Naked from the waist down with a paper “blanket” over your girl parts, waiting for yet another vaginal ultrasound might be the definition of vulnerability. As you mentally prepare for the doctor you both love and emotionally fear to walk through that door, you realize that these visits are your low points. The anticipation of what she will say, the hyper-awareness of your “situation”, the dread at what happens next. Sitting on that cold table, there is no hiding. While you wait, you pull up your shirt to check on your belly, bruised from the never ending injections. You wrinkle your nose because you swear some of that squish wasn’t there before the Femara, Clomid, Gonal-F, Ovidrel and progesterone. You mentally sigh and remind yourself one more time that it will all be worth it in the end. Right?
You hear your doctor say the words “not a viable pregnancy” and even though it doesn’t feel like a building collapsing on your body like the first time, it still feels like a knife in your chest. You hold it together for the doctor, the nurse, and your partner. Walking out of the office, you avoid eye contact with the warriors in the waiting room. Nobody wants to be acknowledged here. Once safely back at home, alone in the shower, you let go of your strength and cry. Looking down, you curse your failing, battered body for missing the mark yet again.
One month later, same story, a different page on the calendar. You take a pregnancy test in the wee hours of the morning while it’s still dark outside. Negative. Again. You sit in the low-lit bathroom and contemplate whether to keep it to yourself or tell your partner. You decide to keep it to yourself and hide the evidence, maybe this will save the Saturday and at least one of you can remain blissfully hopeful. You wipe the tears away and quietly sneak back into bed.
You read everything possible on the internet.
The binder that you created to keep track of this journey is fat with lab results and research studies. You shudder at the receipt for one round of medications that could have easily been a Hawaiian vacation. You take your temperature every day, have an intimate relationship with your cervical mucous, and even monitor your saliva patterns. You read about vitamin regimens and clinical trials and the glimmer of hope feels good. You eat pineapple and lentils and full-fat dairy. You quit drinking coffee and wine, both of which are needed more than air or sleep on this journey. You work out, but not too much. You do yoga. You hang on every observation your acupuncturist makes. You meditate. You analyze boob soreness and cramping like it’s your full-time job. You have become a reluctant scientist.
You cry harder than you’ve ever cried at the thought of not carrying a baby inside of you for 9 months. The thought of this life path passing you by keeps you up at night. You keep these desperate feelings to yourself because saying them out loud to anyone makes it real, and it’s too scary.
In some dark, wine-fueled moments you question every past decision you’ve ever made regarding relationships and career, wondering if any one of them led you down this hellish road. You think you won’t survive another baby shower, family reunion, or bounce-house birthday party with empty arms, but you do, and you continue to show up even though it kills you, because you are determined not to let infertility change who are are. Life just keeps moving along, measured in monthly reminders.
Warriors who made it out, I am you.
I know the guilty feeling you get sometimes when you lose your patience or take your little one for granted and you quickly remind yourself that you are one of the lucky ones. I know that feeling depressed, or uncomfortably overwhelmed with your rainbow baby in your arms brings feelings of shame. I know that infertility undoubtedly shapes how you parent and the anxiety and fear that never seem to go away.
Warriors on the rollercoaster right now, I think about you and your strength all the time. Take care of yourself. You are so much more than ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and a uterus. Whether to babies you are raising, angel babies you’ve lost, fur babies that you dote on, or godchildren who are your everything, you have the heart and soul of a mother. Mothers persist, love unconditionally, and they don’t have the option of giving up.
You are a warrior and don’t ever forget you have an army.