Monday, March 26, 2012

My Story (in a not so small nutshell)

It is March 24, 2012 and I am staring at yet another negative home pregnancy test. Easter looms ahead – a large family gathering, the perfect time to announce a pregnancy, right? And the dreaded Mother’s Day is just around the corner. How am I supposed to survive another Mother’s Day as an infertile?

I always knew that I wanted to be a mother, I just never had the desire to become a young mother. My siblings are all older than me so I became an aunt at a relatively young age. While in high school three of my beautiful nieces were born, shortly after three nephews and another niece followed. I am a proud aunt to all seven of these wonderful beings. I relished spending time with them as babies and have thoroughly enjoyed watching them enter each new stage of their life. I am humbled to know that I am related to such amazing young people. Their presence has greatly enriched my life and I can’t imagine life without them. However, I still didn't feel the desire to procreate at a young age, even after being surrounded by their insane cuteness. I knew I had time. The world was full of opportunities.

I married at the fairly young age of 23. We decided we were on the five year plan. Why not enjoy our early 20’s? Parenthood could wait. Or could it? Slowly, I began to notice people our age starting their own families. Well, good for them. Let them deal with the sleepless nights and dirty diapers. We still had places to visit, parties to attend, mornings to sleep-in.

Then, when I was 25, my whole life was turned upside down. My mother, the amazing woman who was the center of our family, died very suddenly. The night she died felt like a nightmare. I had gone to visit my sister and we had spent a lovely day together shopping for Mother’s Day gifts for our mom, sampling beer at the local brew pub, spending time with her family. We had just sat down to watch a movie when the phone rang. It was our sister-in-law and she was frantic. My dad had called their house saying that Mom was lying unresponsive on the floor and the paramedics were on the way. My brother had rushed over there and his wife, feeling helpless as she waited for news, called us. Wait… what?! Was she alive, what was happening?! She had complained of flu-like symptoms earlier that day. She just needed a day to rest, it couldn’t possibly kill her - right? We waited anxiously to hear what was happening. I have never prayed harder in my life. I pleaded with God not to take my mother. This couldn’t be happening!

A few minutes later the phone rang again. There was nothing that could be done. All the prayers in the world couldn’t save our mom. Unbeknownst to her an infectious cyst had been growing inside her and it had ruptured, spreading its poison across her body (hence the flu symptoms). She died of septic shock. Of course, we didn’t know this until after an autopsy. The coroner had at first suspected a heart attack but we refused to believe that our reasonably healthy mother had died like that. The suddenness of it shocked us all.

The next few days were a blur. Funeral planning; relatives visiting; constantly crying; sleepless nights; being force-fed by my husband, my brother-in-law, anyone who recognized that we were unable to care for ourselves. It was the single worst time of my life and the memory of it still brings me to tears.

Slowly, we all tried to live our lives again as the intense grief began to subside. Our mother raised us well and we drew upon each other for strength. Despite the ache in our hearts, we found a new “normal”.

She died the day before Mother’s Day in 2008. Ever since then Mother’s Day has been a dark day for us all. Our grandmothers are also deceased so it feels like we have no one to celebrate with. Other people bustle around, buying gifts for their mothers, taking them to lunch, but we have no one to buy gifts for, no one to see.

Shortly after my mother’s death I began to recognize the stirrings of maternal instincts. I was blessed with a wonderful mother and I felt a longing to create my own children so that I could pass her love onto them. I imagined myself with a daughter. Someone I could name after my mother, someone who would become my best friend. I never considered my mom and I to be best friends, mostly because I never got over the teen angst of having parents who were so much older than my friends’ parents and who just didn’t understand what it was like to be a kid in today’s world – wow, do I wish I had gotten over that stage sooner so that I could have enjoyed more time with my mother, who just so happened to be one of the most amazing women I will ever have the privilege of knowing. Regardless, my mother was always there for me, forever finding ways to show me just how much she loved me. It will always be one of the great regrets of my life that I didn’t fully understand that until she was gone.

I knew there was no guarantee that my children would have this enlightened view that I now I had. In fact, they most definitely would not and I knew there would be years of tantrums, followed by teenage eye-rolling in my future, however I also knew that it would be worth it. My mother spent the better part of her life as a mom, and was an extremely devoted grandmother, and she looked so happy! She sacrificed so much of her own time for us and she did it all with a smile. If I could be half the woman she was I knew I would also find motherhood to be enjoyable and rewarding.

