On the 12 days of Christmas, my infertility gave to me…
12 Hours of Timed Sex
And a pretty good sex life!
My PCOS caused me to have a low sex drive, but you better believe that when I took those my ovulation meds, I made sure my husband was home and we were having sex. Sure, planning sex is kind of un-sexy, and many people may disagree and say that this aspect of infertility stole their sex lives from them: Don’t get me wrong. In the moment, it was difficult and I felt that way, too. But ultimately, making that TIME for sex—even if it didn’t result in a baby— helped us in the long run when children finally did bless our lives. It was even healing when we lost our babies.
I still bet my other half still thinks we don’t “do it” enough (thanks, PCOS!) but the fact is we still make time for sex even now. Infertility showed me that having sex doesn’t have to be just about making a baby—and made sex when we weren’t trying to conceive just that much better.
11 Thousand Dollars of Debt
Per cycle—and knowing just how far a dollar can go
I am extremely lucky and have never wanted or needed for anything. I work my ass off for what I need first and what I want second. But what happens when you can’t define something as a want or a need? To call the idea having a child a need would be misrepresenting that idea; I don’t need to have a child. But to call a child a “want” — well, that’s not quite right either. A child was something for which I longed.
Our finances took a big hit with each IVF cycle; as a young couple, waiting just wasn’t an option for us. I am one of those people who just can’t wait that long (see the note about patience on number 2). So you learn how to make it work. You learn how to find ways to pay for it—and those money-saving strategies didn’t disappear. I’m not a crazy coupon lady, but I take advantage of every one that I do get if it’s something I know I will use. I don’t give up on some of life’s luxuries, but I’ve learned which luxuries really matter. Brand name toilet paper or paper towels might not matter so much when you’re trying to afford another cycle of IVF.
10 Days of Needles
And overcoming the fear of blood
Ten is a bit of a stretch and more of an average number of days: Some cycles were shorter and some were longer—it all depended on the meds. But the truth is that this process helped me overcome my trypanophobia: my terrible fear of getting shots and the needles giving them. I remember the first time my husband gave me my injectable meds that I was so light-headed I thought I might pass out. The next night he was working an evening shift and I was scared that I couldn’t give myself my shot! I probably psyched myself out way more than I needed to because I soon found giving it to myself was a million times easier than having my husband do it.
And don’t forget about all those monitoring appointments and those blood tests every two days. I quickly learned the map of veins on my arm and which ones were the best bets for a fast draw. Hell, I could be a phlebotomist now! I’m still not the best at watching myself get stuck for the draw, but at least now I have no problem seeing the blood fill those vials.
9 Months of Watching Other Pregnancies
And learning how to cope with my jealousy
Over the course of the five years that it took my husband and I to finally have our take-home baby, I watched countless friends live out their pregnancies, some more than once. This was probably the most painful experience for me. Oftentimes, I felt like they were doing it to me and I just couldn’t stop being so jealous. I look back and know that no one was getting pregnant and talking about their pregnancies to hurt me. I can look back now and know that those feelings were totally normal. The jealousy still does sneak back in from time to time but I’ve learned that jealousy doesn’t do anything more than hurt me and those friends. Still, each one of those nine-month stretches was a battle for me. I needed to perform this crazy self-talk every once and awhile and tell myself “I can do it” and “I can be happy” for those friends. To this day I still perform self-talk to try to maintain my sanity. It’s just one more part of my coping mechanisms to keep myself together.
8 Medicated Cycles
And the ability to let go of control
I am a self-professed control freak. Not being in control of my body, my life, my surroundings gives me a lot of anxiety. Control is something that you just don’t have in the infertility process. You feel so out of control with your own body. For me and my PCOS, and I have no clue how to lose weight, how to eat right, how to muster the energy to work out. We did eight medicated cycles with timed intercourse. This gave me a false sense of control because I felt like it was going to work and we were going to have our baby the good old-fashioned way… but of course it didn’t work that way. Each cycle I needed to step back and give control over to the process. Each cycle taught me little bit more of how to let go and move forward. I’m still a control freak and my anxiety is still there when I’m not in control, but I’ve learned that letting go does help.
