So much has been written about infertility. It seems that everyone has a story about it. It’s the most talked about taboo subject around. Everyone knows someone--a friend, a sister, a cousin, a neighbor. And, everyone has an opinion. Here’s a word of advice when talking to a woman about her fertility, keep yo mouth shut!! Ha! My husband and I were married for nearly 7 years before we had our first child. And, during those years we had many well-meaning inquiries about our reproductive plans. So many times I was asked if we planned on having children soon. And so many times I replied, “Yeah, maybe someday, we’re not in too much of a hurry.” I almost always avoided discussing the difficult truth. That we wanted nothing more. That we both endured hours of uncomfortable tests and procedures for that very goal. That we’d bargained with God and the universe and the Dalai Lama for a baby.
My infertility journey started the same as many. We were nearly finished with graduate school and decided together that the timing was perfect to get pregnant. So, naively we started “trying.” It was fun, we weren’t too stressed about it, I was sort of tracking my irregular menstrual cycles, but not paying too much attention. Eventually, however, seven months had passed and I was still not pregnant. I discussed it with my gynecologist at a routine check-up and she ran some tests and started me on Clomid, an oral pill that you take for five days at the beginning of your cycle to induce ovulation. Well, after a few months, lots more tests, and lots of difficult hormonal side-effects, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. It was somewhat comforting to have a diagnosis, but also so heartbreaking to recognize that this most likely would not happen for us without medical help. We were referred to a fertility specialist and fell even further down the rabbit hole of injections and lab tests and procedures and follicle scans and mounting medical bills. It would be an additional two years before I finally got that double line on a home pregnancy test. During that time I became an expert on my own body. I used a combination of Eastern and Western medicine to help me. I took aaaaallllll the medications the fertility doctors could hand out. I also did acupuncture, chiropractic, essential oils, herbal teas and special fertility diets. One of the most important things I learned is that each woman is different. Listen to your body, and do what feels right to you as a woman, as a mom.
When I was trying to get pregnant with my first baby, the uncertainty killed me.I didn’t know if my body was even capable of creating and carrying a baby. Maybe all this time and money was going to waste. Maybe this was never going to happen. But, then it did happen and it was glorious and wonderful and really, really hard. And then when I was trying to get pregnant for the second time, it was the knowledge that my body was capable and I knew what worked last time, but for whatever reason it wasn’t working this time. That was more challenging than the first time around. Infertility treatments require a pretty big time commitment. There’s no, "Surprise! We’re expecting!” announcement made, because most likely everyone around you knows this thing is coming down the pike. Your boss probably has some idea since you have had to be late for work by a few hours every other day for the last several months, your co-workers all know this is going down because they’ve had to cover for you while you get yet another ultrasound wand shoved up your hoohah in the middle of a Tuesday. Your parents know because they’ve been there to cry with you, again. Your friends all know because it’s all you can think about. Your mother-in-law knows because she keeps making comments about when you are going to produce grandbabies and you finally told her to get off your back. The grocery store clerk has some idea because you buy ovulation kits and pregnancy tests in bulk. This intrusion into a private, intimate occurrence is frankly humiliating and painful and exhausting.
And, maybe that’s the hardest thing about the infertility struggle. It is so….intrusive.Infertility treatments take something that is supposed to be private and intimate and special between partners and turns it into…work. Nothing ruins the mood quicker than an ovulation predictor kit and a woman hopped up on hormone medications. Sex becomes a clinical obligation. There will most definitely be tears and fights and doubts. But, there can also be love and perseverance and faith building. The emotional and physical rollercoaster of infertility is grueling. So many times you see the symptoms; you may feel nauseated one morning or you are extra tired one afternoon and fall sleep at your desk or you have a craving for sweet potato fries and your hopes fly higher than the empire state, only to be let down, again…and again. They say it will happen, “when the timing is right.” And you become painfully aware of the miracle of timing. The timing of your last period, the number of days of your injections, the follicle stimulating hormone and estradiol levels, the timing of your follicle scans and doctor’s appointments, the timing of sex, the timing of the trigger shot and work schedules and vaginal mucus and semen samples and implantation and viable embryos.
It may seem like a miracle that the human race is not fading into extinction.And, I’m one of the lucky ones. Because through the magic of science and modern medicine, I have been able to get pregnant. Twice. I count those sweet blessings every single day. But, once you face the pain of infertility, it is always there. It’s still a raw emotion, a sensitive spot, a nagging heartbreak. Ultimately, there is no wrong way to create a family. And, the timing will always be wrong and yet so perfectly right.
No matter how your babies come to you, whether it was an accidental, passion-filled night, or years of tests and procedures and enough money to buy a house.
Whether your baby grew in your womb or someone else’s womb, or maybe they weren’t even babies any more but skinned-knees-and-pleading-eyes kids. It’s your journey. Own it and love it and be proud of the path you took. You got this, mama. It most definitely is not easy. But, was it worth it? A million times, yes.
Written by Micalena Perkins