We have a stage five clinger

How-to-stop-that-annoying-thing-you-doVery few people knew about what Steve and I were going through, but due to the fact that the doctors appointments occurred during the work day, I filled my co-workers in, very briefly, about our situation.  Unbeknownst to me, one of my fellow co-workers and his wife were also trying to get pregnant but after eight months they were becoming frustrated.  My co-worker asked if I would be willing to talk to his wife because she was really struggling.  Sure…why not.  Their journey was still in the beginning phase, but I knew the frustration and I had learned a lot about the in’s and out’s of trying to get pregnant.  I had hoped that the stats I had learned would be comforting to her.  I met up with her after school and listened as she fought back tears and vented out her anger.  I continued to tell her that I understood how she was feeling and to maybe start the plethora of tests that I was told to take, so that, if and when, they had to go in to talk to their doctor, they would be a little ahead of the game.  I walked away feeling like maybe I had helped and hopefully made her feel a little better.  

Well, was I unprepared for the can of worms I had just opened up.  Soon I began receiving text messages from her, venting about how no one understood her pain and heartache.  I became the recipient of way to much information about what took place in their bedroom, to which I responded by flinging my phone across the room as if it had just turned into a poisons snake, and then, I felt the need to shower.  Any run-ins that we did have included her running up to me and talking about everything infertility.  I kept looking at her, wondering how she hadn’t passed out from talking, because I don’t think she took a breath between words.  However, what I began to realize, was that her struggle defined her.  It consumed her, and she assumed it did the same for me.  I became her “infertility buddy” and that was all I was to her, someone who she felt lived and breathed the need for a baby.  

I soon began to get a pit in my stomach every time I saw her name pop up on my phone or her face in the crowd.  I hated that she had made me feel like I was a label.  I did not want to be defined by infertility and what I was going through.  I have never been defined by anything, and I didn’t want to start now.  Even though this was a monumental thing that Steve and I were going through, it was not the only thing.  I was going to school to get my masters degree in education.  I was an Aunt to two little boys, a sister to my wonderful sister, a daughter to two amazing parents, a wife to my loving husband, and a mom to my two adorable fur-babies.  I was writing a book and hoping to one day get it published.  I was a volleyball coach and a special ed assistant who took pride in the students I worked with.  I was so much more then a person struggling to have a baby.

My co-worker and his wife became pregnant and welcomed a healthy baby girl.  I became unnecessary, as I was no longer needed as an “infertility buddy”, and I was ok with that, because even though I became frustrated as hell with her, she actually taught me an incredibly valuable lesson.  She taught me that I don’t want to be defined by infertility.  That I needed to take some time to remember who I was before this struggle.  

It is so easy to become completely consumed by the infertility journey and I have had my moments where the sorrow, heartache, and pain has overtaken my entire body and shut me down for days.  However, at some point, in that ugliness of sorrow, heartache and pain, I crawl out from under it all and remind myself that this does not define me and it will not run my life.  If you find yourself in this struggle, remind yourself that there was a you before all of this.  That you have so many wonderful parts that make you, you.  Find those things and hang on to them.  If you have a hobby or sport that you love, make sure to take the time to do them.  If you have something you have always wanted to try, do it!  It truly helps!  It takes you out of the dark, the ugly moments and days, and reminds you that you are a person that is not defined by your struggle with infertility.  Be kind to yourself and remember to continue to live your life through the ups and downs of your journey.   

 

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

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I am a HUGE lover of the holidays.  Once October hits, I’m in my happy place.  Every thing that surrounds the holidays brings a smile to my face. The baking, Hallmark movies, decorating, festive music, and eggnog.  Love me the eggnog.  Nothing could ever take that love away, or so I thought.  Hello infertility.  Thanks for ringing your ugly head and ruining yet another thing that I love.

When we found out Steve’s sister was pregnant, it was towards the end of October.  Texts of, “This will be us next year!” followed by a picture of two kids dressed up to go trick or treating only managed to break my heart more.  I tired my best to think positive and believe that our turn was right around the corner.  When Thanksgiving rolled around, we piled into the car to go to Steve’s family celebration and I spent the 40 minute car ride pumping myself up and putting on my “happy” face.  When we walked in it was a celebration.  The first grandchild!  Champaign glasses were passed around and the only conversation to be had was everything baby.  I found myself taking multiple breaks outside to collect myself and stay positive.  Whenever I walked back in and I found comfort by being near Steve.  Just holding his hand made me feel safe and ok.  I was so grateful for him.  I was holding myself together pretty well, until the comment about me and having a baby came into play.  Steve and his dad were talking and I walked up to be by my security blanket.  They must have been talking about us and kids, because right when got there, his dad looked at me and said, “Gosh Steph, you could be pregnant right now.  You better be careful with what you are around and drink.”  If a heart could physically fall out of your chest and onto the floor, mine would have right then and there.  Little did his dad know, that just a few hours ago, I had taken a pregnancy test and prayed for those two pink lines, but only got one.  Little did he know that I spent about a half hour just crying in the shower over that stupid pink line.  It took all the effort I had to mutter out, “Don’t worry, I’m not!” and then I turned and headed back outside, fighting off, with all of my might, the tears that were threatening to pop through.  

At dinner, we went around and said what we were thankful for, and I sat there numb as everyone stated there thanks was for the new addition to the family.  I ate in silence, counting down the minutes until it was time to go home.  I listened as everyone talked about what it was like to be pregnant, stories about each of the future parents as children, and how his sister wished she could have been drinking alcohol instead of having to drink water.  After all of that, I kinda shut off and wanted to be anywhere else.  When it came time to leave, I got in the car and started to cry.  Steve just sat and listened and I just felt very alone.  

The next morning I felt so exhausted.  I usually like to decorate for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, but this year, I truly didn’t feel like it.  I had no excitement in me at all, only worry and sadness.  I came downstairs and Steve was sitting in his chair watching TV.  I went over to give him a hug and he told me that he had had a talk with his sister.  I was like, we just saw her yesterday, what were you talking about?  Thinking he had just done me a HUGE favor, he had sent her a message telling her everything I had said in the car about how frustrated and sad I was and how last night had been hard on me.  If there had been a table, you bet I would have flipped it over.  I felt so violated and also like I had just done something wrong.  Here I had shared my feelings with my BFF, my private feelings mind you, and he went and shared them with the one person I did not want knowing about anything I was feeling.  I was so dumbfounded.  I calmly asked him, “Why would you do that?” and his response was, well you were upset and she should know that.  I love him for trying, but man did he just create a shit storm for me to clean up after.  I then texted his sister and apologized for what Steve had said.  The response I received was icy.  She told me she just wished I could be supportive.  Insert major Catholic guilt!

While, for the next few weeks, I continued to do damage control, Steve sat me down and said he felt it was time to go back in and see the doctor.  I agreed.  We called to make our appointment, only to find out that our doctor decided to become a stay at home mom and was no longer practicing.  Ummm…I’m sorry what?  But we had a plan with her.  This is the doctor we both went to and she knew our story.  Super frustrated, I went to look up information about other doctors and I happened to find an old doctor of mine who had now moved to this location.  I loved this doctor and felt so relieved and like this was a sign that things were going to be just fine.  

In the beginning of December, we went to see her and she gave me an exam and had a strong feeling that I may have PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome.  PCOS is a common health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, and most women don’t even know they have it until they find they are struggling to get pregnant.  My eyes began to tear up and the guilt I felt was so strong.  Steve just sat there giving me the most loving and supportive look and all I could do was mouth to him that I was sorry.  My doctor gave my arm a squeeze, handed me a kleenex, and told me that this is not the end.  Many women have this and get pregnant, it just may take some assistance.  She told us we needed to go and see a infertility specialist and gave us a contact.  I was making the call as we got out of the doctors office, and we were lucky to get an appointment in two weeks, right before Christmas.

Those two weeks moved at a snails pace, but finally we found ourselves in the doctors office.  I was so nervous but felt that this whole experience was just going to be a blip and in no time I would be pregnant.  He gave me my exam and agreed that I had PCOS.  He informed us of the different measures that may need to be taken to assist in getting pregnant, but before we did that, he needed to run some tests.  He also talked to Steve about his family history and pregnancies and felt it was a good idea to have Steve’s sperm and blood tested as well, just to officially be able to rule him out.  We set up appointments to have our tests taken the 24th of December…bring on Christmas Eve.  

We spent Christmas up at my parents cabin, now home, and they couldn’t have been anymore supportive.  Asking how we were feeling, were we ok, did we want to talk about it, and we got a chance to really explain how we were feeling and what we were figuring out along the way.  The day after Christmas we missed a call from our doctor and he left us a message saying he wanted to talk to us about the results, however he was going to be out of town for the weekend and we could call him on Monday.  I was so upset we missed the call.  I wanted to know we were ok and that all was fine and this we an easy fix.  My mom just kept telling me she was sure it was all fine and to just enjoy the weekend.  

