I hope after you read this you'll understand why I had such a drastic change in my mood, why I wasn't the same person I had been, why I deleted everyone from Facebook, why I said I didn't want children, and why I fell off the face of the earth.
This post has some very personal information. I feel very vulnerable opening this up to my friends, family, and the public. It says everything I've ever wanted to say for the past two years. I'm doing this because it's therapeutic. I'm doing this because I want to help others.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage. Isn't that how it goes? We are taught as little girls that "one day you'll meet your prince charming, fall madly in love, get married, and have babies", and as much as my feminist side hates that we portray this message to young girls as a requirement, it was my desire. It was what I wanted.
We got married, a year later we bought a house, and a year later I was beginning my senior year at a university. From time to time I would get baby-fever before our agreed upon start date, but my husband was able to bring me back down to earth and show me that it was in our benefit to wait. Looking back now I laugh at how much I wanted one while we were living in a tiny apartment on the third floor.
The most important part of the "baby plan" was when we would start, or when we would at least have a discussion about when we would start. I wanted to go off of birth control in time so that I would be 9 months pregnant walking across the stage to receive my diploma. I didn't care if my water broke as I was on stage, I just wanted a baby. I wanted a deeper connection with my husband. I wanted to expand our family, and he did too.
In June I had my annual appointment. Although pre-conception appointments are a complete waste of time and I wouldn't recommend them to a healthy young woman, it worked out since my annual was right before we started TTC (Trying To Conceive). Looking back now I see how naive I was regarding having a baby. In school I never had a health class until my senior year. By that time everyone knew about sex so I wasn't placed in a class where we discussed this. In fact, when you're supposed to learn about your body and sex, I had Home Economics from middle school to high school. We learned how to be a good little house wife, how to iron shirts (I wish I was kidding), how to make a purse out of a place-mat (still not kidding), how to do your hair to please your husband (how did I sit through this?), and how to make your husband dinner. Abstinence was a given. I even had a teacher tell me that "footsies leads to kissing and that leads to having a baby." So by the time I was old enough to have a baby I didn't know the first thing about my body. All I knew was that I take birth control daily and my periods came once a month. I didn't have the slightest clue what ovulation was, let alone trying to pinpoint it. I still believed your period could be late. I had no idea what I was in for.
In order to understand trying to have a baby I joined an online forum, got pregnancy yoga books from the library, and got every book I could find on having a baby.
Trying to have a baby is a science, nothing else. A science I knew nothing about. All I knew was that we were ready, we had a plan.
Time went on and people started to become curious. They're married, but don't have kids? I must ask them why. It's very important I know. You know what I found very strange? I found it strange how many people can be oh so curious about your uterus as soon as a ring is on your finger. After we got married I discovered that it was almost as if when the ring was being put on my ring finger it was unlocking the steel gate on my uterus. It was almost as if it was visual permission for friends, family, and strangers to ask me and my husband: "how often do you have unprotected sex?" Er.. I mean.... "When are you having children?"
Let me first state that it is not a couples duty to have a child. NO WHERE is it written that a couple has to have a baby. Some couples don't want children and that is completely fine. There is nothing "wrong" with them, so why was the question always posed the same way: "when are you having children". (Want to hear my rant on people asking single people when they're going to get married? My rant gets even better when people ask a couple when they're going to get married since they already have kids.)
I wish life had a rewind button so you can pause and walk away right before someone is going to open mouth and insert foot. Want to know WHY these questions are not ok? What if they have been trying to have a baby? What if the couple lost a baby? What if they don't want children at all? What if their relationship is fine how it is and they don't want something to take away from their time? What if they aren't financially stable?
Why do you need to know when they're bumping and grinding unprotected? Society sees this as something that is ok to ask, but it's not. Their sex like and her uterus shouldn't concern you. That's why.
I'll admit, before a few months into trying to have I baby, I NEVER thought that question ("when are you having kids?") could hurt someone so much. But you know what? Every time someone would ask me that question it felt like a horse wearing heels was tap dancing on my chest. It hurt. It hurt because the true answer was "we are trying, but it's not working - thanks so much for the reminder" (although now the true answer is "I don't know if we can have children, thanks for reminding me that my body doesn't work") but what society wants me to say is "NOW! We are pulling the goalie now! We are having so much sex! Want to come help paint a future nursery and register at Target? We are going to make ALLLLLLL the babiesssss."
If you only learn one thing from this post I hope it is the following: not everyone has to have or want a child and it is not ok to ask when a couple will have children. It's also not ok to ask someone how many children they'll have (yes, even if they already have a child). Secondary infertility IS real and so is One and Done (OAD).
At one point in this sucky journey I had someone ask me when we were having children. My response was "I don't think we are having kids." This persons face was covered in shock because "I am meant to be a mother" they said. In so many words I was told it was selfish, it's what I'm put on this earth to do, and I will one day change my mind. This person reminded me how important their children are to them, how I needed to experience motherhood. This was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to listen to. It felt like a knife right through my heart. Why? Because more than anything I wanted to experience motherhood.
Another time I was asked "how many kids do you want?". This hurt too. How many did I want? 3. How many will I have? Maybe none.
If only that were even a LITTLE bit true. In fact, the only thing that went right about Operation Baby Whitney was the fact that we started when we planned to. (Ok, ok - I'll try not to talk about the "plan" as much)
We were so excited and ready to go until we were hit with a huge mess a few days before we got on the plane. Literally hit. I was in a 3 car accident (more like an obliteration of my perfect little red Aveo) with another car and a large work truck with a trailer. Somehow I walked away from this with little physically wrong. The police officer that first came to the scene told me that he thought he was "going to be pulling a dead body" out of my car.
Right after the impact, my very naïve self instantly grabbed my stomach after the wreck, because you know even if sperm met egg then it would totally be ruined. Wrong again, on two levels. God, I wish I could shake my naive head and tell myself to READ A BOOK. But to be fair, it was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.
BUT I'M OFF BIRTH CONTROL. "It's all planned" I thought. The operation was already failing. I totes knew when I ovulated and it definitely was fool-proof, so what happened? Oh jeez, READ.A.BOOK, self!
I left the hospital and spent a few days trapped in bed, covered in bruises, a sprain, and some pretty rad looking burns from my seat-belt (PSA: wear a seat-belt, it's the only reason I'm here to type this). I had a lot of alone time in bed and began questioning this trip to Mexico. However, we spent a lot of money on this prebaby-cation, so this was obviously going to happen. Days later it was time to go, thank God I'm a planner and our bags had been packed for days (along with my binder and notebook).
I hobbled my way to the airport with my very stressed and exhausted husband. Poor guy had to handle this mess that had been created, a mess he had nothing to do with. He did it like a champ and to this day I don't even know how many phone calls he had to make. Husband of the year, for sure.
We got on the plane (which is when I realized that there was going to be a long road of PTSD from the accident) and got to Mexico as planned. Other than my oh-so-cool air-cast on my leg, my vertigo, and my cool looking battle wounds, it was time to relax! I couldn't have asked for a better trip. We bonded and had a phenomenal time. We met some really awesome people, ate some good food, and had the drinks flowing - what more could we ask for?
***I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with drinking while trying to conceive, alcohol just isn't my thing.***
Although I was very baby obsessed this trip, it was overall a phenomenal visit to Mexico. We were treated so kindly, the resort was beautiful, and we got to experience a brand new culture. I wish I could have bottled up some of the energy and happiness we shared there and use it now.
I went to a dear friend about this. This friend is one of those friends that everyone needs to have in their life because they are the kind of person that can talk you off of the cliff, will come get you at 3 AM if your car breaks down, and will hold your hair back and bring you soup if you are sick. I finally opened up to her about it. She was very supportive as I blubbered in her living room. She assured me that "it will happen" and told me "you're a planner". See, everyone knows I'm a planner and researcher. Everything must have a plan!!
December, month 5, was the hardest thus far. Although month 5 is too early for one to be worried that there is a problem, it's just something that will pop up in your mind (read: something you'll obsess over). I realize that we had only been trying for a few months. I knew the statistics, but it still didn't lighten the heartache when you want something so bad. I didn't want to borrow trouble, and I don't think I did, but I was hurt. I was allowed to be hurt, I wanted this.
The statistics are it can take a couple (under 35) 12 consecutive months of unprotected sex - (6 months if you're over 35) to conceive a baby. So basically, if you're under 35 and it's been 12 months then you can start going to appointments and worrying, but not a day before. It is VERY normal for it to take up to a year to conceive, it just takes patience. (I typically hate the word patience in regards to TTC, but honestly it fits here). It's very important to not borrow trouble. Infertility isn't fun, so why would you want to think you have a problem?
I do feel compelled to tell you that although it's not ok to borrow trouble because infertility may not be present, it is still completely normal to be aggravated, want to punch a wall, and get so ragey you could have a Brittany Spears meltdown when your period comes each month.
By this point I was really getting sick of seeing one line on an HPT. I would have killed for two lines. Holding it up to different lights, taking a photo and editing the image, and squinting one eye became hobbies.
A friend of mine was getting married the following summer, but we needed to order our bridesmaids dresses by mid-December. It was getting tougher and tougher to keep TTC a secret. I called her up a few days before I had to order the dress. The wedding was 6 months away, so much can happen in those months. I could have been 6 months pregnant or not pregnant at all - I didn't know. I finally had to tell her. I was crying on the phone and almost felt ashamed that I had to hide this from her. She was very supportive, and for that I am thankful. I ended up ordering the dress a few sizes too big, the worse case scenario was that I would have to take the dress in on the sides.
As you can guess... I wasn't pregnant. By the time the wedding came I had quite the dress to deal with. I cried as I stitched this dress. I hated altering it. I wanted, more than anything, to fit in this dress. I wanted to be pregnant.
Using an app calendar to track your period is like taking a dart, closing your eyes, and throwing it at a calendar to plan when you'll have sex. You can't know without data. If you're interested in what app DOES work see below.
Ovulation takes place in like 10 minutes, not days like calendar apps show. Sperm can live in a woman's uterus for 5 days prior to these 10 minutes and one day after.
Here is a breakdown of how to chart your BBT to detect ovulation (this is the MOST ACCURATE method unless you get an ultrasound every single day at the doctors office):
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If we ever do conceive a child then this kid will definitely know what I had to do to have a baby. "You had to stick what where?!?1" Yeah, kid.
Then guess what happened at the eleventh hour??? Guess what happened right before we were going to be diagnosed with infertility????
TWO LINES. TWO LINES. TWO LINES.
WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?
I couldn't believe it. I held the stick up, looked at myself in the mirror to make sure I didn’t have 7 heads and googly eyes. It was real. This was really happening. I couldn’t take my eyes off of these two lines. I ran outside to my husband. He was on the phone, OF COURSE. I was all "get off the phone, yo!". I was crying, shaking, and on a high. We finally had a positive. My husband was so stoked, he had a promotion, a happy marriage, a happy wife, and a baby on the way.
Well, that was until I took another test that night. It was an evap, which is a fun way to say “LOL I’m going to make you pretend you’re pregnant, but you’re not”. It was a false positive. Although false positives are very rare with typical HPTs, I was using “cheapies” (ones that I had used for months, a generally trusted manufacturer). So I wasn’t pregnant. We were slowly and sadly approaching an infertility diagnosis..
Oh, I should take the time now to mention I've been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety. Not the "Oh, I'm so OCD, my closet is so organized". (Let's be clear though, no one can "be OCD") Nope. More like "I cannot sleep until I have my list done. I cannot walk out of a store without counting each step." And the list goes on and on.
Infertility + OCD = disaster
We are now entering into a whole new world. The world of infertility. Many may be confused about what infertility means. To me infertility means you've had unprotected sex for 12 consecutive months, but there has been no viable pregnancy. The "fault" doesn't fall with one partner. Infertility is a partnership deal. Sure, the issue may be with the man or the woman, but it is a partnership. It is something partners must go through, it's no ones fault. There should be no blaming. There should be no "it's his fault because..." or "it's her fault because...". No. It's "we struggle with infertility".
A year worth of obsessing over a calendar. A year worth of knowing what cycle day you were on instead of what day of the month it was. A year worth of deleting every person on your Facebook that had a baby or a grandchild. A year worth of people asking when I'm having kids. A year worth of ovulation tests. A year worth of dreading holidays. A year worth of HPTs. A year worth of stress, so much stress.
We went. We did it. Results showed nothing too serious to be worried about, and certainly nothing that should have inhibited a pregnancy.
Here is where I should voice my opinion on what men have to do versus women when trying to have a baby. We have to poke, prod, and stick things in your body. They are given a cup and a room.
We were at a dead end, or so it felt like. This was confirmation that a pregnancy would not happen without a doctor. Our sex life would now be more than just me and my husband, it was us and a Reproductive Endocrinologist.
I was finally beginning to accept that we had infertility. By definition, we were infertile. We had spent one year actively trying and I didn’t get pregnant. When one is trying to have a baby they often hear many insightful and very helpful advice.
“Stop trying and it’ll happen”
“Stress can cause you to not get pregnant”
“Maybe it’s your husband’s fault and not yours”
“You can always adopt”
"You're selfish since you're infertile and won't adopt."
“Why do you need your own biological child?”
“God has a plan”
“Everything happens for a reason”
“Maybe you’re not meant to have a child”
“Trying to get pregnant is the fun part, stop stressing about it!”
See how insightful and helpful this advice is? I wish I had listened to these insightful and brilliant people,
You also hear a lot of empathy, because apparently everyone knows what you’re going through.
Don't give advice. Don't tell them the method you used or the method your neighbors sisters ex-husbands sister used. "I'm sorry" is quite enough.
Since we're talking about things that hurt..When someone tells you they have infertility, OR IF THEY ARE A HUMAN BEING, please don't say "here, you can have mine" in reference to your child. And when your child is misbehaving, stop yourself before "just wait until you have kids" pours out of your mouth like diarrhea.
My infertility is not my fault. It's not your fault. It's no ones fault. This allows me to be happy for you. It's not your fault I'm not pregnant. You are allowed to have a baby and be happy even if I don't have one.
I don't want people to feel this post indicates that no one should be able to share their happiness because I can't have it the same happiness. However, I do want you to understand that although I may be very happy for you, I won't be able to share my happiness all the time.
Some days I have "bad infertility days" and some days I have "good infertility days". I don't know what kind of day it will be. Some days I can see an announcement on Facebook, like the announcement, and move on. Other days I may see the announcement, hide your Facebook, and spend the rest of the day depressed. But regardless of that, I am happy for you.
I don't want this post to scream "LOOK AT ME AND ALL OF MY PROBLEMS!" I want this post to say many things, but not that. I want this post to say don't judge other peoples choices, especially since sometimes they aren't given a choice on their outcome. I also want others to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
To those trying to have a baby, whether it is a secret or know, this is for you: You don't own anyone an explanation. You are doing the best that you can. Others will judge you regardless, just find a way to cope. Start a hobby, read a book, find a support group, and/or blog through your feelings. Know that it is ok to not attend a baby shower you're invited to. Know that it is ok to be sad and hurt when you get your period each month. Know that you are allowed to be angry. Know that you are not alone.
August 2014 was here. My husband and I were moving to Minnesota. I was finally graduated and he got a promotion, it was the perfect time to move - even if it was 800 miles away. Finally I can run away from everyone, I wouldn't have to deal with people if I didn't want. I could finally cry about the infertility issues without worrying if someone was going to stop by or see me. I could use the ignore button on the phone and socialize on my schedule, based on my good and bad fertility days. It sounds awful, but it's how I felt. I would go to the store and would cry from aisle to aisle as I see babies. Why was it "bring every baby you know" to the store on days I did my grocery shopping??
I was glad we moved. It was time to be with my husband, depend on each other and each other only, and continue this failing operation.
Minnesota was beautiful. I was happy, for a while. I began nannying in Minnesota, a baby and a toddler. It was tough going to work every day and take care of a baby the same age as our hypothetical child would have been. Some days were worse than others, but I never let it affect my job.
I found a great RE in Minnesota. He was knowledgeable and willing to help get me knocked up. I had some more testing done (once again, why couldn't I just have a cup and a room?). Results were in and to my surprise: results were normal. WHAT!? 15 months in and you're telling me that we still don't have answers because the results are normal? We were diagnosed with Unexplained Infertility (U-IF). U-IF basically means your body doesn't know how to work, your ute is a steel trapped dungeon filled with cob webs and no way out. Great. Not that I wish something was wrong with me, but it sure would be a hell of a lot easier to treat a specific problem than not know what the problem is. Obviously there is a problem. You don't go 15 months TTC without getting pregnant unless there was a problem.
Results were immediate. I was actually able to watch the entire procedure on a screen. Results: normal. This is one of those times you DON'T want to hear that it's normal. You WANT something to be wrong so you can fix it!
Here is a fun little image to show what an HSG is.
Around this time I started getting comfortable with the idea of telling people that not only are we trying to conceive, but that we are having problems. I was starting to understand that infertility was going to be present whether I wanted it to or not, I could either learn to accept it or continue being in denial. Around November and December time my husband and I knew it was time we told our mothers. They needed to know. Around Thanksgiving I gave my mom a link to a blog I was using and let her read about our struggles rather than tell her between sobs. My husband told his mom one day when they went to lunch. Soon after I called my grandma and told her. I started getting even more comfortable telling people. Eventually, I told my mom she could tell my dad. I then told my brother myself.
Finally my family knew.
By December I realized I was not ok. I wasn't happy and needed to change. I couldn't pinpoint the exact reason why I was no longer happy, but I did know it wasn't normal for a person to cry every time they went to the store and come home from work and get right in bed and stay until work the next morning. Was it because I had to change jobs? Was it because I was away from my family? I missed my house? I missed Ohio? I couldn't make a baby? I wanted to go home. I just needed a huge change, but unfortunately I was contracted for 8 more months so I wasn't going anytime soon.
In February my grandfather died. I was not ok. I lived 800 miles away and needed to be with my family. My family is extremely close and when the rock of our family died I didn't know what to do. I was in shock. My depression on top of this death and on top of the distance was a recipe for disaster. Nothing could get any worse, until it did. I lost my job.
Ok. Something HAS to give. Who is punking me? I was ready to pack up my important belongings on my back and walk until I reached the promise land.
It was time to go home. My grandmother was a widow with numerous health problems, including blindness and kidney failure requiring dialysis 3 days a week. She was living alone for the first time in her entire life. I had to go home. The main factor in going home was to help my family, but the fact that I was infertile, jobless, depressed, and homesick definitely swayed my decision.
At this point I had to decide which would be better for my mental health: stop trying to have a baby (a goal I've had for 19 months) or continue the heartache every month and a half (but still giving it a shot).
Infertility has caused me so much heartache. At this point I think stopping it altogether would be less painful for my mental health and well-being. Infertility was the biggest part of my depression. My mental illness was another part of my depression. I needed to be well. I needed to change something in my life. And although being "happy" has little to do with helping depression, the following images helped guide my move. Was I happy? No. Did I want to be happy? Yes. I needed to change something.
In February when I went home for the funeral I told a cousin (my moms first cousin) about the infertility. He asked me when we were having kids. Finally, for once, I was able to tell the truth. That felt so good, it felt like a burden was lifted. The conversation went like this:
"When are you going to have kids?"
"I don't think we'll have kids"
"Really?? As much as you love kids?"
"Does he want kids?"
This is when I knew it was time to tell him.
"Well, not many people know this, but we may not be able to have kids. We have been trying for over a year and a half, have done all of the testing, and haven't had a viable pregnancy"
I never thought it would feel so good to tell someone I was infertile, but after having to lie to every single person that asked that question, it felt good to not lie. To get our secret out in the open was wonderful. I'm learning to be able to say it: I'm infertile.
Looking back throughout this post I can assure you that you're only seeing a tiny corner of the large picture what I felt while in Minnesota, as well as the entire 20 months of infertility. The past 20 months were the worst of my life, so to explain how mentally exhausted and burnt out I was would be quite an undertaking. Therefore, I will just let you see the tiny corner of my life portrait of the last 20 months, so keep it in mind that you only know a little bit.
When I moved back home I didn't tell many people. My husband knew, a few family members, and two friends. I can count them on one hand.
Just picture this for a moment. My OCD was worse than it had ever been, my anxiety and migraines were overpowering my medicine, and my depression needed to be taken care of ASAP. I wasn't getting what I needed in Minnesota, I had to move home. I knew I was happy in Ohio. I knew I was happy before we started trying for a baby (or before we knew there was a problem). I needed help, a therapy of sorts.
Now that I'm home we are pausing TTC. It sucks having this huge part of your life taken away. Although the negative test each cycle crushed me, there were a few days each cycle where I allowed myself to think "this could be our month. I could be pregnant right now." I hate that I'm giving that up, but you know what? If moving away from my husband (read: to be home, not get away from him) and pausing trying to conceive is what it takes to better myself - I would do it again.
I know we haven't tried as long as others have, but when you want something so bad two years seems like an eternity. I wish no one had to go through this. To those that can't quite understand how difficult this is, I'll try to make a connection. Imagine applying to the same job month after month only to be let down. You aren't given a reason why you aren't getting the job, you just don't get it. And to top it all off, everyone around you seems to be getting new jobs or getting promotions. So you don't get to experience the highs and lows of having a job. You get to watch everyone around you.
Infertility has made me question my faith in God. The Bible talks about how women need to pray to have a baby, God knew the child before they were in the womb, and the reason for sex is for procreation. I don't like the idea of saying "God will give you a child when he knows you're ready" because it indicates that I can't do anything in the meantime. When I finally came to realize that I needed to go to God for help with my fertility I was very conflicted when everything I read turned me further and further away from my faith. Some believe that the reason one can't get pregnant is because they don't have a strong enough relationship with God. Some believe it's from a sin. Some believe it's a punishment. Some believe you aren't meant to be a parent. Some thing it's just not time. I think it's all jibberish. I still have faith. I have faith that there is a God and he will protect me when I pass, just as he has protected those that have passed around me. However, I don't believe that infertility is a punishment, which is something I struggled with for a long time. I don't believe it is God's will and I don't appreciate when people say "it will happen when it's supposed to happen." That hurts, it makes me think I have no control over my infertility.
I may never have a child. No, it's not because it's Gods plan. No, it's not anyone's fault. No, I don't want to adopt. Right now we are living CLNBC (Childless Not By Choice).
Could I get pregnant? Maybe. I have all of the organs needed. Could I get pregnant naturally? Maybe. Who knows. Could I get pregnant using alternative methods? Maybe. Could someone else carry my egg and my husband’s sperm? They could. Could we adopt? It’s always an option. We've been trying for 22 months now. Maybe one day we will have a baby.
Maybe one day we will try IUI/IVF. Maybe one day we will get more answers, but for now we are living CLNBC with two gift bags with a baby onesie in each in the closet.