for over stimulation. Mine were never diagnosed as over stimulated, but they were still SO painful. I could just feel they were enormous, and the cramping and soreness was garbage. Bleh.
I’d do anything, though, for a baby of my own. To look down and see my husband’s eyes, or my fingers, hear his laugh, brush my hair. Biologically, I craved a copy of us. That’s the most basic way I can describe the feeling. Very primitive, but undeniably real.
All I want for Christmas
By the end of the Clomid rounds, we were faced with deciding to try Femara (still for Ovulation), or getting an HSG (hysterosalpinogogram) done to see if my fallopian tubes were blocked.
Here’s the issue: In South Carolina, infertility is NOT covered by most insurance provided through an employer. Definitely wasn’t (and isn’t) for us. Some states require that this be covered through employer insurance policies. Some couples have even moved to those states, simply to make it through these tests and procedures.
At this point, the decision to try Femara was because we couldn’t afford the HSG, not because we thought it would actually make a difference. I have to say, though, simply having SOMETHING in the works was psychologically better than the alternative. So, I was willing to try this other medication because it felt like I was doing something.
By the time December rolled around, I was sick of the side effects. Both medications caused me to have hot flashes, and I just knew ovulation wasn’t my problem.
That holiday season was really rough. True depression was setting in, and it was getting tough to keep going. Like, dark thoughts were happening. My two best friends were also heavily pregnant by now, and my heart felt like it had been through a meat grinder.
How to be happy for someone when the sight of them causes you to physically ache because of the reminder of what is not? How to rejoice, when you want to die?
To this day, I can’t explain how the Lord brought me through this particular part of the journey. How He preserved my friendships, and gave those girls the grace to deal with me. How I actually did end up being truly happy for them, while slowly dying inside. No clue. He is just so good. And those girls are just so special.
What a beautiful thing to learn about friendship. True friendship. It really does transcend circumstances. How was I able to listen to her complain about painful ribs and exhaustion without begrudging her those experiences? How was she able to listen to me complain about how everyone’s pregnancies were killing me, without offending her? I don’t know! But it happened, and I still love her to pieces.
New Year, New Life, New Plan
After the holiday season (finally) passed, it was nearly time for my friend’s babies to be born. There was a weird adjustment I went through during the 9 months leading up to that time, where I came to a general acceptance of what had happened and what was coming (when I was face-to-face with those friends, at least. Behind closed doors it was always another matter.). The nearer D-Day came, though, the more that reluctant calm began to dissolve. The more afraid I was to be in their homes, to see the growing baby supplies, growing bumps.
I wouldn’t say I started panicking, but I did start feeling super unstable throughout January. Just emotionally out of control. So many times, Sean would find me in a random part of our house (closet floor was a favorite for some reason) crying to the point that I wasn’t even making a sound.
I don’t know if you’ve every cried like that. I hope you haven’t. Truly. It makes me think of Hannah in 1 Samuel. The priest actually thought she was drunk, because she was crying to the point of incoherence. This is almost exactly how it was for me. My body hurt with the absence of life. I was so torn by the head knowledge that I needed to be content with whatever God would or would not bring my way, and the heart breaking I was actually going through. I felt guilty for not weathering this the right way, angry that I had done everything “right” while others, who had “not”, were getting pregnant left and right. Desperately sad for what I was not sharing with my husband, isolated because people are ignorant and empathy is not a widespread gift.
February was to be the big month for my friends, and we had a vacation planned for during that time. I don’t think it was intentional, but I’m really glad it fell during that period. It helps to get away sometimes.
Just prior to setting off on our cruise in February, I went to the doctor to talk about depression. I wanted to know if what I was experiencing was valid, and how to handle it. All the research said it was really bad to be stressed or anxious when TTC (trying to conceive), so I wanted to kick that in the butt ASAP.
This was one of the best appointments I have had throughout the entire journey. She completely validated what I was feeling, and explained that I had “situational depression” and that it was completely normal for women going through infertility. I left the appointment with a script for a low dose of medication, and have been on it ever since. Let me tell you – depression is real. If it weren’t, medicine wouldn’t help.
My life was changed, and probably saved, because of that tiny blue pill.
***Side note: I choose, as a Christian, to view medication for depression the way I look at a flu vaccine. Using medicine to help with an illness is not a rejection of God and his sufficiency or sovereignty. It’s a blessing, and I’m thankful for it. Maybe I’ll write about that one of these days. Not today, though.
With this new plan, I began to really level out emotionally. The highs and lows weren’t as high and low. I felt free to be myself. To enjoy books, movies, Sean, life. I had perspective, which I mourned the loss of during those dark days. I knew I was losing it, but it was very much like sinking into quicksand – you know what’s happening, but absolutely cannot stop it, and cannot escape on your own.
The other parts of this aforementioned “plan” were that in between taking the Femara and February, we’d saved what we needed in order to afford the HSG and also to have Sean checked out.
So, those were scheduled for March, and I felt okay as we moved toward those dates…
Check back on Wednesday for part 2!