We have our follow up appointment at the fertility clinic tomorrow. It has been 6 weeks since we had our first appointment; 17 months since we first started trying to conceive; over 10 years since we first started dating. It is funny how time changes. The past 6 weeks have felt so long. The two week waits are always an eternity. And yet the months have flown by. Our time trying; our time together. We are here, at the doorstep of our plan, our appointment. I don’t know what to expect but I am hopeful. And nervous. And scared of the diagnosis and having to keep waiting. I just want a plan, something to hold onto, a way to move forward. I guess we shall see what tomorrow will bring. Wish us luck!
Through this, I’ve read some blogs on how to survive infertility and not get totally consumed by it. I figured that I may as well add another to the blogosphere while we sit and wait to find out the results of our tests. Note: these are the things that have worked for me and while I hope they may bring someone else peace, they may not. We’re all just doing our best, right?
1. Get yourself some knowledge. I am still shocked by how little I actually knew about my body. Understanding how things worked did help me feel like we weren’t just blindly throwing darts at a target. Obviously, this should be done early in the TTC journey but is still a helpful step. I recommend Taking Charge of your Fertility and if you do end up having troubles, The Infertility Cure for an Eastern perspective on things.
2. Get a thermometer. Use it. Throw it away. After getting myself some knowledge, I got myself my thermometer and started religiously tracking my temperature. This was very helpful, for a while. It helped me understand my cycle better and provide more information the the professionals who had been helping me. I tracked it for a few months and then ultimately stopped because I really felt like I was getting obsessive about it and not in a good way. I’m sure that some people can do that and not go crazy about it but I am not one of those people. I started looking for explanations every time my temperature changed or didn’t when it was supposed to. Ultimately, I felt like I had gotten the information that I needed and it was hurting more than it was helping, so I stopped. I always know I can start again but I am liking not having the daily reminder about where I am at in my cycle.
3. The little things. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. But taking time to look at the little things in life does provide a reminder that there is a life beyond TTC and that it is worth living.
4. Hobbies. A lot of blogs talk about the benefits of having things on the go outside of TTC and I would agree. While I sometimes had moments of feeling like gardening was a waste of time in comparison to being a mom, those hobbies have provided a welcome distraction to just sitting and waiting for things to happen. It gives you things to do, a sense of satisfaction, and other things your mind can focus on while procrastinating at work!
5. Positive self talk. OK this one sometimes feels a bit awkward but it really has helped. So much of this journey is plagued by negative emotions so I have tried to counteract this by forcing myself to think positively. When I see a pregnant woman, I can’t help but feel some jealousy but then I follow those thoughts up with ‘and one day that is going to be me’ or ‘I can’t wait to be in her shoes.’ By making myself say those things when the negative thoughts start to creep in, it gives them less time to take hold and I ultimately spend more time thinking about the positives. It takes some time to get into that habit but then eventually it starts to happen automatically!
6. Talking about it. I am an over sharer so this comes naturally to me and others may not want to do the same but talking to my friends and family really has helped. It means I can talk openly about the tests and appointments I have on the go and will hopefully have set the stage if we do need to go through more involved programs to be able to talk to them about that too. I have also talked to my family about it, which has allowed me to talk to my mom about the struggles she went through in trying to get pregnant. An added benefit is that they don’t bug me about whether we are pregnant yet.
7. Blog about it! Blogging has provided me with a forum to get out those thoughts that had just been rolling around in my head about this stuff and even better, provided a community of support. It has helped me find other blogs that serve as inspirations and is actually another distraction from this all. I find I’m focusing on how to write about things instead of just obsessing about it. Then, after I write about it, I also find I am able to move on better than I had before. And, of course, having people write words of encouragement is pretty awesome too.
8. Feel sad and then fight for happiness. All of us experiences negative emotions at some point on this journey, whether it’s the disappointment of getting your period or experiencing miscarriages, so being sad is unfortunately going to be a part of things. For me, I have tried to really feel it when I’m in it. I let myself cry, be sad, be angry, be disappointed. I wear it like a sweater and just give in to my feelings. But then, at the end of the day, I start to fight for my happiness. It is hard and can be tough to shake that tornado of emotions but I put on my armor and start to gear up to get back to being me. I force myself to look out my window at the beauty in the world; I ride my bike to get the endorphins going; I buy a new pair of shoes to treat myself; I give my husband a big hug to remember our love and how lucky we are. Even though these things may at first feel awkward, I keep forcing myself and fighting to get out of my funk. Although I know I have every right to those negative feelings, I remind myself that they ultimately don’t help and that wallowing in my funk will make it that much easier to make those feelings my permanent address. So I keep fighting and eventually I always manage to pull myself out of it. Fake it till ya make it, am I right?
