The irony of my story is I can still remember when I was terrified of pregnancy.
Though I was responsible, and secretly trucked to planned parenthood with a friend in high school for birth control long before I ever lost my virginity, I suppose my very Catholic upbringing instilled some fear in me.
You have sex before marriage you get pregnant, right? The message I received was unless you are very careful this is what WILL happen.
In my early 20s when I found out that I had some thyroid issues a doctor suggested I get off birth control because of possible complications. So I did. I had a steady boyfriend through college, and we were very careful.
However, I’ve always had an irregular cycle. For a few months at a time I’d skip cycles all together, so despite being safe I’d find often find myself worried, and my overactive imagination would start churning. I spent an exorbitant amount on pregnancy tests for a college student.
My anxiety was high. I vividly remember making my best friend sit with me in the bathroom as I kneeled saying Hail Mary’s praying I wasn’t pregnant.
So you get it … I was paranoid. (And always for no good reason).
Fast forward to getting engaged to the love of my life at 27. I could breathe a sigh of relief! I was with the person I wanted to spend my life with, who I knew without doubt would be an amazing father. We both assumed we’d get pregnant sooner rather than later.
But I wanted to focus on being newlyweds and my professional goals for a while. We weren’t in a rush, and felt little pressure in those early days. We were living in New York, and traveling frequently. I will never regret this because it was such a fun time in our lives.
And then one day I decided I wanted a baby. I wanted a baby BADLY.
I had always pictured myself as a parent. The prospect of combining my genes with my husband’s and creating a little life to foster was so exciting to me. The timing felt right.
So we tried. I wasn’t worried. I assumed it would happen quickly. In fact, here I was again, the girl who was convinced she was pregnant every month. From what I knew everyone in my family was able to get pregnant easily. For years I’d heard how fertile our genes were.
I started a timeline in my head, plotted my maternity leave, and thought excitedly about whose wedding or life events I’d be pregnant for.
As time went on and each test was negative I got more serious about our efforts. I started tracking my temperature, and using ovulation kits. Ten months of active trying went by, and nothing. So I went to see my OB. She listened, glanced at my age and said “oh honey you’re still young. All you need is to give it time, relax and take a vacation. I guarantee it will happen.”
Alright, I thought… maybe I’m putting too much pressure on the situation.
When I talked to close friends and a few family members they echoed her sentiment. Give it time, relax. I heard this refrain over and over.
Time went on, we vacationed and I tried to stay chill.
However, after a few more unsuccessful months I started to obsess. Anyone that’s been there may relate. My body became this thing that was constantly letting me down. I resented it, and I started to feel inadequate as a woman.
I was surrounded by friends and relatives sharing pregnancy news. I was happy for them, but with each failed month I’d wonder what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t my body do this simple thing?
I researched the subject to death, and we tried all the tricks that the internet and fertility books can offer.
We decided it was time to see another doctor. This time, the OB agreed that this was indeed a significantly longer time than is to be expected for a young couple. So, they ran a few tests, found that some of my hormone levels were off, suggested I gain 5 lbs, cut down on cardio workouts and referred me to a Fertility Specialist.
When I met with the specialist his gruff manner caught me off guard, but I heard he was the best so I trusted him. He immediately prescribed Clomid (a drug used to regulate ovulation, and increase chance of pregnancy). The Clomid made me moody and bloated. But after four months it didn’t get us pregnant. At this point our Dr. recommend we step it up a notch and try an IUI procedure (a fertility treatment where sperm is placed in the female’s uterus).
We were frustrated, and anxious to grow our family so we decided to go for it.
The day my husband and I went into the office to try IUI I was filled with positivity.
Two weeks later I went into test, and when the nurse called and told me I was, in her words, “very pregnant” I felt like all our prayers were answered. I was ecstatic. I was carrying around a little secret. We went to a friend’s wedding in Mexico. I slow danced with my husband, and we decided we’d tell our parents when we got home. I fixated on my due date, and let myself dream of our growing baby.
Our last night away I started bleeding. Naturally I began Googling. On the flight home I hunched over in pain, and found myself rushing to the tiny restroom every 20 minutes. We were already scheduled for an ultrasound the following day so my doctor said to hang tight and he’d see me in the morning.
I stayed up all night praying that things would work out.
In a cold, sterile room the next day they told us there was no longer a heartbeat. My fertility doctor just kept saying “this isn’t a viable pregnancy.”
These clinical words did nothing to soothe me. I was heartbroken. When I started reading about the stats I learned that miscarriage can be as common as 1 in 4 pregnancies. But statistics don’t comfort. I was heartbroken. How could a life growing inside of me be there one day, and gone the next?
The year that followed was the hardest of my life.
Every month for the next 7 months we did IUI. Every month I believed it was our month. It worked once so it could work again. I lived in a state of two-week waits. We’d go in, we’d wait. I’d skip wine and bars with friends in favor of lots of rest and positive thinking.
It didn’t work.
At some point during this time I switched doctors on a friend’s recommendation. My first doctor was extremely professional, but I always felt he lacked bedside manner. This new doctor was a breath of fresh air. He was kind and thorough. He wanted to dig deeper into the “why” behind our issues. This meant more tests, but we were up for them.
He discovered I had chronic anovulation issues, and possible luteal phase defects. (Anovulation is when the ovaries fail to release an oocyte. So, while a woman may still get her period she isn’t releasing a ripened egg - making it incredibly difficult to conceive without help).
Our doctor suggested after so many failed IUIs we move onto IVF. I knew the success rates were higher, but I was still apprehensive as I had heard horror stories about the hundreds of injections, the side effects and the emotional roller coaster.
I remember saying to my husband earlier in our journey, “I just don’t want to do IVF.” I guess there was a stigma. I guess I was scared. And like many I feared the process would feel too clinical.
But what I realized was that there are many ways to have a baby. Some people adopt, some use donor eggs, some couples turn to a surrogate. You never know how you really feel about something until you’re in it.
In my next post, I’ll get into the nitty gritty of IVF. To anyone reading who is struggling I want to tell you that you aren’t alone. I have been there, and it can be incredibly isolating. Now I’m (very gratefully) writing from the other side, and it’s all I dreamed. But I will never forget the journey.