the truth

28 Mar

I have hesitated to write about the topic I’m about to divulge in this blog.  My previous blog became mostly a diary in my battle with the following health issue, and I had thought I was going to set all of that aside now.  But the truth is, I can’t set aside something that is a part of me and has shaped who I am and how I see the world.  This might get lengthy, but I’m about to disclose.  Hold your hats!


Today at work, the question finally came up.  I’ve been waiting–it’s been a question since I started teaching.  “Do you have kids? Why not?”  The question takes different forms and comes from different people–my students, who are astonished by the fact that I am over 18 and have never had a child.  From fellow teachers who have children and are looking for playmates, parenting ideas or a shoulder to lean on when parenting gets tough.  From fellow teachers who don’t want children right now, so they confide how they don’t want kids and are so thrilled that I don’t want them either (a huge–and incorrect–assumption).  From well-meaning coworkers who find out that we are childless and gush that we need to fix that, that I’m not getting any younger, that I will be such a good mom, what am I waiting for?

the good...the bad...the ugly...


It was after-school today.  One of the teachers at one of the schools I work at asked me how long I’ve been married.  We started talking about Eric, who he is, what he does, how we met, etc.  The natural progression of questions, I suppose, is “Do you have children?”  Now, that question is fine.  But the follow-ups are always crappy.  Today’s was “Is that in the cards any time soon?” 


Normally, I’d hedge the question with someone who I scarcely know.  And I started to.  I just said, “Well yeah, hopefully someday.”  She immediately launched into how she was such a “Fertile Myrtle” and explained how she got pregnant with each of her 4 children, 2 of them being completely unplanned.  And I took it all in, calmly…


And then I spilled.  2 years ago, I’d have kept my mouth shut and then fallen apart from this conversation.  I’d have sobbed my entire way home, drank some wine, cried myself to sleep while Eric rubbed my back and told me it would be ok.  I am stronger now.  Maybe I am supposed to be a voice for those who are still in the sobbing stage.


I have a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.  It’s a hormone imbalance and no one really knows what causes it.  My body makes eggs, but doesn’t always release them, and when it doesn’t, those follicles turn into mini-cysts, which form a ring around the ovaries (it looks like a pearl necklace–the x ray techs always tell me that it’s a textbook case and ooh and ahh over my perfect cystic ovaries).  The hormone problems cause all kinds of unpleasant side effects–cystic acne, weight gain, excess hair, depression.  And infertility.


I didn’t use the I-word for a long time.  It was scary to me–I let it define me, a failure I had nothing to do with made me feel like everything in my life was a failure.  I’m getting over it.  But I am infertile.  That doesn’t mean that someday a medication may help us to achieve a pregnancy.  But we are not getting pregnant on our own.  We are not going to unintentionally get pregnant.  Or at least the chances of that happening are very, VERY slim.

maybe a small chance...but not holding my breath

Eric and I spent 2 years trying to conceive a baby.  I stopped taking the pill and didn’t get a period for a year.  Literally an entire year without a period.  I charted my temperatures and cervical mucous to try to time things to get pregnant (TMI? oh well.  In the realm of infertility, there is really no topic that’s off limits and you become relatively shameless…or at least I have.  All the poking, prodding and invasive tests–and I’ve only scratched the surface of the tests–have made me better and better at just letting go of my embarrassment).   Nothing happened, nothing worked, I knew I wasn’t ovulating based on the charts, but I refused to actually believe there was anything wrong.  I went to the doctor for my yearly, we discussed options.  I had read horror stories about the side effects of Clomid (a fertility drug used to treat PCOS).  I am not a big medicine person.  I don’t like covering up symptoms–I like getting to the root of them and fixing it at the source. 


 So my doctor and I agreed to start me on Metformin.  Yes a diabetes drug.  PCOS is linked to insulin resistance.  I had been asking my PCP and OB/GYN for years why I ate a [relatively] healthy diet and exercised a ton, yet I gained weight.  They had always dismissed my concerns. I wish now that I had pushed the issue more because it turns out that I do have insulin resistance.  In any event, I started the Met, which made me horribly sick for a couple of weeks, but then I adjusted to the meds.  In two weeks, I lost 10 pounds, changing nothing about my daily routine.  I’ve lost about 25 pounds all together.  I continue to slowly lose weight.  I try to find good in “stuff” and I guess this is a perk to discovering the PCOS and infertility.


In any event, after about 4 months on the Met, my cycle seemed to be normalizing.  I was thrilled.  And then just like that it became unpredictable again.  I waited it out–I really didn’t want to go on the fertility drugs.  But I knew that it wasn’t working–that we were not going to have babies this way.


That second year of trying was probably my least mentally stable year ever.  I hated everything about myself–the way I looked, the way I felt, the fact that I couldn’t give Eric a baby, the fact that I couldn’t give myself a baby.  I was miserable and depressed and confused.  I was caught in a cycle–wait and hope that I was going to be pregnant, then test when I hadn’t had my period (side effect of PCOS), then test again and again and again (every week for weeks on end) until I got my period again, sometimes months later.  I read a great statement once about how infertility is worse than other tragedies because it’s a repeated tragedy–over and over and over–so you never really “get over it” because every few weeks there’s a “new” tragedy.  Every failed test was like a knife to the gut.  I’ve never failed anything.  I work hard to get what I want.  But this was something that, no matter how hard I worked at it, I couldn’t change the results of. 

this is what it feels like...

To top it all off, we are at the age where so many of our friends are having their own children.  Every pregnancy announcement, baby shower, baby announcement, hospital visit, child’s birthday party was like another knife to the gut.  It’s not that I wasn’t happy for my friends and family–I was thrilled for them.  But their joy was a reminder to me of what we didn’t and seemingly would never have.


I finished the year out on Met only.  I went back to the doctor.  I told her how hard it had been, mentally and emotionally, to deal with my body’s failure.  I decided to go back on the pill to give myself some time to process what my body (and more importantly my mind) were going through.  I guess it may have been under the guise of  wanting to wait until I had a new (read: better) job [mission accomplished].  Later it became that I wanted to train for another marathon [mission soon-to-be-accomplished].  That I loved the fact that Eric and I could decide on a whim to go out, to go for a run, to go for a road trip [mission never-going-to-be-accomplished–we can do this with kids, too, just a little differently].  But the truth is that a major part of why I wanted to stop trying was because I couldn’t face the failing and the feeling of letting down Eric (and to a lesser extent my family and friends who knew we were trying and were rooting for us).


I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to try again.  Soon I’d imagine.  Like I said, I’m in a much better place mentally than I’ve been in a long time.  I can see children and not get hopelessly depressed.  I know that I can’t be good at everything or do everything and that everyone needs help sometimes.  But it doesn’t make infertility any easier to deal with.  It doesn’t take away the pain of wanting a baby or the uncertainty of if/when we will have a baby. 


I guess I kind of thought that when I started on the pill and started this new blog (where I was NOT going to write about infertility), that I was going to forget about how much I wanted a kid.  But just because I’m on the pill doesn’t mean I don’t want a child.  It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love getting pregnant.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t still sometimes stand in the mirror and puff my stomach out, just to see what it looks like to be preggo or look at baby clothes and nurseries online and daydream about what it would be like to need those things or see someone with a newborn baby and get a little teary-eyed and wistful.  I guess I thought I could compartmentalize and pretend that babies don’t matter to me right now and that everything is fine.  And it’s fine–but it’s not ok.  And I’m finally in a good place where I those 2 things can coexist–where I can be fine, but not ok.


I know we will have kids someday.  One way or another.  And in the meantime, we are blessed to work with kids, many of whom need us so much because they don’t have anyone else.  I try to see the good in “stuff” (and my aunts and I came to this conclusion as well during one of my darker moments).  Maybe right now, we don’t have a baby of our own because God wants us to be able to focus 100% on other things and people to better prepare us to be even greater parents to our own children someday.


Eric gave me a card a while back.  I keep it on the fridge, because it’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.  He wrote that we’ll have a baby someday.  That everyone takes different journeys to get places, and ours is just giving us a better story to tell.  I can’t wait to have babies someday and be able to tell them how much we wanted them, prayed for them, waited for them to arrive and bless our lives in all new ways.  And in the meantime, when people ask me why we don’t have kids, I’m going to tell them the truth, because an insensitive question deserves an discomforting answer.


One Response to “the truth”

  1. Jen March 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    I totally get that feeling of being fine but not ok, appreciating the good things about a situation but still wanting it to change. You are amazing. Infinity of hugs!

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