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Life + Wellness

Life + Wellness

Balance

In life, I have always been motivated by progress, more so than probably anything else. And when I come to the end of whatever I’m putting my effort into, I notice I give myself only a few moments to enjoy the end result. When you consider progress in relation to unexplained infertility, it is as if the two concepts cannot exist in the same scope of thought. What progress can you make in something you have no control over?

My obsession to become pregnant started because for me, moving in any direction was good enough. It’s how I went from trying to conceive naturally, to closely tracking my cycles, to ending up at the reproductive endocrinologist 4x a week for ovulation induction. Yet from all this, there was no end result to enjoy. In it’s place there was only the knowledge that my body produced ovarian cysts, and took 35 days just to complete a cycle. Not exactly a satisfying conclusion.

Chris asked me once what wouldn’t I sacrifice to become a mother. To this, the only answer I could think of, was our relationship. And I still think about that question all the time. Why was I so comfortable sacrificing everything else? To not give a second thought to my comfort, time, lifestyle, diet, and to some extent, even my health. It is no wonder he feared for the day I would look up and not recognize myself.

In the two months since I stopped focusing so much on my fertility, many people around me have become pregnant. I have had to remind myself that their joy is not a reflection of the absence of mine. And perhaps that sounds selfish to say. Perhaps it sounds dismissive too of all the wonderful things already present in my life. For these couples, I know I should find a way to be completely happy for them, to celebrate something so miraculous and so personal. I just haven’t found a way to cope with the announcements. Every one feels like a quick, sharp punch to the gut – just a painful twinge, there for a moment, and then gone.

Finding balance isn’t easy. I go back and forth between being completely sick of this sad girl narrative I’m seemingly creating by writing about these experiences, to identifying with it so much, that I worry about other parts of my life I am neglecting. In all this, it’s clearer than ever that I have few answers. Maybe for me, rather than seeking them out, letting them come to me in due time, is the way forward.

Life + Wellness

The Path of Least Resistance

In trying to take more time to reflect and listen quietly to my soul, I’m learning some things about myself. One thing I’ve found, is that this achievement-seeking aspect of my nature is not especially complimentary to this chapter of my life. It’s so interesting to me how certain personality traits can seem like a great benefit in one chapter of life, and yet in others, they can feel like more of a flaw. I’ve always been so focused on goals, and for a large part of my life this drive to accomplish challenges ahead of me, has been a quality I’ve been proud of.  And there were certainly times I’ve been in positions where I’ve inelegantly tried to force outcomes that might not have otherwise come about. What I’m learning, everyday it seems like, is that I can’t force this outcome. I can’t make myself get pregnant. I can’t try to solve this like I’ve tried to solve so many other challenges in my life.

I’m also finding out, I’m not so good at letting go. It’s a process, and I constantly have to remind myself that it doesn’t just involve me, Chris is in it too. His feelings and opinions about the choices we make as a couple are important to me, and I’m incredibly lucky to be with someone so patient and understanding.

It’s because of Chris that a few weeks ago, when I wrote my last post, I decided to remove all my ovulation test strips, the fertility tracker, BBT thermometer, and fertility books from my sight. If anything, these objects just provoked further questions and anxieties and they really weren’t the means to an end that I wish they were.

I feel like the only path I can take now, is the one of least resistance. No more medical intervention, no more compulsive Googling of symptoms, no more research of little known holistic remedies. It’s time for me to stop focusing so much on outcomes, and “what-ifs”, and take a careful look at how I’m treating myself an Chris in all of this.

I want nothing more than to be a mother, but the risk of losing myself in this pursuit is simply too great.

Life + Wellness

A work in progress

Reconciling the desires of my heart with reality, has as of late, become quite a challenge for me. Yesterday, an emotionally charged conversation with Chris about the consequences of this desire left us both in tears.

I’ve never thought much about obsessions, but surely I thought I would be able to recognize when this quest to get pregnant turned from a passion into something else. Even as it consumed my every thought, I would keep it up, always escalating to further methods of control. I didn’t notice it had become an obsession, not at first. In my own way I have rationalized and normalized the behavior, all in an effort to make myself feel more sane. I truly believed if I could explain to others how I’d gotten to the point of furiously tracking my body temperature, compulsively documenting symptoms in various fertility apps, and peeing on so many sticks, that they might understand, or at the very least not brand me as a madwoman. But even writing it now, the lengths I’ve gone to – to create something I have no control over, baffle me.

Still, who would’ve thought that in trying to understand my body, I could somehow lose my mind?

This experience has changed me. For any woman who has met infertility in all its forms, it is ignorant to say they could remain unchanged by it. Something I’ve attempted to explain is the compounding effect that all these failed attempts have on the soul. With each new cycle restart, the memories of past cycles, past efforts don’t leave you. They build on one another, and for me they continue to be hard to let go of.

What Chris worries about most for me, is to see this obsession become fused with my identity. He fears that one day I will look in the mirror and not like who I see. Will I be unrecognizable, twisted and marred by these experiences and no longer uniquely me? To Chris I am so much more than a woman of one singular desire. He is sure of this, even if sometimes I am not. Our relationship has changed in many ways in this chapter of our lives. And while I see Chris as a stronger partner, someone who has kept me grounded and made me feel safe, I have not been a stronger partner to him in all of this. He has seen me overtaken by a pursuit I must let go of.

I have had other passions before, dreams that seemed almost as all-consuming as this one, but the difference is they have all had conclusions. Every single one held some meaning in my life, and yet they were not permanent. The important people in my life have desperately tried to get across to me one hard truth – that good things happen when you least expect them to. It’s a lesson I feel I have to re-learn everyday.

Life + Wellness

Best Laid Plans

When we decided we were ready to try to get pregnant, I found it rather difficult to avoid day dreaming about the future. A moment of thinking about the great Dad Chris would make would pull me into a whole imagined life. It wasn’t until we were about 6 months into trying I began to realize my thinking had become predictably cyclical. When nearing ovulation, I’d always feel the best; filled with new hope and possibility. Only after, during the two week wait, did the stress really start to creep in. One does not escape a two week wait. Time moves painfully slow and there is always the fear that your cycle will start anew, signaling you are not pregnant. My Google search history during this time became almost comical. Every twinge and phantom symptom led to hours of me reading exchanges between hopeful women on ttc message boards.

I still struggle with trying not to over-escalate when my cycle restarts. By that I mean, when I feel defeated I will try to explore a new method. Whether that’s opting for another cycle of ovulation induction, purchasing an expensive fertility tracker, or delving into eastern medicine solutions like acupressure and herbs, with me it is always some new solution that I’m sure will be “the one”.

I am at least partially aware that each new method or potential solution is just a way for me to hold on. Many people have told me to let go, to relax, to take a break. I am all too familiar with the phrase “it will happen when you least expect it”.  And I believe these people, I really do. But I do still wonder – how does letting go not feel so much like giving up?

Life + Wellness

Unexplained

One year ago, my partner Chris and I decided we were ready to be parents. We made this decision as we made many others in our relationship, with full hearts and in careful consideration of the joys and challenges ahead. Our relationship has not always followed the traditional path. We are unmarried with no immediate plans to tie the knot. In 2016 we became homeowners and shortly thereafter, when our lives and careers became more settled, we opted instead to try for a baby. Despite our reservations about marriage, we love each other deeply and have always known we wanted to be parents.

A year ago, I could not have imagined that this little wish in our hearts would evolve into such an arduous journey, one that has at times tested my courage and made tired my soul. It was March when we first sought treatment for infertility, hoping to learn if there were any conditions affecting our reproductive health. My OBGYN referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist, and he ordered a series of tests to assess our condition. We waited eagerly for the results, and when they arrived, I was surprised to hear that the tests showed as normal. Everything from our blood work & genetic material, to my Saline sonagram (a test to check the functionality of a woman’s fallopian tubes) all showed levels and imaging consistent with a fertile couple. I tried to let this news ease my concern, but still I was puzzled. Why hadn’t we gotten pregnant if there was no concerning medical diagnosis?

By June, our RE recommended a cycle of ovulation induction. The Clomid gave me headaches and hot flashes, but still I was hopeful. At my monitoring visits I asked questions, made mental notes, and suffered the pokes and prods of many ultrasounds and blood tests. I took the drug at night to try to sleep through some of the side effects, which helped a little, but at a later monitoring visit, I found I had to be redosed at 150mg for another 5 days. Even when the news wasn’t always positive, I still relished the information the doctors shared with me, while craning my neck to catch a glimpse of my follicles floating along on the ultrasound screen in blissful ignorance. Eventually my body responded to the Clomid and a dominant follicle emerged. We triggered with the Ovidril shot when it measured 25mm. Chris administered the shot two inches away from my navel and we tried for the next few days to make it count.

I’ll never know why the first round of Clomid didn’t work. Or the second. Sometimes it feels like that’s the hardest part – all the not knowing. The process of ovulation induction makes transparent so much of what your body is going through (the follicle count and size, the state of your hormone levels at any point in your cycle, the thickness of your uterine lining, etc.), but the other part of the process is all the waiting, the complete uncertainty, and the seeds of doubt that inevitably grown in the mind under such conditions.

When I realized I was not pregnant after the first round of OI, I felt unable to cope with the reality that something with so many medical professionals involved could simply not produce the expected outcome. Here I had doctors and nurses telling me something I didn’t feel my own body was telling me: the appropriate time to try to conceive, and yet it wasn’t working.

For me, there continues to be this feeling of shame and it rears it’s ugly head whenever my body refuses to cooperate, or a friend asks me how I’m feeling. And then of course there is the shame I feel when I consider my problem as compared to other women. Surely a miscarriage, cancer, or an incurable reproductive condition are more traumatic, and yet here I am feeling sorry for myself.

Beneath the shame, there is something about unexplained infertility that does not feel real. Every month I feel as if I am mourning the loss of a dream. How can you grieve over something that never was? I’ve struggled with how to articulate this experience, how to make others understand the range of emotions, the cyclical nature of my thoughts and the ways I’ve tried to hold onto hope. Here I intend to try to explain myself. It is in sharing this story that makes it real.