We’d like to thank Elizabeth for taking the time to write about her deeply personal story with infertility. It means so much to us that she would share such a personal journey with us in hopes that others can relate and learn about what it’s like to deal with something so heartbreaking.
Throughout my entire childhood anytime anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up my answer was always the same: a mommy. Little did I know how hard of a journey that would be!
As a teen my periods were always irregular, that in itself cause me to question wether or not I was going to be able to easily have children. As I got older I started to notice my body doing other strange things: the hair on the top of my head thinned out considerably, I gained a bit of weight right around my mid section and I started to grow some facial hair. I heard about PCOS- polycystic ovarian syndrome- in a high school health class one day and a light bulb flashed in my head. It sounded a LOT like what was happening to my body. I did some research and was convinced that’s what I had but, I put it in the back of my mind for the time being, as I was still in my mid teens and no where near ready to have a baby.
The years passed and I got married to an amazingly supportive man. I actually remember making him promise not to hate me if I couldn’t have children. He laughed it off at the time but inside I was already dying. The first few years were busy. My husband was in the Army and was gone a lot so while we never tried to not get pregnant, we blamed him being away so much as to why it hadn’t happened yet. While my husband spent a year in Iraq, I visited doctors and tried to prepare as much as possible to have a baby when he got back. The military doctors were not very helpful and decided without any testing that my infertility was because I was over weight. They told me I would get pregnant as soon as I lost some weight and sent me on my way.
Shortly after that my husband’s military career ended and we moved back home to Toronto. A few months in and my desire to be a mom was consuming me. I had well meaning friends and family say things like “it will happen when it’s time” or the awful “stop trying and it will happen”. I always wanted to strangle people when they said those things, as well meaning as they might have been. How do you simply “stop” trying to have a baby and have it suddenly happen? It didn’t help that I worked as a nanny and spent all day with other people’s children only to come home to my own empty house.
I eventually got a referral to a fertility clinic and after months of waiting and enduring test after test, it was confirmed that I did indeed have PCOS. While I assumed it all along the actual confirmation of it was crushing. I cried the whole way home and for days afterwards. I remember telling my husband that I wouldn’t blame him if he wanted to divorce me for a “real” woman. I felt broken, defective, like less of a woman since I wasn’t able to do the one thing that defines womanhood to me, have a baby.
Once I pulled myself together and decided that this didn’t define me, we tackled the fertility clinic head on. We went thru a year and a half of cycle monitoring and timed intercourse, with no luck and then moved on to IUI- intrauterine insemination. I got pregnant on my third cycle! I couldn’t believe the news!! We were absolutely delighted but, I was afraid. I wasn’t totally confident yet that my body knew what to do. For months I obsessed about bathroom visits and counted down days to “safe” points in my pregnancy- “ok I made it past the 1st trimester, the risk of miscarriage goes down” or “ok I am past 24 weeks,if I go into labor the doctors will attempt to save my baby”… My entire pregnancy was a blur of fear almost to the point where I couldn’t enjoy it.
After my son was born we were in heaven. I soaked up every minute and felt like the luckiest woman ever. When my son was about 6 months old both my husband and I started to feel the urge to add to the family. We took a visit to the fertility clinic that helped us before and they were absolutely convinced that since having my son we would easily be able to get pregnant. So, we went home and tried. My periods were regular now but the cycles were long, indicating that I likely wasn’t ovulating. When my son was 10 months we went back into the clinic and waved the white flag. I didn’t want to endure another 7 years of trying, we just wanted help!
So, here were are again trying IUI. We’ve had 3 failed cycles and are waiting to go in for a 4th. Everyone told us it would likely happen on our own, then they all but guaranteed it would happen on the first IUI and yet with each cycle something new seems to be going wrong. I’m not responding to the fertility meds, my lining is too thin, my estrogen is off… on and on. With each phone call I feel like less and less of a woman, despite my miracle baby shrieking in the background. Add to that the return of the well meaning comments and the new favorite “well you’re not considered infertile now that you had a baby”. No, sorry, I am still an infertile woman,and apparently my body is all to happy to prove that.
Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and just be ok with my 1 baby but, that’s not my hearts true desire. It’s physically, mentally, emotionally and financially draining but, we are going to get this 2nd baby! If I could look back on my younger self I’d tell her, “Don’t give up, if you want something bad enough you will get it. You are beautiful and whole and loved beyond measure and have an amazing, strong, encouraging husband to help you get thru it.” I wish I had known just how hard and painful it would be, not just emotionally but physically too. It’s a lot to put your body thru but so worth it in the end.
Every day is a struggle and a blessing at the same time. I celebrate the small successes that other women don’t even notice- that sight twinge in my ovary after I have given myself an ovidrel shot and I know I just released an egg, the pain and bloating that tells me those follicles are growing and the period that arrives on the 28 day mark. I still am still secretly jealous of those women who can get pregnant by just looking at their spouse but I realize every day how lucky I am that my son is a living, breathing spectacular creation and not just a hopeful wish for the future.