I just saw on another blog that this weekend ends National Infertility Awareness Week. I had been planning on writing something for it, since I struggled for seven years off and on trying to conceive. Heck, I’ve even been planning to write a book about my experience since I blogged the entire thing in my first (and anonymous) blog.
But I go to write and I just stare at the screen. I start reading my old blogs and I tear up and stop and walk away. It was just such an incredibly emotionally charged time that I’m having trouble going back there and putting myself through it again, even if it is just mentally.
“Because you’ll never know how badly you want something until you are told that it may not be possible.” – RESOLVE, National Infertility Association
After announcing my pregnancy, so many people told me they didn’t even know I wanted kids. I wasn’t even sure I wanted them most of my life. And I spent the last several years pretending not to want them just to have an answer when people asked why we didn’t have kids yet. It was an easier answer than launching into our fertility struggles.
So when we finally decided to do IVF, we didn’t tell anyone outside of close friends and family. And even then, we didn’t say much. I don’t know what I would have done without my blog and the blogging community I connected with while sharing my story. It gave me the emotional outlet I needed. I could scream, cry, laugh about what I was going through and was connected with women going through the same thing. We cheered each other’s successes and consoled each other through the losses.
And remembering that is what keeps pushing me to write the book. I remember searching and searching for stories to read about women going through infertility, looking for happy endings, looking for anything to connect to while going through such an alien procedure. I’m the kind of person who avoids the doctor unless I think I’m absolutely dying, and here I was volunteering to shoot myself full of drugs and subject myself to countless doctor visits. It consumes your life when you are going through it.
So I feel it’s a book that needs to be written. It’s a book with a purpose. I feel that if I can help even one person by sharing my story, it’s worth it. So here I am, just trying to amp myself up to revisit that blog and the rollercoaster of emotion connected to it and write that first page.
I was filling out an interview for a guest blogger feature on the I Just Wanna Finish My… blog and one of the questions was “What is your favorite blog post, and why?”
I was stumped. I scrolled through my posts. There were many I really liked but none that stood out as an all-time favorite. I settled on my post about drinking wine and blogging in my activewear because I thought it was funny and very “me.”
But it got me thinking about my writing and what one piece means the most to me. I realized it was one I hadn’t posted here yet. A post that started as a Facebook status. It’s probably the most meaningful heartfelt thing I’ve ever written. So here it is, my all-time favorite post:
Coming out of the Infertility Closet (originally published April 4, 2015)
When I first got pregnant, I was open about the IVF on Facebook because I wanted to post all my ultrasound pics from egg to baby. But I didn’t tell the whole story and how much of it was a long struggle and I had never mentioned anything about even trying to get pregnant before the big news. So this morning I decided to share the story and posted this:
Just sitting here this morning, with my belly almost blocking my keyboard, thinking about the long road I took to get here and the long journey I have ahead.
Around this time, eight years ago, I was pregnant for the first time. It only lasted seven weeks, but it was enough to make Sean and I realize how much we really wanted to start a family. With the first time being a total surprise we had no idea we were about to endure seven years of struggling and the heartbreak of repeatedly failed cycles.
We tried everything- timing, charting, fertility drugs, IUI’s. We even tried not trying. With Sean’s long deployments our efforts would be derailed, sometimes a year at a time. We finally sought the help of a fertility doctor who diagnosed me with endometriosis. I had surgery to remove it, along with a battery of tests that concluded we shouldn’t have any problem conceiving. But we still did.
Over the next year I quickly got over any fear of needles and learned to give myself shots, though I still preferred to shut my eyes and have Sean do it for me. I tried multiple drugs to ramp up my follicles. We did several rounds of IUI, where sperm is injected directly into your uterus through a catheter. It’s as fun as it sounds.
And still nothing. Not even a “maybe” line ever showed. Stark white tests. So we gave up again. Thought about adoption. Thought about maybe another dog. Sean got deployed for another 6 months.
I considered maybe I didn’t really want kids. I wondered if I was doing this because it was expected. I imagined us growing old, traveling the world and not worrying about raising a kid. As appealing as that sounded, it also seemed like something was missing. It was a little nagging feeling I couldn’t shake. I knew there was one thing left to try and at 38, time was running out.
So we tried a new doctor. By now my test results were dismal. We had a 15-20% chance of success. There was no sugar-coating this time. No “you got pregnant once, you can do it again” BS. Age plus years of endometriosis had left me with low ovarian reserve so there wasn’t much to work with. The doc suggested we get started on IVF right away. After years of disappointment, we both went into it with the last shred of hope we could muster.
The shots were brutal. Every day for over two weeks, all in the stomach. Twice and then three times day. We were running out of spots I didn’t have bruises. Sometimes the shots left large red lumps as well. I was bloated and miserable, but most of all determined to get through it.
The results of all that work were pretty crushing. I had managed to produce one mature follicle. A follicle does not even guarantee they can get a decent egg out of it. Most IVF patients get five or six. Some get as many as 20. I had one.
So they gave me the option to cancel the cycle and try again the next month with hopes I could produce more eggs. They said most places would go ahead and cancel the cycle anyway. I thought about how hard we had worked to get that one follicle and all the shots I had gone through and that there was no guarantee I could even make more. We held onto the mantra “It only takes one” and decided to go for it. The egg retrieval was a success and when we got the call to let us know it actually fertilized, I couldn’t keep the shock out of my voice. When the embryologist commented that I sounded surprised, I could only think to respond “We’re just so used to disappointment.”
With our first couple hurdles cleared we let ourselves get a little excited. Our little embryo grew and divided and reached the crucial stage for implantation 3 days later. We may have had just one shot, but it was starting to look like a good one and we were about to put our only egg in our only basket.
Throughout that last seven years I had grand ideas of how I’d surprise Sean with positive results if we got them. All that went out the window with the first hint of a second line on that little white stick. I think I just ran into the bedroom with a big smile waving the wet stick and asking him to squint at the little hint of color that was starting to show.
And now we’re here. Anxiously awaiting the day that little egg, who grew into our little son, will make his first appearance in the world. Sean calls him our lion among the sheep, and I can’t wait to hear his first little roar
I’d love to see what other people choose as their favorite thing they’ve written! Leave me a link in the comments so I can read your favorite stories too.
You go through a lot of stuff when you do IVF. Stuff you don’t normally run into when making a baby. Drugs, needles, scans and lots of probing. Oh wait…I guess there’s always a little probing involved. (ha!) But one of the more odd moments I recall was right after the egg transfer, when the embryologist asked if we’d like to keep the petri dish.
I recall being a little confused, thinking “people actually do that?” My husband and I pondered it a few seconds before both saying “No thanks.” Now, as my son is nearing three, I can’t help but to think about one day him asking me where babies come from and how cool would it be to whip out that petri dish and be like “Well son, you were created right here in this little dish!” For some reason I think this is really funny. It also might scar him for life. But mostly, it makes me chuckle.
I did save everything else though. I have all his photos from egg to fetus. I even have the positive pregnancy test sticks where I tested every day and watched the line get darker. If you aren’t familiar with infertility stuff, IVF people are obsessed with pregnancy testing sticks. So yes, I’m saving something I peed on, and I really should get rid of those but I just can’t yet.
So if you happen to be going through IVF, don’t be afraid to save everything. Because one day you may look back and think…we should’ve saved the petri dish.
It’s time for the official what makes me thankful Thanksgiving post! And for me, every day, I am most thankful my son has erased the bitterness that used to sit in my heart and eat away at me, especially around the holidays.
I was always indifferent about having children. Take ’em or leave ’em. But mostly just take them far away from me. The day I found out I was pregnant for the first time I was more shocked than excited. It was a sudden life change I didn’t think I was ready for. And then slowly the idea grew on me until I was excited. I bought books, signed up for websites, started prepping and then it all came crashing down when I started cramping in the middle of the night. And then suddenly that baby and all our family plans were gone overnight. And then the bitterness set in.
We didn’t start officially trying for another year, but by then I was already avoiding baby showers and hiding all my friends on Facebook that were happily posting cute baby pictures. Christmas cards that were just pics of children went straight in the trash. Birth announcements were like little daggers in my heart. Over the next seven years we went through charting, fertility drugs, IUI and finally IVF. Over that span of time I missed out on celebrating my friends’ births and taking an interest in their children because it all just made me sad. I got tired of people asking and just started telling everyone we didn’t want kids. I was a big liar.
Trying and failing for so long, and going through a monthly rollercoaster of being excited and hopeful, then sad and depressed really takes a toll on a person. And even when you try to stay level-headed, you still go a little crazy. It’s why I started my original blog Stop Telling Me to Relax. I needed an outlet and writing has always helped. And through that I connected to other people going through the same thing. I’m thankful for those people as well. It makes me incredibly happy when I check back in on them and see another one has been able to move out of that place of hope and despair.
I’m a different person now. I smile when I see baby announcements. I enjoy baby showers. I love seeing pics of my friends’ kids on Facebook. I️ reactivated all those people I hid years before, went through their photos and caught up on their lives. Having a child was, and is still, such an amazing huge heart-healing experience for me. It’s like that little black cold angry part of my heart just melted away. And it always reminds me of the Grinch, and how his heart grew three sizes that day. That’s how my son makes me feel every day, and I will forever be thankful for that.
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Being a geek was the easy part, that just came naturally. It was the baby part I had a hard time with.
After being married for 12 years (now 14), one miscarriage followed by 7 years of trying off and on, various fertility drugs, IUI procedures, acupuncture and endometriosis surgery, we finally turned to IVF and proceeded to make a baby in the geekiest most scientific way possible. We mixed drugs, measured shots and were eventually presented with the most amazing little egg in a petri dish. They asked me if I wanted to save the dish and I kind of wish I had now.
It was the most intense rollercoaster of sickness, emotion, pain and stress that I have ever put myself through voluntarily. This is me in the middle of 3 shots in the belly a day, the last week before my egg retrieval, bruised, bloated and with swollen lumps from one of the drugs:
One of the things that got me through all the sucky stuff was my blog. I blogged anonymously, and I blogged often. Sometimes even twice a day. I discovered an amazingly supportive community of bloggers doing the exact same thing. Some of those ladies are still in the trenches, going through one procedure after another. And while IVF success stories have their place and can give hope, the last thing most of them want to see is a million happy baby posts. So I decided to start a new blog all about being a parent and specifically, a geeky one. It’s mostly like being a normal parent but with more Star Wars.
If you’d like to read my uncensored IVF journey, you can find my blog here: Stop Telling Me to Relax (I’m not updating but still check in from time to time and answer comments)
*named that because when you are having trouble conceiving the #1 thing people tell you is to relax and it will happen! And then they don’t like it when you punch them. So I blogged and that helped curve those impulses 🙂
In the end it was all worth it. I can’t wait to show him pictures of himself as a 3-day old blastocyst!