So these have been my strategies. They have worked (so far) to keep me relatively sane. Any others I should add to my repertoire?
Oh boy, do I have patience. Which comes in handy during this windy, bumpy, not very fun road that is infertility.
As some background, my now husband and I met in grad school, both of us 24. It took us by surprise but life and love does that sometimes. I shall spare the gory details, but 9 years later, we got married. Through that, I learned patience. If patience is a virtue then I am Eve before the apple. Or some metaphor that makes me a very virtuous person (at least when it comes to patience…). In that time, I got to watch countless friends get engaged and get married. I am embarrassed to admit the jealousy that I felt during that time. All I wanted was to be happy for them, as they were my close friends, but deep down I felt jealous that I wasn’t in their shoes. Eventually I learned to focus on me and us and we managed to turn the corner on our own relationship and future and here we are – part of the club living a happily married life.
As soon as we got married, we started trying to conceive. At that point, we were both 33 and knew that while we were still young, time wasn’t necessarily on our side. In the back of my mind, I was also aware of the fact that my mom had endured four miscarriages before and after the birth of myself and my brother. That always made me feel like getting pregnant might not be as simple as the birds and bees for us.
Even with some of these nagging thoughts, I was still excited to actually be married and to actually be trying. I had waited so long for my husband to want to *officially* be a family with me that it was especially exciting to try and get pregnant. Many of my friends and family already had kids but I felt like we weren’t that far behind in the game. I did the basic online research of understanding what you can do to help yourselves be successful. I have always had a consistent cycle, although it is on the longer side (35 days) so my friends all said that I was lucky because I would be able to time things pretty easily. I started acupuncture immediately as my one friend raved that it was the thing that helped her conceive (after a year of trying). I cut back on the booze and caffeine and continued to eat well and exercise.
I still remember the feeling that first month of walking around the halls at work thinking “I might be pregnant.” “I could be pregnant.” “What does it feel to be pregnant?” It was exhilarating. I would see a pregnant woman on the street and silently think to myself that I might be in her shoes. Needless to say, it was not a success that month. I experienced that first month of failure and cried. I let myself feel the realization that we wouldn’t be one of the couples where it happens on the first try. The questions of “will we have challenges?” started to creep in. I started to wonder how long this road would be….
But I pulled myself together to try again for Month 2. And month 3. And month 4. I continued going to acupuncture. I continued denying myself delicious coffee. At this point, I had my regular physical and talked to my doctor about our desire for children. He suggested that I use an ovulation predictor kit to make sure that I was ovulating. I RAN to the pharmacy for the kit. I was pumped as I was pretty sure that I would be ovulating in a couple of days and I would be able to see that little smiley face. I started testing, making sure test at the right time of day and all that jazz. A few days went by, then a week, then longer. I got discouraged – I was supposed to have ovulated and nothing showed up on the tests. I went to acupuncture and almost cried telling her of my frustrations. I felt like I was taking one step forward and then two back. She consoled me and I left feeling better. Then I got my period on day 25. That had NEVER happened before. My cycle had always been 35 days and while it did throw me for a loop, at least it helped me to understand why the OPK hadn’t worked. I geared up the next month to try again and voila – a happy face! Although we weren’t successful that month, I was at least encouraged to know that I was ovulating and that my understanding of my cycle was correct – I was right on schedule! Maybe one step forward?
Then my coworker recommended reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I got the book home and read it in one sitting, devouring the knowledge that I couldn’t believe I didn’t already know. I was astounded to learn all these things about my cycle that no doctor or educator had ever bothered to mention. I couldn’t believe that I had all of these tools at my fingertips to understand my cycle and my body better. To be able to actually see the target and take aim at making this happen for us. So I ran to the pharmacy to grab a thermometer (at this point, I was getting a good workout just from running to the pharmacy…). I downloaded an app to track things better. I re-read the book to make sure I was getting it and knew what to look for. I couldn’t wait to see that spike in my temperature; to know that I had actually ovulated and when; to recognize the signs in my own body that I had ovulated. But alas, the spike never came. Right when I thought I would be ovulating and when the other signs were potentially pointing to it, my temperature inched up. One degree at a time, over a five day period… Again, I had that feeling of one step forward, two backward. Every time I thought I had unlocked the secrets for getting pregnant, something would go in a different direction. I continued tracking my temperature and continued to see this trend. It would eventually go up but it was always later in my cycle and it made me confused for when I was actually ovulating.
