Conquering Infertility (or something like that)

I started reading a book tonight that my REI (Reproductive Endocrinologist)’s nurse recommended a few months ago. The book is called Conquering Infertility by Alice Domar, PhD. Reading is my escape. When I open a book, I want to experience a life that I will never know. Maybe that’s why this book–along with her other book, Self-Nurture, and a third book called It Starts with the Egg by Rebecca Fett–have sat on my book-shelf, unopened, and collecting dust for months. The thought of using my precious free time, my rare moments of escape, to read about infertility has been enough to drive me to tears.

About a week ago, when I started fearing this cycle was another failure, I moved the book to the side table by my recliner. Tonight, being 99% sure this cycle has failed, I opened it and began reading. I have officially passed the TWW (two week wait), and all tests are still negative. 

Maybe there’s something in it that I am not doing. 

In the last few minutes, I have read the first 30 pages. While I’ve taken a short break to do some writing, I think I can do it. I think I can stomach this book. And, even more so, I think it may help. 

I’m not going to find a secret miracle cure hidden within these 285 pages. It’s not that kind of book. Instead, it focuses on a mind/body approach to conquer infertility. And by that, it does not mean “get pregnant”. It means pursuing infertility in a way in which my mind and body do not feel like they have been taken hostage. 

Dear Reader, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have been blinking twice for help for months. I am amidst a full-blown hostage situation. Feel free to send in the crisis negotiator, but if he opens with: It seems to me you’re feeling angry about something, I can’t be blamed for throwing an empty Kleenex box in such a way that the pointy corner is aimed for his eyeball. 

In the introductory chapter, the book likens the stress and anxiety of dealing with infertility to that of driving and having to dodge a deer that jumps in front of your car. Over and over again. Maybe when you read that sentence you felt that little jolt in your heart, similar but more intense than the one you get when you fly by a cop on the interstate (Pretend you didn’t read that, Justin, and just imagine me only ever driving 5mph over the limit like you prefer.). Whether it’s a deer or a cop you’re picturing, I am sure you can relate to the feeling. You also know that, while it may take a few miles, your heartbeat eventually leaves your ears, making its way slowly back down to your chest. Imagine this exact scenario happening every 45 minutes of a long drive. THIS is exactly what infertility feels like. When I read these few pages, I felt seen. It is a constant cycle of high stress and heartbreak. Sometimes I feel like I can’t even breathe. 

I am hoping that, through reading this book, I learn some strategies that work for me in managing this stress roller coaster. Even if it’s just being cognizant of my energy and the energies around me. 

I have never understood those adults that seem to thrive in negative energy and gossip. As I have been going (read: trudging) through this journey the last 6 months, I have become hyper-aware of my stress levels. I have been intentional in those with whom I surround myself. My plate is full and my shoulders feel heavy, but by choosing to not be around negative people and energies, I have been able to move forward, and though sometimes it’s really damn hard, hold my head up. 

I don’t think this advice is specific to those battling infertility. Take a look at the people around you. What is their energy? What is your energy? What are you putting out into the world? 

Don’t start rolling your eyes at me just yet. I can assure you that I am no Mary Poppins. I am not taking a spoonful of sugar with my overflowing handful of pills and supplements every day. I still cry and scream and complain that this whole thing is (insert 4 letter word here) unfair. I still struggle with major anxiety and have days where I doubt myself. I avoid looking at babies  and get a full on catch in my chest every time I am out in public and hear one cry. And I have a few people in my life who I have let in enough to see the dark and ugly side of what I am going through. 

BUT…I also do believe in the power of positive energy. I am learning to breathe. And I am *trying* to control my stress as best as I can. I wear three bracelets everyday that say: Strength, Fearless, and Hope. These words are my mantra. 

And while none of this has exactly worked out for me yet, it’s given me the hope to think that it still might. And it’s giving me the strength to conquer infertility. Or at least be fearless enough to poke it in the eyeball with the pointy end of my Kleenex box. 

