Infertility, aka Unwanted Childlessness

So we experienced a first trimester twin miscarriage back in January 2019. It was awful, but we remained hopeful – the midwives cheerfully waved me along after my post-miscarriage appointment; “see you in a few months!” they said with a conspirational wink. Our therapist pointed out that we had no reason to believe that this would happen again, or that we would have any trouble carrying a pregnancy to term. We were young, healthy, had gotten pregnant with no real effort, etc. etc.

The first year

The first couple of cycles of trying after the miscarriage were full of adorable naivete. I listened to a ton of pregnancy podcasts. I learned about postpartum care, chose a birthing center, stocked up on cheap ovulation & pregnancy tests (these are my favorite). Each cycle, I was convinced that I was pregnant and then crushed to learn that I wasn’t. It was confusing. Six, seven, eight months went by with nothing but increased anxiety to show for our attempts. We chalked it up to the stress we were under for various other reasons. We also observed with a dose of dry humor that the universe was working decidedly against us – we attended a disproportionate number of weddings in 2019, and for 5 months in a row my fertile window happened to coincide with some couple’s wedding night. But as a year crept up on us – the period of trying that would officially earn us an infertility diagnosis – I became extremely ansty.

And alone. It felt like my peers were either effortlessly becoming pregnant or not remotely close to thinking about childbearing. I didn’t tell anyone that we were trying so hard to try, and found it really hard to talk about with my husband. I felt so betrayed by my body. One of my biggest reasons for pushing through eating disorder recovery was to restore my natural cycles so we could have babies. On particularly bad days, I felt like it was all for naught, even though that was far from true.

Becoming officially infertile – and several twists

In Feburary, we started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist. We did a cycle of follicular ultrasound monitoring with them to check for PCOS and to see if I would be a candidate for medicated cycles. We paid hundred of dollars to learn that I did not have PCOS and was ovulating perfectly on my own, which I already knew, but never trust the patient right? Feeling unsatisfied, unheard, and a little turned off by how aggressively they were pushing IVF on us, we looked for an alternative. In March, we found a different provider that believed in treating infertility by finding the root cause, and not by trying to manipulate the natural cycle.

And then COVID hit.

And then I became pregnant – on my own!

And then I had another miscarriage.

Testing and doing crazy things

The second miscarriage qualified me for a whole bunch of new tests – the RPL (recurrent pregnancy loss) panel, as they call it. Everything turned up normal. I had two endometrial biopsies and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) – both excruciatingly painful. Tubes are clear. Perfectly shaped uterus.

Throughout this whole process I have been relentlessly trying new things. Acupuncture. Arvigo Mayan Massage. Foot baths. Hypnosis. Talk therapy. Vaginal steaming. Functional doctor. Seed cycling. Taking a break from trying. Immaculate diet. Fertility yoga. No running. Reading a ton of books. Reading research articles. And oh, the endless supplements! Meanwhile it feels like the entire world is pregnant. And the ones who are not yet pregnant are going to become pregnant with no trouble at all.

This brings me more or less to where we are today. It’s been nearly 2 years since our first pregnancy, our unrequested invitation to hell. This journey has all but bankrupted me – financially, energetically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way. And before you tell me to relax and be grateful and then surely new life will spontaneously arise from my inner abundance, DON’T SAY IT. PLEASE DON’T SAY IT TO ANYONE. It’s unhelpful because we, the infertile people of the world, are aware more than anyone else of our stress, anguish, anxiety, and hopelessness – and we want more than anyone else to be able to relax, or at least to feel that our stress is manageable. It’s as cruel as telling a blind person, why don’t you just, like, see already? But I’m not trying to preach. Or rather, I’m trying not to, hah.

Limbo

So why am I talking about my reproductive failure journey on the internet? Well, for one, I’m incredibly lonely. I’m human. Sometimes I need to vent, and this is my blog after all. For two, I am done with feeling shame over this part of my life that has been enormously crippling and is in no way my fault. For three, I believe that story-telling is a really important part of any healing process. Especially story-telling in the midst of the sadness and struggle, when there hasn’t been any sign or confirmation of a happy ending. I always thought that I would wait until we had managed to achieve a successful pregnancy before sharing publicly about our infertility. People don’t know what to do with unfinished chaos. I certainly don’t. One of my recurring wishes has been to be able to time-travel to the moment of the birth of our first child. This limbo feels unbearable, but I know that my work in this season is to come to terms with my story, stay in my own lane, and make space for hard thoughts & feelings without having them consume all my energy.

What’s next?

We still don’t know why we’ve experienced infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I’m moving on to more invasive and expensive testing. I am prioritizing my mental health/sanity, because the stress of infertility – in conjunction with the normal and very real stresses of 2020 – has become untenable. We are working extremely actively on nurturing our marriage and strengthening our partnership, which feels like it has had to bear SO MUCH in a short 3.5 years. I’m still in graduate school full-time and working part-time. I really, really hope that some day (soon) I’ll be back here with the story of a miracle. But in the meantime I want to honor the struggle of the in-between-and-really-only-god-knows-if-we’ll-get-there.

Kina Grannis – who has walked this awful road for over 4 years – captures the feeling perfectly: