I’m guilty of hopping on the bandwagon. 101 in 1001? Count me in. Project365? Sure, why not? I’ll blog, tweet, facebook, book exchange, GTG, whatever. There’s one bandwagon, however, I didn’t want to get on. Several friends in my internet community are taking the time during National Infertility Awareness Week to blog about their own struggles with infertility. How I wish I could be sympathetic, supportive, and compassionate to those struggling without knowing how it feels on a personal level. Unfortunately, I too have my own battle to fight.
In honor of NIAW, I decided to tell my own story. This step is particularly daunting for me since no one, even my real-life family and friends, knows the entire story. It’s time to come clean.
I always had a suspicion we would have trouble conceiving. Call it intuition, pessimism, or, when I’m in a darker mood, a self-fulfilling prophesy. After twelve years on the pill, I stopped hormonal birth control in 2008 and was surprised and thrilled to find that my cycles immediately regulated. A perfect 28-day cycle. I could mark on a calendar the day my period was expected to arrive, and it would show up like clockwork.
We used back-up birth control for a few months, then decided to throw caution to the wind and stopped trying to avoid a pregnancy. I didn’t want anyone to get their hopes up or get excited (or worse, disappointed) so we kept this to ourselves. After several months of “just playing around,” I started reading message boards about trying to conceive. This is where I got a recommendation to start charting my cycles. I could have regular periods, they said, but it’s possible that I wasn’t ovulating.
So, I started charting. Just temping at first (with a beautiful temp shift on Cycle Day 14 or 15 every single month) and eventually tracked other bodily changes. As my friend Jenny from What the Blog? says, it’s surprising how much I didn’t know about my cycle.
On paper, we should have made a baby a dozen times over. Regular cycles. Temp shift. Body changes. Perfectly timed sex. No baby…not even one pregnancy. I don’t know if I’d have a problem holding on to a pregnancy because I’ve never had one. Every month, I feel like a failure.
Starting this January, we started letting other people know we were trying for a child. I thought I would probably need support for what was to come. I told everyone I decided to get preliminary testing just in case, when in reality we had already hit the “qualifying” time to be considered infertile. In February, my OB/GYN referred us to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE), a fertility specialist, to see if we could get a diagnosis. So far, we don’t have a lot of answers. I had a progesterone test done to confirm that I’m ovulating, and it was normal. My husband had a semen analysis, where we discovered he has a high amount of abnormal sperm. (For those in the know, he had a 3% strict morph.) Dr. Google says this is bad news, but my RE doesn’t seem concerned. With all of the conflicting information out there, how will I ever know what to believe?
My visit with the RE also unveiled a possible uterine problem – either a uterine septum or a “heart-shaped” uterus. Both are congenital defects, so if either is confirmed with further testing (I have to schedule a HSG next cycle) I will know that I’ve had an issue since birth. A septum is treatable with surgery; a heart-shaped uterus may not be treatable at all. Or, simply, we could discover that is is nothing at all. That’s been the worst part of this entire journey so far – the constant limbo.
I haven’t hit the bitter, angry infertility wall yet, but I’ve been blaming myself more and more. Is it because I’m overweight? Because I don’t eat well enough or exercise like I should? Do I drink too much coffee? Is it because my husband kept using tobacco behind my back, or because he drinks so much soda? Or is it my Bad Luck Ally syndrome? Bad karma? Is there some truth to the always-annoying advice to “just relax?” Is it because I stopped going to church long ago? Because I haven’t specifically asked God to do this for me? Sometimes I feel stupid, because I waited until I was 30 to even start trying. Was I wrong for waiting until we owned a home, were financially stable? Was I wrong for wanting some time to ourselves at the beginning of our marriage without throwing kids into the mix? If I would have started trying when I was still in my 20’s, would it have made a difference? How do I explain to myself that some people who are in shape, have strong faith and are in their 20’s still have fertility problems? Where in the world could they place their blame? Is it that much worse for them, since they don’t have an “excuse?” And why do I think these things at all, as a normally logical, scientific thinker?
Since our insurance only covers diagnosis and not treatment of infertility, I was at first overwhelmed with the thought that if our only option is IVF we will have to deplete the funds we saved for a down payment on a new house just to do something that most people on the planet have no trouble doing for free. Now, with the possibility that even IVF won’t be an option for us, suddenly the money seems like the smallest part of our problem.
I’m thankful for the online community of support I have found. Most of them don’t know my story, but even by reading others’ stories I’m able to gain some comfort, especially since we haven’t given our real-life friends and family an opportunity to be supportive. At least I know that while I’m struggling, I’m not struggling alone.