(three. twenty-four. twenty-two)

Ten Things I Have Learned Through Infertility

(In No Particular Order)

  1. We are all stronger than we think. Before we decided to give this whole procreation thing one last try, I spent days agonizing over this decision. Am I strong enough to go through this again? Can I stomach the heartbreak month after month? Answer: yes. Six months of repetitive heartbreak, and guess what? I’m still standing. Sometimes I feel like the day is literally going to consume me. But, for every bad day, I have several good ones full of hope and nursery planning. Through all of this, I have not had one day in which I thought, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” I’ll take that as a win.
  2. Being vulnerable is a risk worth taking. I am headstrong and independent, and this one does not come easy to me. But, mostly through being open and sharing (or oversharing) on this blog, I have learned that more people care about you than you think. It’s not always the people who you expect to be your support system that show up for you. To the people that are holding me up (you know who you are)…I love you. Seriously. You check on me constantly and don’t let me get by with an “I’m fine”. I am as strong as I am, largely because I have learned how to let others care for me.
  3. Desperate times call for desperate measures. There is nothing I will not do to make this happen. I quit drinking alcohol and coffee overnight back in October. However, this is probably best exemplified by the fact that last week, in the midst of ovulation testing, I found myself, on my hands and knees, frantically dipping my ovulation tests in a puddle of pee on the bathroom floor. I suppose I should provide context: Leading up to ovulation I have to test my second pee of the day. The first one contains yesterday’s hormones, so the second one is the most potent sampling of today’s hormone levels. However, I rarely have to use the restroom a second time before work, so those few drops are necessary and precious. This all occurred (obviously) on a day I was already in a rush. After collecting the tiny amount, I set the cup on the floor and reached for a test. In doing so, I knocked it over. Cursing and screaming, I scrambled to open the foil packages before the puddle spread. (I test with two or three different brands each day, just to be sure that I don’t miss my window.) This was so comical that if you saw it in a movie, you would think that it had to come from someone’s imagination. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the most unbelievable thing in the movie of my life.
  4. Hormones are no joke. Also, ASPCA commercials are unnecessarily long. When watching Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel, I have learned to change the channel during commercial breaks.
  5. Listen to your emotions. I’m not (or wasn’t) much of a crier. But I have learned that crying is okay. Sometimes I don’t even know why I am crying. Usually those tears pass as quickly as they start. I have, however, experienced some pretty severe panic attacks lately. A couple months ago, I found myself coming home from the hospital and it was as if a switch flipped in my brain. I didn’t know where I was and I didn’t know how to get home. I called Justin hysterically telling him I was lost. You can imagine his confusion at my panic when I was describing a part of OKC that I know very well. Like my puddle of pee on the bathroom floor story, this is just one instance of many. I am still no expert, and I am still learning how to handle them when they hit, but I am managing them better now. Or trying to.
  6. Boundaries are healthy. I think sometimes we think that “putting others first” means “putting yourself last.” I used to attend every friend or colleague’s baby shower. I would do the dreaded game of guessing the belly circumference with yarn. I would sit and watch every gift be unwrapped. Each game and each gift felt like a knife in my ovary. I sucked it up, though, because it was expected of me. Almost every baby shower that I have ever gone to has ended up with me having a panic attack that night. I have learned that it’s okay, and healthy even, to say no. I can send a gift and be supportive without putting my own mental health at risk. I can also walk away from inconsiderate conversations and politely stand up for myself. As wrong as this felt at first, I have learned that it’s totally okay.
  7. There is nothing even slightly romantic about this process. I’m just going to leave it at that. (But, for the record, never tell an infertile woman, “At least you get to have fun trying”. I’ll spare you the details, but there is nothing fun about this.)
  8. Insurance coverage of fertility treatments is stupid. Sorry, HB, we spent your college fund trying to conceive you.
  9. Experiences can shape you without defining you. I’m still working on this one, and probably always will be. It is hard to not feel inadequate as a woman and a wife when your body doesn’t work like every other woman’s seems to. It is hard to not feel broken when scrolling through Facebook and seeing nothing but pictures of babies and children. It is hard to breathe steady and keep the tears inside your eyeballs when the baby in the basket ahead of you in the Target check out line tries to make eyes with you. All of these things feel defining. It gets to a point after twelve years of this, that it just feels like “who I am.” I am learning, though, that shaping and defining are two completely different things.
  10. This is not my fault. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t earn a baby. Accepting this has been difficult. I could, and probably will at some point, write an entire blog entry on just this idea. I have spent most of my adult life secretly thinking that I wouldn’t make a good mother. After all, how many times have I heard, “Things happen for a reason? I didn’t know what the reason could be unless it was either (A) me not being deserving of it, or (B) the fact that I wouldn’t be good at it. However, through writing this blog, I am learning that there just might be some other purpose to it.

