On Life, Love and the Journey to Motherhood
I’m typing this out a few hours after another pregnancy test showed me a negative sign. I never thought I would be so devastated by the results, but my eyes are swollen from crying again and I haven’t written in awhile so here I am.
I remember talking to friends as they were getting pregnant, or beginning to “try.” We’d sit around dreaming about starting our families, moving into the “next phase” of life. I would boldly and confidently proclaim that I would be accepting of whatever my path would be. That if my body wasn’t capable of pregnancy for whatever reason, that I wouldn’t mourn because the title of mom is not exclusive to women who have brought in life through their womb.
And I still feel that way. I just feel it through a broken heart.
Fertility is a subject being discussed more openly than ever before, but it still hides in the shadows of many women’s daily lives, and for good reason. I am literally one of the most open people I know, I mean, if you’re reading this, you know it too. In fact, my brother even made a joke at my wedding about how everyone knows everything about me because of how openly I share my life online.
But this one. Even this one has been too vulnerable, too heart breaking, and too delicate for me to share with the internet. Well, until right now. Because right now, I am turning to writing and sharing to kick start some serious healing that has to be done.
So here it goes: I am in the most beautiful and healthy and just down right fucking awesome life partnership I could have ever asked for. And I’m not talking about those “looks great on social media but is actually awful” relationships. I mean a downright just like, GOOD, makes sense, caring and cool ass marriage. I have no idea how it happened, but its here.
No seriously. Ask my best friends. I’ve dated some real questionable characters, and/or had wildly unhealthy relationships with some semi-ok but troubled in their own way men. It was a strange, albeit fun journey to finding Russ.
We have been together for over 10 years. Married for nearly 4. We’ve had discussions over all of those years about whether we wanted to be parents, when would we want to start a family together. What will this life together be like? Swoon.
And a little over 3 years ago we decided we were going for it. Like, full blown. Off we go. No holds bar, we were making babies and we were ready for it! Bring on parenthood!
I started tracking my cycle for real, and low and behold, my fertile days were when we were traveling to Iceland! Hell yes. We were making a baby in Iceland. I even bought little booties that had sheep on them that were made in Iceland to celebrate that we were making a baby in Iceland. A little pre-mature, I know but it couldn’t hurt, right? I actually started buying baby stuff as we traveled to different countries, because any day now, I was going to be pregnant.
I took a pregnancy test on the bathroom floor of our Air BNB in Barcelona. I remember being so excited because my period was late. This was IT! I was going to find out I was pregnant in Spain. OMG. Russ, take video. Here we go!
Oh well. I mean, it was silly to even think it was going to happen that month. Did we even have enough sex? On the right days? We just need to try harder. Make more time. I should start taking my temperature every night.
As I write this, I realize what an asshole I sound like. “Oh boo hoo you didn’t get pregnant while YOU WERE TRAVELING THE WORLD STOP BEING SO UNGRATEFUL.”
It’ not lost on me, don’t worry. But it’s a true story so I am going to tell it.
Anyway. Back to trying harder.
Last year was the beginning of the a year of bullshit. In February, my cycle was unbearable, I was bleeding for a month, I didn’t know what was going on and I finally went to the doctor. After a lot of thought, I decided to see a fertility specialist to not only discuss my insane period, but maybe even, I dunno, discuss fertility options?
Tests were taken, and it was recommended that I have surgery. It appeared as if my one of my fallopian tubes was blocked, and with my history of horrific periods, I likely had other issues going on. They were bracing for the worst, prepping me for the possibility that I would lose one or both of my tubes, and with that, lose my ability to conceive without IVF.
That on it’s own was a punch to the gut. I mean, I knew it had been years of trying with no luck, but like, shit. Really? This?
Spoiler alert: I woke up from surgery to my mom crying tears of joy because they didn’t have to remove my tubes. It turned out to be endometriosis causing the appearance of a blocked tube, plus some polyps and stuff which they took out and voila! It took in reality about 4 or 5 months to feel like myself again after that, but hey. I survived.
During my follow up appointment after my surgery, I asked the doc if conceiving “naturally” was still an option. I figured that he’d cleaned out all the bad stuff in my reproductive system that was causing issues, so like, we’re good now yeah?
The answer was no.
He said if I wanted to try for a few months just for fun, that I should, but in reality, I still would likely need help in the whole, making a baby department.
So we did that. It was summer time, I traveled a bunch, we traveled together, we tried to make babies. It was good times, but no positive pregnancy tests.
