You can read part 1 of this series by my guest blogger, Sarah (named changed for privacy) here: Baby Not On Board
After my period arrived for the second time since starting fertility treatments, I felt an internal anger switch go off which quickly led to guilt. Even though I had countless things in my life to be grateful for I dwelled on the fact that I wasn’t getting pregnant which only made me feel guilty for not being thankful for the good things. I’ll admit I’d only done a marginal amount of research on fertility treatments, but I clearly missed the section that talked about the emotional side of this process. James noticed the changes in my mood and tried to get me to talk to him, but my anger seemed to be manifesting itself in silence. Rather than talking about my feelings in a healthy manner, I began to shut him out. Even worse, I began to unconsciously start to blame him for me not getting pregnant. Crazy, right? It was as if I had somehow convinced myself he was spending his days sitting in hot tubs, smoking pot, and sleeping with his lap top in his groin region all to kill as many sperm as he could. Again, crazy, I know.
When we went in for our next appointment with Dr. A we knew something had to change. We decided to try insemination that month because it just wasn’t happening the good old-fashioned way. Back I went on the Clomid and the routine of labs and ultrasounds started again. James was still unbelievably supportive and loving, but I could tell this was starting to take a toll on him also. Dr. A ordered a semen analysis on James so we had an idea about the quality and quantity of his swimmers. The results came back on a Monday which ended up being the same week we did our first insemination. In the three categories they test he came back good in only one of them (the morphology, or shape of the sperm). The other two were on the lower end of normal, but Dr. A assured us they weren’t terrible numbers. My ultrasound looked good and Dr. A felt very comfortable about proceeding with the procedure. I had to go back in two days later to have my follicles measured and then again on Friday for the actual procedure. James and I were told to refrain from sex for 24 hours, but no more than 48 hours. He had to go in two hours prior to insemination to give another specimen sample so they could wash his sperm before the procedure. Washing the sperm kills any bacteria that could’ve potentially given my cervix an infection in the process. For my portion I had to come in with a full bladder to help align my cervix and uterus. Again, like an over achiever, I drank so much water I nearly peed myself just waiting for the doctor to come in. When the doctor came in I was a little surprised to see an older, grumpy man walk in. Dr. A was tied up in another procedure and not able to do my insemination. James’ counts from his morning sample had improved from just a few days prior and he was now well into the “normal” range. Things were looking up! Dr. W pulled out the catheter containing the magical sperm from James and began to very clinically explain the process. Before I could even ask a question he told me he was all done and complimented my full bladder. Saying thank you seemed weird so all I said was, “okay”, and he left the room so I could stay laying down for a few minutes. Now, for the sake of full disclosure I must admit the very first thought that came to my mind was laying on the floor and propping my legs high up on the wall so gravity would move the sperm upwards. C’mon ladies, you know what I’m talking about! Fortunately, James was busy rubbing my stomach and praying. I got up five minutes later and the nurse told me to take a home pregnancy test in 12 days and call with the results. I took the rest of that day off work and took it easy. My goal for the next 12 days was to chill out, not stress, and take care of my body. That was the goal, anyway. In reality I spent the next 12 days working like crazy and stressing out about stupid things. James kept reminding me to slow down and relax, but every time I tried to do so I literally starting fidgeting like a crack head jones’ing for their next fix.
At the 5 day mark I began to get symptoms that are 99% of the time indicative that my period is on the way. By that I mean I turned into a crazy, hormonal monster! What’s more embarrassing is what caused me to lose my mind. While cooking Rice-A-Roni one night for a casserole James happened to make a comment about how he thought I wasn’t cooking the rice correctly. I told him I was doing it exactly how the instructions said to. He said, “are you sure? I think you needed to brown it a little more before putting the water in.” What happened next makes me cringe to think about to this day. I said – actually yelled – “I know how to f*ing make Rice-A-Roni so any time you want to shut the f**k up and get out of the kitchen would be great.” I immediately felt awful, but I also immediately knew what that outburst was signaling. I apologized to James and told him I felt like my period was going to be arriving. He hugged me and told me to keep the faith and keep praying. Sadly, prayers had become almost impossible for me to finish. I woke up every day, thanked God and asked him to keep my family, loved ones and I safe and healthy, but that’s as far as I could get. It was terribly frustrating.
Day 4 came and went without my period arriving. Then day 3. Maybe James was right. Maybe there was still a chance the insemination was successful. Day 2 arrived and halfway through the day so did my period and this time I sobbed. I began to convince myself that God was punishing me for past indiscretions from my 20’s which was utterly ridiculous, but I was desperate for an answer or a place to lay blame. Well, what better person than James to place the blame on. When he got home from work I told him my period had arrived and he was sad and tried to console me, but I pushed him away and withdrew. I could visibly see the hurt as I sat there and told him that God clearly doesn’t want us to have children and how something must be wrong with us because even the drugged out losers on Intervention were able to have multiple kids. What I was forgetting in the midst of my selfishness and breakdown, and what I’d forgotten since even starting fertility treatments, was that it wasn’t just me going through this journey. There was another person who had fears and feelings of his own, but because I was so wrapped up in my emotions I’d been blind to what this was also doing to James. Talk about adding more guilty feelings to an already hefty pile of guilt…
I was recently approached by my dear friend Sarah (name changed for privacy reasons) about possibly guest posting as a source of therapy, to help her cope with the battle to conceive that she has been fighting for over a year now.
