This week is National Infertility Awareness Week and the theme this year is "You Are Not Alone". What better way to show others that they are not alone in the world of infertility than by sharing the stories of others who have walked this road! And so I will be doing just that. Every day this week, I will be posting a story from someone who knows the pain infertility brings and who is bravely sharing their journey with others.
I will be starting off this year's series with my own story. I figured that if I was asking others to do this, I should probably do it as well. This is the first time that I have written it all out in one place and to be honest, it's a little intimidating. I don't know where to start, how much to share and what exactly to to tell. So bear with me as I stumble over words to express what I have gone through these past five years and attempt to give you a glimpse into what infertility and loss feels like.
It all started in May of 2010. We had been married almost a year and a half and were beginning to discuss the possibility of starting a family. I started taking prenatal vitamins and researching everything I could find on the topic of getting pregnant and how to up your chances of having a healthy pregnancy. I was excited to start trying and daydreamed daily about telling our families, taking weekly belly shots, buying maternity clothes, decorating a nursery, etc. I was blissfully unaware of what the road ahead would look like and I was optimistic that we would be holding our new baby by the next summer. June arrived, we stopped using birth control and hoped that we would get lucky that first month. And we did. The second line showed up on a pregnancy test on July 4, 2010. Cue panic and excitement! This was it, the beginning of the next stage of our lives and we couldn't wait.
The next stage of our lives played out differently than we had imagined. In August we found out we were pregnant with twins and then we found out we had lost them both. I cannot even put into words the heartbreak and devastation that we felt that day. I don't like going back and reliving that time and in the effort to keep this short(ish), I will move past it relatively quickly. If you have never experienced the pain that comes with the loss of a child, you can't really imagine how it feels. And if you have gone through the nightmare, you have an idea of what I'm referring to. We kind of stumbled through the next couple months in a daze, as we coped with the loss and a super drawn out miscarriage. In December of that same year, we started trying again and found out we were pregnant mid-January. We were cautiously excited this time, since we were quite aware that a pregnancy does not equal baby in 9 months, but were hopeful that our first loss was a fluke and everything would work out fine the second time around. It didn't though. We found out the end of February that the heart had stopped beating and we went through our second loss.
We opted to wait a bit longer this time before trying again, since the second loss hit us pretty hard. We thought we would wait 6 months, but ended up waiting 18 instead. I got really sick that summer (2011) and continued to stay that way for over a year. After finally figuring out I had gluten and dairy intolerances, I started feeling a little better and we made the decision to try again. We were wary but also excited that maybe, just maybe, this time would work. I hate to say it, but I was also feeling pretty confident that it would happen quickly, since it had been so easy for us to get pregnant before. I assumed that our only problem was staying pregnant, not getting pregnant. Boy was I wrong. One year later, after starting preliminary fertility testing, we found out we were pregnant for the third time. I was terrified but also determined to be excited. Every day was a struggle but I managed to take weekly belly shots, fill out my pregnancy journal and start thinking about names. I was quite aware that this pregnancy could end at any time but I wanted to enjoy every day I had with this baby. And I did. Right up until our 9 week ultrasound where we found out that the heart had stopped beating. Again. This was all too familiar territory for us.
I was pretty much numb by this point. When the doctor told us the heart had stopped, I didn't even cry. I just nodded, like I had expected that statement. Why would this time have been any different anyhow. I sat dry-eyed through the instructions to go to the hospital the next day for the D&C, went grocery shopping without tearing up and returned home in one pulled together piece. I cried a bit that first day when telling some of my friends, but never had that full blown ugly cry. I got through the D&C and didn't cry. I was just going through the motions. I had been here before, I knew what to do, I was coping. I had expected disappointment and wasn't surprised when it came.
At our 6 week follow up with our ob/gyn, we expressed our desire to be referred to a fertility clinic for further testing. Something was obviously wrong. Three pregnancies, four babies, all ending at 9 weeks after seeing a heartbeat earlier, something wasn't adding up. Something had to be wrong. We got the referral and had our first appointment in January (2014), where they took all my blood (okay, only 18 vials) and gave me requisitions for more bloodwork and an SHG. We finally felt like we were closer to answers and were excited/nervous to get our results. Nothing showed up on that first round of testing, we were boringly normal. We were told to try on our own, with the aid of baby aspirin and progesterone, for the summer and return after 5 months if we weren't pregnant. We didn't get pregnant that summer so we returned in the fall for some more tests. They monitored one of my cycles for diagnostic purposes and this revealed that I had polycystic ovaries (not PCOS) and my eggs were released immaturely. Immature eggs can lead to not getting pregnant or getting pregnant and then having an early loss. Both of which were my problems.
They recommended a treatment protocol, which we started in January of this year. We did two treatment cycles and they both didn't work. We are currently taking a break but plan on starting up again in May for some more drugs and monitoring. Fun stuff.
Infertility and losses have affected me so deeply, I don't really know how to put it into words.
It makes you feel broken, like your body has failed you. You see everyone else getting pregnant and having babies and you begin to wonder what the heck is wrong with you. Something that seems so easy for others, seems impossible for you. You become bitter and jealous, hating all pregnant people or people with kids. Pregnancy announcements bring heartache and despair. Going out in public, where you might run into baby bumps or children, becomes a huge fear and anxiety. Facebook is no longer safe. Church is no longer safe. Grocery shopping is no longer safe. It feels like everyone is moving ahead of you, winning at the race to have children. People you know who got married after you started trying have now had multiple children. Friends move into different stages of life and you are left behind. Family get togethers are painful, watching all the kids run around and knowing that you should have your own in that mix. Holidays are hard. Birthdays are hard. Every.single.day.is.hard.
It puts a ton of strain on your marriage. Men and women grieve differently and deal with infertility and losses differently. You fight more with your spouse. You disagree about how to move forward, how much to spend, what treatments to try. You place blame where it shouldn't be placed. You feel guilty for not being able to give your spouse a child. You become consumed by stress. Sex is no longer fun and spontaneous, but a chore that needs to be done at a certain time.
It kills your finances. Pregnancy tests cost money. Junk food costs money. Treatments cost a lot of money. You become angry that you have to spend money to just try and get pregnant. You feel bitter that others get babies for free and you have to pay thousands of dollars and still have empty arms. You fight with your spouse about money.
Infertility changes things. It has changed me in ways I never thought imaginable. In some ways, I am a better person for going through this. I am more sensitive and caring, I have matured, I have made some amazing friendships, I appreciate the little things more, I have become a new "me". But it has also made me a more angry, bitter, jealous, jaded person. I judge others more quickly, I cut people out of my life, I have no patience for pregnant people, I avoid babies and children. Some days, I am okay with my story and what my life looks like. I am okay with who I have become and how I am now able to help others going through similar struggles. I like the new me, probably better than the old me. But other days, I find the grief and pain suffocating. The thought of having to feel this way for the rest of my life is daunting, not to mention depressing. Some days I don't want this to be my story, I don't want to face this every day, I don't want to struggle against all these feelings until I die. It just isn't fair.
So this is my story and I am sharing it with the world, to help raise awareness for infertility and to let others know that they are not alone. You hear that? You are not alone.
2015 NIAW "You Are Not Alone" Series
2015 NIAW "You Are Not Alone" Series