“You may have difficulty in the future conceiving a child.” I was told this around 16 or so, not too long after I was diagnosed with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I had trouble comprehending that at 16. I still have trouble comprehending it at 36.
I’m going to ruin the end of this blog post for you right now: we have a beautiful daughter, Ellen Jean Christine, whom I/we love with every fiber of our being…even when she is being the toddler she is so good at being.
But, I didn’t know if that would ever happen. For a very long time, I thought my arms and womb would remain empty. For a very long time I was sure I was broken.
What made things worse is that at the time we were in seminary. We were surrounded by people who got pregnant by drinking the water (or at least it felt that way). With every pregnancy announcement, I died a little inside. I smiled and celebrated on the outside, but on the inside I was crying and screaming, and at times, just plain pissed.
See, in several cases of infertility, the cause is unknown. But even after having my husband tested, we knew what the problem was.
The problem was me.
I felt like I was Hester Prynne wearing her big fat “A”. Except I wore a big, fat “I”. I was tested to make sure my hormone levels were what they needed to be. I had to have a procedure to make sure my Fallopian tubes were “open and ready for business” (as my doctor said). And then I got the medication we would need to (hopefully) create a baby.
Clomid was our drug of choice. I didn’t have too many side effects, which was nice. But, it was also weird. I remember drinking a beer on a Saturday night and thinking “this is the last time I will drink for a while” because as soon as I started the Clomid, there would be no drinking.
Now, here’s where things get a little personal. If you’re in any kind of loving relationship, I hope that there is a physical aspect of that relationship. When you’re trying to create a baby (versus have a relationship for pleasure) it pretty much sucks. We were encouraged by our doctor to be physical “every other day…if not every day.” What!? Think about the chore you loathe the most. Yep…it started to feel like that.
And then there was the waiting. I was used to waiting, really. I waited every 28 days to see if a pregnancy test would finally read “+” instead of “-“. And every 28 days I would get my hope up to see that “+” sign finally only to be crumpled to a ball of me on the bathroom floor once again clutching this stupid stick covered in pee just mocking me.
2 weeks. 14 days. 336 hours. 20,160 seconds. And every second, every inhale and exhale was filled with wishes, hopes, dreams, and yes, at times, begging. What kind of woman would I be if I couldn’t bear a child? And so, after 2 weeks, we started giving it the “old college try.” It was about the least romantic thing we could have done.
Then I waited some more. I even bought one of those “first response” type of pregnancy tests (a 3 pack). I took the first test as soon as it said I could. It was negative. I didn’t give up hope because I knew it was early yet. I took another one on the day my cycle was to start. It was early in the morning. I was to leave for North Dakota on a business trip that morning. My husband laid in bed as I waited for that stupid stick to tell our future. And it did. I showed it to my husband and we rejoiced.
My pregnancy was easy up until the very end when I developed preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and then developed debilitating migraines after birth. My birth didn’t go as planned; we had to have a c-section. But, Ellen was healthy and happy and that’s all that mattered.
In my time since struggling with infertility, I try and share our story so that others won’t feel so alone. But, here’s what I learned during our struggle.
1) God was always with us….even when I was pissed off at God and felt like we had been forgotten.
2) True friends become very evident during a struggle like infertility.
3) Sex, as it is shown in the movies, is very overrated and most likely never happens to any couple.
4) Infertility is an all too silent battle that more people struggle with than I ever realized.
5) There is nothing wrong with me. There was something not so right with my reproductive organs. But, infertility was not and is not a character flaw.
6) Being able to bear a child does not define me. I am blessed to be a mother. But, I would feel the same way with a child that grew in my heart instead of my womb.
7) People say stupid crap when they know you’re not having luck conceiving. (Examples are: “Just relax more!” or “But you’re at least having fun trying!” or “Just take a vacation!” or “My sister/mom/friend tried this and she got pregnant right away.”) STOP. Just stop with all of this hot air you are blowing up my ass. Here is the right thing to say when you find out someone you know/love is having trouble conceiving. “I’m sorry. I will pray for you.” End of story.
8) Everyone you know will become pregnant. Okay…not really. But it may seem like it. It’s like when you buy (what you think) is a really unique shirt at a store and then you start to see that shirt on EVERYONE around town. It’s kind of the same way when you can’t get pregnant. Everyone you see will be pregnant. And don’t even get me started on those stupid “16 and Pregnant” shows on MTV.
9) Marriage can be hard work. Marriage when you’re infertile adds another layer to that. Be prepared for this. Some couples I know have had to use marriage counseling or therapy or whatever.
10) It is worth it. Whatever it is you decide to do, it’s worth it. The drugs, or IVF, or adoption, or whatever…it’s worth it. If you feel like God has created you to be a parent, that will happen in one way or another.
If you stumbled on this and you’re struggling, just know you’re not alone. I have walked this path and I will pray for you.