No one prepared me for this.
In 5th grade, our sex education classes talked about periods, STDs and prevention, but never about the chance that by the time you’re finally ready-ish (or really feeling your age and that time is just running out) to have a baby, that that won’t happen without … intervention.
And then what that intervention even means. ART, IVF, IUI, IUD, ARF (just kidding … I made that last one up). Not to mention all of the acronyms I’m seeing on message boards.
But to say that no one prepared me for being diagnosed with infertility and told that IVF was probably my best chance at having a child is to assume that life and all its lessons were going to be just handed to me without struggle. By this age, I should know better than to believe that’s how life works.
I’m not a cynical person by nature. I’m new at this. Still reverberating from the decisions we’ve made. Today is day 1 of cycle 1. And do I call it “IVF treatment”? Is that like calling the internet “The Intertubes”? I’m still learning this jargon.
No one in my immediate or close family had ever gone through infertility treatment. Up until earlier this year, I thought of IVF as what a handful of my friends went through – mostly successful – all involving shots, hormones, tears and waiting. But it turns out that the friends who’d I thought had had IVF actually hadn’t, and I’d been basing my judgments on whether or not I wanted to do IVF on things I didn’t know much about.
But I’ll back up here.
I’ve always known deep down that I wanted to be a mom. But at the same time, I wanted to explore my interests — energy healing, art, spirituality. I never thought that I could do both. My life has been varied and interesting. Not too interesting, but interesting enough that I don’t feel uncomfortable traveling alone to a seminar where I don’t know anyone to learn a new art form or method of crystal healing. Or, to take a class, travel to other countries, do wellness retreats or publish a book.
My first marriage never panned out as far as having children. It was the fact that I realized 6 years into the marriage that I didn’t want to have children with him that helped nudge me out of that unhealthy relationship.
With my second husband, it took long enough to settle into getting married that when the pregnancy didn’t come easily, we figured we’d just take it slow. We spent a lot of time talking about children and why I was so nervous about having them. We sought help in therapy. My inner child got a lot of attention.
I’d love to say that my sister getting cancer propelled me into seeking treatment (like it inspired my husband into taking up running), but the stress and heartache I felt watching her go through treatments made me unsure that I wanted to take on more stressors–like the stress of trying to conceive.
She’s doing ok at the time of that I’m writing this. She’s in remission and finishing up with chemo. Even though I’m not the one going through treatments, I feel how profoundly her diagnosis impacted me.
My sister is almost like a surrogate daughter. When she was little, she called me “MommaKate.” She was also what my parents joked to be the best birth control they could ever give me. My sister was born when I was 14 years old. She cried and woke me up on school nights. I cursed her screams as I covered my ears with my pillow. I could hear my parents trying to get her back to sleep. After school days were spent playing with her if I wasn’t working at my after-school job. She flirted with my boyfriends and interrupted time alone with them. She was a lot of work, like any kid would be. It wasn’t a bad thing; it just wasn’t something that a teenager is usually in for during high school.
Today, that little sister is an adult. She’s the age I was when I got married the first time. She’s strong and will beat that cancer. I love her with my whole heart.
I’m a sensitive person. I feel deeply. Pain of my parents’ divorce and remarriage, then my own divorce and remarriage, as well as a host of other emotional layers of gunk that I accumulated over the years, plus current stressors (cancer, jobs, work, the state of this conflicted country….all the things), settle deep within me. I am slow to decide. I’m deliberate.
Finally, this summer, I was ready to get some information. I made an appointment with the infertility specialist that my primary care doctor recommended, and my hubby and I went. We told no one.
He’d had two tests done previously that he brought with him. And I had tests scheduled for me. Timing was perfect. I started with testing the day of my first fertility specialist appointment, because of where I was in my cycle. Later, an HSG test (owwww, ow, ow, ow — It hurt) uncovered that I had a seriously angry left tube. It was blocked and bloated. And my doctor told me it needed to come out.
My first reaction was no. Nope. Not necessary. Not doing it. But I resolved. It was another step.
One thing I realized strongly on the day of my HSG test was the hold that the stories I tell myself have on me. I sat nervously in the huge radiology room. The imaging machine bed loomed off-center in the sterile room. I wished my husband had come with me. I resented him for not. I felt like I was being prepped for an alien autopsy. Again with the words I didn’t know. “Contrast” (the liquid that they would inject to be able to inspect my tubes and uterus) was one of those words. I felt like I’d arrived on another planet.
And yet, in a flash, I recall that that was a story I was telling myself. There was no reason to be scared or resentful. This was information gathering. I was safe. It made me wonder, “What other stories do I tell myself that aren’t true?”
To resist having the surgery, on suggestion of the doctor I was going to who was going to help me have a baby, was just giving in to another story of fear and rejection.
I had the surgery and was told when I woke up that I have severe endometriosis. Another shocker to me. Sure, I’d had HORRIBLE pain when I was in college, but I associated that with syncing up (as women living in community often do) to my roommate, whose periods were also really painful. I’d mentioned it to my doctor at the time, but there was nothing made of it.
Recently, I’d been having stabbing pain on my left side early in my cycle. I’d mentioned that too, but the doctors just attributed it to ovulation. Little did anyone know, I had a massive wad of endometriosis scarring that’s interconnected a big, fat swollen tube, hugging around an ovary and swinging over to my bowel.
“But we ovulate from every other side, every other month. If your right tube works then why was this still a problem?”
I don’t know that answer. It’s probably a question I’ve been asked or a possibility that’s been celebrated whenever I tell anyone this series of events. It’s possible that in the past I may have had an egg fertilized on the right side and then the backwash of caustic fluid from my left side washed it away once it made its happy little trip to my uterus. Or not. Clearly, there’s been a lot I don’t know about the inner workings of my body.
Which is reason enough to stop worrying about things I don’t know yet.
I’ve seen on some magnet or motivational poster the saying “Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles; it takes away today’s peace.”
Did I mention I am 39 years old? Nothing sets worry into motion like knowing that the big 40 is around the corner.
So, we’re starting.
I took my first BCP (that’s “birth control pill” for those of you playing at home) yesterday and have almost 2 weeks of that. Timing has been, like I mentioned, essential in this experience and incredibly well-synchronized. I was just approved for IVF by my insurance on Wednesday. Aunt Flo (or, AF as they say … and “my period” for others) started Friday. (SURPRISE! She wasn’t due until next Monday.) The financial department approved my cycle right before my nurse called me to confirm that yesterday’s tests indicated that I’m ready to start a cycle.
I’ve been doing a little reading here and there to get some sort of grasp about how all of this works. So far, I’ve found one woman’s blog post with some tips that I’ll keep at hand.
That’s all for now.