Buckle up, because this is a long one!
So, as discussed in Vol. 1, Matt and I decided we wanted to have a baby. It was such a delicious secret, deciding that we’d surprise everyone we know with the shocking news: We’re pregnant! No one would see this coming. I immediately got to work, researching the steps I needed to take to successfully get myself knocked up.
Yes, I know, of course, the basics of how these things happen. No one who’s ever seen 16 and Pregnant can claim that getting pregnant is an advanced science, in most cases. But my knowledge of the logistics of ovulation was severely lacking, my friends. I was honestly a little embarrassed as I learned about how to time everything, how eggs get where they need to go, and what happens to them from that point. How could all of this be stuff I didn’t know anything about? One day, I was explaining some concept to Matt, probably something gross about cervical mucous, and he said, “It’s really embarrassing that I don’t know about any of this.” I felt blissful relief, and said, “Well, you should really be ashamed of yourself.”
I was one of those teenagers who had miserable cycles every month. I won’t get into the gory details, but we’re talking incredible pain and side effects. My mom took me to the OBGYN when I was fifteen and I’ve been on some type of birth control pill or device, on and off, ever since. So it had been years since I truly experienced the curse as the gods intended me to suffer through it. I knew it would be a painful couple of months, as we tried for a baby.
Armed with knowledge, we got busy, and kept our baby-making a secret. No success in months one, two, or three. No big deal! I knew from my obsessive internet scouring that this was perfectly normal. Then, no success in months four, five, or six. By that point, a few close friends knew of our plan to have a baby (mostly because I am the worst at keeping my own secrets). Most of our friends acted as an amazing support system, cheering for us and letting us vent when we needed to, without constantly asking how everything was going. I had a couple of friends who would always say things like, “You just have to relax and it will happen when you least expect it!” Let me let you in on a little secret… when you’re exerting this much effort in careful planning and timing, there is no tricking yourself out of expecting it.
Maybe I need to interrupt myself here and remind you, gentle readers, that I am not a “hey, let’s kick back and see what happens” kind of girl. I’d love to be that girl, but I’m more the “hey, so I am following all the rules, and this isn’t working, and oh god what’s wrong with me and I can’t stand this for much longer” type of girl. (Matt is soooo lucky.) But seriously, this whole process was immensely frustrating. It felt like a cruel joke. We’d taken forever to decide we wanted this thing to be a part of our lives, and now it seemed like we might not ever get it.
After eight or nine months, I talked in-depth with my OBGYN about my fears. She had such a great attitude about all my stress. She said, “I know all the books tell you to try for a full year before you seek any fertility treatment, but I think you should have some tests if it’s stressing you out. And by the way, the people who keep telling you to ‘just relax’ are full of it. Science doesn’t work that way.”
Matt then provided a specimen (I love that word. So needlessly mysterious) for testing. The specimen, ladies and gents, was a modern day marvel. Matt’s swimmers were not only athletic and healthy, there were so damn many of them. As in, he had millions more of those little suckers than most men his age have. The doctor literally giggled as she told me the results. Needless to say, this became an instant source of jokes for Matt. (Me: “We need to leave in an hour, okay?” Matt: “Oh, don’t you worry, I’ll be ready. Great swimmers.”) I’m expecting him to get tired of these jokes any day now. Aaaany day now.
So, we knew Matt most likely wasn’t the problem. Something was going on with me. We were incredibly fortunate to have an amazing fertility clinic ten minutes’ drive from our house, so we made an appointment and met Dr. Katz. After looking (and raising his eyebrows) at the numbers from Matt’s specimen, he suggested that we try a couple of non-invasive approaches involving fertility drugs and careful timing.
After a few months of this, Dr. Katz told me that he suspected I had endometriosis, due to my continued lack of pregnancy, my history of painful periods, and the normal test results from both Matt and myself (meaning they were able to rule out several common culprits of infertility). Endometriosis is a crazy condition involving uterine tissue that grows outside of the uterus, and oh by the way, nobody knows for sure why it happens. Dr. Katz believed that I had mild endometriosis that was turning my uterus into a hostile chamber of death for any of Matt’s Michael Phelpses who dared to enter. (Honestly, I was not surprised at this theory. Of course I would have a uterus that’s in a terrible mood for no reason, and visitors would want to leave as soon as possible.)
