How’s that for the title of a post? The thing is, it’s true. I make people feel very uncomfortable because they don’t know quite “what” to do with me. I am an Infertile Catholic woman.
Six years ago when my husband and I got married we declared proudly that we were going to be married for one year before we started our family. We told people that we knew that if we didn’t have a strong marriage we could never be good parents. We waited for a year – always looking towards that day when we’d start our family. We learned Natural Family Planning, knowing that it was the one way to control our family size that would help us both with conception and waiting. I was taking some fairly heavy duty prescription drugs due to an auto-immune disorder and I took the year to wean myself off of the drugs carefully. I was practically counting the days.
Whenever someone attempted to warn me “it might take you guys a while to get pregnant,” I refused to listen. “We’re doing Natural Family Planning,” I explained, “I know exactly when I’m fertile. We’ll be just fine.”
I had known since I was a small girl that God was calling me to be a mother – so, of course, there wouldn’t be a problem, how could I have not understood God’s call? Of course He’d give me what I wanted, what He’d called me to! (You know that old saying, “If you want to make God laugh just tell Him your plans?”)
That first cycle that we were TTC (internet lingo for “Trying to Conceive”) I woke up four days past ovulation with nausea and I was thrilled. The word was that my mother & grandmother had struggled with morning sickness since “practically the moment of conception” so I was sure that it had worked. I was pregnant! I was going to be a mother! What on earth were all of those naysayers talking about? It doesn’t take “awhile” to get pregnant! You just have to know what you’re doing!
And then I started spotting at 7 days past ovulation. I was stunned! What was this? It’s too early for my period! My cycle has always been consistent! Eleven days past ovulation is when my period comes! Not seven! What? What? No… it’s impossible. I started researching implantation bleeding, still convinced that I was pregnant. Two days later I was bleeding in full force.
The next month was the same thing. The third month of TTC our timing was a bit off and I had a perfectly normal cycle. No nausea, no spotting at 7 days past ovulation – it was a perfectly normal 11 day luteal phase. The fourth month was the same thing… another perfectly normal cycle. The fifth month was another short luteal phase. I went to my Natural Family Planning practitioner and said, “What’s happening to me? What’s wrong with my chart?”
She immediately told me that I had a progesterone problem. Even though I have a BA in Biology, I knew very little about the female fertility hormones estrogen & progesterone. Like the scientist that I am, I went home to research it. I joined an online community of women who taught me all that they knew about fertility and I quickly got up to speed. I learned that I’d most likely had early losses, around the time of implantation.
I went to see an OB/GYN, who looked at me puzzled, “but you haven’t actually had a positive pregnancy test?” she asked. “Well, no,” I said, “but look at my charts! Look at these short luteal phases! And my NFP teacher says that I need progesterone! Can I get some?” She looked at me with a blank look on her face, as if she was waiting for me to laugh and tell her that I was really kidding. I continued to wait for her to do something. Finally she told me that she couldn’t prescribe me progesterone until I’d had a “documented loss” and continued to tell me that she thought that I was talking myself in to morning sickness because I so badly wanted to be pregnant. (She couldn’t answer why I had it some months and not others – didn’t I want to be pregnant just as much in those other months?)
She told me to come back after I’d given it another three months. So I agreed.
I had another loss during that time, but it was “OK,” I told myself, because I was going to get help! I was going to get progesterone!
But I didn’t. I got testing. I got Clomid (the most common “first line” fertility drug on the market). People started asking my husband and I when we were going to start a family – hadn’t it been a year?
This cycle continued. I won’t torture you by going through month by month, but the summary is that I’ve had seven early losses at the time of implantation. I researched ways to raise my progesterone on my own. I tried every trick that I could find on the internet. I switched clinics and finally found a doctor who was willing to prescribe Prometrium (progesterone supplements) because he looked at my chart and pointed right to my early losses. I thought that this was an answer to my prayers. It wasn’t.
People are very uncomfortable with Infertility. People who’ve never had a tough time conceiving tell you “just stop trying so hard and you’ll get pregnant” or “get a bottle of wine and go to a hotel and seduce your husband” or “why don’t you adopt? You’ll get pregnant right away!” Infertility is thought of as more of a mental disorder by the general public than a specific medical condition. You’d never hear someone tell a cancer patient “just get your mind off of things and you’ll get better” so why do they feel like they can say that to someone who’s infertile?
We’ve had people ask us why we don’t bring our children to church (I suppose since I’m 38 and my husband is 47 they just assume that we have children and let them sleep in on Sunday mornings). I’ve had people ask me “what’s wrong with you? Don’t you know that Catholics are supposed to want children?” I’ve had people say that they could give my husband some “pointers” if he’d like them.
There’s more to my story than what I’ve shared here. I plan to write a lot about Infertility (and other aspects of my Faith) in future posts, but this is just a start. Stay tuned for more specifics about the journey of my husband & I. (That just sounded like the comment at the end of a daytime soap opera, doesn’t it? “What will happen next? Tune in next time!”)
We don’t get to choose the crosses that God asks us to carry. We don’t get to choose who gets cancer or whose child dies in a swimming accident. We don’t get to choose our path in life. God simply asks us to trust Him. He doesn’t ask us to trust when it’s easy, He asks us to trust all the time.
Had we gotten pregnant that first cycle I’d now have a four & a half year old, who I’d be explaining to why he or she needed to wait one more year before starting Kindergarten. I’d have fulfilled what I believe that God was calling me to since I was a small girl. If I had that four-and-a-half year old, however, I never would have met some wonderful friends (met through that on-line community that I spoke briefly about). I wouldn’t have the dog that I have now (I’ll write more about our Sheltie in a future post). I wouldn’t have the job that I have now if we’d gotten pregnant that first time. I probably wouldn’t have the Faith that I have now.
Infertility is a cross that I have to bear, but it’s also the greatest gift that God chose me for. I still don’t know why me. I still don’t know which direction our life is going (more on that later, too), but I know that God will be with me for every step of the journey.
And what could be better than that?