How Infertility Taught Me To Find Joy In The Small Things

Amanda’s post is, on the surface, about a struggle with infertility.  It’s actually about more, so much more than that.  It’s about what happens when life doesn’t go to plan, and you’re a planner.  About what happens  when the dream doesn’t come true, and you’re a dreamer.  And about how you pick your battles when they aren’t yours to pick.  

Over to you, Amanda:       

I always thought I would have babies easily. After all, when you grow up watching MTV’s  16 and pregnant you end up afraid of getting pregnant, not the opposite. In my fantasies I dreamt of being a young mom, something about having the energy of youth and the crazy recklessness that comes with it appealed to me. 

In high school I always thought if I had an “accident” I would keep the baby, be happy, and go on to become a doctor as well. Of course, that was not a possibility since at that time I was not even dating anyone, let alone sleeping with boys.

 

One of my favourite movies (“Waitress”) tells the story of a girl who loves to bake, gets pregnant on a night of drunken sex and then proceeds to deal with it in the best way that she can. Then there was that other movie, “The 5-year engagement” where that quirky girl, the main-character’s sister gets pregnant on one fun night. I secretly wanted that to happen to me. When Juno came out I rushed to see it. I loved every second of the movie; I got the soundtrack and listened to it over and over again. I memorized every song of that cd. I just never expected to live the role of Jennifer Garner (and I haven’t seen any baby ads in the supermarket’s ad-board either).

Even before we were engaged, Mark and I had long talked about babies and we knew we wanted to start trying for one right after getting married. Also, I was 30 at the time, so the timing felt right. I had spent long hours studying biology, physiology, the menstrual cycle and how our inner crazy hormones make our bodies work. I knew my clockwork regular cycle very well.

I spent a whole summer feeling cows’ ovaries and the turgency of their uterus and then inseminating them, or flushing them with hormones, as needed. I could give you a lecture on the quality mucus should have during ovulation (transparent, fluid and elastic, like egg whites).  I had read numerous stories of girls getting pregnant during their honeymoon or in the short months that followed, and this had been the case for pretty much everyone I knew.

I naively expected to get pregnant right away. It didn’t help that patience is not my biggest virtue and that I am an anxious mess, who worries about everything, overthinks every decision, researches all the subjects and just can’t seem to turn my brain off. When it didn’t happen after 4 months, we decided to go see the doctors and check the monsters I had hiding in the closet.

You see, as a 19-year old I was diagnosed with degree IV endometriosis. The gynaecologists scared the sh*t out of me by saying if I didn’t undergo treatment straight away, I would probably have trouble conceiving. Except, at that time I was about to embark on a year of studying abroad and said treatment involved injections and a drug-induced menopause, with all the side effects that go with it. We read everything we could on the subject and discovered that with endometriosis, even when all the spots disappear after treatment, they might come back later, it’s a recurrent condition.

So we evaluated the pros and cons and decided not do anything about it. The knowledge of this diagnosis was always something dark lurking in the back of my mind, but I also always told myself that I would magically heal, that I could will it away if only I wanted it strong enough. We were also told that a pregnancy would actually help with the lesions and thought that if needed I’d get the treatment when the time came.

Fast forward 11 years, I found myself back at the gynaecologists office with my husband, telling her my story. After the standard instructions of “wait a few months and come back”, she proceeded to do every test imaginable on both of us. If you are dealing with infertility (which I hope you never have to), you know the lot: all kinds of bloodwork (post-ovulatory progesterone, Chlamydia, Thyroid hormones, Toxoplasma, Syphilis) and other tests: pH of vaginal mucus, endless transvaginal ecographies to verify that ovulation was happening, an hysterosalpingography, a general hormone profile, and an exploratory laparoscopic surgery. They also checked the boy, who had it easy as all he had to do was “provide” a sample.

Every single test came out fine. We have no risk factors (except my age, but I was 30 when we started, so, supposedly, not really).  We don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. We eat healthy food, we take vitamins. The biggest surprise was finding out that all of my endometriosis disappeared; there were no spots, cysts, or endometriomas anywhere to be found. My biggest fear was not even there, but reality was even worse.

For all my knowledge in the intricacies of biology (I am a vet and a biologist), for all our “perfect” results on tests, we are still here, 27 months after starting to actively look for this baby. Science does not know everything, and every baby is in fact a miracle. I clearly remember my Embryology professor back on my first year at university saying exactly that, and then explaining all the things that can go wrong even before implantation.

We stand in the dark, doing everything we can (finally pursuing treatment… which was both a hard decision and a blessing) and learning.

Going through this has showed me what we are able to achieve as a couple, as a team. We´ve cried a lot (well, at least I have), and I have not always been at my nicest, which has led to some ugly discussions. But we’ve grown together. And more than anything I am learning that we only have to take it one day (or one month) at a time, that hope, loving each other fiercely and actively searching for joy in the little things of everyday, even (or perhaps more so) at the hardest moments will get us through this, even when as of right now I don’t even know how this story will end.

Categories: Health
24 interesting thoughts on this

24 Comments

  1. Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Hello Alison

    What a brave and heartfelt post, I can relate to everything you have said, although I am very lucky and blessed to have my 2yr old daughter, I am struggling to conceive again, I have secondary infertility and with this, our local health care provider is not interesting in treating. I conceived first time in 4 mo this and stupidly thought it would be that quick again! We started when my daughter was 6 months old, she will turn 2 and a half this week… I had lots of tests last year and it was found that my right tube is blocked but as I said as its secondary they won’t treat me! We were due to have my husband tested in February but on New Years Day we finally got a positive pregnancy test, unfortunately at the end of February it ended in a missed miscarriage and now we are heartbroken and back to trying again, not knowing really what will happen now. Although I am a mum, the frustration and constant stress and not being a le to have another baby makes for a difficult life, I feel a lot of guilt and disappointment, I am angry at my body and at life, we are trying to immigrate and this part of life was not in our plans.

    I still believe though, I have to, I don’t talk to people a lot about this as secondary infertility is quite a taboo, but I have some supportive friends and family and that makes all the difference, my husband is my rock and keeps me going when it’s all too much, he gives me faith that this isn’t our story and things will change and reassuringly everything that we have been through has made us stronger!

    I wish you lots of happiness for the future, going through this has taught me so much about my body and how to look after it properly and in a way that makes it run better and that’s a positive, you will find away to become a mum, I know a few ladies now who have become parents in the most unexpected way and if you keep believing it can happen, sending lots of positive baby vibes!
    PS sorry about the mammoth reply! X x

    • Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much, and all of the best wishes to you too, hopefully your baby will come soon. I am sorry about your recent loss, sending you love as you get ready to try again (when the time is right for you).

      You are so right about keeping the faith and the hope, knowing, feeling, that one way or another it will happen, we will have a family. (Of course I don’t know this, but we do have to believe it). And like you point out, I have learnt about taking care and looking after our bodies.

      I also went through a phase where I was very angry at my body, at the universe, at life, for making me go through this. But bad things happen to everyone for no reason at all. Understanding that, understanding that this is not karma, not punishment, not a lesson, not my “fault”, really helped me move on. Now I accept that our path, our story is different to that of other people (as is everyone’s, in different aspects), and that I have to live it, walk it, and yes, make the best out of it, even if it is hard. And when I think too much, or I get sad / negative thoughts I shut them down, I don’t allow myself to go there, as it is a black hole that would quickly suck me in, put me down, and not help in any way.

      I hope all the best for you, I hope you will be able to get treatment, somehow (I know a similar story, a friend got pregnant the first time in less than 4 months, and now is completely surprised / startled that her second is not coming as easy).

      This is all so mysterious, life really, and truly is a miracle.

  2. Anon
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I could have written this, about the plans, the dreams, the disappointment…

    We know what the problem is that we face and although it makes it (slightly) easier that they have at least found something, it’s such a struggle to deal with it and what it means for us and our future, all those plans. I would happily talk about it openly as you have but my husband prefers to keep it private so I can’t. I just wish it wasn’t something people feel they need to hide and I’m glad we can discuss these things here, as you have or anonymously (in fact I’ve already sent in a BCD post about our experiences). It’s devastating to go through and I am also trying (and mostly managing) to find happiness or at least distraction in small things and little projects. Good luck with everything!

    • Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Good luck and best wishes to you too.

      On of the hardest parts of dealing with this was at the beginning, when I felt so isolated, among pregnancy announcements, babies and happy stories. I thought I was alone in this, that it was only happening to me. Only when I started reading and opening up did I realize that this happened to some of us, but it is such a taboo it is not talked about. It almost makes it feel like we’re dealing with some kind of infectious illness. So much stigma associated with it, like leprosy back in the day…
      Since then I kind of make a point of talking openly about it, it’s not like I scream it, but if the subject comes, I will tell my story, and I don’t want to have to hide it, as if it was something I did / caused and should be ashamed of.
      I want people to know, that this is just something that happens, and hopefully we can all support each other.

      Of course I understand this is all very private and intimate, and I see how for some couples this is something that they do not want to discuss about.

      Anyhow, I wish you and your partner / husband all the best of luck, and may we find our way out of the woods soon. If you ever need to talk / vent / rant with someone external, feel free to contact me (my email address is on the blog).

      A phrase I read and that has helped me is: “You can’t be magic if there are no monsters”

  3. Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m so sorry that this has been so hard for you, Amanda, but thank you for writing so candidly about it. And it’s encouraging that already you can find good things to take away from it all – like knowing what the two of you can cope with/achieve together. I really hope it goes well for you, and that you have some positive news soon.
    x

  4. Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post Amanda, thank you for sharing. I have to admit I didn’t know much about what could go wrong with conception when we started the journey to have a baby, but I was always pretty pessimistic about it, simply because I know so many couples who have struggled and are struggling, I didn’t want to take anything for granted or be the person whose life would be over if it never happened for us. But the not knowing, the waiting, somehow that’s worse than knowing what it is that is stopping it from happening, isn’t it? Well maybe it isn’t from the perspective of someone who knows why they are having issues, because you have that hope where they might not.

    Babies really are miracles, I keep thinking how amazing it is that anyone is born ever, when you look into all the reasons why they might not make it. Especially in the early weeks. How are some countries over populated? My mind boggles.

    If only there was an answer. But until that comes, whatever that may be, I hope you know that everyone is supporting you. Whether they have children, want children, or not. And I hope you’ll keep us updated on what happens next. Because whether or not you realise it, speaking out is not just balm for your soul, but for countless others who are going through something similar.

    X

    • Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      Thank you so so much.

      And you are right, not knowing is hard, specially because apparently there is no problem (which only means science can only go so far, a lot is of known, and we are probably dealing with issues at a molecular level). However treatment is pretty much the same for everyone, at this point, so we just hope for the best.

      Overpopulation and all these babies born in adverse conditions ( I am thinking extreme malnutrition, infectious disease) are just mind boggling like you say. Every life really is a miracle.

      Thanks again :)

  5. Posted March 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Great post my friend.

    • Posted March 12, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      Hugs to you :) You know I am always thinking and hoping for you guys too.

  6. Posted March 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Amanda, thanks for sharing your story. Everyone’s path is so different but the emotions still resonate with every one who steps forward on AOW to talk about fertility.

    I feel like what Lucy says was true for me – the not knowing was the hardest part. If I’d known our treatment would work when it did, I would never have felt myself slipping into the black hole that I did about 6 months before. There’s something incredibly tough psychologically about not knowing if or when the waiting will stop, and for anxious people the feeling of being out of control is the absolute pits. But. It teaches you so much about yourself, and, as you say, your relationships. I couldn’t have done it without the constant cheerleading of the people around me who I confided in.

    It takes a strong person to see the positives in a challenging situation, and it’s a testament to you that you manage it. Good luck for the onward journey my love, I wish you all the luck in the world.

    Px

    • Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Penny,. I am so happy for you :) Not knowing, and realizing that we don’t in fact control any of this (even in the case of “fertile” couples…who I think are just “lucky”) is a huge life-changing, humbling discovery. All the best wishes to you too.

      • Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

        Meant to say Waitress is also one of my favourite ever films!

        Px

  7. Keeping anon for now
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Amanda. All I can say is ME TOO. We are going through the same thing and it’s pretty rubbish.