After a lot of thought, and many back and fourth decisions, I finally came to the conclusion that doing IUI (intrauterine insemination) was something I was open to trying.
It’s less invasive and less expensive than IVF, and it was worth a shot.
In October 2018, we made the appointment and started our first round of fertility treatment. This included 5 days of Clomid, a prescription medication that contains hormones which stimulate ovulation. The side effects are pretty minimal (unless you are a rare case where you get one of the bad ones) and mostly I was just irritable, sensitive and had hot flashes.
Every other day, for a week, I went in for a pelvic exam to see how large my follicles were, and if I was ready to do what is called a “trigger shot” to trigger ovulation. If you’ve never had a pelvic exam, whether it’s because you don’t have a vagina, or you have been lucky enough to avoid having a camera put into your body so a doctor can get a closer look at your ovaries and uterus, you are lucky. It’s not comfortable. And for some, it is painful. Can you guys which one I am?
Once all was ready, it was time for the shot. Now. Here’s the thing about me. I have an irrational fear of shots. As in, every time I’ve gotten them at a doctor, I’ve thrown up, passed out, or just started gagging uncontrollably. There’s also a lot of sweat. It’s certainly gotten better over the years, but if you ever want to really freak me out, bring a syringe near me and see what happens.
So you can imagine, giving myself a shot at home is one of my worst nightmares, but again, I sucked it up and dealt with it. Well, sort of. I made Russ give it to me. I tried to give it to myself and realized how insane that was for me and I made him do it. He did a great job. It wasn’t that bad, the medicine stung a bit but I got through it and that was that.
The next day, it was time to inseminate! WOO HOO! This procedure consists of a sample of male sperm being injected into a woman’s cervix or uterine cavity via a catheter. So romantic, right? Exactly the way you’d always dreamed of getting pregnant with your first child!
The procedure, which should have taken about 5 minutes ended up taking 25 because lo and behold, I have a tilted cervix and it was hard for the doctors to get the catheter where it needed to be. You now know a whole lot about my body. You’re welcome.
When it was done, I went home, Russ went to work, and a couple of days later I started the last of the treatment, which was to stick progesterone (another hormone!) into my body 3 times a day for 10 days. This happens during what they call “the two week wait.”
Two weeks until I could take a pregnancy test. I knew exactly to the day when the earliest I would be able to detect a pregnancy in my body. And I still wanted to take a test. Every. Single. Day.
During the two week wait I was told many times to just try and forget about it. Take my mind off of it. Be patient. But after all that we’d done, plus the 3 times a day reminder that I was in fact doing fertility treatment, it was nearly impossible.
I took a test a few days early. It came back negative. I was upset that I didn’t wait. But if you only knew the amount of pregnancy tests I’ve taken over the past three years…you wouldn’t be shocked that I couldn’t wait it out.
Finally, the day came. At this point, Russ had to hide the pregnancy tests from me because I had absolutely no self control. So on the morning that the two week wait was over, I jumped out of bed, yelled “WHERE ARE THE PREGNANCY TESTS?!??!?!” and ran my happy ass into the bathroom.
Holy. Fucking. Shit. It was positive. In all of my years of both “OH NO” tests and “PLEASE LET THIS BE THE MONTH” tests, I’d NEVER seen a positive. This was insane. I ran into the bedroom, told Russ, we started recording our reactions. It was incredible. We called our family, gave them the great news! It was magical. I couldn’t believe it had really worked.
Later that day I went in for blood work to confirm I was pregnant. It came back that I was and I started daydreaming about all of the awesome things that would happen over the next 9 months. I looked at clothes online. What was I going to need? What vitamins should I take? What color would the nursery be?
They told me to come in two days later to check my hCG levels (this is the hormone that confirms you are pregnant). They wanted to make sure it doubled, which meant that the pregnancy was progressing, and things were looking good.
I’d never been so excited to take a blood test in my life. In fact, I went alone and knocked these suckers out like it was nothing.
A phone call came in a few hours later from the doctor’s office. The blood results were not what they were hoping. They were going down instead of up, but at this point, I was technically still pregnant. They wanted me to come back the day after next and take another test to see if anything changed.
Between that day and the third round of blood work I researched everything. Does hCG levels dropping 100% mean you are miscarrying? What could cause lowering hCG levels that ISN’T a miscarriage? EGG YOLKS?! Too many egg yolks could do it? Well I’ve had eggs nearly every day this week, it must be that! I’m not giving up yet.