 We got home on Sunday and I shot up on Monday and called the doctors office.  I was told he was not in yet and would call us back.  I hovered over my phone all day and when it finally rang I, my stomach sank in total fear.  This was it.  We were about to find out our fate.  I yelled for Steve to come up and I answered the call with incredibly shaky hands.  Our doctor explained to us that all of my tests came back looking great.  There did not seem to be anything that would prevent medication from helping me get pregnant.  I was so relieved.  We were going to be able to have our baby!  The weight of the world just fell off my shoulders…we then heard…however.  Nope, not however…don’t use however…however means something bad is coming.  However, we did find that in Steve’s sperm sample, there was no swimming sperm.  He had twitchers, not swimmers, and that would make getting pregnant the old fashioned way incredibly difficult.  He wanted to make another appointment with us so he could go over everything in person and also have Steve give another sample before the meeting.  The earliest we could get in wasn’t until March 25, three months away.  We were both in such shock.  We gave each other a hug and said we would figure it out.  Steve kept telling me he was sorry and I just kept telling him it wasn’t his fault.  We gave each other one last hug and decided to call our families and tell them what we found out.  I just remember calling my mom and the moment I heard her voice I burst into tears and told her, “It doesn’t look good for the home team.”

And the tests…oh my God the tests!

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If you have ever watched a movie where people go running down shopping isles in search of pregnancy test only to be overwhelmed by all the options and end up pretty much scooping every test into their cart, you will then be able to picture me perfectly.  I gave Steve the, “Honey, I got this!” look and I was on my way into the deep, deep trenches of ovulation and pregnancy tests.  As in the movies, the end result was me, scooping out a bunch of options into the cart, lowering my head to overt the eyes of nosy shoppers, and looking for the friendly lady who won’t give me the, “So what are you up to?” look.  

I can’t say my hopes weren’t high when following the doctors orders of tracking and testing.  Ok they were skyrocketing.  I am a fixer by nature, so all I needed to do was take these tests and track, and we would have our baby…right?  Wrong.  Months of testing and tracking came and went and the only double pink lines we got were to show it was “our window”.  One time Steve thought the double pink ovulation lines were really the  “Hey your struggle is over” lines, and it broke my heart to have to tell him that we were not pregnant.  Can’t they make those stupid lines a different colors for different kits?  I mean, they put a man on the moon but they can’t figure  out how to give ovulation and pregnancy test different testing colors?

We continued this robotic pattern for 5 1/2 months.  Life was becoming so programmed and it was no longer exciting like when we first started trying, but instead life became consumed by worry, sadness, and little bit of frustration.  Then I received a call from Steve that I had been secretly dreading for the past month.  His youngest sister was pregnant.  It happened on their first try.  I had just been told that they were going to start trying, and had a feeling it was going to be easy for them.  My heart literally fell out of my chest and onto my car floor.  I parked and told Steve I needed to go.  Quickly I sent her a congratulations text, avoiding a break down on my end during an exciting time for her, and then I put my head down on my steering wheel and cried.  Crying may be an understatement.  A tsunami is truly a better description.  I’m surprised my car and I didn’t float away.   Text started coming in from the whole family about how exiting this was and there was finally going to be a baby in the family.  Was I excited for everyone?  Yes.  Absolutely!  This was something that Steve’s family had been dying for.  I mean on the day of our wedding, my mother-in-law looked at me and said, “Let’s get this thing over with so we can start having grandbabies!”  I just had always hoped it would be us.  So, his family was getting the baby they had always wanted, and I was off to get more tests.

 

 

 

And so the journey begins…

I met my husband, Steve, through a mutual friend and I knew in about two weeks that I was going to marry this man.  He was handsome, creative, funny, caring, and I just knew he would be a wonderful father one day.  As in most relationships, we would have discussions about what our future would look like, and of course that included kids.  How many would we have?  What would their names be?  What would they be into?  What type of parents would we be?  After we were married, we discussed when we wanted to start a family.  We were worried about starting too soon, so we waited for three years before trying to get pregnant.  I will never forget the excitement we felt and how real the feeling of having a family felt once we decided it was time.  It was no longer a “what if” but a when. 

My sister became pregnant very easily, and I was expecting the same fate.  Month after month we continued to see that single pink line and I found myself channeling my art degree.  Am I really only seeing one pink line or is my mind playing tricks on me and there really is two?  Is the perspective correct? Is the distance between the two lines just incredibly close together and it is really two lines?  Is the coloring right?  Maybe it is not the right pink hue, so that must make this test defective.  I can’t even begin to count the number of hours spent staring at a stupid plastic stick that held my hopes and dreams.  Month after month we continued to try and month after month we watched as people around us became pregnant and we still showed that single pink line.

We were trying our best to stay positive and keep busy so that we would not be consumed with getting pregnant and on Friday nights we loved to curl up and watch our favorite show, Modern Family.  It just gave us time to laugh and forget about everything else.  If you are familiar with the show, you know who Mitch and Cam are.  If not, let me fill you in with a very shortened version.  Mitch and Cam are an amazingly funny and loving gay couple who have adopted a daughter and are hoping/trying to adopt another child.  There was one night we were watching an episode where Mitch and Cam were wondering what their own biological child would look like.  Cam found a website where he could uploaded a photo of each of them and it would give them an image of what their child would look like.  I looked at Steve and said, “Ummm…hello, I’m totally trying this!”  I found a site and thought I would put it to the test to see if it was accurate.  My sister has two kids, so I used her and my bother-in-law as guinea pigs.  I uploaded their picture and was shocked at the outcome.  I thought Modern Family helped me to laugh, but this just trumped it ten-fold.  The first photo below is of my sister and brother-in-law and the second is of their “child”.  Take a look and let me know your thoughts…

 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and declare that I don’t think this looks like it could be there child.  Needless to say, we didn’t really put much stock in the reliability of the site, but man did it make us laugh hard.

Steve and I continued to try and prayed for those two pink lines, however after 14 months, we decided to go see my doctor for some advice.  She told us to try for another 8 months and to document EVERYTHING.   We were instructed to purchase an ovulating kit, an ovulation calendar, and to also take my temperature every morning, but above all, to just relax.  Riiiigghhhttt, relax.  After that long list?  Sure…relax…easy peasy…yeah right.  But, we wanted our family, so were all in.

 

Life is an adventure meant to be lived!

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Step 1 of life: Your are born! 

Step 2 of life: Go to school and graduate high school. 

Step 3 of life: Go to college and graduate.  

Step 4 of life: Meet the person of your dreams and get married.  

Step 5 of life: Buy a house.

Step 6 of life:  Have children. 

Step 7 of life:  Have…hold on (INSERT RECORD SKIP). 

Hey steps of life…wait a second.  What about those of us who don’t get this path and are instead given a different path and a different set of steps?  What do we do and where do we go to figure out what to do?  Who do we lean on?  How do we find people to relate to?

Well…that is just what I am trying to figure out.  Life has thrown me many different steps and paths, and number 6 being the biggest.  I was lucky enough to meet the man of my dreams and married him, but we found that we were unable to have children.  Now what? 

Trying to find someone…anyone who could spin a positive perspective on life after infertility was to say the least…IMPOSSIBLE!  Every place kept telling me to continue and wait for our miracle or to just relax and let it happen.  That our time would come.  No one ever said that you will learn who will be there for you and understand, and who will make your pain worse.  That you will sometimes feel alone and like you don’t fit in.  That you will feel isolated and like it is not ok to talk about this and your struggle and pain is meant to be kept quiet. No one ever said that it’s ok to say enough is enough.  That it is ok to cry and mourn because you have to figure out how to reconfigure your dreams and goals while you watch others easily get what you tried so hard for.

I decided that I didn’t want to sit and be silent about our struggle any longer.  I wanted to share our story because it didn’t end with a little miracle baby, and I am pretty sure others have experienced the same.  I want to show there is a life after infertility and it can be full of fun and adventure.  That, although infertility can cause major strain on a marriage, it can also create an unbelievable bond that you realize is unbreakable. 

My hope for this blog is to show that infertility and not being able to have children is not a death sentence, but just a new and different path then expected.  That you are not alone and that your feelings and emotions are justified.  That you are going to have to make decisions that you never thought you would and end friendships that you thought would last forever. 

Welcome!  I am excited to share my story with you, to help you realize that you are not alone, and to show you that there is an amazing adventure waiting for you after infertility.