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You Don't Control the Tides: Treading Waves of Infertility

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Sitting in an interview a few years back, I’m asked “what adversity have you faced and how have you overcome it?” I can’t help but give an inward, knowing smile. I begin my rehearsed, canned, well-researched answer about a work project that was getting off-track.

Adversity. How about 100+ months of actively trying to get pregnant and not succeeding. Not once. Except maybe for a couple false positives (which are supposedly rare, yet I’ve had three). I went through four IVF in-vitro attempts (at three different clinics) that were all cancelled before I even made it to retrieval. One of the doctors even got mad at me for being enrolled in his fertility study to begin with and skewing his results with my broken body. He looked at my blood test results, then looked me in the eyes and said I should not have even been allowed into the study and that I had a “close to zero percent chance” of ever getting pregnant biologically. I thanked him for his time, gathered my things and cried in my car for an hour.

I did so much research. The endless amount of research… scholarly articles that hold the key to me finally getting pregnant. I read books in the double digits. The vast amount of supplements, herbs and concoctions that just have to work if only I can find the right blend for my particular issue. More research.

DHEA supplements. Myo Inositol. Vitamin D, no, Vitamin C. No wait, definitely Vitamin D. More protein! So much protein! And soy. No sugar, no refined carbs, no fake sweeteners, no plastic anything! Don’t forget to add extra honey and bee pollen to your diet. And wheatgrass! Whatever you do, don’t consume parsley. Make sure you add in melatonin at night. I spent years running my own personal, fertility apothecary.

Aside from herbs, I’ve been through over 50 days of injecting myself with extremely high doses of fertility medications. A follicle-stimulating hormone, a luteinizing hormone, one to prevent premature ovulation, an endometriosis medication, a hormone to help with implantation… I’m intimately familiar with them all. Most burned terribly as I injected them into my stomach or thighs. It became a daily routine before and after work. Sometimes they pinched, stung or gave me a weird warm/dizzy feeling. Sometimes they bled and bruised, one time leaving a quarter-sized raised welt. At times I would have to actually mix the powdered medication with the liquid before drawing into the syringe. I had to take a class to learn how to draw up the medication without air bubbles. I felt like a blend of a chemist and addict.

I spent so much time finding the ideal injection spot… no stretch mark, no freckle, lots of loose fat. I would take a deep breath, push in the needle and start counting. The headaches would kick in soon after and — if I was lucky — the ovarian cramping, so I knew it was at least working. The easy days were injections only. The monitoring days were more challenging. I had to drive to a city hospital downtown in rush hour traffic, usually around 7 a.m. — 8 a.m. for a blood draw and a vaginal ultrasound. Starting your workday by injecting high levels of hormones into your body and then being probed by a wand does not make for the best day ever.

If you have never had one before, it’s uncomfortable and intrusive. An ultrasound technician inserts a metal wand covered with a condom into your body and pushes it all around. Some days it hurt more than others. At first it’s very awkward, but now that I’ve had over 30 of them in my life, it’s pretty routine. I would take that any day over the hysterosalpingogram (HSG) and saline sonograms. During the last one, the balloon inserted into my uterus was placed too low in my cervix and the pain was so intense it made me start blacking out on the table.

I didn’t only do traditional Western fertility treatments, but tried alternative medicine as well. I ate the core of pineapples, I went to acupuncture, I did fertility yoga, Reiki, tarot readings and folkloric spells. I lit special candles, listened to positive energy guided meditations, cycled with the new moon and the red moon. I consulted with certified therapists and also spirit animals that crossed my path. I held the hands of a healing nun from Ireland. I placed various stones and crystals on my windowsills and consumed powder from the “Milk Grotto” my mother-in-law picked up for me overseas. I sat on a special fertility log in a botanical garden. People prayed for me. I prayed for me.

I started taking advice from people who said to “just relax,” I did that too! I relaxed for a couple years. I partied in Miami with friends, I stopped charting my cycles, I had fun every single weekend, I did everything I could to distract myself and not worry so much. But that didn’t work either.

This journey will always be a part of me, like so many other challenges in my life. Although I have worked through most of the grief and pain of never having biological children, it will probably always remain as a silent scar. There are definitely so many amazing paths to motherhood whether it be traditional adoption, embryo adoption, egg/sperm donation, fostering, step-parenting or even just being a “mother” in daily life. Mentoring, rescuing, lending a hand or a listening ear to someone or something in need. My life path turned out drastically different than I thought it would, but instead of focusing on the darkness, I focus on the light. I believe in my path and will let the future roll over me like the waves in the ocean. I must always remind myself, I don’t control the tides.

Getty image by splendens

Originally published: April 30, 2021
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