She’s not my first friend to struggle with this, and I know she won’t be the last— and that’s why I considered her proposal so incredibly important to showcase on this blog.
We as women are raised to believe that having children of our own is our sole purpose on this earth, so imagine the paralyzing feeling that comes with not being able to immediately (or ever) produce a child of our own.
That needs to change. We need to change the way we look at women. The way we look at making babies, and pregnancy, and carrying a child to term. And the best way to do that, is to talk about it.
So I am very excited to bring you “Fertility Fridays”, where Sarah will be sharing her story with all of us, bearing her soul, and shedding light on the truth about what it means to struggle to conceive.
I hope you will all embrace her, and this series, with open arms. And I pray that it helps any of you who may be currently struggling as well, to remember that you are not alone.
Baby Not On Board
I’ve always wondered what those “Baby on Board” signs mean. Are you thinking I’ll let you cut me off because you have a “baby on board”? Or perhaps you think I won’t purposely ram my car into yours because you have a “baby on board” and a yellow sticker to prove it! (By the way, if someone can tell me what those signs actually mean I’d greatly appreciate it). Nowadays, though, I see Mom’s and Dad’s driving around with those yellow signs on their cars and I’m brutally reminded of my reality: Baby Not on Board. Baby not in the backseat, or the front seat, or even the trunk. My baby is currently nowhere to be found except in my dreams.
You see, my fiancé and I have been trying to conceive for one year now and it’s just not happening so we sought out the help of a reproductive endocrinologist to begin fertility treatments in May, 2015. My Pilates instructor referred me to the doctor she and her husband have been seeing so off we went to our first appointment. My stomach was in a knot and my anxiety level was through the roof while we sat in the waiting room. Our doctor, Dr. A, consulted with us for an hour in her office and asked us numerous questions (not all of which I answered honestly, but more on that in another chapter) and then drew us a diagram which explained the monthly cycle for women, and when the optimal time was to conceive. She made it seem both challenging, yet simple at the same time. After blood work and a vaginal ultrasound to check my follicle count and for cysts she sent us home with a prescription for prenatal vitamins and a handful of paperwork to read. I was filled with immense hope after our first appointment! She reassured us that in the fertility world I’m actually considered a “baby” at 35 years old (trust me, the irony of that comment wasn’t lost on me!) and that we’d be in good hands. I was to call the office on day 1 of my next period and go in on day 3 for more labs and another ultrasound. In the meantime James* (name has been changed) and I were to do our homework, which is code for have sex ☺
Day 1 of my cycle rolled around about two weeks after my consult so I went in for my labs and ultrasound and since everything looked normal, she gave me a prescription for Clomid to help me ovulate better. The Clomid began on day 5 of my cycle and from this point on I’d come to rely on monthly calendars to keep track of what days to take meds, when to have labs done, and when to have ultrasounds. I also had to take daily ovulation tests during the time of the month we thought I’d be ovulating and homework frequency was to be amped up during my peak fertility days. I soon realized “homework” was going to become contrived and almost clinical in a sense and that is obviously one of the LAST things you want when trying to conceive, right??? My ovaries appeared to be responding fairly well to month one on Clomid and I had a follicle count of 9-10. Things were looking good! I did my ovulation tests religiously and James and I tried to be creative while doing our homework so things didn’t get boring.
I’ve always considered myself a bit of an over-achiever and I naively thought conceiving a baby would be an effortless task for someone like me. Boy, was I wrong. We were anxiously counting the days to when my period was scheduled to start and praying this would be the month it wouldn’t arrive. James would lovingly rub my belly and talk to it as if we were willing there to be embryo growing inside me. When I woke up at 1:30am with insane cramps three days before I was to start my period, I knew this would once again not be our month. I got up to use the restroom and sure enough my period had arrived. When I got back into bed and told James he hugged me to him and said, “I’m sorry, my love, but don’t worry. The doctors just gave someone we know a double lung transplant. They’ll surely be able to help give us a baby.” I was especially thankful for his optimism in that moment because I already felt my head and heart slipping into an abyss of doubt, disappointment, sadness, and negativity. When I woke up I was still disappointed, but called Dr. A and made my appointment to go in on day 3 and start the process all over. This time she increased the Clomid because my progesterone levels the month before were very low. Once again I relied on my handy calendar to keep me on schedule and I tried my hardest to remain positive and as stress-free as possible because Dr. A told me from day one the damaging effects stress has on fertility success. Now, if you knew me you’d understand how it’s nearly impossible for a Type-A, perfectionist such as myself to remain stress free. Between working 50+ hours a week, raising our two 6-month old puppies, tending to a house, AND planning a wedding, well, stress and I are sympatico to say the least! But I did try. I swear. Well, I kind of tried, but stress still ended up getting the best of me more times than it should. Nonetheless, I carried on and followed all other directions like an ideal patient would. I peed on ovulation test sticks when I was supposed to – sometimes even twice a day like any over-achiever would – and had sex with James like an amateur porn star. Surely this was going to be our month. The nightly routine of James rubbing and talking to my belly continued and it filled my heart with so much love and hope hearing his sweet prayers to our imaginary baby. My eyes regularly filled with tears when he’d do this because all I could imagine was him holding our baby for the first time. I kept these visions in my head as often as possible because it helped me to keep the faith. The days went by and we were nearing my next anticipated period. 5, 4, 3, 2…..Two days before my period was scheduled to start, it arrived and this time I sobbed. Even worse, I got angry and this would be an emotion that would only continue to increase as our journey continued….