Thursday, January 20, 2011

Once Upon a Time (Part 2) - Before and After Infertility

Once upon a time...I was not "infertile."  Maybe I couldn't produce viable eggs and wasn't able to get pregnant, but I didn't know it.  I didn't know anything about infertility, and I was happy.  I just went about my life, hanging out with friends, going out on dates and worrying about how not to get pregnant.  In fact, if I had saved (and invested wisely) all of the money I spent on birth control over the years, I probably would have had enough money in the bank to send a child to college.  But I digress.

Around age 25, something changed for me.  I met my husband and I noticed that I was smiling at babies in grocery stores and was looking at baby clothes when I went shopping.  I still worked out, hung out with friends and watched movies.  But I occasionally found my mind wandering to how it would be to hold my child in my arms.  And it made me smile.  I realized that I wanted to be a mother.

My wedding day was a wonderful day and it marked a new beginning for me.  It was the beginning of my journey to becoming a mother.  My husband and I had a plan and, after being taken off a suppression medication my RE had previously had me on for endometriosis, we just happily waited for my cycle to start again.  When it didn't, we didn't panic.  We figured that having a baby was just going to take a little longer and be a little less traditional than we had hoped.  But as each failed IUI and IVF cycle piled up, our spirits sank.  I became consumed with all things "fertility."  It was no longer about having a baby, it was now about making a baby.  And let me tell you...making a baby is hard work.

For years, the first thing I did each morning was take my basal temperature.  That meant the first thought I had to have every morning was about fertility.  Then, I would get up and pee on an ovulation predictor stick.  Then I would drink my whey-yogurt-flaxseed-blueberry fertility smoothie for breakfast and, more often than not, head to my fertility clinic for blood work and an ultrasound.  I would spend every free second that I had at work on the internet, researching every article on IUI's, IVF's, diminished ovarian reserve, premature ovarian failure, the side effects of the drugs I was taking, the diets that are supposed to enhance fertility, yoga poses for fertility, self-help books on fertility, and every other fertility-related topic you can imagine.  It's exhausting just thinking about that time in my life. 

Then, during treatment cycles, there was the obsessing.  I would obsess about how many follicles I had and how long it was taking them to grow.  I would obsess about the level of my hormones, what the levels meant for my chances of conception and what I could do to change any of it.  Then, I would obsess about how many eggs we got at retrieval, how many fertilized, how many made it to Day 3 and...if we were lucky enough to make it to transfer...I would get to obsess about how poor the quality of my embryos were and what I could do to make them "stick."  I was so busy obsessing, at some point, I stopped talking to my friends.  I stopped talking to my husband (at least about anything other than infertility).  I stopped looking in the mirror or doing my make up.  I stopped exercising and going to movies.  I put on sixty pounds.  I stopped being me and I realized that, while I was still alive, I had stopped living.

That realization occurred only a few months ago.  I'm still mending friendships that I abandoned and I'm still learning how to have fun with my husband again.  We've both changed because of everything that's happened, and because we changed individually, we are needing to relearn how to truly enjoy being together as a couple.  We recently went on a vacation and I managed to go eight days without uttering one word about fertility issues.  At some point each day, I still would think about getting pregnant or about our egg donor choices...but I was able to let those thoughts go and just enjoy the sunshine.  I don't know if I will ever be able to go back to who I was or if I will ever be able to return to the social life I used to enjoy (especially now that all of my friends are pregnant or have small children).  I'm learning to live among "the fertile" and am slowly figuring out how to define myself outside of the label of "infertile."

Once upon a time, I was someone else.  I'm not that person anymore and, sometimes, I mourn the loss of that happy version of myself that was so full of hope and so unaware that there is a painful condition called infertility.  But sometimes, I look in the mirror and I'm able to see not what I've lost, but what I've gained.  I've gained strength, empathy, knowledge, and perspective.  I've learned to appreciate my friends, my husband, my dogs and all of the blessings that I do still have in my life.  And sometimes I'm even able to dream about what it will be like when I am in the future, holding my child, thinking about how difficult these last couple of years have been, and viewing this time as just a "Once Upon a Time."

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Thank you for the follow & sweet comment on my blog. I love this post, I'm sorry that you felt so lost within yourself but I'm so excited to hear what the future brings for you. Infertility is so all-consuming, it's hard to imagine life not obsessing over it. But you Can Do it! *hugs*