And so, I had my first ever surgery a few weeks later, for Dr. Katz to stick a little camera through my belly button (I know… yikes) and poke around to see if there was any evidence of endometriosis. He said that if he came across any scar tissue, he’d go ahead and try to remove it. This would hopefully render my uterus slightly less disagreeable, and more prone to growing a baby. He warned us that there was a chance he would find nothing wrong in there, which would mean we’d keep exploring other causes of infertility, and he also warned us that there was a chance he’d find some seriously scary endometriosis he couldn’t do much to fix, which would make me an instant candidate for in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Lucky for us, he just found some scar tissue, and he treated it. Endometriosis is (for some reason… they seriously know so little about this whole thing) kept at bay when you’re pregnant or on birth control, but it will come back after a few months of normal, unmedicated, non-pregnant cycles. So we didn’t waste much time before going right to an intrauterine insemination (IUI). Which is basically a nurse coming at you with a fancy turkey baster.
Remember how I wrote about that whole ankle surgery nightmare, a few months back? Well. Just a couple of weeks after Matt had his surgery, I woke him up at 6:00 AM, demanded that he give me another of his prized specimens in a cup, asked him to carry the cup in his pocket to keep it safe and warm, and then drove him over to the fertility clinic where he had to hobble in on crutches, and sign a bunch of papers promising that the sample was in fact his own. It was seriously an impressive feat. The staff at the clinic then took a couple of hours to wash the specimen, weed out any of the slackers (“as if any of them are slackers.” – Matt), and then I went back in to have the swimmers inserted directly into my uterus by way of a small plastic tube. Once all the nurses had taken the time to express their amazement at my husband’s latest specimen, of course (seriously happened).
So in doing the IUI, we bypassed a lot of potential pitfalls in ensuring that plenty of good, strong Olympian sperm got into my uterus. After the procedure, the nurse told me to stay on my back and relax for a few minutes, and then cheerfully reminded me that “this has a 20% chance of working. Good luck!”
I’d been through so many of the dreaded two week waits (TWWs) by this time. The TWW is the time between when you go through the motions of trying to conceive (either naturally or á la turkey basting) and the time when you expect to get your period. It’s basically two straight weeks of trying to learn how to be “kick back and see what happens” girl. But this TWW was by far the most agonizing. I reminded myself that while 20% was not a great statistic, it was certainly the best chance at getting pregnant that I’d had so far. And that was something.
At 11 days post ovulation, rather than the prescribed 14 (way too early to be sure anything would show up, but potentially early enough that something could show up), I took a pregnancy test. And for just a moment, before tears blurred my eyes too much for me to be able to see anything, I saw a shadow of a second pink line. Having seen dozens of pregnancy tests with just the one glaring, definitive pink line, I knew the second one was there right away. I ran into Matt’s office and brandished the test in front of his face. He very reasonably took it out of his face, since it was in essence a piece of plastic covered in urine, and squinted skeptically at it before gently saying, “Honey, I’m not sure there’s anything there.” But I knew there was a second line.
Two days later, I triumphantly presented Matt with a digital test I’d just taken. And with a completely straight face, just to make me laugh, he pretended to squint questioningly at the bold “PREGNANT” that had appeared on the screen.
A lot had to happen after we decided we wanted to create a tiny human of our very own, in order for me to look down tonight and find myself 23 weeks pregnant with a feisty little girl kicking the hell out of me. That 16 month process was unbelievably stressful, and yet I know that many couples have a far longer, rougher road than we did. If you’re on a similar road right now, please consider making use of these three pieces of free advice from me:
1) Each month when you get your period, and you realize another month is shot to hell, make “shot” the theme of the night. I recommend vodka. Allow yourself the pity party, and then get back to work.
2) Don’t wait the recommended year to seek fertility treatment. Give it the ol’ college try, and once it starts to get to you, go talk to someone.
3) Consider sharing your struggles with close friends or family members. Sure, it’s awesome to surprise everyone with pregnancy news, but it’s also awesome when people know what you’re going through. And if they try to tell you to “just relax,” be patient with them. They really just have no idea how you feel.
Well, friends, that’s about it. That’s how we got here. It’s been a wild ride so far. Stay tuned… More pregnancy shenanigans coming your way soon. ❤