A checklist. Isn’t that what we all have for our lives? A set of goals that we hope to accomplish by a certain age?
Many of us hope to live out the American dream: go to college, find a job, get married, buy a house, have children.
At least this was the checklist that I had always dreamed of since I was a little girl. I had my life planned out — like a recipe — with each step written down, ready to check off each one as it was taken. I had a vision of how I wanted my life to unfold.
Even though there were bumps in the road and a few challenges in life, the first few dreams on my list were checked off. I graduated from the University of Florida, worked at my dream job, and married the man I had a crush on since childhood. But little did I know that the next life plan, to become a mother — my biggest dream yet — would be so difficult. And little did I know that my faith would be tested more than it had ever been tested in my entire life.
My husband and I began trying to have a baby after being married for a year and a half. After several unsuccessful months of trying, we finally decided that it was time to go to a fertility specialist to find out what was wrong. Doctors quickly discovered that I had PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). And with that diagnosis, a year and a half of fertility treatments began.
For months I took oral medication to try to stimulate ovulation, but to no avail. The next step was hormone injections.
While I used to get faint at the sight of a needle, I soon became very accustomed to it. Nightly, my husband injected needles, with vials full of hormones, into my abdomen, in an effort to trick my ovaries into ovulation. And on the evenings when my husband wasn’t home, I could not allow myself to get lightheaded. I had to inject myself at the same time, every evening – husband or no husband.
During the weeks of hormone injections, I frequently visited the doctor who performed bloodwork to check for rising hormone levels and internal exams to check for egg growth. When I produced eggs that appeared to be the right size, I could move forward with the next procedure.
Finally, I started to produce eggs and they looked to be the proper size for ovulation and fertilization. With that, the doctors performed an IUI, intrauterine insemination.
While I awaited the news to see if the procedure had worked, I found myself in extreme pain. My abdomen ached like someone had punched me in the stomach. I could barely walk. I found out that while there was still hope that I might be pregnant, the last round of hormone injections had caused my ovaries to hyper stimulate. My ovaries had tripled in size.
The doctors told me that I had to go on bed rest so that I did not risk losing my ovaries. For two weeks I was only allowed to sit up to eat or leave the bed to use the restroom. I felt like an anxious, caged animal, waiting for the process to be over, waiting to hear, “You’re pregnant.”
But at the end of it all, the only words I heard were, “I’m sorry. You’re not pregnant.”
Why was this happening to me? I could not understand. What happened to the life plan? What happened to the checklist?
Physically, I felt like a voodoo doll, being stuck with needles and gadgets, by someone trying to force me to have a baby. But, it was the emotional side of the unnatural experiment that was even more difficult.
I experienced times of sadness and felt like crying all the time, partially because I felt like I was never going to have the children I always longed for, and partially because my body was pumped full of hormones.
As my friends became pregnant, my emotions took another set of ups and downs. One friend became pregnant easily. “It was unplanned.”
The other tried for only three months and she was pregnant. Soon, I became one of the only girls in my group of friends who did not have a baby on the way. I was happy for my friends, but I always felt a feeling of “Why me? What about me? This isn’t fair!” Of course I felt disappointment, but I began to feel anger as well.
Up and down, twist and turn – I was hanging on for dear life, trying to survive the roller coaster of emotions.
It was not until I recovered from bed rest that I decided it was time to get off the ride. I had had enough, physically and emotionally.
In an attempt to get our mind off the exhausting process, my husband and I decided to take a vacation. We took an amazing trip to London to see my favorite band, Pearl Jam. During that weekend, I enjoyed my life. I was my “old self” with my husband, not the monster who walked, talked and breathed fertility treatments, and I did not worry for one second about not being pregnant.
I returned from this unforgettable trip and that’s when it happened. I snapped out of my “getting pregnant trance.” It was like someone knocked me over the head with a baseball bat. Suddenly, I realized that I had abandoned my faith and God during this difficult time in my life.
I wondered how I had gotten to that point of giving up on God and my faith.
I knew better. I knew that it wasn’t up to me to decide when and if I could have a baby. It was up to God.
While I had been trying to plan my own life, I knew that God had a plan for my life too. And I knew that God knew my plan and my timeframe better than I did. I needed to trust that this was true.
I wondered what His plan was. Did He want me to spend more time with my husband so that we could become even closer? Or maybe there was a baby out there, waiting to be adopted by us.
What was His plan for us? I did not know.
But what I did know at the time was that I would be a mother someday. Somehow, and in someway, I would be a mother.
It had been two years since we first began trying to have a baby, and I was finally at peace. I let go of trying to control my own life, and I put the situation in God’s hands. No more fertility treatments. No more medical experiments. My plan to have a baby was up to God now.
And three months later, His plan was revealed when I found out that I was pregnant with our first son.
Fast forward to present day…
Almost 12 years and many, many Pearl Jam concerts later, we have three beautiful boys – ages seven, nine, and eleven-years-old this summer. So much has happened since our struggle to have a baby. We look at our boys now and often forget how hard that part of our journey was. Yet, we never forget how blessed we are – even when the days of parenting are extremely tough.
But why share this personal story now – so many years later?
The answer is simple.
I promised myself that one day – when I became the writer I aspired to be – I would share this story with others so that women who are struggling with fertility know that they are not alone in this journey.
The men need to know that they are not alone either. While it’s extremely difficult for a woman to go through this experience, it is not easy for the husband or partner either. His journey means that he has to be supportive of the woman’s roller coaster of emotions, while he is probably experiencing some of his own sadness, frustration, and anger, too. Fertility treatments are also very expensive, so there are often financial burdens associated with the journey.
Infertility is a very lonely time in life, and many people don’t quite understand what it is like, unless they have experienced it themselves. And it’s not something that many are willing to discuss with others. Aren’t we supposed to be living a cookie cutter life, where everything is perfect? No one wants to know what’s wrong in your life…at least that’s what I felt during this difficult time.
While I’m no expert, I do have a message to all couples trying to have a baby – I just want to remind all of you that you are not alone in this journey. And you should not give up hope. If you want to be a parent, then somehow, and in some way, it will work out as it should. I know that you don’t want to hear that right now. I was so annoyed when people told me that. But you have to trust that it is true.
Maybe it will take some time to have a biological child. Maybe you will adopt one day or become a foster parent. Or maybe you will decide that you are okay with not having children. There really is no right or wrong. There really is no checklist. So just throw your checklist away right now.
And while you wait for your plan to be revealed, take some deep breaths. Maybe sign up for some yoga classes. Or travel to see Pearl Jam play. It always worked for me. Just try letting go – release everything – and ride the wave where it takes you. Who knows? Your answer may come sooner than you think.