***

Update: For those that are trying to keep up with the timeline, my fertile window for this cycle has ended and I have officially begun another “Two Week Wait.” Fingers crossed. 

(three. thirteen. twenty-two)

A Little Stitious

Dear HB

I have a baby box–a small tub of things just for you. The lid doesn’t even fit on it anymore. It just sits underneath it, like a coaster, catching onesie spillover. Today when I got home, there was a package waiting on me. Someday, you’ll come to realize that this isn’t an all too uncommon occurrence. Typically, I rip into the box right away, eager to try out a new face cream or to start a new book, but today I left it on the counter for a long while. Repeatedly I walked past it, sometimes looking at it, and others avoiding eye contact altogether.  I’m not superstitious (but I’m a little-stitious), and I couldn’t decide if opening it would be a jinx. 

I knew what was inside. It was something for you. Something to put in your box.

Amongst a couple other baby-things, there were two tiny shirts–actually, the same shirt in two different sizes. They say: “Wishes Come True.” 

Do you know how many candles I’ve blown out wishing for you? Or how many 11:11 and eyelash wishes that have gone into the universe in your name? I couldn’t tell you the exact number, but let’s just say you won’t be learning to count that high for quite a long time. 

Today was a rough one for me, HB. I’m accustomed to the mental and emotional strain of this process, but sometimes I get hit with the physical side of it just as a reminder of what I am putting my body through. Today was an extra-long day at work, and I spent much of it looking at the clock, willing myself to make it five more minutes. And then five more after that. In increments of five minutes, I made it 12 hours. Twelve hours in which I did not faint or throw up, even though I knew one (or both) was bound to happen at any minute.

You know what, though? I say all of this to tell you that it’s worth it. You’re worth it. And I don’t even hesitate saying that–not for one second. 

Every pill,

Every stick, 

Every doctor’s appointment and exam, 

Every disappointing month, 

Every tear–

…These are all things I would endure, blow away on an eyelash, and endure again just to see what you look like in the shirt (which is now opened and in your baby box). 

This tough day is almost over. I have learned, through all of this, that regardless of how hard a day is, it will always end and tomorrow will be a fresh start. I will hold you and tell you this story someday when you need to learn this lesson.

As I sit here writing to you, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’ve taken my twenty-something pills to prepare my body for your arrival. I’m wearing my favorite oversized red t-shirt–the one with the little lantern on the pocket. It’s soft and cozy, and I just feel better when I put it on, and I can’t help but smile as I think about the words on your tiny folded shirts…

Wishes do come true, HB. Someday, you’ll be all the proof I need. 

Love, 

Your HM

(three. three. twenty-two)

Storms

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)

Time Heals All Wounds (and Other Stupid Cliches)

Today marks a full week since my miscarriage. Seven days. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes. It doesn’t matter how you want to measure it, time since then feels like arbitrary numbers. In one sense, the intensity of the pain makes it feel like yesterday. Even the number seven feels too big. And in another, I feel like I have been heartbroken for so long that 10,080 doesn’t even begin to capture it. 

I want to start off by saying that I know the statistics. I know around 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. This means that, dear readers, more than a handful of you have first hand knowledge of what I am going through. I know that my story is no more special than any of yours, but as I am the author of this blog, I am going to tell it as I am living it. It may be very similar or quite different from your experience. To be honest, I hesitated to even write a post like this because I did not want it to seem like I think my loss is any more significant than anyone else’s. As I have stated from the beginning, I don’t know if I am “doing this right”. 

But since you’re here to read my story, here it goes. The last seven days have been….hell. I don’t know how else to say it. In the last week, I have successfully made it through one day without crying. It hits me at the strangest times: in the middle of dinner, when I am staring at myself in the mirror doing my makeup. Sometimes it stops as abruptly as it began, and sometimes I cry until I am dry heaving. Part of this, I know, is hormones. Within the last ten days, I have been pregnant, lost the baby, and completed another cycle of fertility drugs. I am trying to be kind to my body. I know she’s dealing with a lot and doing the best she can. 

However, if I’m being totally honest, I’m still pretty angry with her. I still want to write a “To Whom it May Concern” letter to my uterus. I want to demand an answer to why she betrayed me. It figures that I would get the uterus that slept through class the day “fertilized egg implantation” was covered. *insert eye roll*

In addition to the soul-crushing sadness and irrational anger, I also feel weirdly responsible. I know in my hodge-podge of emotions, this is the ridiculous one. While the rational side of me sees this, it still doesn’t prevent it. This sense of responsibility has driven me insane. I have become obsessed with “what did I do?” and “what didn’t I do?” Am I taking the right supplements? Am I taking too many supplements? I recently read that you want to keep your uterus warm during the two week wait to aid in implantation. According to Eastern Medicine, in order to do this, you need to keep your feet warm. So now I’m stressing out if I wore warm enough socks. I literally cannot make this up. 

Earlier, I mentioned the 15% statistic. That’s true for normal healthy women. For my condition, the rate is closer to 50%. Enter one more emotion: FEAR. I know I wear a bracelet everyday that says “Fearless”. This week, that bracelet has been a lie. Total bullshit. I am scared to death that this could happen again. And again. 

The other bracelet says “Strength”. This one is less of a lie, because I know that even if it does happen again, I’ll survive and try again, just like I am doing now. And the last bracelet is why: Hope. 

I finished the drugs for this cycle last night. So now I wait…and hope… that they again induce ovulation so that we can try again this month. 

So, in answer to the big question: How am I doing? I am okay. And I am not okay. It depends on the minute. I do know, however, that I will be okay. At the end of this road, whenever that may be, and whatever the outcome, I will know that I gave it everything I had. Literal blood, sweat, and tears. 

I also know, I am nowhere near the end yet.

(one. twenty-six. twenty-two)

I am no poem.

I don’t even know how to start this blog post. I should preface it with the fact that I do not think I am psychic. 

I titled my very first blog post (which I wrote before I decided to make this whole thing public): “The Magic of Three”. In it, I wrote about how things, as they often do, seemed to be happening in threes. The writer in me has always thought how very poetic it would be if the third cycle was the one in which I became pregnant. 

I was right. 

However, after the devastation I felt after the last cycle, I went into this one more cautious. Honestly, I felt uneasy the entire time. So many people kept telling me, “Third time’s the charm!” Every time I heard it, I immediately thought of that first blog post and how the writer in me would pen the book exactly that way. But, something in my gut told me this cycle wouldn’t end well. 

I was right. Again. 

Yesterday I was almost 5 weeks pregnant. 

Today I am nothing. 

I have waited 12 years to say those three words: I am pregnant. I barely got 24 hours with them. They still felt foreign on my tongue. But now, like the baby, they are gone. I am miscarrying. Or is it past tense? I have miscarried. I am currently bleeding and cramping and crying so many tears I have thrown up. So, it feels pretty damn present tense. 

I don’t even know what else to say. I could tell you all about the roller coaster this cycle has been. But, honestly, the heartbreak has stolen my eloquence, so I will give you the cliff notes version. 

Last Thursday was the end of my two week wait, and my pregnancy test was negative. I was crushed. I took one again on Friday, and didn’t even look at it closely. I saw one line, threw it on the counter and asked my husband to take me out for fajitas to get my mind off of it. 

On Saturday morning, I was straightening up the house and picked up the test to put it away and noticed a faint line. (Wait?? What???) Immediately, I retested, and saw a definite line. Still faint, but it was there. I retested again on Sunday and the line had grown even darker. 

