I’m just a few days away from turning 30. A year ago, there was not a doubt in my mind that I would be celebrating the big 3-0 as a new mom. I now realize how naive that assumption was.
I’ve always been a a planner (and a tad bit obsessive about it, if we are going to be honest here). When Alex and I met in college, we immediately began to create a roadmap for our life together – go to grad school, spend a year teaching English in China, move in together, adopt a pet (due to a cat allergy, we ended up with two litter-box trained rabbits) and finally start our careers. There were bumps along the way, and some detours, but I always felt in control of my situation.
Fast-forward to December of 2013. We were finally ready to start a family. My biological clock had been ticking before this, but we had both agreed to wait till we were more financially secure. So I made a plan. We spent those years saving money. We moved to a larger two-bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood. Alex worked hard for a promotion. Finally, we were ready. I researched OBGYN’s and scheduled a pre-conception appointment. Alex helped out by buying me this book:
January 2014: We had our preconception appointment. The midwife at the practice took one look at 28 year-old me and my baby-faced husband and said, “I’ll be surprised if you two aren’t back in here in two months with good news!” (WHY would a medical professional ever say this to anyone??). I bought a copy of Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility and got ready to temp, chart and research my way to pregnancy.Everyone I knew had gotten pregnant within the first couple of months – and most of them weren’t even really “trying.” My cycles were textbook, all the ovulation signs were there, I just KNEW I wouldn’t have any trouble. If only I could go back and give my past-self a lecture on reality.
March 2014 – We officially began trying after two months of charting and prenatal vitamins. Let’s just say we went a little overboard on month 1 – the cycle calendar app on my phone from March is like a math equation out of A Beautiful Mind. My birthday came and went, the two week wait dragged on, and I took way more pregnancy tests way earlier than I should have. When my period came, I couldn’t understand why it just didn’t work – we did everything right!
Confessions – AKA a window into the embarrassing world of a fertility-obsessed nutcase – Over the next five months, I kind of lost it. I became a fertility-obsessed monster. I googled my symptoms. I read my way through a fair number of “Am I pregnant?” posts on babycenter and the bump. Spoiler Alert: No, you are probably not pregnant. Just take a damn test already. I started noticing symptoms that I had never noticed before. Crazy bloating, nausea, you name it. I spotted before my period for the first time ever (and desperately googled implantation bleeding!). My textbook 28-day cycles were misbehaving. My period came early. My period came late. But it always came. Every. Single. Month.
July 2014 After a few months, most people would just naturally acquire patience and chill out? Right? Well, not me. It took a major meltdown for me to finally be dragged kicking and screaming back to sanity. To make a long story short, I was blindsided at a restaurant by a friend’s pregnancy announcement and ended up holding back tears and plastering a smile on my face through a two hour dinner. But that’s a story for another post. Afterwards, I cried, I got angry, I got irrational. And I finally realized that I was making myself miserable. The only person who could make my life better was ME. I needed to stop the pity party and and find happiness that was not contingent on seeing two lines on that damn test.
A few days later my doctor called – “I have great news!” she said, “Your ultrasound was abnormal!” (Thanks for giving me a heart attack, lady!). She went on to explain that I had a uterine polyp, which was acting as an IUD and preventing me from getting pregnant. BUT it could be removed by a minor surgical procedure. They didn’t even have to cut me open – they’d just access my uterus through my cervix. Everything made sense again. I was nervous about going under anesthesia, but I felt it was all worth it because I would finally be able to get pregnant. We kept trying for a few months while waiting for the surgery, but didn’t expect much. So I wasn’t too upset when my period came like clockwork in August and September. Cautious pessimism is one of the best mechanisms for getting through each failed cycle – when you don’t get your hopes up too high, you don’t have too far to fall when you find out it didn’t work.
October 2014: The hysteroscopy ended up being a quick and painless experience (thanks, anesthesiologist). While I was still under, the doctor told my husband that the polyp was taking up most of the space in my uterus, and most likely would have made implantation very difficult. We could resume trying in November, hopefully with very different results than last time. But it turns out the polyp was just a bump in a longer journey.
