Although it is nice to think somebody might read this one day and find it helpful, as I have found others' stories helpful, right now telling this story is really about me getting used to it.
I am 33 years old. I like my number. 3's are magical. 3X3=9.
The past 7 years of my life have been pretty fabulous, I think.
Starting at age 26 or so, I decided that I was capable of having a good relationship and that it was time to move my life forward. A variety of factors led to this remarkable conclusion, but that is a whole other story. Let's just say that before that point there was some uncertainty as to what I wanted to do with my life, and who I wanted to spend it with.
(I did have an interest in fertility starting in the late teenage years. In high school I discovered and loved this image:
Can't look away, can you? However, during my university years (long, but fun; took up all my early 20s) fertility was all in my head. Not much interest in babies. Art, dance, poetry, and later music were the ways that I strove to create. Despite a few fits of angst, some lasting months or years, I had a very good time discovering myself. Inevitably life threw a few Unanswerable Questions at me, but I survived healthy and whole.)
Jump forward to age 28. I met my husband on an online dating site. It sounds cheesy to say that I knew he was The One from the minute I looked at his profile, and yet that's almost totally kind of absolutely true. I have a very excited journal entry from that week to prove it. "This time it feels different." It was. (He was my first real relationship.)
Fast forward 2 years: We were married at age 30. Nothing could have felt more right.
We both knew we wanted children from the time we were dating. So, after a year of marriage, we figured might as well go for it. Funny, I had a notion that babies were either going to happen immediately, or that it was going to be difficult.
August 2011, I started taking folic acid. I went to my doctor for a physical. He said I was in excellent health and that we should try for a year, and then consult with him again if there was no pregnancy.
We started "trying" in September of 2011, meaning aiming for roughly the middle of the menstrual cycle. No dice. I started reading up on fertility and reproduction online (apart from the basics you learn in sex ed, I didn't know that much.) By December, I had had enough of shooting in the dark and decided to see what was out there that could help. I tried OPKs, found them confusing, and finally bought and started using the Ovacue in December of 2011. The first real disappointment I had was during Christmas vacation with the inlaws that December. I really, really, really wanted to be pregnant that Christmas. Instead I got the nastiest period e-ver. I was bummed. It was my first hint of what a bitch this journey could be.
January 2012, I started charting seriously with the Ovacue on Ovagraph. Through the forums, I learned some of what other people go through, and the physical and emotional territory of Trying to Conceive (TTC). I had some wonky menstrual cycles that winter and wondered if something might be off inside me, but then things seemed to stabilize by the spring of 2012. In May we had our second memorable disappointment. It was the first cycle where Mr. Turtle had been openly hopeful for whatever reason. When it ended in nothing, I felt his disappointment keenly, as well as mine. After that I think we both started reigning in our hopes. We continued to try with enthusiasm but didn't get carried away thinking what might happen (and of course, nothing did.)
September 2012 marked the end of the fateful year. I changed doctors from mine of many years to Mr. Turtle's doctor (more convenient to get to and highly recommended by Mr. Turtle). I'll call him Dr. Gnomish. Dr. Gnomish cheerfully informed me that I had "primary infertility." Primary infertility means that you have not been able to get pregnant with your first child after one year.
So, now it had a name. I rolled the words around in my head but didn't say them out loud to anybody, except Mr. Turtle. I had primary infertility. I couldn't decide if I wanted the label or not. On one hand, it sounded scary. On the other hand, at least now our issue was named. It was on a map somewhere. It was territory I could own.
Dr. Gnomish also pointed out that until Mr. Turtle did a semen analysis, we could not proceed further with any investigations or treatments. Mr. Turtle agreed, and then proceeded to forget about/procrastinate the test for the next 3 months. We kept on trying with each cycle. By now I felt like quite the expert when it came to using Ovacue to identify my most fertile time. Indeed, I could predict within an day or two when my period would start. Which it always did, month after month.
Finally, Mr. T did the test in December. Christmas happened. Luckily my cycle didn't deliver up another disappointment right on Christmas surrounded with family. But, there was AF right on New Year's day, on time as usual.
First week of January, Mr. Turtle finally had meeting with the doctor to discuss all his test results. He had several to go over, since he has a chronic autoimmune condition.
All the tests looked great!
Except for one.
Mr. Turtle blurted out the news to me when I had barely gotten in the door of the house (coat and boots still on). He has lots of swimmers (above average), but the viability, or motility (heard both words used) of the swimmers is very poor. Dr. Gnomish said that we would need IVF to conceive.
I continued taking off my coat and boots.
Neither of us was exactly surprised. Mr Turtle had suspected the his chronic condition, and/or the medications he takes for it, might have damaged something, although we can't identify one particular cause. I imagined that something was very likely wrong with one of us because we had had some very good timed cycles, and not even one positive. But I had thought, logically or not, that the doctor would suggest something else before IVF. Isn't IVF supposed to be the last resort? Now we had been told, go nuclear or go home.
I spent a weird couple of days trying to process it. Mr. Turtle did too. We have been supportive of each other, reassuring ourselves that we still have options. Talking and touching and sharing unconditional love, despite this news.
"This isn't a crisis," I said to Mr. Turtle on one occasion. "If your child was in a terrible accident and was fighting for life in the hospital, that would be a crisis. I don't think this is crisis."
I'm not totally sure I'm right about that, actually.
I found myself looking at people's family pictures, on facebook or whatever, thinking "That isn't going to happen for us. That can't happen for us." It is weird. Infertility is completely, totally different from deciding to not have children, or not being interested in children. Even if you don't want children, you still see yourself as part of a genetic tree, with seeds that you could plant somewhere. Whether they consider it important or not everybody assumes they can have children. That assumption is part of how you define yourself. Infertility throws that assumption out the window, and lets in a blast of cold air at the same time.
In terms of action to take, Dr. Gnomish requested an appointment with me so that we can get a referral to the fertility clinic. I promptly made one. In fact, it's tomorrow. I think the real reason I wanted to write all this out today, was so that whatever happens tomorrow, I don't have to worry about saying it. I can just focus on what comes next.
There is one thing that I have found helpful in the past few days, apart from lots of cuddles with Mr. Turtle. And that is reading blogs on Stirrup Queens.com. Reading about other's experiences has made this whole challenge feel a lot more human already. And so I am glad to get torthúil up and running too.
We tell ourselves, this is only the beginning.
sincerely, The Turtle