Today I realized that March will mark three years of dealing with infertility: an anniversary I never thought I would be counting. It was a painful realization, and I broke down for the first time in months. Trying to be tough, to put on a happy face, has been my mantra these days, but I think maybe I needed a good cry. The pain doesn’t seem to get easier, instead only deeper as the years pass.
I remember the very first month we started trying; we were in Arizona in March 2009, meeting friends in Tempe to see one of my favorite bands play a special anniversary show. I was excited, Seth was hesitant, but I just knew that it would work. As things would go, I was late that month – more than a week late, which had never happened before – and I anxiously took a pregnancy test, already planning baby’s first Christmas in my head. Well, it seemed like nature’s cruel joke, but my cycle started again and we’ve had no sign of pregnancy since then.
Fast forward a year, and we met with a reproductive specialist in July of 2010. Turns out I had stage 4 endometriosis enveloping my ovaries and fallopian tubes. Seth was out of town when I received the diagnosis; my mom was with me at that visit. I remember living with my parents again for weeks while Seth was away; I couldn’t bear to be alone, but I didn’t really want to be around friends either. A few tests later, and in September I was scheduled for the scariest surgery a girl in her twenties who is trying to conceive can imagine: exploratory laparotomy with the understanding that I may wake up with my fallopian tubes gone. It was a long and difficult surgery according to my doctor, but he was able to spare my tubes, thanks to God’s great grace. Recovery was painful, followed by two more minor surgeries. Because the endometriosis had basically ravaged my ovaries, I was also diagnosed with low ovarian reserve. The plan was to move forward with in vitro fertilization, bypassing intrauterine insemination since our chances were so slim.
I began giving myself injections in March of 2011, which at first I thought would be no problem at all – I’m a nurse and needles don’t bother me. But each time was more difficult than the last. The medication burned, and I would stand there for several minutes with needle in hand, tears in eyes, just willing myself the strength to stab my abdomen, knowing the pain that was about to follow. It was worth it though, for the hope of a Christmas baby again. During that time, we were doing bloodwork and sonograms every other day to monitor my progress, but one week into injections, on an early morning Saturday office visit, the doctor cancelled the IVF. My body wasn’t responding to the medications; my ovaries were not producing follicles like they should be. That was the worst visit up to that point. I was completely devastated, but also numb. We went to breakfast and tried to pretend that everything was okay, and that we would just try again in a few months.
Well, a few months came and went. I began a health revolution, changing my eating habits, taking ridiculous amounts of supplements from my nutritionist sister and Chinese herbs prescribed by my acupuncturist. Doing things to “just relax,” like every second person you meet tells you to do. (Sidenote – don’t ever say that to someone with infertility. It is a knife to the heart.) It was August of 2011 when I finally got up the courage to see the doctor to attempt IVF again. Sonograms showed the endometriosis had returned….the doctor was not encouraged…and he ordered bloodwork to test my ovarian reserve. Waiting those three days to get the results was the longest three days of my life. The doctor called on a Friday evening, I was home alone while Seth was at band practice. That’s when I received the worst news of my life: my ovarian reserve was 0.16, or for all practical purposes nonexistent. He told me IVF was out of the question - the only thing he would offer me was to use donor eggs, which Seth and I had already decided was not an option for us. I hung up the phone…in complete shock at first, but then the emotions set in. I screamed and cried to the point I couldn’t breathe; I had never felt pain that intense before. My whole world was crashing…the only dream, the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do my whole life, to be a mother, to carry my own child, was being ripped away from me.
Life since then has been weird. I’m definitely not myself anymore - infertility changes a person. Going to church has been difficult and we took several months off from that. We are trying to trust God again – to believe that He really does work all things together for our good. Seeing baby announcements and birthdays come and go for our friends’ children (even friends that started trying after we did) is just a constant reminder of our still 2 person family after five years of marriage. Christmas is the worst now, it has lost all it’s magic to me. Some days are easier than others…I try not to think about it, but honestly not a day goes by that I don’t feel some level of hurt from all of this. Patients at work ask me if I have children, and then lecture me on how they are the greatest thing in the world and I shouldn’t wait too long to start. I fake a smile and just answer “well, hopefully soon.” What else do I say to that?? Sometimes I just want to tell people the flat out truth so they understand that maybe there’s a reason why we don’t have a baby. (Another sidenote – don’t ever ask someone you’ve just met if they have children.)
So now here we are at three years. Three years of struggle. Three years of crying. Only the Lord knows what comes next, and all we can do is trust in Him, however difficult that may be. We are looking ahead now, considering adoption. Considering that maybe one day we can be happy again. Hoping that this doesn’t last too much longer.