A week later my husband’s company was sold and all employees were laid off. We tried to stay positive, and decided to try to continue with our plan of trying to conceive again in November. November came and went, then December, then January. We were actually getting pretty good at this pinpointing ovulation thing, and managing to keep the stress of the layoff from leaking into our relationship. But, I wasn’t getting pregnant. My period came every single month. It even came two days early once, and landed smack in the middle of a friend’s baby-shower – the one who’s pregnancy announcement had sent me off the deep-end over six months earlier.
January 2015: At the end of our 11th cycle, we decided to schedule an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist. After talking to my mom, I found out that both she and her sister had a very difficult time conceiving and had both seen fertility specialists. They did both conceive naturally in the end, but it took years. I had never even considered the idea that I had a history of infertility in my family. Some people might tell me to just “relax” because I’m young and have plenty of time. But I believe it is important to go with your gut and be your own advocate.
February 2015 (AKA -My Uterus is Special): The RE listened to our story, and confirmed what we had begun to suspect – that the polyp may not have had any significant effect on my fertility after all. He then ran a ton of blood tests, another ultrasound, and ordered an HSG. The HSG was briefly unpleasant (I might have done some lamaze style breathing while they were clamping and tugging on my cervix). But at least for me, it was not the horror-show I was expecting. My tubes were open – yay! But, there was a catch. After 3 regular ultrasounds, two transvaginal ultrasounds, a saline sono hysterogram, and a hysteroscopy, I figured there was not much more to see in my uterus. But apparently, my uterus is vast and full of mysteries. I am one of the lucky women with a congenital uterine anomaly – a septate uterus.
The good news is, a septate uterus is one of the only anomalies that is relatively easy to “fix.” The bad news – a septate uterus is the anomaly with one of the worst pregnancy outcomes. Septums – particularly large septums that entirely divide the uterine cavity – are believed to cause high miscarriage rates and pre-term labor. However, there aren’t many large or randomized studies on this topic, so the exact risk carried by my partial septum is unclear. I could, potentially, have a healthy pregnancy. But, some studies place miscarriage rates as high as 80%. After a year of trying, I know I would be a nervous wreck if I became pregnant with the septum intact. So I decided to have yet another hysteroscopy and have my septum removed (technically, shaved down).
February brought an odd sense of Deja Vu. Alex started his new job, and I was on track for Hysteroscopy #2. Back in October, my hysteroscopy and the lay-offs at Alex’s company had happened in a single week. I had thought the hysteroscopy was the end of it. But, here we were again back at square one. We scheduled the second hysteroscopy for mid-march – two days after my birthday. I went on birth control, got more blood draws, and waited.
March 2015: And that brings us to the present. So, here I am, one day shy of my 30th birthday. 13 cycles in, and I still have no idea why I haven’t gotten pregnant. I’ve watched friends and coworkers announce their pregnancies and then “like” their birth announcements on facebook six months later. Sometimes, it seems like everyone around me is moving forward while I am stuck in some bizarre “Groundhog Day,” reliving the same pointless 28 day cycle month after month. But I know this isn’t true. A lot has changed in the past year. I’m becoming a stronger person – I’m not totally there yet, but I’m working on it. Alex and I are closer than ever. I’ve realized I have some of the best friends and family a girl could ask for. And while watching my friends become mothers has sometimes been personally difficult and bittersweet, I also feel so blessed to have become an “Aunt” this year, thanks to wonderful friends who have allowed Alex and I to be such a part of their lives.
I know a lot that I didn’t know a year ago. Thinking back, I cringe at how impatient and unrealistic I was. I’m ready to bid goodbye to 29. I’m excited for my 30th year – I don’t know what it will bring, but I do know one thing: if I only focus on mourning a life that never happened, I’ll miss out on all the possibilities that lay ahead of me.