My fertility journey

This story was originally written in 4 parts, but written out of order. I am finally sharing part 1!

Part 1: My journey is unique as me (Conception) HERE it is!
Part 2: I trust you (Pregnancy)
Part 3: I am ready (Birth)
Part 4: I am healing beautifully (coming next)

For some makin’ a baby is a quick and easy journey. For others, it’s a winding road.

It has taken me a looong time to write this post because a) it’s longer than usual and b) I wanted to approach it with the most tender heart as possible.

Depending on where you are in life, fertility can be a delicate topic, for men and women alike.

So please know, as I wrote this, I was continually checking in with myself and keeping you in mind, making sure that I was delivering something for your heart, whether you’ve been through it or not.

My hope is that if you are on a fertility journey, or if you know of someone who is, there will be at least one nugget of wisdom here for you or them.

Settle in with a cup o’ tea… this is a journey.

Let’s make a baby… or not

A year or so after I got married, my husband Lance and I decided we were ready to begin to try for a baby. Now, I know for some people, becoming a mother is the moment they have been waiting for their whole lives.

For me, it was not so simple.

Deep in my heart, I felt I wanted to be a mom one day, but between the passage of time and life becoming more full and complete, I questioned whether or not it was something I REALLY, TRULY wanted.

Nonetheless, we thought we would at least begin the process of trying.

I started taking my prenatal vitamins and following what I thought were best practices for getting my body as healthy and ready as possible.

But with each passing month, I still wasn’t pregnant.

And with each passing month, my inner conflict grew about whether or not this was something I wanted. For what it’s worth, I don’t judge this conflict or anyone else’s. I believe the conflict about whether or not to become a parent is absolutely and totally healthy.

In fact, I am grateful that my own conflict came to the surface during this time, because it forced me to look at some of my doubts and fears as they arose.

Would I be a good mother?
Would my child hate me one day? (A true question I asked myself.)
Would my marriage suffer once we had kids?
Would it be so much work that I would feel buried by the weight of it?
Would I hate being the primary caregiver?
And what about my body, would it change, never to be recognized again?

As I explored these questions, we continued trying.

And yet, month after month passed, and I was still not pregnant.

My husband and I ran a battery of tests and everything looked totally fine. Great, in fact!

This was both a relief and frustrating, because it was like, “WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THEN!?”

Time for some research and changes

So I started doing a little deeper research around fertility. Of course, when I say research, I mean umpteen hours of googling. (I don’t recommend this, but I know you will do it anyway because our silly brains just need to know all the answers.)

I also got in touch with people I knew who specialize in fertility.

And then came the endless quest to figure out what might be wrong with me.

So I started doing ‘all the things’, as they say.

Taking a variety of supplements that were supposed to help. Taking my temperature daily. Timing our sex. Changing my diet. Checking my cervical mucus. (Yes, it’s true.) Exercising less. Exercising less intensely. Slowing down. Putting my legs up after sex. Going to acupuncture. Trying to visualize it happening. Trying to let go of it happening.

You name it, I probably tried it.

(I even had one acupuncturist tell me I just needed to relax and have some wine and sex. I could have stabbed her with her damn needles when she said that. If I knew how to just relax around this whole thing, I would share that answer with every woman I knew. If you have been through this struggle, you know it’s not that simple. Needless to say, I didn’t stay with her very long.)

I spent probably too much time reading people’s fertility stories online…

“I finally stopped eating gluten and the next thing you knew, I was pregnant! I’m sure it was the gluten.”

“I finally just let go and surrendered and the next thing you knew, I was pregnant! I am sure I was too stressed.”

“I went to Peru and did ayahuasca and the next thing you knew, I was pregnant. I am sure that is how I got pregnant.”

The list of things that people said were the “main reason” for getting pregnant began to grow.

As did my frustration.

Because I was doing all those “things” and then some. (Ok, to be fair, I didn’t go to Peru and do ayahuasca, that’s just not my bag.)

HERE IS WHERE I WILL PAUSE because I need you to lean in and listen closely.

There is one thing I am 100% certain of as it pertains to getting pregnant.

Are you ready for it?

It’s that no one can be 100% certain of why or when someone gets pregnant.

An individual journey

You’re literally creating a human.

It is the biggest, boldest, most extraordinary job a woman will ever do. And yet it’s also the most ordinary; how odd is that?

If you ever hear someone reduce it down to ONE reason they finally got pregnant, please don’t buy into this illusion. It’s slightly dangerous.

As humans in our Western culture, we thrive on having answers and knowing the why and how. We are overly obsessed with it. Hence, the googling.

We don’t like to and won’t let ourselves live in the unknown or the mystery of just about anything.

