Being Infertile in a Fertile Family

Being-Infertile-In-A-Fertile-Family
Growing up the thought of never being able to have children never crossed my mind. Aunt Flo decided to her monthly visits the month before starting eighth grade. My cycles were like clockwork and I could have easily marked a calendar. The only time there was a missed cycle was during my heavy long distance training my senior year which was not a surprise because of the mileage I was logging. So, if you had asked the 17 year old me that I would have issues getting pregnant, I would have laughed.

You see, I come from a fertile family. My cousins seemed to have no problem at all getting pregnant (and continuing to get pregnant multiple times). My mom didn’t have any trouble getting pregnant so my genetics were ok, right? Even when I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I didn’t want count myself out because 70% of women with endo are able to get pregnant (sometimes with the help of fertility treatments) so my logical self found the statistics to be in our favor.

So when the decision was made to try to make our family grow to three, we were feeling positive. I had an understanding that maybe we wouldn’t get lucky on the first try but that was ok. We knew our time would come and it would be our turn to make a baby announcement that so many of my family members had made.

When  you start trying to conceive (TTC) begin to plan your time in 28 day increments, the calendar can move slowly. We had to change it up a bit as some cycles were 35 days, some were 60, so it seemed we were in a perpetual state of “what if.”

Time clicked by and knowing my pain from endometriosis would creep up not being on birth control, we decided to step up the game by tracking my cycles.  Every day began by checking my basal body temperature and entering it in  onto my fertility calendar. This calendar also dictated when we should be intimate. Surely with all that knowledge, I would be able to get pregnant right?

Months ticked pass. Soon it was six months. Then right in time for my 25th birthday, we were branded. INFERTILE.

I cried as John and I sat in my doctor’s office making decisions about what to try next. Trying to get pregnant became a roller coaster of emotions. We would start every cycle hopeful as we would be using a treatment/medications to increase the chances of getting pregnant. Midcycle we would be anxious about the multiple numbers (follicles, lining, etc) and what they meant for us. Then the next two weeks we waited with baited breath on what the verdict would be. I would over-analyze every feeling and emotion wondering if it meant I was pregnant. A small fortune was spent on ovulation and pregnancy tests. Then the day came – NOT PREGNANT.

This went on for three years. I am typically a fan of roller coasters but this was one that I would have liked to get off. We cried. We searched for answers. We wondered why we were infertile when no one else in our family was. Had we done something wrong? Everyone in our families could have kids so why couldn’t we?

It was hard to be surrounded with babies and pregnancy announcements in the three years that we waited. The “just relax” and “your time will come” comments which were once  meant as comfort became words of hurt. We felt isolated as it seemed like everyone but us was able to get pregnant or others had gotten to a point where they didn’t know anything else to say.

Becoming a parent through the miracle of adoption has been a tremendous blessing. Words cannot describe how much I love my daughter and words cannot express the gratitude I have for her birth family who gave us the honor of being her parents.

However, it does not erase the scars left behind by infertility. In my case, I have a very literal and visible scar from my infertility. There are the still the questions of what it would have been like had we been able to get pregnant. Its not the same as saying we would have rather have a different family that didn’t not include adoption so don’t read it wrong. Those questions include what it would have been like to see pregnant on a pregnancy test or seeing the heartbeat on an ultrasound for the first time or feeling the baby moving. These are the experiences that we grieve. We would not trade our family for anything but please do not forget what we have had to go through to get here.

This week is the National Infertility  Awareness Week. Please check out more about NIAW week at resolve.org!

 

Infertle vs Sterile

Once you cross the bridge into the world of infertility you can never go back. It is almost as if you are marked with the letters IF using a hot brand. Time may pass and the wound may begin to heal. The scar may even start to fade a little but it is always there.

There seems to be this idea out there that once you become a parent whether through medical intervention, adoption, or a miracle pregnancy that your IF memory becomes erased  and almost invalid. I have had people question why parts of my story still make me sad now that I have Abby. It is true that I may not think about it as much now or that the sting might not go so deep these days but the reality is the infertility is still a part of my life. It is a part of the journey that led me to Abby. It is a real and devastating loss that I am still grieving. It is a part of me. It has shaped me into the person I am today – both in good and bad ways.

As I laid in bed tonight with all my thoughts swirling about infertility, I laid my hand gently on my lower abdomen and had a realization. The scar upon which I rested my hand made me no longer infertile but sterile. And not two weeks ago but three years ago. I have shared the pain of signing the paperwork before my hysterectomy and have always known since then that i was sterile but never owned it. When people would ask about pregnancy (after all, it is a normal part of life for most women my age), I would make jokes like “only if the doctor accidentally left something behind” or “maybe I’m a starfish and regrow it.”

But tonight as I lay in the dark with my husband asleep next to me and Charlie snoring on the floor, I am owning the fact that I am sterile. No amount of perfect timing or medical invention would allow me to become pregnant and carry a child. As a 29 year old it is a hard pill to swallow especially in the light of my recent surgery. While I knew that a hysterectomy was not a cure for endo, I at least held onto hope that it would resolve most of my pain and I would not find myself in the OR due to endo again.

This last surgery has made me question whether or not a hysterectomy was a good call.

What if I had held out a little longer?

What if we had tried one more treatment?

Could I have gotten pregnant?

While we have pretty good solid hypothesis about the fate of my fertility with my case of Endometriosis, it is nothing but a guess. Educated, yes, but still a guess.

The reality is that I will honestly never know. The title of “sterile” comes with its questions as well as a sense of emptiness that even my immense and irreplaceable love for my daughter cannot fill. I still feel a part of me is missing and it is something that I find difficult to explain in words.

Note:  I would not trade my family for anything and would walk the same path 1000 times for Abby. This is just a loss in my story that is very real and one in which I am trying to grieve. I share this in order to be as real as possible about my experience with chronic illness and infertility.