There is just no way to say this, so I am just going to say it. Jacob and I were pregnant. And now we are not. We have completed our first attempt at IVF (in-vitro-fertilization). This has left me feeling empty, like there is nothing left of me, and I’d like to explain why. This is not every infertile woman’s story, but it is mine.
From the first moment you here the word “infertile” you instantly start to think about how you can change it, fix it. The doctors instantly start listing things you should do to help your fertility. These changes often mean changes to yourself, your actions, your life, who you are.
For me it started with running. We first started our infertility journey while we were training for a half-marathon. The doctor expressed some concern but said I could keep running while we tried the first round of treatment. But then when I had run the half-marathon and we had no response to the first round of Clomid the doctor said that I should consider “cutting back” my running, stick to 30 minutes or less a day.
That was the first ‘little piece’ of me that I had to give up. I was ok, I could use a break from running after the half marathon. So I cut back.
Then came the instructions for our private life. How and when we would try to get pregnant. No longer a private decision between husband and wife. And no longer a personal act of love expressed when wanted. It became a properly timed and orchestrated activity.
That was the second ‘little piece’, altering my relationship with my husband for the hope of a child. It was ok, I told myself, the end result would be a baby and that was worth this next small sacrifice.
Then there was medications and testing. No longer could I trust my own body to do what it was supposed to. I had to medically ‘force’ it with chemical drugs and then get blood tests and exams to make sure it was behaving ‘properly’. I had to take all sorts of pills, that came with all sorts of side effects. But it was ok, I told myself, this third ‘little piece’, of suffering as my body was chemically altered, as I felt like my body was no longer my own, was worth it. We would end up with a baby.
Then after several rounds of no luck getting pregnant the doctor said to stop running all together. No more heavy exercise. No more doing one of the few things that identify me as ‘me’. I was a runner, not a great one, but few people can run a half-marathon and I was looking at closing in on a sub-2 hour half-marathon. It was something I was looking forward to, a personal achievement. Running was something I took up in college and changed me for the better. It is part of who I am.
So that was the fourth ‘little piece’ taken from me. But it was ok, I could do yoga and work on my flexibility. And the doctor said that stopping running might help me gain some weight, which would increase my estrogen levels, and help me get pregnant. So ok, no more running.
Then my diet came under scrutiny. So no more coffee, caffeine, no more high salt foods and junk food, no more alcohol. These are all things I enjoyed in moderation, but when you are facing infertility you scrutinize and question every action. And if the doctor even hints that something you are doing might have even the tiniest impact on your fertility, you cut it out. Immediately. ‘Little piece’ number five. No more coffee with friends, no more enjoying a glass of wine with my husband. But it was ok, we would get a baby.
Then the IVF process started. No more physical activity whatsoever I was told. I was told to rest and do only what was needed. My life was scheduled around my daily injections, morning and night. My body became a giant pin cushion and I endured every-other-day blood draws and physical exams. My flesh became bruised and sore because while you can alter the injection sites you only have so many options. Eventually the skin just starts to break down and you are covered in bruises. My husband, who cares for and protects me, had to start stabbing me with inch-and-half-long needles. Painful injections that I know he hated having to do, to see me in pain. Over the entire IVF cycle, which took about 5 weeks, I ended up with over 100 needle sticks of some kind or another.
But it was ok, this ‘little piece’ number 6 was painful yet tolerable. With each injection I told myself we were getting closer to having a baby.
Over a year of ‘little pieces’, little changes to my life or our life. Things taken away or behaviors changed. But then it happened. I went for a blood draw and we got the call.
All the stress, worries, changes, all melted away. Even when after the good news the nurse said, “but we are concerned about some of the results of your blood work.” I had to immediately start taking another medication and have repeat blood work every other day again.
But we were pregnant!
And I started feeling nauseous all the time, I was exhausted and getting headaches. All signs of pregnancy I was told. But then another blood draw and another phone call. My HCG levels, the level they test for to confirm pregnancy, had dropped. It is supposed to double every 2-3 days in pregnancy. I needed to wait another day, go for another test, so they could confirm.
So they could confirm I was no longer pregnant.
And this is the thing, for me at least, about infertility. It takes from you ‘little pieces’. And the first piece is actually your self-image and your self-worth. You can not do what 98% of the female population can do, get pregnant. Those of you who know me, know I have no problem with self-confidence. But infertility gets to you because while I know it is not my fault, (it is not anyone’s fault, it just happens), but that doesn’t make you feel any better and you feel your self-image and self-worth eroding away.
And all these ‘little pieces’ of me that were taken away or changed were ok, I would do it again in a heartbeat. But when you go through all this, and don’t end up with a viable pregnancy… When you have given up so much of what is you and still end up not pregnant, it feels like there is nothing left.
Nothing left of me. Little pieces all scattered around, but no ‘whole’ person. I was pregnant one minute, with a little bean growing in me, and then the next minute I was not, and I was a shell of who I used to be. It is the emptiest feeling ever.
With all that said, we are doing ok. We are heartbroken but not broken entirely. We took a risk, emotionally, financially, medically, and it didn’t work out. But we are looking ahead and will most likely try again at some point. This blog, you readers, and my family and friends have helped so much.
I would not have gotten through this without Jacob, my husband. He has been my rock, from playing ‘super-dad’ to our foster baby when the medicines made me too sick to even lift her. To putting up with the awful mood swings the drugs caused. To dealing with me when I was pregnant and wanted to vomit at every meal he tried to make me. He is in fact, AWESOME. And not to get too mushy on you all, but this song has been a favorite of mine for some time, and always makes me think of him: