This blog was written by me for cord, an online community dedicated to connecting women through stories of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and more. It can be found in that original format here. Cord seeks to unite women from all walks of life and locations through the shared experience of motherhood, so please check out their site and possibly share your story.
Infertility. It’s a word that we have all heard, yet no one really talks about. To be honest, prior to trying to have children, I didn’t really fully understand the definition of what it meant to be infertile. I mistakenly thought that infertility and sterility were interchangeable terms.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth.
When Stephen and I were engaged and preparing for our wedding, we agreed that we would wait until after we had been married at least a year before we started trying to have children. It was important to us to have a solid foundation in our marriage before we introduced children into the mix. After celebrating our one year wedding anniversary in April 2011, we decided that when my birth control prescription ran out in July we would not renew it. I had my annual ob-gyn check up scheduled for July and figured that I would discuss how best to proceed with my doctor while there.
Young and naive, I assumed that getting pregnant would be an almost instantaneous thing. After all, if it wasn’t easy to get pregnant, why on earth was I taking birth control to prevent it? Everyone I knew got pregnant just by looking at each other. After the first two months of not getting pregnant, I was already starting to get impatient. When my period arrived the second month, I felt defeated. Stephen could tell that I was starting to make an emotional shift and assured me that we just needed a little more time. On October 27, 2011, just 3 months after stopping my birth control, we discovered that we were pregnant. I literally jumped up and down when the pregnancy test was positive. We immediately called our families and closest friends and spread the word. On December 4, 2011, after a series of doctor’s appointments in which we both found and lost hope, I miscarried our first child.
Miscarriage is a devastating process. The myriad of emotions that accompany the loss of a child range from sadness to anger, jealousy to shame. Few in my family had ever miscarried and though they all offered their love and support, it was a process that Stephen and I had to navigate on our own and it greatly tested our faith. We decided that once my cycle returned, we would begin to try for a child again.
After my cycle returned in January 2012, we continued to try for a child. After a few months with no success and continued disappointment, we decided to try using ovulation predictor kits to maximize our chances of hitting the ovulation sweet spot. For the record, peeing on a stick and getting a positive pregnancy test is awesome. Peeing on a stick on a regular basis and still not getting a baby is disheartening.
Summer came, but a baby did not. When our baby’s July due date came and went, the doubt and fear started taking hold.
What if there’s something wrong with me?
Fully convinced that if there was something wrong, it was my fault, not Stephen’s, I tried to hold on to hope that we would get pregnant soon. Or ever. Stephen assured me that I wasn’t “broken,” but everything felt like it was pointing to it. When time came for my annual visit that month, I refused to go. I did not want to enter that office again unless it was for a positive reason. I was terrified that I would find out that there was something wrong with my body. I was afraid that infertile meant sterile.
During that time, a couple of my friends introduced me to the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Though a rather lengthy tome, I read the whole thing in one sitting. I began charting my cycle in August 2012. The steps were fairly simple to follow and I felt like I learned a lot about my body and the way it functioned monthly. Armed with this knowledge, I felt confident that I would be able to take practical steps to increase our likelihood of conceiving. I felt that I would be able to speak with authority about my personal process of ovulation and could refer to my charts if we were to involve a doctor in our struggle.
December came and the one year anniversary of my miscarriage brought another reminder of our inability to get pregnant. At this time we had to come to grips with the fact that come January, a full year had passed since our last pregnancy. A full year of trying to conceive without success.
Diagnosis: Secondary Infertility.
Secondary infertility, unlike primary infertility, refers to a couple who have previously had a pregnancy.
Knowing that medical procedures to determine the root cause of infertility are often invasive, embarrassing and/or uncomfortable, not to mention expensive, we knew that we had to make a drastic change in our lives if we wanted to be able to help our situation without intervention.
We went down the list of possible risk factors for infertility. Though young and generally healthy, I was technically overweight according to BMI. My job wasn’t always the easiest and stress could definitely be a factor (as if the stress and pressure of being unable to get pregnant wasn’t enough). Stephen, on multiple occasions, told me that if I thought quitting my job would help, he would stand behind that decision.
We decided that a drastic change in our lifestyle was the last natural thing that we could do before going to medical measures. In January, we really focused on our eating habits and physical health. Stephen started doing p90x and I began to run again. After going on a huge documentary binge, we started to add juicing to our health regimen. I began to eat foods that I don’t like, knowing that they were good for my body and a potential baby (eggs and milk among the top choices). I felt that I could not allow myself to take the next step medically without first exhausting every option that I could control.
Two months later, in March 2013, we discovered we were pregnant again after 14 months of being unable to conceive. This was a victory for us to know that our infertility was not a permanent condition. Though thrilled, we were cautious. We didn’t tell anyone that we were pregnant. About a week after we got the positive pregnancy test, I began to bleed. A trip to the doctor confirmed that I was miscarrying our second child. At this point we reached out to our families and close friends for prayers. Our doctor, having suffered four miscarriages herself before having her twin boys, encouraged us and told us that we would be able to have children. It might be harder for us than for other people, but that she was willing to do whatever it took to help us. After two miscarriages, she said that it would be likely that our insurance would cover a full work up to determine the cause of the miscarriages. She said that the next time I got pregnant, she would recommend that I start taking progesterone immediately to see if it would help the baby to attach to the uterine wall more securely. She also said that once we started trying again, I should do a regimen of baby aspirin to help avoid clotting, as that could be a factor.
Going home defeated again, we had some decisions to make regarding how to proceed. Intimidated by the possibility of invasive testing, I really wanted to avoid having to go that route. Having just watched “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” I decided to go on a 10-day juice fast to reset my mind and body from the damage of two failed pregnancies. April 8-17, I lived solely on freshly juiced drinks. Pumping my body full of pure nutrition and using that time as period of spiritual reflection as well, I began to build my body and soul back up for the coming decisions.
When my cycle returned, we began “trying” again, though not very fervently. I didn’t track my cycle that closely and we decided to give my body just a couple more months before strongly considering getting testing done.
But, we didn’t have to have that conversation. Just a few weeks later, after charting eighteen high basal body temperatures post-ovulation, I took a pregnancy test to confirm what I already knew. We were pregnant.
On January 17th, 2014, Jonathan Michael Rabon came into this world. Two and a half years after we first began trying for a child, we finally got to hold our baby. Though the time spent trying to have a child were some of the darkest of our lives, our marriage came out stronger on the other end. Our faith was tested, but God’s faithfulness prevailed.