So my husband and I decided to start trying, or rather we decided to stop not trying. I went off the pill and we waited for nature to take its course...and we waited...and waited. After a year of no success we decided to see a specialist. Both of us went through a round of standard testing, and things seemed to be fine. The doctor thought perhaps I wasn't ovulating every cycle since some of my cycles tended to be longer, so he prescribed Clomid. A couple months later we decided to do a HSG test to see if my fallopian tubes were blocked. When attempting to do the procedure my doctor discovered that my cervix was blocked and he therefore could not insert the necessary instruments to do the test. To save me from additional pain, he suggested that we reschedule the procedure so he could put me under anesthesia before dilating my cervix. My cervix is blocked? Well, that must be the problem then! The procedure was done, my tubes were deemed to be in working order and my cervix was now open for business. Hooray, we're almost there!

Not so fast. Months still went by with no result. My doctor next prescribed HCG, an ovulation trigger shot. My dear husband learned how to administer the injection himself. For the next couple months we closely monitored my cycles so he would know when to shoot me with the syringe. Oh joy, my body had now become a science experiment. How romantic!

We still had no luck, so my doctor suggested we do a laparoscopy to rule out any other problems, such as endometriosis. Endometriosis is when the lining of the uterus is not completely shed during a woman's menstrual cycle and the cells begin to grow elsewhere in the body. Oh great, I knew people who had this disease and their fertility journeys had not been pleasant ones. Also, I knew it could wreck havoc on a woman's body and I never suspected that I might be living with it. I always thought that my menstrual pain was normal... but then I started thinking about those times that I had almost passed out as I waited for my pain meds to kick in, and then there was that time that my husband rushed me to the emergency room after finding me sobbing incoherently and curled into a ball on the bathroom floor because the pain was so intense. Hmmm...maybe the doc was on to something. 

We went to the clinic and I got another nice dose of anesthesia. Three small incisions were made in my belly and a scope was placed inside me to hopefully see what the hell was going on with my messed up body. I woke in the recovery room and my husband told me that it was confirmed that I did have endo. I was caught between despair and relief – despair because I knew our fertility journey had now gotten a whole lot more difficult and relief because we had finally discovered the culprit. A few weeks later at my post-op visit the doctor told me that despite my relative lack of symptoms the endo had not been kind to my body. My left fallopian tube was in very poor shape and, while he removed a good chunk of the nasty tissue from my body, there was still some microscopic endometriosis that remained. He suggested that I go on Lupron, which would put my body into menopause for the next six months and suppress the growth of new tissue. This would give my body time to heal and hopefully give us a window of opportunity to get pregnant once the treatment was complete. Six months?! But, I’m 29 and the dreaded 3-0 looms, when my fertility rate will drop and just keep plummeting. After giving myself time to mourn the loss of another six months of my life without a child, I agree to take the drug.

And I entered menopause. Hot flashes, cold chills, headaches, weight gain and achiness everywhere. The side effects were not as horrible as I had feared but they were also not pleasant. I got tired of not feeling like myself. Thankfully, the six months went by rather quickly and I received my last injection. The month afterwards I met with the doc again. He said my cycle could return soon and when it does we can start testing for ovulation again and yada, yada, yada. 

Fast forward a couple months and my period has still not returned. So, ever the cautious optimist, I took a home pregnancy test – maybe we managed to strike gold without even trying! Once again I am greeted by the single pink line that dashes all of my hopes, which brings me to today and my sudden desire to type up all my pent up aggressions.

How can this be my life? Is it not enough that I’m motherless at a relatively young age? Why do I also have to fight this beast known as infertility? How was I supposed to know that as I enjoyed my 20’s a disease that I didn’t even know I had was wrecking my body? Why bother giving me these maternal instincts if I’m not able to use them? Why torture me with stories of young, unfit girls becoming mothers at the drop of a hat while I try to drug myself to become fertile? Why do I have to log onto facebook and see yet another pregnancy announcement made? I watch my friends start families and wonder why I can’t be blessed with the same miracle? This isn’t fair to my husband, to his parents (who would be wonderful grandparents), and to my family (who is anxiously wishing for a new baby to spoil). Why do they also have to suffer just because my body is deformed? There are no answers to these questions, but it doesn't stop me from asking them, from allowing my mind to rage and suffer as I analyze them.