After 8 months of trying, we headed into the holidays. I felt sad as I think I secretly assumed that if we started trying in April, we were bound to be pregnant by Christmas. I don’t think I ever acknowledged this to myself until I was feeling sorry for myself and upset at the prospect of a new year and still not pregnant. But, again, I pulled myself together. I knew that stressing out would only make things worse and tried to look at 2015 as a new year, a new opportunity, and hopefully the year that I would become a mom. I also looked forward because my doctor told me if I wasn’t pregnant by January that I could get a referral to the fertility clinic. While we definitely didn’t want to have to involve science, we were at least excited to get onto the list. Well, until we realized it would take 6 more months to get in there… But at least we were able to start the process and the wheels were turning.
Meanwhile, we just relaxed into trying. After some stops and starts and some issues in 2014, we did start to get into a good groove. We were getting back to enjoying being together and it was feeling less like *work*. I even took my eating to a new level and really listened to my acupuncturist. She had looked at my charts and had some additional recommendations on supplements and things to eat. I decided to really go for it and, to my surprise, right after ovulating my breasts started to hurt. And it didn’t go away. And my heart was beating fast. I definitely felt pregnant. I couldn’t believe it – after over a year of trying, I felt like things were falling into place and I was pregnant. I even went to acupuncture and when she checked my pulse, she said it definitely felt different. I started to picture myself leaving the path of infertility and heading towards being a mom. It made the previous year just drift away and made it feel worthwhile.
Unfortunately, after a week of feeling pregnant, I got my period. I still believe that I was pregnant but that it was very early. I was devastated. I was sad and I just wanted to turn back time to the previous day. I tried to look at the positives – we actually got pregnant!!! Now I knew how it felt!!! We were able to dream about it!!! But even with all that positive thinking, I just couldn’t get myself out of the funk of being sad about it. In my head, I knew it was a good thing but in my heart, I was upset and frustrated and angry. I had even managed to calm down about feeling like I was in a rush and then this made me feel even more rushed than I had before. I felt even more anxious about being able to make it happen.
Luckily, we were headed on a very well-timed vacation to Hawaii with no kids or pregnant friends just a couple of weeks later. It was exactly what I needed to get myself back into the right head space. I was able to look forward to our meeting with the fertility clinic that was just a couple of weeks away. I was able to read some books, soak in some sun, have some margaritas, enjoy time with my husband, see a shark (just a little one!) and mostly be able to see a life beyond just focusing on getting pregnant. It got me back to myself and back to living my life.
I came back from Hawaii feeling energized. Shortly after, we had our appointment at the clinic. It was just intake but it was good to get the medical forms for the tests and to get the ball rolling. It turns out that my husband has antibodies in his sperm and it’s unclear what impact that will have on things and if that has had an impact on things in the past. I’ve now gotten my Day 3 bloodwork checked off and my HSG test (not as bad for me as what it sounds like for other people!). I’ve got my ultrasound next week and then will be back at the clinic in August to figure out a plan of attack.
This has been my path so far… It has been up and down and bumpy but I’m pretty proud of myself for keeping it together as well as I have. I try to enjoy the little things and to focus on information as it comes to me. Like many others, I have cried when hearing the news of a friend who isn’t even sure she wants a baby getting pregnant the first try. I have felt like EVERYONE is getting pregnant while life passes me by. I have longed for going on maternity leave and decorating the nursery and telling everyone the good news. But I have learned to take it in stride and see it as a long term goal instead of a month to month battle. As much as I have always had a hunch that we would have an issue getting pregnant, we haven’t received any terrible diagnoses yet so it may just be a matter of time. My husband and I are closer than ever and are really working to be supportive of one another. For that, I know that I am lucky and I try to focus on that instead of what is missing from my life. For so long, I wanted us to be married and now we are, and that is a miracle in itself! Now I just get to keep practicing my patience and waiting for the future to unfold (while doing everything I can to head in a positive direction). I’m hoping that writing out my journey will help to keep me in a positive headspace even though the path may not be a short one. I think that’s one of the toughest parts – we could get pregnant tomorrow (well, not tomorrow…) or it could be years. Only time will tell… I know we haven’t tried for that long and that we are still somewhat young but once you know what you want and you are waiting for this thing that is going to change your life, you can’t help but be excited and anxious and upset when things don’t work out. All that I can hope is that one day, I will be a mom. And that it will happen, eventually…