“Fertile Myrtle” is the term I grew up hearing whenever I would tell people that I’m one of seven children. “Your mom had seven babies, all naturally? You’re going to have no problem ‘popping’ them out.”
I always knew I wanted to be a mother and I imagined it would happen with a snap of my fingers. OK, a bit more than that, but you know what I mean. Little did I know that at 31 years old, I would be 20 months into trying to conceive and still not pregnant.
I remember when we first started trying to conceive (TTC), I would read stories about women who tried for a year and I would think, “That won’t be me. I give it six months, tops!”
Then the six-month mark rolled around when I turned 30 and I remember thinking, “I’ll either be pregnant or have a baby by my next birthday!” Spoiler alert: I wasn’t and I don’t.
After a year of trying, it was Christmas and I thought to myself, “There’s NO WAY I won’t be pregnant by next year.” Well, it’s a bit too early to tell but, so far, no dice. I’ve gone from chanting, “A 2018 baby!” to, “A 2019 baby!” to, “A 2020 baby?” with a big question mark at the end.
The start of our journey...
No woman expects to deal with fertility struggles. The official beginning of our TTC journey started in January 2018. They say it takes a few months for the hormones from birth control to fully leave your system, so those first few months I wasn’t all that hopeful. Three months went by and I was still learning how to track my ovulation and what symptoms I felt throughout my cycle.
By month six, I had entered the research phase. I kept myself up for hours, scrolling through forums, reading other women’s experiences, comparing my symptoms to theirs (one thing I do NOT recommend doing) and reading article after article, asking myself, “WHY is it not happening?” I drove myself nuts. After a year, the reality started to set in that it wasn't going to be so easy for us.
Taking the next step
Most women under 35 are told they need to wait until a year of trying to get a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist. I waited for the 12-month mark, got my referral and booked my appointment. My doctor did an ultrasound to check my uterus and eggs, as well as blood work to review my hormone levels.
I began hearing phrases that would eventually haunt me: “Everything looks PERFECT!" and “There’s no reason you shouldn't have conceived by now!” I was diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” since there was nothing they could find that would prevent me from conceiving.
During my first month seeing the endocrinologist, we scheduled an intrauterine insemination, which is a non-invasive procedure where they take the sperm and inject them directly into the uterus. The first IUI was unsuccessful, but by then I had learned not to get my hopes up too much. We immediately scheduled a second IUI. Again, unsuccessful.
My husband, who is a big softy, couldn’t bear to see me go through the ups and downs of taking hormones, going through the procedure and then the “two-week wait,” the time period after ovulation where you just ... Wait.
All this focusing on trying to conceive was exhausting. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t sexy. It was checkups, appointments, bloodwork, tracking, symptom spotting, all just things to check off a list. It’s not what we ever envisioned, but this is our story.
Giving my body a break
After the second IUI in February, we decided to take a break. We tried to just go back to being a normal, married couple. I can’t say we were entirely successful (you can’t just forget when you’re ovulating), but it gave us the mental and emotional relief we needed. So many people told us, “When you stop trying, that’s when it will happen!” Well, that wasn’t the case for us.
We have our first in vitro fertilization cycle planned for September 2019.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this whole process, it’s that we need to stop putting a timeline on aspects of our lives, from babies to careers, relationships and more. Your journey to creating a family might take longer than expected and it might look different from what you expected, too. IUI, IVF, donor sperm, egg donors, adoption … There are so many different ways to start a family.
I’ve had to learn to stop planning upcoming life events around an eventual pregnancy. I’ve had to force myself to live in the moment, something that used to come so naturally. Most importantly, I’ve had to battle thoughts of, “What’s wrong with me? Why me?" and “What am I doing or what did I do wrong?” — all of which are completely unfair to ask myself.
I strongly encourage any woman who has reached that 12-month mark to see a reproductive endocrinologist, but at the same time, show yourself some grace. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t put a timeline on your body or your life.
If you are struggling, reach out to someone. You don’t have to suffer in silence. One great thing to come out of social media is our ability to connect with people all over the world. So even if you don’t feel ready to share your struggle with your loved ones, there are so many ways to get the support you deserve.