Although I know I am not the only person to be dealt this hand, I still feel alone. I hate the look people give me when I tell my story. They are afraid…what do I say to her? Is she going to become emotional if we keep talking about this? If she does, what do I do? This is when I quickly change the subject, before they can see the true depths of my pain. I imagine them happily going home to hug their children and call their mothers, basking in the glow of multi-generational love, and it hurts, really hurts, knowing that I can’t do the same. (To be fair, there are plenty of people who have listened to me supportively, but it still hurts knowing that their mom is still there and their children have been easily conceived).

It’s soothing when I come across another person who feels as I do, these members of a club that none of us asked to become members of. The motherless children, the infertiles. I love their compassion and their strength. The way they look at you with the same pain in their eyes. Sometimes you don’t even have to say anything, “the look” is enough to convey all the compassion that is needed.

I know I am blessed in other ways, and for the most part I am able to live my life happily. My wonderful husband is the most important part of my life. He is my best friend and makes me laugh on a daily basis. No matter how depressed I am feeling, he is always there to bring me back to the light. It might take me a minute, an hour, or a whole day to follow him, but I can always count on him to bring me back from the depths of my pain, and for that I am eternally grateful. I have my dad, wonderful siblings with equally wonderful spouses and children - I always feel rejuvenated and comforted after seeing my family. My in-laws are the best in-laws ever and I have some pretty awesome friends as well. And don’t even get me started on my furry babies…I think I sometimes scare people with the depth of affection that I feel for them. They are always there for a supportive cuddle and they make me laugh with their quirky little personalities. It is these bright spots in my life that keep me going, and always will. Come what may, I know my husband and I will create a wonderful life for ourselves and we will somehow become parents. I have so much love to give and I can’t wait to pass it on…my mom would want it that way. 


  1. Hey there, I came over from LFCA. I am just SO SO sorry about your mom, that is truly awful. Fellow Endo sufferer, Stage 4. Hope all goes well for you.

  2. I just came over from LFCA too, and I too am so sorry about your mother. But I love your idea of recognizing her in passing her love, and your memories of her, on to your children. I hope one day your dream comes true.

  3. Thank you, ladies! It felt really good to write about it. I've been feeling a bit depressed lately but after I wrote this post I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me. :)

  4. I came over from LFCA as well. I went through the endo journey as well. It really sucked at times, but eventually IVF came through for us, and I have two awesome sons now (5 and 3). It sounds trite, but I do believe that things will eventually work out one way or another for you, and then it'll be hard to imagine their being otherwise.

    I really empathize with the feeling of seeing everyone else get pregnant, running into pregnant people in every public place, hearing about stupid celebrities (Snooki, anyone?) getting pregnant by accident. I still bristle when someone talks about how fertile they are. But I marvel every day at my children and really do feel grateful. Endo sufferers, esp. young ones, do generally have good outcomes via IVF, if you get to that point. I will keep following your journey and wish you the best of luck!

  5. Thanks, Celeste! It gives me hope knowing that you were able to have children. Of course I hope that we don't have to do IVF but if it comes down to it I am willing to. We'll see where our journey takes us!

  6. Hi,

    I also came over from LFCA. Just wanted to send you a virtual hug - your story really resonated with me, as I've also lost my mother in the time I've been battling infertility. I'm a little older than you (Mum died when I was 34, a couple of years ago), but even then it felt way too soon, and I think the grief was so much harder when I was so aware of not having children of my own, or a mother of my own anymore. It seemed like everyone I knew was having babies and having this picture-perfect life with loving grandparents and happy families... it is very isolating.

    It's a horribly, horribly hard thing to go through. As you say, I think the best thing we can do is focus on the family and friends we DO have, and remember that the parents we will be one day will be a legacy to our mothers.

    Best wishes for your journey from here! :)

    1. Thank you! I'm so sorry for your loss. It's hard losing such a central figure in your life, especially when you are so young. I always thought that my mom would live to be 90 because both of my grandmothers did. I never prepared myself for losing her so soon.
      It is isolating to deal with both mother loss and infertility. (Wouldn't this infertility beast be so much easier to handle with our moms by our side??) I wish you the best of luck on your journey and am also sending you a virtual hug!! :)

  7. Wow, I just came by to check out your blog and decided to start from the beginning. I am looking forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing your story. Hugs Hugs Hugs.