Friday came and went. I got the phone call that the levels had dropped again, and that it was over. To come in Monday for another internal ultrasound just to make sure it wasn’t ectopic (a pregnancy outside of the uterus). I hung up the phone and cried. A lot. It felt like a tornado had come through my home and just trashed everything. It all happened so fast. One day I was pregnant, dreaming of motherhood and literally 4 days later it was over. All of that work, all of those hormones, all of the exams. And now what? I was told to wait a couple of months and come back in for another round. And that was it.
I took the weekend to be completely wrecked by it all. Friends and family came to me with support. Russ bought me an insane amount of McDonalds French fries to make me feel better. The holidays came and went, and it was time to decide if round two was actually happening.
We decided to go for it. I got pregnant once, surely it would work again, and while it was an incredibly uncomfortable treatment, it didn’t kill me so fuck it. Let’s give it a go.
I won’t force you to sit through another play by play of an IUI cycle, but this one sucked a lot. Different doctor, he wasn’t as gentle, blood, pain, cramping, it wasn’t good. The two week wait was easier this time around though. I finally understood that taking an early pregnancy test wasn’t going to give me real results, so there was no point. I stacked my days and nights with visits with friends. And even with progesterone three times a day for 10 days, I was kind of able to keep my mind off of it all.
You know how this ends though, because you read the first paragraph of this story.
I sat in my bathroom staring at the negative, hoping that maybe a really light line would eventually show up. How could it POSSIBLY not have worked? Everything is so perfectly timed, you are literally forcing ovulation. You are tracking follicle sizes. The only way to “try harder” is to have IVF and that’s the end of the road. I sat alone in there just staring at the ground for awhile until I decided to go back to bed.
I didn’t wake Russ up right away because I was still in shock. When he finally rolled over to ask me how it went, I told him it was negative through the beginning of a lot of tears. He held me tight. He rubbed my back as the crying deepened. I stayed in bed all day. And as I write this, my heart is broken.
I’m not sure why I finally feel the need to share all of this, but I do. The amount of women going through fertility treatment is astonishing, and there isn’t a ton of people discussing it. Which I completely understand, by the way. It’s literally one of the most vulnerable things I’ve ever done, and the idea of sharing it with the public as I was going through it was not possible.
I want to send love to anyone going through this privately right now. Or anyone who has gone through it in the past, and maybe I never knew. It’s hard to understand exactly how life altering all of this is until you go through it.
At this point, I’m not entirely sure what my next steps are. I do know that it’s not a decision I have to make right now. In fact, instead of scheduling back to back rounds of treatment, Russ and I are booking a trip to Mexico to take our minds off of it all.
Fertility treatment wreaks havoc on your mind, body and soul and is not to be taken lightly. While some people may have had perfectly wonderful experiences with it all, and had great results from it, many, many others tell a different story. This is not to deter anyone from trying it. Obviously it’s a personal decision and there are success stories left and right. I just want anyone reading this to understand the severity of it, whether you end up doing it at some point or not. For friends and family to know that it’s not as easy as it looks.
I feel that the general population just sees it as a normal thing because of viral photos and news stories, but the truth is that it goes against every natural instinct someone would have when thinking about starting a family. And it’s difficult.
25% of women deal with it. That seems like a large number, but 75% don’t. 75% of women will just get pregnant from having sex with their partners.
1 in 5 of your friends will go through it. I am that person in my friend group (as far as I know.)
It feels good to finally get all of this written down somewhere. To document the experience, to share it more widely with the people I know. If you are reading this and going through infertility, I’m sorry. There are really no other words to say except that. I keep my fingers and toes crossed for families to grow and beautiful babies to be born through these procedures.
I don’t know yet where the journey to motherhood ends for me. My heart is broken open in ways that are hard to put into words, but I celebrate and feel joy for everyone who is out there building the family of their dreams. I really do. Please do not worry about me in that way. I can feel joy for you and pain for myself all at the same time. I say that from the bottom of my heart.
I hope to be a mother some day. I know I have a lot of love to give. I know I have a lot of wisdom to share. I know Russ will be a great father. I still daydream about play dates with friends, and raising kids with them. I’m still proud to be the real auntie and the “auntie” auntie, and love building relationships with all the little ones in my life right now. Nothing brings me more happiness than seeing my friends be parents. Family means everything to me.
I don’t ask for it much, but say a little prayer for me, would ya? It’s been a rough go of it around here, and I will take all the love I can get.
If you’ve read this far, thank you.
Until next time.