Month 1: The Journey Begins
It’s the summer of 2014 and my mom, brother, and his girlfriend are visiting me in Charleston for the week. Within minutes of waking, I run into the kitchen waving a freshly peed on pregnancy test. It’s my first month trying to get pregnant and all I can think about is how amazing it would be to share a positive test with them while they’re visiting.
I’d been married for eight years before we started trying. We were waiting for a number of things to align before we felt “ready”. In the two years prior, I had been preparing. I was monitoring my cycles and knew the exact day I ovulated each month. I had read multiple books on fertility, knew which days to “try” for the best odds, had memorized every symptom of early pregnancy, hell, I’d even toured the birthing center I would use. So while I knew that only 30% of couples got pregnant the first month trying, I was sure I’d be in that group. I felt bad for the 40% who take longer than 3 months but come on, learn how to track your cycles, it’s not rocket science!
I wait the three minutes and check the test. Negative. Next month, I think.
Month 4: Part of the 40%
It’s now November and I’m up on the corrugated metal roof of our little screened-in porch in the backyard. My footing is tenuous as I sweep two years worth of branches and leaves onto the ground below. I’m worried that a fall would cause a miscarriage. Okay, so every test I’ve taken this week has been negative, but my period’s a week late so I have to be pregnant, right? I’ve been spotting for two weeks but no real bleeding so I’m not out of the game yet. Later that day, my period starts. Damn it! I’m officially part of the 40%. Next month, I think.
Month 7: Something’s Not Right
It’s February, two days before my 33rd birthday. I open a cream colored can of paint and start rolling it onto the walls of our spare bedroom. I’ve remodeled or painted every room in the house since we bought it seven months ago, but not this one. This one is going to be a nursery and I don’t want to paint and buy office furniture just to have to replace it with new colors and a crib in a few months. I’m now part of the 20% that aren’t pregnant within 6 months and I’m starting to worry. I choose colors that will work for an office or a nursery and I make an appointment with my OBGYN.
Month 8: I Have Low Progesterone
I’m at my OBGYN’s and making a case for why I think my progesterone is low. I’ve been reading medical journals and books and am positive this is why I’m not pregnant. She’s not convinced. She orders a ton of bloodwork and sends me to another facility to have dye shot through my uterus, tubes and ovaries to see if everything looks okay. Things are starting to feel unnatural and medicalized and I’m scared.
Month 9: Something’s Definitely Not Right
I’m loading groceries into the back of my rental car. Not just any groceries, but snacks for some VIP guests that I’ll be spending the next few days with. I’ve been preparing for this trip for months, making sure every detail is perfect. I’ve never done anything at work that was so high pressure. As I close the trunk, I feel liquid running down my legs, soaking my jeans. So much liquid it feels like I peed my pants. I look down and I’m covered in blood, even though I’m wearing a tampon. Oh god, what is wrong with me. I’m terrified and my hands are shaking as I grab a change of clothes and run into the bathroom of the grocery store, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. Back at the hotel I take a long shower and spend the rest of the night alone, sobbing uncontrollably. If I had gotten pregnant that first month, I’d be delivering this month. What is wrong with me.
Month 10: Thank God, I Finally Have an Answer
I’m back in my OBGYN’s office. She says I have something in my uterus that shouldn’t be there, either polyps or fibroids. She’s confident this is why I’m not pregnant and why I’m having such crazy periods. She recommends surgery, saying that whatever’s in there is blocking the embryo from implanting and that once it’s removed, I should be able to get pregnant. I’m actually giddy as I leave the office. I finally know what’s wrong with me. That night, I let myself start dreaming of baby names again.
Month 16: Surgery #1
I’m officially part of the 10% classified as “infertile”, meaning I’m not pregnant after 12 months of trying. I’m at home recovering from surgery. She removed polyps from my uterus and assures me they were the cause of all my problems. I can start trying again next month. Next month!
Month 18: +
I reach up and grab the huge plastic bag of pregnancy tests from the bathroom closet. I like to test every day starting five days before my period. That gets expensive so I’ve started buying them in bulk – packs of fifty. There are only a few left in the bag. I pull one out. Two minutes later I’m staring at a positive test. A positive test. Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. It’s faint but I swear to god it’s there. I call my husband in and he can see it too. I think of how couples react in the movies and am sure I’m supposed to be smiling and crying tears of joy and we should be hugging and jumping up and down but something doesn’t feel right. I feel numb and scared. I don’t dare believe it.
The next morning I’m scrambling to get packed and on the road for a work trip. I’m terrified to take another test because if yesterday’s was a fluke I don’t think I can bear it. But I have to know. Two minutes later, I’m holding the test up to the light. I can see a positive but it’s even fainter than yesterday’s. My husband comes in and says it looks negative to him. But I can definitely see it. I throw an extra test into my suitcase and hit the road.
That night I’m in a work meeting and my head is pounding. It’s so bad I can barely think. After the meeting I head to the grocery store to grab some Tylenol. Wait, is it Tylenol or Ibuprofen that’s safe to take while pregnant. I Google it and grab the Tylenol. I also Google about the headache and find out it could be a sign of early pregnancy or a chemical pregnancy (a really early miscarriage). I head back to my hotel room and fall asleep.
The next morning I’m filled with dread as I take the pregnancy test. Please just let it be positive, please. It’s negative.
Later that day I’m in a meeting and start to bleed. I head into the bathroom, numb and shaking. I’m alone, so I let myself cry. After a few minutes, I pull myself together and head back into the meeting. One of the women tells me I picked a terrible time to go to the bathroom and have missed something important. I hold back tears and tell her I’m sorry. But I want to scream.
I want to tell her that my dream just died in that bathroom. That I’ve spent my whole life yearning for a baby. That I can picture her in my mind. We explore the world together. We garden and I teach her about plants and animals. I play her my favorite music and we dance and sing together. I do everything to make sure she knows she’s loved and accepted unconditionally and I teach her to love herself that way too. I teach her to be strong and independent and to never be afraid to be herself, because she’s enough. We go to drive-ins and at home we have movie nights where we watch Pee-Wee and the original Hairspray because I want her to be a little weird, like me. I can see my husband holding her for the first time and he can’t believe how tiny she is. He looks at her the same way he looks and me and I know he’s in love with her. I see his heart breaking every time she does something cute, because it’s too much love for him to hold. We love to gang up on him and tease him, and he loves it too. They’re the cutest best buddies that ever existed and I can picture them walking hand in hand together or taking a nap. He’s so tender with her it just about breaks my heart.
But all of that just evaporated. The meeting ends and I cry the entire two hour drive home.
I’ve spent the last eighteen months in the same damn cycle: hope, ovulation, dreaming, waiting, testing, period, heartbreak, tears, buck up, repeat. The heartbreak gets deeper every time. This month was too much and I don’t know if I can try again, if my heart can heal if goes through another break. Maybe there won’t be a next month.