Today we braved another storm. A literal one this time. In the middle of Oklahoma Winter Snowpocalypse 2– and on ice-covered roads– we made our way into OKC so that I could see our fertility doctor to start round five. 

Yes, unfortunately, you read that correctly. Another round. Which means that the last one failed. Again. 

To be quite honest, all of these storms are really beginning to wear me down. Just like every Oklahoman, I am totally sick of winter. And like all Okies, with every new melodramatic meteorology report, I can see seasonal depression, wrapped in her winter scarf, sneaking closer out of the corner of my eye. But, even more so, it’s these damn metaphorical storms that are really taking their toll. And they’re not creeping in…they’re running right at me full speed. 

Failed cycle. After failed cycle. After failed cycle. After failed cycle. 

I think we all need some sunshine. I know I do.

Two days ago, (and despite all the encouragement I heard about being more fertile the month after a miscarriage) I learned that this cycle was unsuccessful. This news came about an hour before I had to present three different Professional Development sessions for teachers at my school. To say I was rattled is an understatement. But I did what I always do–pretend it’s all okay.

I’m getting really good at pretending.

Infertility is changing me infinitely more this time around. I’ve been down this road before…twice, so I’m not exactly sure what makes this trip so different. I think (read: know) a lot of it has to do with my age. Being older, I’ve lost the security blanket of time. I turn 40 in about 5 weeks. I’m well aware of the implications that number has on my eggs (and overall fertility). Unfortunately, my eggs could not care less that I now have a decade’s more worth of wisdom under my belt. They don’t care that I could enter motherhood confident in who I am as a woman and as a human. My eggs just don’t care. The audacity.

In some ways (and possibly most ways), I am proud of the changes that have occurred within me over the last several months. I am stronger. More resilient. Like a wind-worn tree, I have bent but not broken. 

In other ways, though, it makes me sad. I see the strength on the outside, but I also see the version of me that you don’t see. The one that bursts into uncontrollable sobs in the middle of dinner for no apparent reason. When Justin looked over at me with an expression of shock and asked, “What is wrong? What in the world just happened?,” I could only answer: DNA. (For the record, I was watching the Olympics. A human interest story was on (as they often are), and it was talking about some athlete, whom I no longer remember, and how the sport “ran in their blood”. His mother was also an Olympian. All I could think about: My DNA is going to end. No brown-eyed little nerd who reads incessantly or fills up notebooks with rambling sentences. Cue gut-wrenching tears.)

I know I am basically taking the maximum dose of the hormones I have been prescribed. Rationally, I understand that my irrational tears are beyond my control because of this. And I know that makes some of these storms feel bigger than they actually are. 

In recent days, I’ve had a few different friends ask me when I plan on stopping. You may be wondering that too. Every time that question is asked I feel a pang coming from somewhere in my soul. It’s one of stubbornness, not relief. One that tells me, with certainty, that I am nowhere near breaking. Unless forced by my doctors, I’m not quitting anytime soon. 

I know what springtime in Oklahoma means. I know that storm season is just beginning. But, I know if it happens, (and while I may cry into my spaghetti about it later)  I can look any tornado square in the eye.  (Note: This act of bravery applies to metaphorical tornados only. If it’s a real one, I’ll meet you in a storm shelter with a bottle of wine.) 

Tomorrow is day three of cycle five, which, for me, means day one of more drugs. The doc added another hormone to this round (sorry, Justin), so hopefully, it makes the difference. In the meantime, I’m putting on my rainboots and doing the only thing that I have left–hoping against all hopes that 5 is my lucky number.

(two. twenty-three. twenty-two)

**See Blog Title

At times I feel like my posts are turning into a broken record. I worry that my readers are growing bored with the stagnant nature of my writing–never having anything new to report; no exciting news to share. 

Depending on how well you know me, you may already know that I am an overthinker with a capital O (and probably capital other letters, too). But, it’s who I am, and when I sit down to write each week, I often worry that my fertility journey is becoming boring for you. (In my defense, I let you know I wasn’t good at this with the title of my blog.)

As I sit and write today, I am one week into my two week wait. This means I am technically still a week away from knowing if this cycle will be the one. If you’re reading this post hoping to find out some good news–Just a head’s up: I’m sorry, it won’t be in this one. The record is still broken. 

This fourteen-day stretch is proving to be more brutal than its predecessors. You would think twelve years into this infertility journey and third trip down the road of “official treatments”, I would have this whole thing figured out. Newsflash: I don’t. 

For this cycle, I began the round of drugs three days after I miscarried. Three days. Immediately jumping into the plan of action, I was color-coding and charting every function of my body. In short, I had something concrete on which to devote my energy. With the end of ovulation and the beginning of the luteal phase (the “TWW”), the space of my brain that is devoted to my reproductive habits lost its distraction. With nothing to chart besides my daily basal temperature, the worry (and overthinking) has taken over. 

What if I am pregnant? What do I need to do differently? What if I lose another one?

What if I’m not, and I have to do this all over again? 

“Well, at least now you know you can get pregnant.”

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard this sentiment in the last three and a half weeks, I could probably fund my next month of infertility costs. Hell, even my doctor said these words. And yes, I know this. I understand the implications of what happened. But after twelve years of trying, it was also the worst thing I have ever experienced. And even though my doctor said it was like “making contact with the ball”, I’m still struggling to see it as anything positive. After all, how many times can a batter hit a foul ball? For all my non-baseball-obsessed friends, the answer is infinite. Unfortunately, my eggs are finite. And I really wanted that baby to stick. 

Infertility affects one in every eight couples. Miscarriages occur in one in every four pregnancies. Talk about staggering statistics. This means that I am not the only person you know that has gone (or is going) through this (what can only be described as) hell. I have not, for one second, regretted opening up about this journey. I have had so many people, both friends and family, come to me and ask, “What do I say?” 

Let me tell you, friends, this has meant the world to me. And this is part of the reason I started this blog. I wanted those going down this road to feel less alone, and I wanted those who have never traveled it to gain a small understanding of it. 

In answer to your question of how to support those around you going through this, there is no one hard and fast rule. My emotions and experience with infertility is different from your sister’s, your best friend’s…or yours. The best thing you can do is hug them and tell them you’re so sorry. You know it sucks and it’s just not fair. 

Other than hugging her and telling her you’re sorry, I have only two things that I feel like I can safely offer after living with this for over a decade. Unless she asks for it, try to hold back on offering advice. Trust me, we’re getting plenty of that from our doctors. And secondly, try to avoid the cliche platitudes like: “Things happen for a reason”, “All in God’s timing” or any of the other sentiments that come from a place of genuine care, but to a woman who is going through infertility or loss, sound like “Wait…if it happened for a reason, what did I do wrong? Why am I not deserving enough to have this?” Trust me, our brains are already there. We don’t need the extra push. 

Again, this is such a personal experience and all women are different. Some women are like me (now, at almost 40) and are totally fine opening up and talking about it and will answer any question you have. Others are like 28 year old me who felt the need to keep everything private. Both are okay. Whether she’s like old(ish) me or young me, check on her. Most of the time we feel like we’re going to make others uncomfortable if we bring it up, so we stay silent. So, just because she’s quiet about it, doesn’t mean she’s okay. 

I don’t know how this post turned into a Dear Abby column. And I sure as hell don’t consider myself qualified to be giving advice. (Insert warning here: If you followed my advice about talking to a fellow infertile and she throat punched you, I cannot be held responsible. Also, I’m sorry about your throat.)

In the meantime, if you have more questions, please ask. I may not be good at making babies, but with this, I can help you out.

(two. thirteen. twenty-two)

Hypothetical Olympics

Every single time the Olympics begin, I start the exact same conversation with my husband: If you were chosen, Hunger Games style, and had to compete in one event with the skills and abilities you currently possess, what game would you choose? He knows this question is coming before I even voice it. I think this year I got out: “So…” 

My interrogative tone must have given me away, because before I could finish my thought, he said, “I don’t know, Steph.”  

With a look of derision, I informed him that he had no idea what I was going to ask. As it turns out, he did. For what it’s worth, he and I often strongly disagree with the other’s so-called “skills.” 

That Hunger Game style Olympics is exactly what infertility feels like. 

It is as if I have been plucked up and placed at the starting line of a game I only watch on TV a few times every four years. Frantically looking to my left and right, I see only confident athletes, while I mentally try to tick off the list of rules in my head before the starting gun fires into the air. 

Sheer panic. 

I worry about approximately 147 things each day–especially after last month. I have a constant mental checklist of things to Google. I am hyper aware of every single twinge inside my body. I feel like there is some hidden rule sheet that I can’t find. Rules that everyone else seems to know by heart, or maternal instinct. But here I am, not even sure I have my ice skates on the correct feet. 

You would think that in the middle of the 4th cycle (on the third trip down this road), I would be a bit more confident in my skills. But fertility is no sport. And practice does not make perfect. Just like watching triple axles does not prepare me to land one. (Don’t worry, after my living room demonstration, I have decided that figure skating will not be my game of choice.) 

I do, however, know my body significantly better than I did 5 months ago. And, even if they’re not laced correctly, I am pretty sure that I do have my skates on the proper feet. 

After last month’s disastrous crash and burn, we jumped right back up and continued the routine. Today I am 19 days post miscarriage, but after another successful round of fertility drugs, I am also 2 days post ovulation, which means I am at the beginning of yet another 2 week wait. (Now, if waiting were an Olympic sport, I could definitely medal.)

In the meantime I will spend the next fourteen days trying to pass time by obsessively learning the rules of every Winter game to see if there’s anything I could do better than Curling or being a benchwarmer backup for the women’s hockey team who spends the entire time crossing my fingers that no one gets injured, because as Justin so kindly reminded me, I’m a terrible ice skater.

While I might not be able to answer yes to any “Could you do that?” that I am asked during every frigid event, I can answer yes to “You got this?” Because I do.

(two. six. twenty-two)