Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Ups and Downs of Infertility

Today is the first day of a new chapter for my husband and I. Today I started the medication to prepare for assisted reproductive therapy, or ART. It has been a long road to get to this point, but, fortunately, not as bumpy as it is for some. Some people go through multiple miscarriages as they try to conceive. Not us. At least, not yet.

Two years ago, we decided we were as ready as we’d ever be to be parents, so we set aside the birth control and got down to business. We were 31 years old, and wanted to have two kids before we were 35, so I looked up what I needed to know so we could be as effective as possible at our “baby dancing”.

For those of you who don’t know, there is only a period of time of about 4 days, give or take, during each menstrual cycle, that baby dancing (BD) can result in a pregnancy. The window generally consists of the three days before ovulation (O), and the day of O. With busy lives, it can be easy to miss that precious window.

The average woman of child-bearing age ovulates on about cycle day (CD) 14, but it can vary. The average woman also has a menstrual cycle of 28 days, but this can vary, too. To establish her particular fertile window, a woman can take her temperature every morning with a special, sensitive thermometer, and she can use ovulation predictor kit tests – or “pee on a stick” (POAS).

I did all this, and continued doing it off and on for the past two years. My own cycles average 25 days long, so they go faster than a month, but there were multiple times when we had to take off from trying to conceive (TTC). First, because I had to get an MMR vaccine and a TDAP vaccine, and then because I donated blood for my Dad’s surgery.

In the summer of 2008, we started talking to our doctors about fertility, and both got certain tests done. It turns out we have low sperm morphology, creating mild, male factor infertility. That’s the only diagnosis we’ve been able to get. It’s not that we can’t get pregnant, it’s just that we have a lower statistical chance.

So, we spent 22 cycles trying, then hoping, praying and waiting, for the wonderful news. Each cycle, counting down the days, getting negative pregnancy tests, crying when that time of the month came that “Aunt Flo” showed up with her cramps, bloating, backache and all, until I felt like I was going insane.

Today, I had lunch with a good friend and colleague, and we caught up on our TTC misadventures. I mentioned to her that about 16 babies had been born around me, to friends, family, and physically near acquaintances, during the time we have been trying to have a baby of our own. After I got home, I sat down and actually made a list. The total count of babies born or currently pregnant mothers in my world in the last two years is actually 32. And four of those are to two women. The same two women I jealously watched have their first children almost two years ago are already having their seconds.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love all these parents, whether as friends, family, or just through the love of humanity, and I would never, ever, want to replace their joy with sorrow. I am happy for them. But I am also sad for myself and my husband. I would like more people to realize that every belly pic, every joyous, “it’s a boy!” every baby shower, and every adorable photo of their little ones brings tears to my eyes, and rips open a hole in my heart. Maybe it will help them better appreciate the challenges that kids bring. Maybe when the kids are screaming, and the baby’s crying, they’ll realize that it could be worse – they could have never had those beautiful babies. Moral of the story: Take nothing for granted, including the ability to get pregnant.

Albert Einstein is attributed with the quote, “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I definitely reached that place. I thought, well, maybe we’re not meant to be parents. Maybe God has another plan for us. But, really? How could that be possible, when I can feel with all my heart and soul that there’s supposed to be a baby in my arms? I struggled with the idea that we should just give up, but I couldn’t do it. My whole life, I’ve been taught, and lived by, the concept that I must never give up.

Now, I have a new protocol, something different that my dear husband and I can do to have our babies. For the first time in months, I feel cautiously optimistic, like my head is starting to come out of a fog. I can physically feel depression lifting, despite the additional hormones and chemicals that are starting to course through my body. I’m ready, so bring it on.