I was lying there on the cold, hard examining table. A stranger came in and before I knew it, I was uncomfortably spreading my legs. He told me it wouldn’t hurt and proceeded to stick a strange contraption up into my body. I was there to find out “if all my parts were as they should be.”Throughout my struggle with infertility, this was the scariest time. I didn’t know what to expect from the appointment. They could examine me and tell me that they were terribly sorry, but that I would never be able to have a child. Or they could tell me that everything looked good and couldn’t explain why it had been a year and we’d not gotten pregnant. Neither answer seemed particularly appealing.
The table I was lying on was colder and harder than I’d anticipated, the procedure was more uncomfortable than I had thought that it would be, and I was more afraid than I could have imagined. I wished I had asked my husband to come with me; I wished that I hadn’t told him it was just a routine check-up and not something worth missing work for. I wished that I didn’t feel so frightened and alone.
I had not realized how many women struggle with fertility issues until I was faced with it myself. I was twenty-six years old. My husband and I had been married for three years and it had been a year since I’d had a period. I was scared and unable to acknowledge how frightened I really was. I had always envisioned myself as a mom and I now found myself in a place where the harsh reality was that it may never happen.
I’d always had normal cycles when I was a teenager, but after being on birth control pills for almost five years and then going through a period of anorexia, I was left racked with guilt: my inability to function as a normal female was surely a result of something I had done.
I wanted to be able to trust that in the end I’d have the opportunity to bear my own child and hold my baby in my arms. But I also knew I had to brace myself for the possibility that it may never happen. For a long time, I could only refer to the doctor that we were now seeing as “the specialist,” and couldn’t even utter the word “infertility.” I didn’t want to face the fact that being infertile was actually a possibility.
Despite how difficult this time in my life was, I was one of the fortunate. That horrid experience with the radiologist produced positive results. We were able to rule out anatomical problems and focus on hormonal issues.
I went to the specialist once a week for almost three months. They gave me pills, took my blood, and determined that I needed a shot at a certain time each month to make me ovulate. We didn’t have to resort to artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization.
By the third month we were pregnant.
In retrospect, our experience with infertility treatment was mild, yet I will always remember it as one of the most challenging periods of my life.
I have never journaled as much as I did during my struggle with infertility. I took my journal with me to every appointment and, as I sat there waiting, I explored how I felt: the fear that dominated my emotional world and the physical effects of the treatment I was receiving. The hormones they were pumping through my system caused me to be even more irrational and unstable than normal. Getting pregnant was turning out to be far more of a roller coaster than actually being pregnant was. I felt like a wreck both physically and emotionally. Without my journal as a safe place to vent, I would not have survived. Journaling was my saving grace as I tried to adjust to the idea that I might not get pregnant, despite how desperately I wanted to. There were so many unfamiliar emotions swirling within me, as well as foreign hormones, that there was hardly a day I could get through without crying.
Now, when I hold my little girl, I marvel at how different my life would have been had it not been for the miracle of modern medicine. I think of how much she has impacted me in the four short months she’s been alive — and the many long months leading up to her arrival. I think of all of the women who have unwanted babies, and the countless others that long for a child, put in their time with infertility doctors, and must face the reality of not being able to conceive.
I did not have a severe case of infertility and yet it was still the most difficult thing I have ever been through. Despite how much I resisted the struggle, I have never grown as much as I did during that time. It prepared both my husband and me for parenthood in a way that nothing else could have. I also have more compassion for others who go through experiences where life just doesn’t give them what they’d hoped for.
I hope I’m a better person because of my experience with infertility and at the same time everything in me hopes that I won’t be calling my doctor again when we start trying for Baby Number Two. As much as I grew from it or may have learned from it, I would never choose to go through it again. I am not sure if that makes me a weak person, but I do know there’s a special place in my heart for every woman that has to set foot in a fertility specialist’s office.
By Christie Pettit. Want to read more articles like this one? Visit DivineCaroline.com.