The journey to pregnancy is crazy. Like really crazy.
I’ve had two extremely different experiences getting pregnant. The first time around was the experience that I truly believe everyone who wants to be a parent deserves to have. We decided that we wanted a baby, we did some other things required to get pregnant, and the second line on the test turned pink. Will’s honest reaction when I told him I was pregnant was, “Well that was anti-climactic.” It was easy, everything went relatively smoothly, and we had Henry almost a year later.
However, this time around was the opposite in nearly every way. The short version is: we decided we wanted another baby, I got super sick, we pushed that date six months, I ended up being diagnosed with depression, my psychiatrist told me to wait three months after treatment to start “trying,” I found out I wasn’t ovulating at all, got numerous tests done, cried a lot, started acupuncture, got my cycle back on track, “tried” for a few more months, and finally got those two pink lines. While we weren’t actively working to get pregnant during that whole time, I was still working to get healthy enough to carry another baby. I’m not here to claim that our journey to get pregnant this time was easier or harder than anyone else’s; it was simply our own path.
I’ve learned a lot throughout these two pregnancies, but these are three that I’ve decided to share:
1. I really dislike the word “trying” (and how often people feel it’s appropriate to ask).
Before I get started with this one, let me be the first to say that I used to think nothing of asking anyone, “When are you going to start trying for a baby?!” But since getting married, all that has changed.
After you’ve been married for about 12 seconds, everyone starts asking when you’re going to “try” to have a baby. But the problem with this word is that sometimes it’s not so simple as just having sex a few well-timed times a month. For me this time around, it involved so much more than that. I always wanted two kids two years (or less) apart. We planned for that and then all hell broke loose. So by the time I was finally given the go-ahead by all of my doctors to actually get pregnant, I had wanted to be pregnant for nearly ten months. Now when people ask how long we “tried” this time, I simply say, “a lot longer than we wanted” because it’s the only answer that seems to fit my feelings about the experience.
In addition, many people feel it to be perfectly appropriate to ask someone when they’re going to try again for the next child (or for the first child). Those asking are well-meaning and curious, but it’s just one of those situations where you honestly never know the struggles that someone is going through. Maybe they haven’t started trying yet. Maybe they have been trying for years unsuccessfully and this question feels like a stab to the heart. Maybe they’ve chosen not to have children and are tired of getting judged for that decision. Whatever the situation may be, it’s important to know that everyone is fighting their own battle and a simple question can hold a lot of weight. Having people ask if I “had a bun in the oven” or “planned on giving Henry a sibling soon” just tore me apart. I wanted to be pregnant and have another child soooooo badly, and it was so hard to answer that question no matter what stage we were at in our fertility journey.
2. The stigma around fertility is RIDICULOUS.
Starting a family is something where once you want it, it’s incredibly difficult to think about anything else. And when it doesn’t happen right away, you don’t want to talk about it because somehow you feel like you’ve failed. At least that’s how I felt. When I got sick I was so mad at my body for not being healthy enough to get pregnant a second time. It was so frustrating to see other people seemingly not struggle to get the same thing (seemingly be the key word there). In this age of social media, it’s hard to see past someone’s highlight reel and understand that everyone has their own struggles. That’s part of what I want to do by sharing my story. I want others to know that while my Instagram is full of pretty pictures, my life is not all butterflies and unicorns; but I HAVE found happiness in each stage my shifting my perspective.
And once I got past the idea that my life was the only one that wasn’t going according to my grand plan, I actually started talking to other people about my fertility. And you want to know what I found out? SO many women have similar stories, and they’re completely ready to share those stories. We all hide them thinking that others will judge us, but when we share we actually find people that can relate and help us through our own struggles. While I wouldn’t wish fertility challenges on anyone, I feel so connected to the women that I’ve talked to. It’s incredibly empowering to know that you’re not alone. I am so grateful to the women who encouraged me and helped (and continue to help) me through this journey.
3. You HAVE to be your own advocate and find doctors that will listen.
I am very thankful that I have both an obstetrician and a primary care doctor who are both proactive and treat me with absolute compassion. Yet even though I love both of them (sincerely), I had to make a conscious decision to ask for help when I had a hunch that something was wrong. When we officially were given the go-ahead after working on my own health for nearly a year, we knew it could take a while to get pregnant, but we weren’t necessarily expecting to end up with any fertility problems. After a seemingly normal period, I had a cycle that simply wouldn’t end. I saw both my OBGYN and my primary care doctor. My OBGYN did an ultrasound and ordered blood work, and my primary care doctor took a look at other factors that could be affecting my fertility. All of the tests determined that I wasn’t ovulating.
I cried to my primary care doctor after getting the results from my OBGYN. She ended up increasing the amount of l-methylfolate I was taking (to counteract my MTHFR) and she suggested I try acupuncture. Lo and behold, the acupuncturist was able to help restart my cycle. That cycle lasted a total of 77 days. My previous cycles had been 28-30 days, so that monster cycle took up 2.5 normal cycles of potential “trying.” From there it took a lot of monitoring, office visits, and weekly acupuncture, but we finally got that positive test. In the grand spectrum of fertility trouble, our problems were fairly easy to fix. I know that’s not the case with many, many others. We were lucky and I do not take that for granted for one second.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m only 29. In fertility terms, that means that a lot of doctors wouldn’t consider something was wrong until we had been “trying” (there’s that word again) for a year. But I KNEW something was wrong. Had I not gone in and asked for answers, my problem may not have fixed itself on its own. And let’s be honest, that’s not good for any part of my health – physical or mental. The bottom line is that no one should feel like they have to wait around; if you know something isn’t normal, find a doctor to be in your corner and help you fight for answers.
While our journey had its ups and downs, it has been absolutely worth it. I’ve learned women can’t stay silent about issues like this. We need to be compassionate and understanding and lift each other up. This journey can be so isolating, and it’s time that the conversation opened up.