This past week I had the pleasure of connecting with another nutrition blogger about a topic we were both interested in educating folks about. Through our interactions, we both learned that we had something else in common, our struggles with infertility. While I am no longer fighting that battle, I can sympathize with what she is going through. I wish I could take her out for coffee, give her a hug and share my story with her, but we live on opposite sides of the country so that is not possible. So often the individuals who struggle with this problem remain silent; for whatever reason. I was silent about my problems for a long time too. It’s not something that is easy to talk about and in some ways talking about it makes it more real.
I don’t want to remain silent anymore. I want to share my story in case there are others out there fighting this fight. I want you to know you are not alone! Here is my letter to you, friend:
Dear friend – I am so sorry you are going through this struggle with infertility. I’ve been there and it totally sucks. After all at our most basic level , we, as women are here on this earth to reproduce. For me, I have always known I wanted to be a mom but it wasn’t until my mid twenties that I really started feeling the burning, undeniable desire to have a child of my own. It’s that feeling that you can’t really describe, the feeling that some part of you heart is missing. The feeling that your life has much more purpose than your current circumstances. It’s not something that can be easily pushed aside or ignored. I had always thought it would be easy for me to get pregnant but I was wrong.
At this time in my life a lot of my friends and family members were starting families of their own. I was genuinely very happy for all of them, but with each pregnancy announcement I was reminded of my own struggle. Why was it so easy for them (I now know that was not always the case) and so hard for me? It seemed everywhere I went there were women waving their big pregnant bellies at me. When were we going to get our little miracle?
After about a year of trying the old fashioned way with no success, my doctor put me on the fertility medication Chlomid to try to help my follicles develop. We did a few rounds (a few months) of Chlomid with no success. At this point, my doctor decided it was time to refer me to a fertility specialist. This is when my problem became real to me. A specialist? Was I really that bad off? My inability to get pregnant now had a name; unexplained infertility.
The fertility specialist ran a myriad of tests on both my husband and I. My hormone levels were not completely normal but there was nothing that screamed out to the doctor as being the cause of our inability to get pregnant. One of the tests we did was to test my husband’s sperm. He was given the news that he had “super sperm” which made him pretty proud of his little boys… but this was bittersweet news for me because that meant I was the one to blame. I felt like my body had failed me. I felt like less of a woman.
This was a really hard time for me both emotionally and physically. Over the next few months we continued on Chlomid, but we added in monitoring with blood work and ultrasounds to see if the medication was doing what it was supposed to. I grew to like the woman who drew my blood during those frequent visits, her name was Courtney and she was very sweet. She made the whole process a little more tolerable, making small talk as she found a good vein to draw from. Luckily for me, she got it right on the first try, every time. The vaginal ultrasounds at each visit were a little less enjoyable. I would return to work after each blood draw and ultrasound (bandaged and bruised) hoping that there would be good news from the doctor. Some times things looked promising, other times they did not. It was quite a rollercoaster ride. The time between ovulation and when my period would come (or was supposed to come), dubbed “the two week wait” in circles of couples trying to conceive, was agonizing. I would analyze every twinge in my body, and dream up pregnancy symptoms that weren’t really there. I tried everything I thought might help from fertility teas to acupuncture. I stopped drinking and totally overhauled my diet. I kept looking for that one thing that was going to turn everything around, the magic bullet, but I never found it. I wanted so badly to be pregnant, and each month that my period came was completely heartbreaking.
If nothing else, at this point I was still hopeful. My current treatment plan wasn’t working so we moved on to injectable medications. I can still remember those first few times working up the courage to inject the needle into my own stomach after watching a how-to video online. After a few months with no success of using the injectables while still trying to get pregnant “the old fashioned” way we eventually moved on to intrauterine insemination (IUI) which took what little remaining romance there was left in this equation and threw it out the window. I remember driving to the fertility clinic with a container of my husband’s sperm wedged in between my boobs to keep them warm and alive before my IUI treatment (desperate times…). After the procedure, I laid there in the room wondering how this had become my reality. I thought getting pregnant was going to be easy? After several unsuccessful IUI treatments, I knew I needed a break, both financially and emotionally. This struggle had affected many areas of my life and I knew I needed some time to reflect and recuperate.
It was during this struggle that I really found my faith. I am type-A, a planner and I enjoy being in control. It wasn’t until I let go of the control that I really started to feel at peace with the situation. My husband and I decided to take a break from all of the treatments to give my mind, body and our bank account a break. The next step for us was in vitro fertilization (IVF) and I just wasn’t ready to go there yet.
Over the next three months, I started to heal emotionally. I felt less stressed and started to enjoy life again rather than obsessing over getting pregnant. I got a normal menstrual cycle back and was feeling overall a lot better, although still very aware of my desire to be a mother. In the third month after stopping fertility treatments, something miraculous happened. I got pregnant, naturally; the old fashioned way!
When I was going through the fertility treatments people would always say to me “it will happen when you stop trying.” At the time, when I was in the thick of it, this was the last thing I wanted to hear. How on earth do you stop trying to achieve the one thing you were put on this earth to do? You don’t. Ironically for me, I did get pregnant when I stopped “trying”, but it wasn’t that I stopped trying to get pregnant. What I stopped trying to do was to control every piece of the equation. When I removed the stress around getting pregnant, that is when the miracles started to happen.
Over the course of these three years, there were many things that tested my patience, my friendships and my marriage. But in end, the hard times made those relationships stronger and made me a better person (and a better mom). I am blessed to have such a wonderful support system around me which made the hard times a little more bearable. I am so thankful for all of my friends and family who stuck by my side even when I was not much fun to be around. Even though these were some of the hardest years of my life, I would not change a thing, because without them I would not have my son.
He is the child I was meant to have.
Everyone’s struggle is different, and this is just one story out of millions. But if I can give you any advice to help you get through this struggle, this would be it:
- Never lose hope. What is for you will not pass you. It may not happen on your timetable or in the manner you want but if you want to be a mom, you will be.
- Find your support system. You don’t have to go through this alone.
- Reduce unneeded stress as much as possible (including the stress of trying to conceive). This was a big one for me.
- Clean up your diet, your personal care products and your household cleaning products. These things can mess with your hormones big time.
- Stay off the message boards. While it’s nice to see that there are others going through similar struggles, they can get nasty sometimes, and you don’t need that negativity in your life.
- Get a second opinion. In hind sight I don’t think the fertility doctor I was seeing was giving me enough attention. I would recommend seeing a naturopath along with the fertility doctor to get more than one perspective.
I want to you know I feel your sadness. I know how uncomfortable you are at that baby shower knowing you should be enjoying this special time in your friend’s life, but all you can do is think about your own struggle. I know the anxiety you feel as you are pacing around the kitchen waiting for the plus or minus sign on that pregnancy test. I know the pain you feel in line at the grocery store, staring at the women in front of you in all her glowing pregnant glory. I know it gets harder to answer the “when are you having babies?” question each time it is asked.
I want you to know you are not alone.
I am sending lots of love your way.