Monday morning’s test seemed to be lighter, and, since the test measures your hormone level, I immediately feared something was wrong. I called the doctor and he had me come in for blood work right away. I spent all day Monday and Tuesday morning in this pregnancy purgatory, not knowing how to feel. 

Tuesday morning my doctor called me and said I was clearly pregnant (!!!), but my numbers were low. He wanted to restest again tomorrow morning (which is today) and see if they were going up (which would be good), or down (indication of miscarriage). 

I knew a miscarriage was possible last night, but I also knew one thing for certain: I was pregnant. And in that moment, that was all that mattered. 

This morning I woke up with a sense of dread, but I had my blood work done at the fertility clinic and then went about my day, trying (unsuccessfully) to think of anything else. Midafternoon, I got the call. And, as if the universe planned it, I started bleeding mere minutes before the phone rang. 

And here I am three hours later, sitting at my computer writing, because it’s the only way I know how to cope with the pain I am feeling. 

I am sorry there is nothing poetic about this post. 

Justin, I am sorry my body continues to fail us. I really am trying so damn hard. 

I have had people tell me over the last few days that I should look for the glimmer of hope that at least my body is able to become pregnant now. I’m going to be honest, right now as I sit here typing this, I can’t see that ray of sunshine. It doesn’t make this one bit easier. But I know tomorrow I will wake up and it will still be there, and I hope I can see it then. I have an appointment in the morning to start the next cycle of drugs. Since I have to start them while I am still bleeding, there is (literally) no rest for the weary. 

If there is anything I have learned from life, it is that nothing works out the way you expect it. Life is not a poem. So maybe there is something about the 4th try. Maybe the “un-poetic-ness” of it will be the good luck that I need. 

(one. nineteen. twenty-two)

#TenYearChallenge

#TenYearChallenge. 

Open Facebook and tell me your news feed isn’t full of these posts. The idea behind it is beautiful. But, I am going to be honest. When this trend first started, it almost made me want to “quit the Facebook.” 

It took me a very long time to see the beauty of this trend. Every time I opened the app, here is what I saw: 

  • Here’s us as love drunk newly weds, and here we are with our 8 year old at Disney World. 
  • Here’s me living the single life. Look at me now–married with our two babies and cute Golden Retriever in the middle of a sunflower field.
  • Look how little our babies were. Now, they’re so grown up and driving! 

You get the point. Each and every post made me feel more and more…. “stuck”. Nevertheless, I started looking back at pictures, trying to find one, just in case I felt like jumping on the bandwagon. This didn’t help matters. Not only did these decade-old photos remind me of my “bang” phase, but they also served as a painful reminder that my guest rooms have never been converted to a nursery. 

I felt like nothing had changed. And I was embarrassed. 

But then I started thinking about 30-year-old Stephanie. While I love her (and those unfortunate bangs and boot-cut jeans), I am glad I am no longer her. Or no longer just her. Like Russian nesting dolls, I have added so many layers to the person I am. 

Thirty-year-old Stephanie was also going through fertility drugs (for the second time), but she was largely doing it alone. She was perpetually worried about what others thought of her, and she was far too ashamed of her inability to have children to really let anyone in. This Stephanie did A LOT of pretending. Pretending to be okay. Pretending to be happy. (Not to say that I wasn’t happy. I am not so tragic to say that I haven’t known happiness. I have. Undoubtedly. I am incredibly lucky. This fact has never been in question.)

When I look in the mirror today, two months from turning 40 (eek!), I am damn proud of who I have become. I am confident in who I am as a woman and as a human. I am more complex, but I communicate better. I am more empathetic. I am open to sharing my story. I find encouragement in the support of my family and friends. To put it simply, I let others love me and I love them right back. 

There are certain things that will never go away. I still cry in the shower. I still feel the guilt of holding the responsibility for my husband being childless. I still get my feelings hurt from callous remarks.  I still think about what it would be like to be a mother every single day. I just like to think I do it with a little more grace. 

