I remember the surreal drive to pick up my first round of Clomid. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. I couldn’t believe I was driving to the pharmacy to pick up a medical aid to get pregnant. This was us. We were that couple—the couple who couldn’t get pregnant! The more I thought about it, the more overwhelming it was. How did others get pregnant so easily? I couldn’t understand why my family members didn’t struggle with fertility, but here I was—alone—sitting in my car looking at the florescent lights illuminating the drugstore parking lot. Did I have the strength to get out of the car? It was just Clomid. What was the big deal? No! It wasn’t just the Clomid! It was the amount of time that passed! It was the TV shows coming up with new plot twists—pregnancies. It was the number of baby announcements I scrolled through on social media. It was the life I saw everyone else moving on with while I got to sleep in on the weekends.
I only remember the drive there. I don’t remember paying for it, walking out of the store, getting back into my car, or driving home. I don’t remember the conversation with my husband about how my day went. I don’t even know how I got to sleep that night. My guess is, it was probably too overwhelming. My guess is, I didn’t shed a tear. My guess is, I probably put on my brave face and fed myself all the hopeful feels like: This will be it! This is how a lot of women get pregnant. It’s ok that I need a little assistance. I’ll get pregnant. A few hot flashes never killed anyone.
I experienced more than hot flashes during my 3 rounds of estrogen boosting Clomid. Work was near impossible. I had to walk off the intense pain when standing up from my chair. After all my efforts to power through the day, my husband would have to help me up off the couch in the evenings like an old lady. One day I was on the floor of my kitchen in debilitating pain. My husband had just gotten home and found me curled up on the floor, crying. I could barely breathe. Motrin wasn’t helping anymore. He insisted I see my doctor. I fought back a little, “It’s just the Clomid.” My husband picked up my cell phone to call my doctor. Physical pain had never been my weakness. Through all the years of swaying hormone symptoms and menstrual cycles, I always muscled through without pain relievers. Looking back on that summer, I waited too long. I battled through months of agony! Honestly, I think I didn’t want to accept that maybe I was the problem.
After I saw my OB-GYN, I was referred immediately for an ultrasound. After the very uncomfortable and embarrassing ultrasound, the technician walked me back to the waiting room, “You have a lot of issues going on…” She couldn’t think of anything else to say?? How about, how’s the weather outside? Or, do you have any plans for the rest of the day? Note to self: small talk is a great way to avoid saying stupid things. I couldn’t thank her enough for saying something so incredibly insensitive while I was feeling so uncertain. I found a corner in the waiting room until my doctor could review the photo shoot of every angle of my abdomen. I waited. And waited. A couple hours later the receptionist said my doctor was stuck in surgery and would call me with results in a couple days.
My husband was the sweetest! After work that night, he took me out to keep my mind off the wait. We walked. We talked. We laughed. We prayed. Just as we were pulling into our neighborhood, my cell rang. It was 9pm, my doctor was calling me from her home! The ultrasound showed a softball sized cyst. I would be scheduled for laparoscopic surgery 3 weeks later.
I spent those few weeks approaching the surgery date processing my reality.
The thoughts were suffocating my mind! They were flashing before me. What if this is my reality? What if this is what life will look like forever? What if this is it? What if nothing changes? It was a vicious circle of what if’s. I couldn’t breathe. My lungs pulsed and air sharply passed through my throat. I sat up and threw my legs over the side of the bed. The bedroom was the darkest it had ever been. The tears streamed into my lap as my body convulsed. “I…can’t…do this…anymore…” I said between brief swift efforts to gain oxygen. My hands were on my heart. It hurt so much! I could physically feel the hole. I had woken my husband. He came up behind me and wrapped me in his arms tightly. “Shhhh….what’s wrong?” He gently soothed in my ear. “I’m so scared…that this is real…” I sobbed. It felt like I was stuck on a train going 1000 mph without knowing when or where the destination point was.
Even in the midst of denial and shock, I still wanted to trust that my Sovereign God was allowing this. After several panic episodes, I began pouring myself into His Word. I needed to hold onto some kind of truth, because I wasn’t able to grip onto my own reality—I needed God to be my Reality.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
This passage was the most comforting to me at that time. God created me and He knew what was going on inside my body. He formed my inward parts. He knit me together. I am fearfully and wonderfully made—cyst, infertility, and childlessness. He knew. He knew and heard my requests for a family over the past 2 years. He knew my heart. He saw the tears. He heard our broken prayers; trusting Him and knowing that He has the very best in mind for us.
The sedation drugs were slowly wearing off. My doctor came to debrief us on how the surgery went. The surgeons (she had to call in a specialist) spent 2 hours longer than predicted, due to endometrial scar tissue and adhesions. She spouted out words like endometriosis, Lupron, reproductive endocrinologist, and invitro fertilization. It was worse than expected. So, it was me. I was the problem. The room echoed and began to spin. It was too much to absorb. Everything came crashing down. I needed everyone to leave so I could take my brave face off. Once the nurse finished dosing me up on pain meds and exited the room, lowering my shield I began to cry. The answers were before me and I didn’t like them. I turned the surgical photos around in my hands, trying to make sense of them. My abdomen was mutilated by scar tissue. My poor little left ovary had been consumed by a monstrous cyst. Holding my hand, my husband stood by me quietly, allowing me to tearfully process everything.
Over the next several months, the word “endometriosis” did the explaining for me. I felt the silent, pity hugs. It felt like many of my friends didn’t know how to treat me after this pivotal diagnosis. In the beginning, I could see they were trying to keep me in the friendship circle, but I was losing commonality. The conversations held more lulls than we were comfortable with. Invites to parties slowed down. The dinner invitations weren’t returned.
The reproductive endocrinologist was very kind and light-hearted; making most appointments easy and bearable. He lined me up for fertility testing during the next menstrual cycle. I came in for several ultrasounds to mark egg growth and quality, and to have blood draws to test hormone levels.
After a month filled with appointments, our doctor sat us down for the ‘final’ consult. “All the blood work and tests came back great, and one tube is clear.” He explained how polyps can affect fertility. He thought it would be good to rule them out as a factor. This would include an appointment to view my uterus via live camera. I agreed and made the appointment.
My period came with a vengeance! It was as if my uterus was taking revenge for all the poking and prodding. I called the doctor’s office to reschedule the polyp scan appointment. I heard the staff member cover the phone and speak to the doctor, who must’ve been standing nearby at the time of my phone call. She uncovered the phone, “The doctor would still like to see you if that’s alright.” Well, I guess so…if blood doesn’t bother the guy. So, I kept the appointment.
Since there was going to be results right away, I asked my husband if he would go with me for support. I couldn’t rule out a meltdown if there was bad news.
The dimly lit room had a couple computer monitors and warm artwork on the walls. I wrapped myself in the paper gown and sat on the tall patient bench. Taking a hopeful deep breath, I chatted quietly with my husband. The doctor and assistant softly knocked at the door and greeted us. While booting up one of the monitors, there was another knock at the door—a technician of sorts came in, she was introduced as the instructor of the new camera they would be operating today. Excuse me, new? At that moment I should have stood up and told them we would do this another time, but the sweet Anna in me stayed like a good patient. The doctor had me lean back and ‘get comfortable’. He snapped on a light and faced it under the paper hanging between my knees. I closed my eyes and imagined I was somewhere else. There was another knock at the door, 2 more assistants came into the shrinking room. My husband squeezed my hand. I heard muttering, hums and movement. Off to the side, my sweet husband tried talking with me in efforts to keep me distracted while they learned.how.to.operate.the.camera that was inserted inside my reproductive organ. Laying there spread out like a butterfly, I realized I was their guinea pig! AND…I was on my period! It felt like an eternity. At one point I snapped, “Do we have what we need yet?”
Everyone filed out of the room when they were finished with their experiment. I dressed and came into the doctor’s office where he would review his findings. I was knee to knee with my husband. He held my hands. Our doctor sat down with us and basically said they couldn’t see anything because I was on my period. And that we would need to try a saline flush ultrasound instead. While making the next appointment, I kindly told the receptionist that after insurance paid for this procedure that was all they were getting from us for this appointment.
Without going into much more detail, the next procedure showed a single polyp. 2 weeks later, I had it removed. The doctor told us at our FINAL consult that he thought maybe the polyp was hindering our fertility, but still recommended IVF. He made us a 2 for 1 offer.
The tears flooded the car the whole way home. My conclusion was that if IVF is as exhausting as the past 6 weeks had been, then I’m OUT! Never! I had had enough! There was no way I was going to shoot myself up with shots and drugs while doctors treat me like a science experiment! (Clomid had already backfired on me.) And what if the first try isn’t successful? All that! Then I’m devastated! Then I have to go through it all again. And what if my body reacted horribly to the hormones?? Nope! Not doing it! Who knew making a baby could be so exhausting. I thought all you had to do was have sex.
I am absolutely in no way trying to discourage anyone from moving forward with IVF. It is a wonderful and beautiful way to grow a family! It was just very clear in my mind that it wasn’t an avenue I wanted to, or thought I was brave enough to venture down for myself. Everyone’s journey is different…this is mine, and mine alone.
My husband and I poured our hearts out before the Lord, asking Him to fill our lives with peace. We agreed to try naturally for the next 6 months. If we didn’t get pregnant, then we would search our hearts and seek another avenue of growing our family.
The next 6+ months were the most excruciating of them all…