What has taught me patience more than anything? Teaching high school did not. Learning how to wait in line, when there was no line, in another country did not. Traveling by trains, planes, buses, and automobiles for two days straight to get to a destination did not. Waiting until my 30s to find my husband did not. None of these have taught me to wait longer than the journey of infertility. I don’t like to use the word infertility. There is nothing infertile about me, or about anyone struggling to conceive or choosing not to - we all give birth to things and bring so much to this world.
I have spent the better part of my sexually active years avoiding pregnancy. Laughing at the well-laid plans I’ve made in my life, I now realize that you can only plan so much. I had created a month-by-month timeline of when I would stop taking birth control and get pregnant. Birthing my child as I crouched down and wailed to the moon, like my perceivable ancestors did, heading seamlessly into breastfeeding and field work, wearing my babe in a blissed-out, primitive state of harmony with nature. I had it down to the finer details like finances, housing, and nursery room colors (or how we might set up our mud hut). Surprise! I was going to have to wait for all of that, and as I keep learning, things may not turn out how I imagine they will.
If you’ve ever been in a fertility doctor’s office (RE - reproductive endocrinologist in the fertility world), you know that sometimes you see someone you recognize, and you might pretend not to see them. The first time I ever went to one I thought, “I can’t believe I’m here. It’s not supposed to be like this.” Sometimes there are couples, or a few women by themselves and we might steal a glance at one another with a silent message, “you too, huh?” I like to think I send hugs to the other women in the room, but mostly, I get consumed with myself and how to get through this experience while I zone out on "The View", which is blaring from the TV.
When you get past the waiting room, there are generally pictures of babies hung up on the walls. Presumably, all of the babies that the doctors there have helped to create. Twins, triples, quadruplets. Holy shit, what am I getting myself into? Does this really work? I’m not sure if this lends hope or sadness. I’ve gone through both emotions at different times.
The waiting game. When we first tried to get pregnant, we had regular sex (Plan A) and thought it would immediately work (on target with my meticulous timeline). After all, that's what happens when you have unprotected sex, right? We waited. Nothing.
Then, it worked! And we waited. Eight weeks in was my first ultrasound, which revealed there was a gestational sac, but no embryo. This is called a blighted ovum. At one point, there was an embryo, but it did not develop after attaching to the uterine wall, and my body absorbed it. I was given medication to eliminate what was left, and I waited. Said medication wreaked havoc on my body, and I waited for things to go back to normal.
We tried again, back to plan A, and waited. And waited, and waited. After 6 months, nothing. After you are a certain age, it is recommended that you see an RE if you haven’t become pregnant after 6 months of trying, and there we were in the waiting room of his office. Waiting. Testing. Waiting for results. It was recommended that we do IVF. After the RE explained what this was, I knew I was not ready for that. So I went all natural (see mud hut reference).
I read everything I could about fertility and nutrition, did an elimination diet, and started cooking from scratch. Real food. Meditation. Yoga. Exercise. Acupuncture. Waiting. Another 6 months passed. My over-planning brain took over. This shit was supposed to work after 3-6 months, so what’s up? Never mind that I felt incredible, I was doing this to get pregnant. Or was I?
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) #1: get the procedure. Wait 2 weeks. Fail.
IUI #2: get the procedure. Wait 2 weeks. Fail.
Decide to switch doctors and try IVF. Do all the right things. Get the IVF. Wait. Fail.
None of these methods have helped us conceive thus far, although we did get some great embryos from our last IVF, which are frozen and waiting for us. Waiting.
People that knew we were doing this asked when we were going to do a frozen embryo transfer (FET). Next month? What’s happening? I thought I might do it right away, but as the months passed, I slipped into a deep depression, and realized that I needed to wait and take care of myself. Waiting.
Finally, two years later, we have decided now is the time. We met with the doctor (third doctor at this practice since I first started. I like him), and made a plan. I started taking estrogen. I found out last week that I ovulated through the hormone treatment, and so we will have to start again next month. In other words, we will have to wait: wait for my next cycle to start; wait to start over. Then wait again.
What happens when we wait? Do we focus on the inconvenience? How it's not fair? Do we become victims in the midst of having to wait? Can we, instead, cultivate a practice of mindfulness and use our energy in a positive way? I vacillate between gratitude for this journey and being totally pissed off. Why doesn't my body work properly? I read about goal-setting, visualizing, breaking down a big goal into smaller, achievable parts. The most frustrating aspect of the fertility struggle is that you can do all of that and it still might not work. I'M DOING ALL OF THE THINGS, but I’m still left waiting.
The other day I realized, I have waited all this time and I actually feel blessed for my struggle. It’s been taxing, emotionally and financially, and it surely tests a marriage, but I’ve learned so much. It’s made me stronger. It’s strengthened our marriage. I've developed more empathy for others and a deep understanding that you never know what people are going through, so drop the judgements and don't assume anything. Also, stop asking people incessantly when they're going to have kids. Or when they're going to have another one. In fact, don't ask at all. Let them bring it up if they want to. It's none of your business.
I learned to stop in the waiting room and cultivate awareness, which allows me to ask, "what am I to learn in this moment that everything isn’t going as planned?" Maybe this IS the plan.
A message lies in the waiting, along with lessons. Like I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I was supposed to learn that you can’t have everything you want when you want it, (and maybe that’s better). I was supposed to get healthy, physically and mentally, before becoming a mom. So in this path of waiting, I turn off my planning brain and rest assured that I have taken years to build my healthy soil, and in this cultivation, something will grow. It already has.