So, I may not have a trendy social media post that spotlights a growing family. But, through the adversity that I have faced, and in the bone marrow that makes me who I am… I have grown–at least a decade’s worth.  And I’m not going to let my embarrassment make me “quit the Facebook.” 

(one. ten. twenty-two)

An Open-Ended Letter to my Nemesis

Dear 2021, 

It would be very easy for me to sit here, give you the middle finger and go to bed at 10pm, turning my back on you as you make your departure tonight. But, that’s not really fair to you, is it? You lived your mere 365 days of existence to the fullest, giving me quite the wild ride that I was NOT expecting. 

I went into you knowing it would be another year of change. While your predecessor brought about a career move, I thought your change was going to be me going back to school. I bet you got a good laugh at that one, didn’t you? Stifling your snickers and biding your time as I researched graduate programs and mentally prepared myself for an onslaught of studying and essays. Did you already know that I would, in fact, be always writing, but that it would be blog posts rather than educational research papers? Sneaky. 

Your summer was riddled with uncertainty and fear. I spent most of July, August, and September worried there was something deeply wrong with me, visiting doctor after doctor with no real answers. I don’t know why, but I picture you as a soothsayer, peering into your crystal ball with a full mind and knowing eyes, but tight lips. I assume that when the doctor mentioned the C-word, you already knew it was a hormone imbalance.

I have a few more questions for you. Did you do your research on me? Did you bother flipping through my file? If so, I’m sure, as you thumbed through 39 years worth of data, you would have stumbled on the fact that Autumn is my favorite time of year. I have always felt most alive as the air crisps. I read books full of magic to match my mood. Like Anne of Green Gables, I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. 

If your existence was a roller coaster, October was the first loop. Making the decision to give fertility drugs one last try left me feeling like I was stuck upside down and wishing on every distant speckle of a body spectator that the seatbelts wouldn’t break. (Because when you’re upside down, you can’t even see the stars.) You stole the magic of October from me. Because of the uncertainty you hand delivered to me, I couldn’t even stomach reading one mystery novel this fall. Do you see what you have done? You reduced my reading to trashy romance novels and hallmark-esque love stories! 

If October was the loop-to-loop, November and December were a series of slow ascensions and long, steep plummets. This is where I take real issue with your tight lips. You sprinkled hope like confetti. You let me buy baby clothes and a tiny stocking. You allowed me to plan holiday pregnancy announcements. You convinced me that every drug side-effect was a sign of new life growing inside of me. Hell, you let me talk to a baby that didn’t exist before ripping it all away just in time to watch other people’s kids open Christmas presents. Nothing so strongly reminds you of how much you are not a mother like Christmas. 

Maybe you don’t deserve all of this. Maybe I am simply using you as my scapegoat, because it’s easier to blame you for allowing me to get my hopes up rather than taking an introspective look at myself. 

And I suppose if I’m going to so easily dish out the hate, I should also give you a little credit. Through the painful rollercoaster that was your lifetime, you taught me a thing or two. 

For starters, I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. End of story. Most days I feel like I am one day away from breaking. But, every morning I wake up in one piece and that feeling is still one day away. 

As an introverted control freak I process (and handle) everything inside–where I can control it. You taught me that it’s okay to let others in. And even when they say “the wrong thing” it is almost always coming from a place of love and an attempt to help. I think this was your biggest lesson, and something I am still learning to embrace. 

You ensured my tear ducts are still in working order and confirmed that my heart is still made of glass. 

And today, the very last day before you are laid to rest, you gave me the gift of a second confirmed ovulation. For that, you have my deepest gratitude. While most women get this monthly gift naturally, it is something I hold most precious. And something I don’t take for granted. 

Thanks to your parting gift, your successor is beginning her time with the dreaded TWW (two week wait). Please sit her down and have a talk with her. Tell her I’ve done everything right. Tell her I am counting on her. Remind her that all of my eggs (literally) are in her basket. 

It is with all of these thoughts, and through a mixture of happy and sad tears, that I wave goodbye. 

Thanks for nothing and thanks for everything, 

Stephanie 

(twelve. thirty-one. twenty-one)