7 Years To Our Happy Ending
And the ability to hope
It took seven years of marriage for us to get to where we are now. Through it all, even when I thought I was hopeless, I still had hope. I still had hope that just one more thing would give us the happy ending we believed we deserved. Hope is a word to which I have always clung. Because without it, where would I be? I wouldn’t have my happy ending. I wouldn’t be who I am if not for each battle we fought to have our family. Each failed cycle we had, I was hurt because I of that hope. But with each cycle, I didn’t let go of hope, either. My hope kept me going.Through it all, even when I thought I was hopeless, I still had hope.Click To Tweet
And that much more appreciation for life
Miscarriage is a scary taboo word. As I’ve shared my infertility story, I’ve had many people talk about their miscarriages. And honestly, some wouldn’t even consider my chemical pregnancies miscarriages, but I do. My first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. Five other pregnancies ended just after they began. For the longest time, I couldn’t even accept that a miscarriage was a loss because I was so focused in trying to conceive again.
If was only after losing my twins—who were able to live in the NICU for a period of time before passing–that I realized I never mourned all those previous losses. But all of that loss gave me a new appreciation for life and even more love to give the miracle that is my son. I know without a doubt that no matter how he came to me, I would love him to the moon and back, but I still believe all that loss helped open my eyes to what an amazing gift he is. For that, I am grateful that it took this long for him to come to me.
5 Transvaginal Ultrasounds
And the ability to laugh
I averaged five ultrasounds during each of my medicated cycles. Nothing says romance like your feet up in the stirrups with a radiologist measuring your follicles! Isn’t that the way you always dreamed of conceiving your child? I often found myself making jokes about my “follies” and what they looked like because the tension and discomfort of that ultrasound was too much to bear sometimes. I carry that self-deprecating humor with me now: When I’m uncomfortable or unhappy, I try to find the humor in it. Maybe not in that exact moment (after all, it’s not always appropriate to make a joke about your vag to the new radiologist who has her hands all up in that shit), but I can find something to smile about and a way to create a resilience in myself that I never thought possible.
4 Hours of Travel to Appointments
And an appreciation for “me” time
We are so lucky we have a top notch hospital about an hour from our home. For a multitude of reasons, I have a lot of gratitude for that hospital being nearby—but the drive still sucked! Making that trip every two to three days was crazy, but I learned a lot about the ability to spend time alone and how precious that time is. During every cycle, I had that time in the car by myself—to myself—to decompress. (My husband did go to appointments with me, but the every-other-day-checking-my-ovaries, I went alone.) Before all this, I never really liked being alone. I would try to fill my time with people and things so that I wasn’t alone when my husband was at work. Now, I cherish my alone time, in the car or at home. I have enjoyed whatever time I can get to myself and appreciate every moment that I can get to myself now.
3 Days Before You Can Start Again
And endless determination
Each failed cycle of treatment would usually result in the dreaded “Aunt Flo” and the process would all start over again. The impatience would creep in because on CD3, you got to get your base labs drawn and start the meds all over again. And as we all know from stims: Once you pop, you just can’t stop! Until the doctors tell you it’s time to move on, you feel like you have to try just one more time, that it will work this time. And because every bit of you is invested in this process, you aren’t going to give up until that babe is in your arms, no matter what it takes.
It takes a lot for someone to convince you to stop because there’s this biological desire to carry a child: We’re women after all—it’s how we were designed. There is a time to move on, but determination will get you to your end result, regardless of how you get there. Don’t lose sight of what you really want. I know I didn’t and every single day I’m grateful I never gave up.
2 Weeks Spent Waiting
And a dose of patience
The two week wait (2ww)… How many of us have heard that term over and over, and how many of us dread it?! And how many of us took at least a dozen pregnancy tests before CD14?! I can’t even wrap my head around the amount of money I spent on pregnancy tests (of course, before I figured out you can buy them by the hundreds on eBay). After every treatment, you wait those dreaded two weeks. Patience is definitely not in my personality. But I had to learn it because you really can’t rush nature. Nothing is going to make that second line appear any faster or earlier.
While not a religious person, I am a spiritual person—and I believe that the timing of each of my pregnancies, my losses, and my beautiful miracle came exactly when they were supposed to. Hindsight being what it is, I’m glad I was patient because everything happened in just the timing that it should have, especially at a time when I could emotionally, mentally, and physically withstand whatever the outcome might be. I may actually have learned to be just a bit more patient now thanks to those countless two week waits!
A Countless Number of New Friends
And a life filled with gratitude
The “best” thing that my infertility gave me (a relative notion given the context) is a circle of friends and network of support that I would never have known otherwise. I can’t even count the number of connections this journey has given me. I hate that I or anyone need to fight this disease, but I am in such good company it’s actually hard to wish any part of it away. I am forever grateful for the amazing and beautiful women that have been brought to me as a result of this process. They know who they are and I hope each and every one of them knows what an important role that they have played in my life story.
Happily holidays to you and yours.
Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey.