I am really excited to have one of my best friends as a guest contributor today. Katie is a incredible woman. She is smart, motivated, funny, and most of all–the kind of friend you can confess anything to. Which is why it broke my heart when after a year of trying, there was still no baby.
I asked her to answer a few questions today to talk about an issue that is often brushed under the rug. 7 million women struggle with infertility every year, and yet we don’t really talk about it. Partly because it’s awkward, but also because if you’re not one of those 7 million people–it’s hard to relate.
Here’s her story, maybe you have one too.
1) When did you and Wendell realize there was a problem?
In general, most couples of our age and health should get pregnant within 6 months of trying. It’s not really called “infertility” until after a year. The 6 months in between there were hard because I was pretty sure something was wrong, but couldn’t really do anything about it since my doctor had told me to wait for a year.
2) What was the first step?
I scheduled a consult with my obgyn after 11 months of trying. They did some simple testing on both of us and didn’t find anything significant. I had an HSG
in which they also didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
3) Where did you go from there?
To a wonderful specialist. (Seriously, I loved everyone who worked in that office, I cried a little at my last appointment.) She suspected Endometriosis
. She also looked at the same pictures the other doctors did from the HSG and thought she saw a Uterine Septum. She performed laparoscopic surgery during which she found and removed both of those things. After that, I began taking Clomid and started IUI
. We did that for 3 cycles, then oral meds combined with injectibles and IUI for a few cycles. We started to talk about IVF. We scheduled an appointment for orientation to learn more about IVF and start the process. A few weeks before this orientation, we did one last round of IUI, this time with straight injectibles.
4) Were any of the procedures/treatments physically painful?
Nothing was too terrible. I’ve heard of people having horrible experiences with the HSG as well as with the surgery I had. Fortunately for me, neither of them were a big deal. There were lots of little uncomfortable things…I had blood drawn every time I went to their office (several times each month). I had internal ultrasounds almost every time. I had the IUI once a month which feels a lot like a pap smear. I gave myself lots of shots.
5) What was your official diagnosis?
Endometriosis- they removed this in the surgery, but it will come back. They also discovered a Uterine Septum which doesn’t have anything to do with infertility, but can cause miscarriage so we were thankful they found it and took care of it. This is a once and done thing.
6) What was the hardest part about the whole process?
It’s hard to pick one thing. The whole process just really sucked. It’s a constant cycle of being hopeful, waiting impatiently, being disappointed again, being a little less hopeful each time. It was really hard to wait 2 weeks each month to take a test. It was also really hard to know that most of the friends and family who were supporting us couldn’t fully understand what we were going through. It was hard to feel like everyone was constantly feeling sorry for me. It was hard to see pregnant women everywhere I went, it was especially hard to see pregnant teenagers at my school.
7) Tell us about the day you found out you were pregnant.
Best. Birthday. Ever. My period was due on a Tuesday. I had jumped the gun again and took one of my early-detection pregnancy tests on Sunday. It, as usual, was negative. I went to my nephew’s 2nd birthday party that day and drank lots of wine as I watched all the cute little children run around. Tuesday came and went with no period which was strange because I was so regular, but I didn’t think much of it because the negative test had me 100% convinced I was not pregnant. On Thursday morning (my birthday and my last day of work before summer), I decided to take a test before work mainly to confirm that I was not pregnant so I could enjoy some drinks when I went out to celebrate that night. I peed on the stick and watched the one line pop up, then set it down and jumped in the shower. When I got out of the shower, I glanced at it and almost fell over when I saw 2 lines. I studied it thoroughly and took another test to be sure. I smiled and cried and got ready for work as fast as I could.
I had bought 2 cute kids books about daddies that I was planning to give to my husband to tell him when I was pregnant. I drove to meet him at work and awkwardly talked to his dad and his brother for a while until they finally left. Then, with a proud grin, I presented him with the 2 cardboard sticks that I had peed on. Seriously? The books were so cute, why in the world did I feel the need to put the pregnancy tests in my pocket to show him? Did I think I needed proof? Anyway, we hugged and kissed and cried and then I left. I called the doctor and then I called Kate. I was giddy all day at work and all evening when I went out with girls from work, but I couldn’t tell anyone why. It took a while for the whole thing to really feel real.
8) What advice can you give those who are still struggling with infertility?
Don’t keep it a secret. It still seems like something people just don’t talk about. We only told a few people at first, but after a while told most of our family and friends what we were going through. Their love, support, and prayers were what got us through it all.
Also, if you go to a specialist, find one you love. You may end up spending a lot of time there and dealing with good people will make everything a little easier. We got lucky with our first doctor, but if you go to one you don’t like or have a bad experience, find a different doctor! If you leave near Chalfont, PA, I’d be happy to recommend one.
9) I know you endured a few painful remarks from people trying to help. What do you have to say to those who know someone struggling with infertility?
This sounds cliche, but it’s true: the best thing you can do is listen and let them know you care. I was fortunate to avoid some of the terrible comments that I read about in books. But even some well-meaning comments can be hurtful. Lots of people told me “you’re still young, you have lots of time.” I smiled and agreed. I wanted to say: I am thankful for the fact that I have many fertile years left, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want to be pregnant NOW.
Some people tried to give helpful advice: eating a certain diet, reducing stress (impossible), standing on my head after sex, taking cough syrup (apparently it is not just for thinning the mucus in your head). Again, this was all well-intentioned. The problem was that I spent several months reading about fertility before we even started trying and I was already well-aware of most of the home-remedies. This was hurtful to me at times because it implied that I hadn’t done my homework or that there was something I wasn’t doing right that was causing my infertility. It would have been wonderful if Robotussin did the trick, but the reality is that there is something medically wrong with my reproductive system, which is why I was seeking the care of a specialist.
That said, I was truly blessed by many friends and family who cared about us so much I could see them feeling our pain. I got emails and texts and cards in the mail that just said “we’re still thinking about you and praying for you every day.” What a gift! I even got some wonderfully hilarious letters from a pregnant friend of mine who always included bits of encouragement for our reproductive organs (you guessed it–>the Motley-almost-mama).
10) How is the pregnancy going? Any fears?
Pregnancy is great so far and has been relatively peaceful. I have not worried nearly as much as I expected. I won’t lie and say I haven’t complained about any symptoms, but having tried so hard and waited so long to finally be pregnant means worrying a lot less about things that don’t really matter.
Katie is a behavior manager at an alternative school for junior high and high school students. Basically a school for kids who have been labeled “bad” and removed from public school for behavioral reasons. She is due in February.