Well, I’m new to the blogging community, but it seems that it’s probably time to tell you (those few of you who are reading this) a little about my TTC background. It seems only fair, after so many have been so courageous in sharing their own stories.
My Honey and I met in 2006 in my (though not his) final semester of college, got engaged the following year, and married the year after that, in March of 2008. I went off birth control that September and we officially started TTC December 2008, exactly nine months after our wedding. The honest truth is that we were not ready to start a family just yet. My husband was still in college and we hoped to begin our careers, move away, buy a house, and get settled before Baby came along. BUT I had always suspected that I might have trouble conceiving and so Honey reluctantly agreed to start trying sooner rather than later.
So why did I suspect fertility issues? Because I don’t ovulate. I just don’t. My whole life, I have never had regular periods and, the older I’ve grown, the longer my cycles have become. In college, it was nothing to go six months to a year without a period. I did get my period shortly after I met my Honey (blame it on the raging hormones!), but that was the first time in a year and a half. It was the longest I had ever gone without….not that I really minded. The bloating, the bleeding, the cramps…ugh! Who wants to deal with that? But it was worrisome, too, because with every year that passed (and especially once I fell in love), the more I wanted children and the more children I wanted.
But no doctor could tell me exactly why I don’t ovulate often. I know PCOS is the most obvious answer and though I do have a few of the more superficial symptoms of that — acne (though that has greatly improved), some hair in unwanted places (ew, gross), skin tags (just two though), and difficultly losing weight (though I am by no means overweight and my BMI is just under 23) — I don’t have any of the major ones. No insulin resistance. Low testosterone levels. Just one very tiny cyst on my ovary. So no doctor is able to confidently diagnose PCOS. I know there has to be an explanation — some hormonal imbalance is my guess — but I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know that I ever will.
So when we first started trying to conceive, we did it the old-fashioned way. Sort of. I was a bit of a control freak, and desperate to not miss any small chance we may have if and when I were to ovulate, so I insisted on doing the baby dance every other day. For six months. By then, we were exhausted! In that time, I did no temping, no OPKs, and had just two periods, one of which was very long (two weeks of spotting and two weeks of bleeding, totally abnormal for me) and pretty heavy. I have a sneaking suspicion that one may have been a miscarriage as I passed some very unusual grayish matter from my noonie (as Tina Fey once called it on SNL), but I will never know for sure and it’s probably best that way. One heartbreak from a pregnancy loss is enough for me, thank you.
After six months of trying without success, the Honey and I made a trip to visit my much-loved OB/GYN. She ran more tests (like the glucose tolerance test), came up with nothing unusual, and then prescribed Progesterone to induce a period, and Clomid to force ovulation, 50mg for 3 months to take on days 3-7. And so that’s what we did from July to December 2009. But not only did we not conceive, I didn’t even ovulate. Not one damn time. I know because I had started temping and OPKing by then (and saw no changes on either), and never did I start my period on my own. And so we went back to the doctor and she increased my Clomid to 100mg and gently warned me that, after three more cycles of this, she would have to refer us to a specialist.
By then, I was feeling desperate and distraught. I did not want to be one of THOSE couples..the kind of couple who needs a specialist to do the most basic thing on earth. I already felt inadequate and disgusted with myself. I hated my body (and if I’m being honest, sometimes still do) for not working right, for betraying me, for not allowing me to have the one thing I wanted most. Worst of all, I felt like less of a woman. Like I couldn’t even call myself a woman if I was unable to bear children. Please know that I do not think that way about anyone else on this journey. I think nothing less (and often only more) of other women who have struggled to conceive. But for me to go through it…it meant something was wrong with me, and I hated that feeling.
And it goes without saying that the costs of such specialists and specialized treatments frightened me, too. In the midst of our TTC, I quit my job because I hated it and thought the stress might be affecting my fertility. A bold and brave move on my part…but not the wisest one, as it meant that our income decreased by about 65% and we lost all health insurance. I could not even fathom how we would afford fertility doctors and injectables and IUI and IVF. Yes, my head and heart were already going there. In fact, by the time my second cycle of 100mg of Clomid came around (the first was another failure), I was pretty certain that I was never going to bear my own children. After nearly fifteen months of trying, it just felt unlikely and impossible. I highly expected that cycle to fail, and the next one too, and that I would make an appointment with an RE, and we’d do what we could afford to conceive and it would all fail, fail, fail and I’d be childless my whole life long. Melodramatic? Yes. But still heartbroken? Oh, yes.
And I know I had no reason to go there yet. We were a long ways from the end of the road. And I know — I know! — many, many others have a harder journey, a longer one, a sadder one. But I truly, fully believed, to the very marrow of my bones and depths of my soul, that I would never have children. I had already lost all hope and that was the darkest, loneliest time in my life. (With the exception of these last few weeks, but that’s another story…stay tuned!)
I know this story is getting very long, but bear with me. I’m almost to the end. So I remember, in February 2010, I received a baby shower invitation for a friend I didn’t even know was pregnant. She was a lifelong friend, but she lived a state away, and I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in months. My mom is besties with her mom and knew all about Lady H’s pregnancy, but had decided against telling me, for fear of crushing my heart. So instead I found out from a stupid invitation about eight weeks before her due date. And I cried. I think I cried for 24 hours straight and then off and on for another week. I wept because it seemed wholly unfair that this girl, who was two years younger than me, only had to decide to get pregnant and then she was. I raged against my mother (whose intentions were good, bless her heart) and I dropped to my knees to beg God for a baby of my own. I never did go to her shower (I just couldn’t put myself through that) and, one month later, I learned she had delivered her baby.
And the very next day, I saw two pink lines of my own. I had not been expecting it or even hoping for it as the OPK never did show I was ovulating, and I peed on that stick only as proof that I wasn’t pregnant so I could once again start on the Progesterone and my final cycle of Clomid. Instead, I got the greatest shock of my life. And four subsequent tests all said the same thing: positive. I was pregnant.
I won’t make this story any longer, or make you all want to gag, with all the details of my pregnancy (placenta previa), labor (22 hours) and delivery (just 20 minutes of pushing), because we all know how the story ends:
And in the end, nothing else mattered. The heartache, the hopelessness, the struggle, the months it took…it just didn’t matter anymore because she was here and I was in love. I look back on that painful journey and I still feel a sense of melancholy and regret. I will never be the same for it. And when I hear of another pregnancy or another birth, it’s like a pin in my heart every time. Because I wanted it to be that easy for me. And I still do…I want a million babies and I don’t want to struggle for every one of them. But we all have our own journeys and this is mine, for whatever reason.
But that’s really just the beginning. On another day, when I’m feeling up to it, I’ll tell you Part 2 of my story. About the Baby Who Almost Was. About the one I loved and lost.