It’s comforting for us to think that we know how and why it happened–or in my case, wasn’t happening.

I am not saying that whatever actions you or someone else took didn’t have ANY impact. They likely ALL had an impact and are part of the whole picture.

But perhaps we can take just a smidge of comfort in the unknown of Nature as it pertains to creating life.

Each woman’s journey to becoming a mother will be as unique and individual as she is.  

And, I believe the journey of motherhood starts the minute you even think about conceiving.

Some people will have a short path between that thought and actually having a baby, while others will have a longer path.

But I stand strong in the belief that you are stepping into the whole big ball of wax that motherhood is, as soon as you start to even consider making a baby.

And the more wholeheartedly one can embrace this unique journey, the better.

Even your suffering along the way is unique to you. Your tears, your anxiety, your excitement is unlike anyone else’s.

The experience is as unique as your fingerprint.

You are enough. You are doing enough. Trust in your intuition and let that guide you when it comes to what actions you should take.

There are many things you may choose to do on your way to conception. And they will all be perfect for your path.

But creating a life is far more grand than simply giving up gluten, in my opinion.

Ok, back to my story.

At the time this was all going on, I was seeing a wonderful therapist who I was able to talk to about all my feelings of ambivalence and frustration.

“Maybe this is just not meant to be.”
“Maybe I don’t REALLY want this.”
“Maybe I could just live a happy life without becoming a mother.”

I questioned those thoughts. I believed them. I doubted them. I wrestled them to the ground.

More on my ambivalence later.

“Why isn’t it happening naturally?” I cried.

I say naturally, because my therapist asked me to consider fertility treatments, and at that time, I was resistant.

I guess you could say I was stubborn. Or scared. Or I just felt like my body should naturally know how to do this thing.

Meanwhile, I was over here, doing all the things to try to make it happen. There was nothing “natural” about my efforts.

I was running experiments with vitamins, food, timing, taking my temperature.

I wasn’t just having sex and becoming pregnant. That would be as natural as it gets. And I started to realize that maybe I needed to be open to other ways this could go.

Down the fertility path

So, with that, after over a year of trying, we decided to go see a fertility doctor.

(Please note, this was the timeline that we chose based on our ages and desires. Some people choose to go sooner, some people wait longer. There is no right or wrong about when to see a fertility doctor. The right time is the time that YOU choose.)

We met with a doctor in NYC, who ran some more tests and found more of the same. Everything looked good.

While I wrestled with my doubts, my husband held the vision of us becoming parents firm in his mind.

In retrospect, I realize having him be clear about the desire to have a baby was needed for where we were headed next.

We decided to move forward with assisted IUI, a kind of artificial insemination. If you’ve never heard of it, IUI is when they place a sperm sample directly into the uterus, so that it has a better chance of meeting the egg there.

I was to take a round of clomid (a hormone to stimulate ovulation) and then do the IUI around ovulation.

We were nervous, excited, hopeful and scared.

And unfortunately, it didn’t work.

We were then disappointed, frustrated, hopeless and scared.

So we tried again the following month. This time with letrozole, a different drug, as the clomid appeared to be making the lining of my uterus thinner.

We were nervous, excited, hopeful and scared.

And unfortunately, it didn’t work.

We were then disappointed, frustrated, hopeless and scared.

Are you sensing a pattern?

So we tried one more round, this time, no drugs, just because I didn’t start taking them in time due to travel. So just a natural IUI.

Maybe this time would work!

We were nervous, excited, hopeful and scared.

And unfortunately, again, it didn’t work.

My stress and worry was at an all-time high.

It’s hard to explain, but you’re dealing with a complete feeling of failure every 30 days or so. And nobody but your partner really knows about it, unless you are sharing your fertility journey with a bunch of people.

It brings up feelings of shame, anger and sadness like nothing I have ever experienced before. Dealing with those emotions can take a toll on your career, your marriage, and your friendships.

While I was still running my business and living a very beautiful life, it’s like there was this faint distraction always at the back of my mind as I waited for some success in the baby department.

At this point, we had to make a choice.

We could have kept trying IUI’s, but our doctor recommended that we move to IVF, again, given our ages and our desires.

So I semi-reluctantly agreed.

IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilization. This is when a woman takes daily shots to help her produce more than just her normal one or two eggs during her cycle.

They then retrieve the eggs, fertilize them in a lab with your partner’s sperm (or a sperm donor if you are going that route), wait and watch to see how many embryos make it. If you get any embryos, you then will have one (or more in some instances) transferred back into your uterus, hoping for a viable pregnancy.

While I am not trying to make this a lesson on fertility, I am explaining some of it for those who may not know what it takes, thus not fully understanding all the emotional stuff that comes with it.

It’s a journey, people!!

