I just learned through Instagram that April 18-24 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Many of the posts I have seen discussed the emotions many feel in this struggle. I’ve been wanting to write this particular post for a while. But, I generally do not do well sharing my emotions with others. Not these emotions at least. However, this week seems to be the best time to do so. And I really want to share this for awareness for infertility and create a place for others to share their stories and struggles.
My entire life seems to revolve around trying to get pregnant these days. Since mid-March I have had an HSG test, gone to both my OBGYN and PCP to discuss next steps and have more tests done. My PCP ordered so many labs I didn’t think I was going to be able to walk out of the clinic they took so much blood from me. This season of our life has made us feel all kinds of emotions. It often feels like a roller coaster with really high sections and really low ones all within hours or days of each other.
For a more in-depth update you can check out a previous post here and here. I have since seen my OBGYN again to thoroughly discuss the results to my HSG. I do have scar tissue on my left fallopian tube. It is close to the ovary. So the doctor believes that I could have had a fluke cyst that then ruptured and caused the scar tissue. We do have a couple of options though. First, he said we could try a fertility drug known as Clomid. This medicine triggers more hormones to allow the ovaries to release multiple eggs which can increase the odds of conception. With that, there is an increase chance of a multiple pregnancy.
Next, to increase my odds even more would be a laparoscopic surgery to remove the blockage from my fallopian tube. If the surgery is successful, I will have two functional fallopian tubes again. But, my doctor said that while he is in there and things aren’t going as planned, he would completely take it out. That is because trying to remove the blockage will create scar tissue. That scar tissue can exponentially increase the odds of an ectopic pregnancy.
So, if I don’t have surgery, I am not at an increased risk to an ectopic pregnancy since egg and sperm cannot meet on that side. But, if I have surgery, that could be a risk and then I just don’t have a left fallopian tube. So, there is a chance that I could go through a surgery but essentially end up in the same spot I am in today. Hearing the description from the doctor definitely had me feeling all kinds of emotions.
My husband and I have weighed all the pros and cons and have decided to try taking Clomid for a few cycles before rushing to surgery. My PCP agreed that would be a great next step. Also, my husband actually said he didn’t want to go straight to surgery. This is because if something could go wrong, it tends to happen to me. So, we want to try the least invasive measures first. If surgery is necessary in the long run, we will do it. But we want to try other things first.
Need to Wait
The only downside is that my OBGYN did not want to prescribe the Clomid in my last visit. He wants me to wait six months because he says I need to lose weight. Which yes I do, but I didn’t want to hear that I had to wait any longer to get pregnant. He also said that he is not currently encouraging women to get pregnant right now because of COVID and the whole vaccine situation. He said in 6 months he hopes things will have died down and things would be safer for pregnant women. However, he did not discourage us from trying on our own still.
So, if working out, eating better and continuing to track my cycles allow me to get pregnant, that is great! Even if he did tell me to stop trying, we wouldn’t because I just had that HSG. My fertility is increased for up to six cycles that procedure. That will be over by the time he will be willing to prescribe Clomid. So, we are going to do everything we can until my next follow-up in September.
Just a Ball of Emotions
These past two years have been highly emotional for my husband and me. But it seems like everything has been amplified since we hit our two-year ttc mark. What I really wanted to share with you here is all the different emotions have felt and experienced in this season. I’m sure I will miss something here. I am also sure that our story is both unique and not at the same time. There are so many couples out there working through similar emotions through the ttc and infertility journeys. But, each person and each couple deals with these emotions differently. The following discussion is simply observations from our own journey.
Emotions in this TTC and Infertility Journey
I have not listed these in any particular order. Also, as humans, it is possible to experience different emotions or feelings at the same time. But here goes nothing.
When my husband and I decided to finally start trying for a baby, we were so happy. We finally felt like we were in a good place to be able to bring a baby into the world. He was working at an amazing job with security and benefits. I was starting my blog and we paid down most of our debt and were just so ready to start our family. We could not hide just how happy we were to finally feel that comfortable and ready to become parents. It was like a switch was flipped and something amazing changed in our relationship. I can’t fully describe it, but we were just so happy.
My husband and I regularly have moments of excitement whenever we sit and talk about what our future children be like. We so look forward to finally becoming parents. We talk about what features they might inherent from us, their personalities, names, everything. And we get excited talking about traditions we want to continue or start with them. We also talk about experiences we want to have with them (e.g. vacations, sports, etc.).
I get really excited when I find little pieces of décor, clothes or books for future kiddos. I have an entire hope chest full of gender neutral onesies, books, nursery décor and all kinds of other things for babies. Some of these pieces we purchased when we first got married. I think it is really fun how we have already been planning for these kiddos from the beginning.
I also just get so exciting thinking about my husband as a father. We have 10 nieces and nephews already and he was always so great with them. I have pictures and videos galore of him with them and it always makes me so excited to see him connect and bond with our baby.
Doubt does creep in every now and then. I have times where I doubt whether I will ever get pregnant and whether we will ever have our own biological children. But I do quickly pull myself away from feeling that way.
Then, there are times where I doubt that I have done everything I could do. I will ask myself whether I truly did catch my LH surge, or if we timed intimacy properly. I even wonder if I ate enough whole foods, take my vitamins correctly, etc.
Then, if we try something different that cycle, I doubt that it will actually be of any help to us. So far, none of the old wives’ tales have worked.
When my emotions are all kinds of haywire, I can even doubt my sanity sometimes. I get so hyper focused on what needs to be done I feel like I have lost my mind sometimes.
Every cycle when I consistently see those negative pregnancy tests and ultimately when my period shows, I just feel so defeated. We buy the organic whole foods, use clean and natural supplements, reduced caffeine, gotten rid of plastics, everything you can think of. We also time everything as best as possible to give us the best odds and yet, still nothing.
When it came back that I was the reason why we haven’t been successful I just felt like everything I have done was for nothing. There are times where I am so tired of it all that I don’t want to deal with more disappointment.
Stress just seems to be a normal part of our lives these days. Hubby has stress from work and the added assignments and training for his internship. Then, there’s familial stress and then everything ttc that is just the cherry on top of it all. We both feel like we are juggling a lot right now and something always seems to be dropped somewhere.
We do our best to reduce this stress through exercise, dates, and self-care practices. But there are just moments where one or both of us just feel like it is too much sometimes.
Sadness is a complex emotion for me. For me, I am never just sad. It is usually added to one or more other emotions during the day. I could be busy doing something in the kitchen and minding my own business when I just get struck with sadness thinking about how if we had already had children, I could have a little helper with dinner. Or my husband and I could be out running errands and see an adorable little one playing peek-a-boo and we just get excited seeing them. Then, a twinge of sadness hits because we don’t have that yet.
Sadness usually creeps in during our most stressed times too. An interesting observation for me is that while I have moments of sadness most days, it very rarely lingers for very long. But I am also someone who bottles up their emotions and tries very hard to keep them from affecting daily activities.
Sense of Victory
There are positive emotions we have felt during this journey, even on the hard days. We have learned to look at the bright side of things. We often cling to the tiniest silver linings we could find. So, I feel accomplished on the cycles where I can actually find my LH peak (signals ovulation) from beginning to end. I also feel victorious when I know my luteal phase (second half of my cycle) is at least ten days long.
When everything during my fertile window seems to fall into place, we both feel like we have done everything we could for that cycle. It is comforting whenever we are able to say we have done literally everything we could to ensure success. Then, we just sit and wait for about two weeks. However, that sense of victory is quickly traded for a whole slew of different emotions.
When it comes to guilt, I definitely cannot speak on how my husband may or may not have handled this emotion. As for me, I am struck with guilt all the time. I feel guilty for decisions that I made that may have slowed our process down with the doctors. I wonder if I could have been tested sooner to get answers and that might have put us farther along on our journey and closer to becoming parents. But, I have never experienced any symptoms of any female reproductive disorders to have ever wondered whether I needed to be seen by a specialist before. Then, the pandemic hit and had us postpone a lot of appointments.
I feel guilt for having been on the birth control pill and for being on it for so long. Many argue that birth control does not affect fertility, but I can’t help but think that if I had never been on it, I may have known something was off and had it looked at sooner.
I feel guilty that I have not been able to give my husband any children yet. I feel guilty that my inability to have a career of my own put additional stress on him and we weren’t financially stable enough to start ttc earlier.
Finally, I feel guilty even sharing my thoughts and emotions on the subject when I see other couples and women in particular have to go through so many surgeries and medications in order to get pregnant. We are just now starting to talk about fertility meds…and they are just pills rather than injections like some women have to go through. I sometimes feel like I have no place to complain about anything.
I do not need to be reminded that I am so much more than my reproductive abilities (or lack thereof at the moment). But being a mom is literally the only constant dream of mine for as long as I can remember. My career ambitions always changed (still), but it never negated the fact that I wanted children. Struggling month after month to get pregnant has just broken me down so much. Many days I have no desire to do anything because I really do not know what to do with myself. I have but one mission in life right now and I am constantly failing at it.
There is no real control in what is going on in my body. I can track my ovulation, but I can’t tell my ovary to release the egg. I can’t ensure the egg comes from the open side. Then, I cannot even tell my husband’s swimmers where to meet the egg. There is no control. Everything could be conducted with textbook precision and still be unsuccessful and it just eats at me and breaks me down more and more every cycle. This lack of control just makes me feel like I am just along for the ride rather than an active participant. That is so weird to feel since literally everything hinges on the happenings of my body.
I have struggled with anxiety for many years. It usually shows its ugly face in high stress situations. I would get it in high school during exams and then saw it again at the start of grad school. I have had it under control for quite some time. But the stress of all of this has given me periods of time where I become very anxious. When I become anxious, I become fearful of all kinds of things. I have a habit of catastrophizing situations.
When I get like this, I pretty much demand that my husband text me when he makes it to work and check in at least one other time during the day. I also want him to call me on his way home and I calculate exactly how long it takes him to get home from that call and if he isn’t home by then, I am calling him.
When anxious I also become hyper-focused on certain things. In my research to increase our odds of conceiving, I will come across all kinds of stories that as I read them I can feel my heart start to race. Then, I will spend hours sitting a looking for statistics and chances that I could be struggling with that same issue.
For example, just this morning, I came across a video on TikTok where a woman said the HPV vaccine caused scarring in her vagina and made her sterile and I could feel my heart trying to go through my chest. I got the HPV shots as a teen. It was the first HPV shot that was FDA approved. I spent hours this morning researching it. I was asking myself if I could have that too. But, then I wondered, wouldn’t my doctors have seen it? Wouldn’t I have felt it at one point? Eventually, my logical part of my brain perseveres and I can move on. But not without causing stress and anxiety.
I’m still reeling from that episode. When I get this anxious, my body just does not like it and I often feel very drained the rest of the day.
In my anxious and fearful state, I have worried that my husband would want to leave me for any number of reasons…but especially because I haven’t gotten pregnant yet. Then, I had moments where I figured it would be best that I just tell him that he can leave me to find a woman who can get pregnant really easily. This thought has come up a lot more since finding out that I actually have a physical reason why I haven’t been able to get pregnant yet. He could be free to have the family he has always wanted and I could just become the hermit with 20 cats.
These thoughts are fleeting. They do not stick around at all. But they do come, and they hit hard. This is what infertility can do to people. Thankfully, I have an amazing marriage, and an amazing husband who takes his vows very seriously. As do I. But there are just times where I am just feeling all kinds of emotions and this idea just makes sense. Thankfully after a few minutes, I know that this is not an option for us, nor is our marriage anywhere near this point.
Anger is another complex emotion. When I say I am angry over all of this, it does not mean that I am throwing or breaking things. Usually, when I am angry over something regarding ttc, I am crying. And there has been a lot that I have been angry about.
I have been angry at my body for failing at the one job that makes being a woman unique. I am angry at myself for not getting off of birth control earlier. Hell, I’m angry I even started taking it. I’m angry I trusted that those doctors knew what was best for me. I’m angry that it took me so long to start researching anything health related for myself and my family. If I had started earlier, I may have been able to avoid a lot of heartache.
Seeing celebrities and influencers I follow announce their pregnancies makes me angry. I am happy for them. But I am angry that it isn’t me.
Family members announcing their pregnancies and seeing how they get doted on makes me angry. Again, I am very happy for them. Babies are always a blessing, and it is so exciting for them. However, where I’m angry is that not one single person in our family who have time to fawn all over baby bump pictures and offer encouraging words for their journey have reached out to us. We told the whole family on all sides that we were starting to try for babies early on, so they all know. No one asks how we are doing, what is going on. We voluntarily give updates on periodic calls from family and some almost act bothered by the fact we are sharing anything with them.
I know that many people do not know how to talk about the subject of infertility, but a simple text letting us know they are thinking of us or praying for us means so much.
Then I’ve had times where I am so angry at my husband. Most of the time I am angry at him for ttc reasons, it doesn’t even make sense in my head. But yet, there I am just stewing over it for hours. A lot of the time it is because he did not react to something the way I thought he would. Something that has me emotional and crying doesn’t affect him the same way and I get angry at him for it. I know that everyone processes things and feels things differently. I know this, yet I get angry when he isn’t more upset or more excited when it was something I was so excited about.
Finally, something that makes me feel so guilty, I have been angry with God over all of this. I can’t speak for my husband, but I can assume that he has as well. He often says that we did everything right. We went to school, we got married, we waited until we were financially stable, and yet we are punished by not being able to get pregnant easily. Why is it easy for others who might not necessarily be ready or even deserve children (i.e. the ones we read about who murder their own children through abortion or later in life)? We just sit and ask God why this has been so hard for us. What is the lesson here?
I have days and entire weeks where I just have no motivation to even get out of bed. While I hate to admit it, this is what infertility can do to a person. I get up with my husband and send him off to work and then I am back to bed and stay there until noon some days. Whenever I am out of bed, I find that I am just going through the motions and I do the bare minimum to ensure the house does not fall into chaos. But then I am just back to staring at my phone or watching old re-runs on the TV.
I have come to the realization that I am suffering from some depressive symptoms lately. It is possible that I may even have mild or acute depression from all of this. I have not talked this over with a doctor, nor am I really willing to at the moment. This is because I know that they will recommend that I see a therapist to talk all of this out and for me, I do not believe that is helpful.
Ironic I know since I have an advanced degree in counseling. But it is because I know all the tools they will want to give me to help process my feelings better and get me out of this slump. I also do not want to go on any medications to treat these symptoms I am having. Sure, there are plenty of medications that experts say are safe while ttc and pregnant, but I’d rather not take any chances when it comes to my children and their health. So, I will just continue to go through the exercises in my tool belt to help knock myself out of this.
*Note* I have a lot of respect for counselors and therapists. I am not offering advice nor telling anyone to avoid getting help. If you and/or your doctor think you need to see a mental health professional, I recommend you do so.
Thankfully, I do have the knowledge and experience to notice these symptoms/practices and I can catch myself before it gets too bad. Unfortunately, it took me longer than I would have liked to notice it. For a while I was blaming it on the lockdowns, but my husband has been back at work full-time since August and I only started really struggling around the holidays.
Despite everything that is going on, my husband and I choose to remain optimistic. This may not be an emotion, but rather a state of mind. Regardless, it is especially important. Every new cycle, we pick ourselves up and continue on with our lives and work towards our ultimate goal of becoming parents. A pessimistic view on life would not be helpful in any way, so we have no choice but to remain optimistic.
All of the doctors have remained optimistic in our chances as well. Not a single one has said that my chances of getting pregnant is zero. So, there is no reason to dwell in the bumps in the road. It takes work to remain optimistic and as you have read above, it isn’t always easy. But returning to an optimistic view quickly has made all the difference for us.
No matter what the circumstances are, or the emotions felt, we still hold strong to our faith. We have faith in each other and have faith in God who has a plan for us. Even in those moments where we have been angry with Him we have never lost our faith in Him. We have both put more work in to getting closer to God in this time. And I think that has given us the ability to remain optimistic and at peace (most of the time) in this journey. It has made all the difference for us.
Despite how long this post is, I still do not think I have been able to fully explain the emotions that we have experienced over the past two years. A lot of this discussion are emotions I have felt, and I have shared what I have observed and seen from my husband. But I also cannot speak for him. I am sure there are other thoughts and feelings he has had that I have not addressed well or at all. It would be awesome if he were to do a write up in the future if he ever has the free time to do it. I think his input here would be extremely helpful for other husbands who are in a similar situation.
I struggled with the idea of posting this because I had to get rather vulnerable to share this. This isn’t posted to ask for sympathy or pity. Instead, I wanted to share for awareness and understanding. So many couples struggle with infertility, and yet there still isn’t enough people openly willing to talk about it. Some people may feel embarrassed. Others think that they’re the only ones and no one really cares. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you are struggling with infertility, just know that you are not alone. If I have any advice to give, I would say to find someone or a group who are also struggling or have in the past that you can lean on. You will need people to vent to at times who understand the struggle. You also need to lean on our spouse during all of this. Don’t forget that you two are on the same side and want the same goal. Infertility can cause chaos in some people’s lives. If you find that your relationship is struggling or that you are struggling way too much with your mental health, it would be a good idea to reach out to your minister or to a mental health professional. They can often give you the tools to help process all of these emotions better.
Infertility is a very rough situation for many couples. Despite all the hard work, tests, procedures and medicines, some couples are not successful in conceiving their own children. That can bring a whole different level of emotions. At the moment, I couldn’t even fathom how that feels. If you have gotten to that point of your journey to be parents, please know that you are not alone either. You have a place here to share your stories. We need to be able to be open about our struggles, you never really know who you will be helping.