    I havent found it hard when great, true, close friends have fallen pregnant but recently I found it very hard when two sets of couples, more long term fair weather friends than anything else, who hubby and I have known since our school days have both announced pregnancies. Now those announcements hurt. You run the gamut of ‘they can’t have been trying that long, they’ve only been together all of two minutes!’ and ‘If we had fallen pregnant within the first six months of trying, our baby would be a year now….how is this fair?’ Life ISN’T fair!!

    I spent a few days feeling angry and brooding, just feeling sapped and miserable. I then got in touch with both couples, took a deep breath and wished them well, celebrated with them. I felt like a better person for doing this. I probably now sound like an emotionally immature person for feeling upset about their pregnancies. But this was just one lesson learnt this week, jealousy and anger is just not worth it.

    Best wishes with you journey, we can all be parents somehow :)

    • Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Oh the pregnancy announcements. It is weird. With people that are close to me, or with whom I feel connected, I feel their joy and can share it, But with “random” acquaintances, you know, that colleague at work or the cousin from a friend it hurts, because it feels so unfair, specially when you start counting months. Or when it’s obvious (because they say it) that it was an oopsie, unplanned pregnancy.
      However I have to fight back and shut up those thoughts, I keep repeating myself that our story is not anyone elses, but that does not mean our baby won’t come. It will just come later, or in another way.
      I wish you all the best, send you love, and hope, and wishes and support. If you ever need to vent / rant / talk, feel free to email me.

      (Jealousy and anger are not worth it… true, but you are not emotionally immature for feeling those things, sometimes it’s better to have a good cry, let it out, and let it go, and then be happy for them.).

      • Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

        I definitely found it hardest to deal with when anyone was flippant about pregnancy, or, as you say Amanda, it was unplanned or felt unwanted in any way. I managed to switch off most of the time but when my step-sister accidentally became pregnant it tipped me over the edge and it started to really eat away at me. I still feel a bit monstrous for some of the things I thought as (I was told) she weighed up whether to keep the baby or not. I thought it made me a bad person to feel so much anger and jealousy but we’re only human beings and it’s a lot to deal with when it’s so close to home. Now she has the baby and she is such a brilliant mum, plus I am finally pregnant, I wonder how I let myself think those things… (and I’m sure she wonders how she could have ever been in two minds) and I often feel guilty about it. But it just goes to show it’s easy to lose perspective when you put yourself under pressure and there are so many fears and worries to contend with. Lean on the people around you whenever you can, and be kind to yourself, always.

        Px

  8. Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much Becci :) And we are supported, by friends, and family, and all of you ;) Hearing those stories gives me so much hope, knowing that against all odds, it still happens. A colleague of Mark had the same… their first baby was conceived through FIV, and later they had a surprise baby girl, they call it a gift :) .

  9. Katielase
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking off and on all day about how to respond to this, it isn’t something I’ve experienced. All I can say is that if I do experience it in the future, I hope I manage it with half your strength and positivity and bravery. I’m hoping and praying for your happy ending, you so deserve it.

    K xx

    • Posted March 12, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much Katielase :)
      And well, don’t worry too much for know, just considering odds it most probably won’t happen to you (as it happens to 10-25 % of couples, you have more chances of not having any issues than the opposite).
      And the bravery is in you for sure! We are capable of doing things….

  10. Posted March 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m just so impressed by your courage and your perseverance. Keep a tenacious grip on hope, sweet friend x

    • Posted March 13, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      <3

      Thanks Fiona, for always being there.

  11. Posted March 13, 2013 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    I am so glad to finally read your story. It is not just a story about trying to become a mother, but also of your growth as a couple. I am so glad you were able to move closer and help each other through this. My friend, who is going through IVF and is also a therapist, has talked about switching her practice to help women and couples cope with the stress of infertility. Your story is one of resilience. I hope that the treatments have the outcome you’ve been waiting for.

    • Posted March 13, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for your support. We keep hoping too, we’ll see what life has in store for us, after all , all we can do is let those wishes out in the universe and do what’s in our hands. For the rest, it’s out of our control.

  12. Posted August 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Such an amazing and inspirational story, it is fabulous that you are so strong to be able to share your stories. infertility can be such a long and heartbreaking journey it is good for people to be able to know that there are others out there that are going through the same thing.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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