If anyone has any further questions about the specificity of my process from a medical standpoint, I am happy to answer them. (Once you get into it, the details are fascinating!)

But I want to say this.

I found the entire process of IVF, including giving myself shots, having my blood drawn daily and making daily visits to the doctor in the early mornings to be extremely empowering. (And I am NOT a morning person!)

I felt like a warrior. One of my best friends came over the first night I had to do my shots, when my husband was out of town. She was holding the vision with me. My husband cheered me on each and every night and told me how strong I was.

My mom, who you may know is a cancer survivor, continuously reminded me to just take it one day at a time, which is truly the best advice that should be given when it comes to this stuff.

The beautiful part for me was that with each shot I gave myself, the more my conflicting feelings about becoming a mom would retreat and begin to disappear.

You don’t put yourself through this unless you really want it.

And, again, as much as I would have rather skipped this difficult part, it was the part of the journey that I needed. It was my journey. And I knew it was there for me to walk on and through.

In retrospect, I can see how this part of the journey brought me more strength, more clarity and more readiness than I had before.

And for that, I am grateful.

After this whole process, we were lucky enough to get viable embryos, which were then frozen in order to do a transfer the following month!

I had a month to rest my body and prepare for what would be yet another hurdle in the process. Would the transfer work?

To be honest, I don’t remember much about that month. I know I rested. I know I went for long walks. I continued to do a lot of acupuncture. (I found someone I simply LOVED! She was so encouraging and gentle.)

Maybe I did some visualizing. But maybe I didn’t. I think I mostly focused on staying easy in the moment, as best I could.

The day came for our transfer, March 8th, which is my dad’s birthday–a perfect day.

The actual transfer was probably the easiest of all the medical procedures. One, two, three and we were done.

Afterwards, I was wheeled into the recovery room where my husband and I listened to an episode of a comedy podcast. There has been research done in Israel, that laughter post-transfer will increase the percentages of successful implantation. (They don’t know the exact reason why. Maybe it’s the ease it brings. Maybe it’s the physical motion laughter brings about.)

Either way, we decided we would laugh it up. Which was in itself kind of funny, because there were other couples in the room, separated by curtains, who were going through the same thing and probably thought we were nuts!

Then, it was the waiting game.

We would find out in about 10 days whether or not the transfer worked.

I rested some more. Went for walks. Did more acupuncture. Drank lots of water and surrounded myself with people I loved and trusted.

Ten days later, on a Saturday morning, I went to the doctor for a blood test. I came home and relaxed with my husband and waited for them to call us back that afternoon.

(I know I could have taken a pregnancy test, but I just really wanted the blood test to confirm it. I trusted that more than anything at this point.)

Lance was to answer the phone when they called, because I wanted him to deliver the news to me one way or another.

The big news!

The phone rang…

I ran into the bathroom to hide. (It’s true. I couldn’t even handle looking at his face when he got the news.)

He slowly opened the door and with a big smile on his face, he said, “You’re pregnant.”

He came over and gave me the biggest hug as I cried in his arms.

There was a lot of tension that came out in the cry and that hug. A lot. I couldn’t believe it and at the same time, I could. I can’t really describe it. But it felt like it was our time.

And it was.

And then, of course, now that I was pregnant, I needed to stay pregnant and bring this baby into the world.

The pregnancy wasn’t without any hiccups.

If you didn’t read this post on the pregnancy scare and developing even MORE trust in the process, please do. It’s an important read.

And then, there is even ONE more plot twist to this story. A discovery that came during her birth.

(But, I think this post has gone on long enough for now and that deserves its own, much shorter post. So that will be part 4!)

Kwynn’s birth story is HERE, if you would like to read it.

In the end, as you know, I had a baby and it’s the most glorious experience of my life.

The love is just…so big.

Every twist and turn of the journey was what it was and was as it should have been, otherwise it would have been different! I am not saying that all things happen for a reason, I am saying they happen as they happen.

And it is up to us to be with what is happening.

This is how we practice allowing. We allow ourselves to be with what is. Even in our anger, our sadness, our resistance, our joys and our ups and downs, we do our best to make space for it all.

As the quote goes, “We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”

If there is one thing I hope that you take from this post, it’s that whether you are just starting the journey or have been on it for a long time, please remember that your journey is unique and perfect for you.

I hope you will keep faith if you are in the midst of a fertility process and I hope you will keep kindness and compassion in your heart for anyone you know might be in the thick of it.

Now, I hope to hear from YOU.

If you would like to share your fertility journey in the comments below, I know others will take comfort in knowing they are not alone. Please go ahead and leave a comment.

Thanks for staying with me, not just in this post, but on the whole journey of getting to where I am today.

With love,
Erin

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