A Story of Infertility and yes, Wellness too.
In 2016, about six months into my marriage and just past my 29th birthday, I decided I was ready for babies; I had always been ready for babies! Like Monica on “Friends,” I was the “mother hen” of my group growing up. I had practically existed as a second mother to my much younger sister and was aware of my natural desire to nurture. Like a moth to a flame, I was, and still am, drawn to babies. And I’m proud to report that I’ve been referred to as a “baby whisperer.” For as long as I can remember, I have always had the desire to be a mother, and luckily, my hubs was on board. After all, we weren’t spring chickens anymore! Many of my closest friends already had children (yes, plural…), and ooohhhh, could I feel my clock ticking. We jumped into this life phase of “trying” with gusto! Be honest, who doesn’t want to have more sex?! Sadly, for us, it did not result in a pregnancy...and roughly nine months into “trying,” or as Anne Hathaway recently referred to it as “conception hell,” my gut knew something wasn’t right. We should have conceived; I am a nurse, afterall. I understand the basics of biology and the reproductive system; I was monitoring for ovulation and tracking my cycles, so much to my husband’s dismay, I contacted a local Reproductive Endocrinologist and stressed that we were going to get tested. (Insert sarcastic woohoo!)
The diagnosis: Unexplained Infertility. My Everest. As Shannon Wooten wrote in her book “Infertility has a lot of grief, crying, self-hatred, blame, confusion, alienation, [and] pain...involved.” And I’ve experienced all those emotions...on repeat, so much so, that these cyclic experiences began to spiral me out of control. Negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. Each monthly period took me deeper into my conception hell. Enter depression. Enter the worst, stinkin’ part of my life. My marriage was at rock bottom. I felt empty, useless, and needed validation for what felt like a vain existence. I even questioned whether life was worth living if I couldn’t have children. And I did a damn good job of putting on a front...I wanted to hide my shit from everyone. The only thing I found some solace in was my work; as a nurse, I work on a Postpartum unit. Seeing precious newborns and happy families 3-4 days a week, ironically and paradoxically, kept me from relative insanity.
After therapy, individually and as a couple (and the addition of a happy puppy into our lives!), the veil began to lift, and I could see more clearly...I began to feel like myself again. During this time, we continued to try every f&%$ing month; we also had two failed IUI’s and one cancelled IUI cycle. However, I had hit my limit; I was done with fertility treatments and I was done “trying.” The mental fog had cleared, and I was done feeling like a failure. And, I was honestly kinda done with therapy. I took the energy to notice myself, isolate my desires, redefine my values and iron out my life’s direction; I was upfront and honest with my husband. The one thing I realized I had yet to do was allow time and space for recovery. Enter change.
So, we did just that. We changed our surroundings (a literal cross-country move home to Texas) and made lifestyle modifications (both the hubs and I -- from job changes, nutrition, sleep, exercise and how we choose to move our bodies, initiating chiropractic care and acupuncture and routine mindfulness practices). These changes truly gave ourselves, but mostly me, a fresh start. The hubs and I agreed to take time to rebuild our intimacy and to continue to hope for a pregnancy. My recovery had started, but a new journey had started too. I was on a mission to learn as much about integrative health and holistic options as possible; initially, I thought if I couldn’t get pregnant, then I was going to throw myself into my career with everything I had. But it soon became apparent that I was dissatisfied with the demands of my job/future career expectations and still desired a child more than anything. My personal and professional desires began to bleed together (see Blog #2 for more about my professional transformation into Coaching).
Enter patience. Eleven months after moving back to Texas, the hubs and I had been transformed in more than one way. Our marriage was solid again...in fact, better than ever! I had found a new sense of purpose and felt rooted. We were building connections within our community. Life was good...but we still felt a huge void and heavy hearts watching more friends, and even immediate family, grow their families. I had turned my back on fertility treatments out of fear...fear of the mental, physical and financial repercussions...but we both knew it was time; after three years of natural family planning, two years of Unexplained Infertility and an unchanged, unwavering desire for children of our own, it was time to say yes to IVF.
Brene Brown said in her lecture on The Power of Vulnerability “Hard things are going to happen. Practicing them...planning for them...will not change that and they will not hurt us any less. But it’s our tolerance for vulnerability that really dictates how joyful of a life we will lead.” I don’t know about you, but I do believe that our life events are leading us toward something greater. Somehow, my infertility journey...this entire story...feels like a lead up to the greatest ending ever...at least, that’s my hope. The IVF process is teaching me a lot about vulnerability and patience. As I write this, I don’t know the ending of my story. In June, I completed the stimulation and retrieval portion of the IVF process. Two big hurdles have been crossed. I can report that my husband and I have one viable embryo from the process. It may not be the number I had desired, but it only takes one to have the ending I’ve dreamt, wished, and prayed for.
On June 13th, I wrote this, in a letter, to my future child: “As you know, we’ve been waiting. Sometimes I’ve been patient. A lot of the time your dad has been more patient than I, yet here we are [...] I’m not sure what’s changed, but I do recognize that this journey of waiting has made me stronger. It’s enabled and evolved me to become the woman and perhaps, the mother, I was meant to be.” I think that’s my take-away from this arduous journey; it’s that untapped strength can be found, vulnerability is necessary, and love will always win. Organic growth is unavoidable, and if you allow it, you can become a more positive, more evolved, more motivated, more radiant being. I’m more alive now than I’ve ever been, and I’m still waiting. And that is okay.