Maybe someday I’ll let my daughter know that her journey to life began not in a marital bedroom, but rather in an examination room, with her father at my side, his hand in mine, as she was conceived. It really gives the “where do babies come from” story a different feel, when we include the doctor, nurse, and technician as a part of the tale.
Ironically enough, my four-year-old son and I were just having the traditional conception discussion. When I told him that the boy mammal must give a girl mammal a seed for her egg, he asked how that was possible because “cows don’t have hands.” I love the four-year-old mind. The only mammal is the cow, and when you give someone something, naturally it comes from your hand.
So I explained to him that the boy’s seed comes from the penis. Which is where my husband’s sperm did come from in our daughter’s conception. But first, he put it in a cup. And then a laboratory technician put it in a machine and washed those guys. And finally a catheter sent the sperm on a journey in search of an egg.
Who knew making a baby was such hard work? I’d listened carefully during the fourth grade meeting about sexuality. The one where I thought they were talking about jeans not genes. But I listened. And I thought I understood. By high school I was well aware of the necessity of birth control. You had sex. You had a baby.
Then at age thirty-six, newly married, we welcomed the sperm! They were encouraged to stay and explore. Meet a nice egg. But they didn’t. Those millions of sperm –I assumed there were at least that many – either never got to the egg, or they chose to ignore her. What was wrong with my eggs? I imagined they were lovely and inviting. I’m sure they had excellent manners and would graciously welcome visitors. Maybe it was the sperm. Maybe they had the bad attitude.
Six months of trying. Yes. That’s what it’s called. TRYING.
Let me tell you, TRYING makes you crazy.
I thought about how we encourage abstinence and safe sex with teens. A few months into TRYING, and I was ready to announce to high school girls, “Go ahead. Have sex. It’s really hard to get pregnant.” But a wise health teacher pointed out the reality. Those girls have fresh, young eggs. Their odds are really good.
The infertility industry is teeming with products. I latched onto the Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor. Nearly $200 for a Game Boy-sized computer that would tell me exactly when I was ovulating. Naturally, this little device also required a supply of testing sticks – not included. So how many boxes should I buy? Feeling optimistic. Feeling frugal. One box should be fine.
Nope. I end up short on sticks. A quick trip to the drugstore (Amazon Prime hasn’t been invented yet) will rectify the situation. Really? There isn’t a single box of sticks in the entire city? I cry in front of several teenage clerks who don’t know what to do with me. Doesn’t anyone else in this town want a baby? Am I the only fertility-challenged woman in Southeastern Minnesota?
Crazy and hormonal, convinced that I will never get pregnant, I must get those sticks. Phone calls ensue. I learn that the Walgreens in Austin (40 miles away, home of the famous canned meat product, SPAM) has one box. I make the manager promise not to sell it to anyone, and my husband and I hop in the car to make our purchase. Once I had those sticks, obviously the only logical thing left to do was tour the SPAM Museum. I wish I’d gotten pregnant with those sticks. I loved the idea of fondly reminiscing about SPAM and my child’s conception.
Having charted my temperature, used ovulation test sticks, and purchased the fancy fertility monitor, it was time to consult the experts. When six months of TRYING has passed, and you’re over the age of thirty-five, you go see the Reproductive Endocrinologist. Which is where I learned that at age thirty-seven, I “suffered from” Advanced Maternal Age. This coming from a young fertility specialist who is just returning to the practice from her own maternity leave. The injustice.
Not every woman who struggles with infertility is as lucky as I am. Wherever you are in your motherhood story, someone may understand your journey. And others may not. Be gentle with all of the women.
Finding a Diagnosis
And so began the proceedings to discover who was broken and just how broken. Blood draws and tests with long names. During an ultrasound, I saw my uterus on a monitor, and it was just like the movies where the tech points out the baby to the expectant parents. Except there was no baby in my uterus. I even asked the nice lady to look carefully. To double-check.
Of course, after all the testing, we learn that my tubes and uterus are fine. That my husband’s sperm count is not only high, but the boys are good swimmers, too. He’d aced the motility section of the test!
So they handed us a diagnosis of unexplained infertility with Advanced Maternal Age stamped across the top! How to fix that? We opted for injectables and intrauterine insemination (IUI).
I’m a rules follower. So I medicate and inject at precisely the prescribed times. I TRY my best. I follow all of the directions. Every month, I’m not pregnant. It’s a full-time job, and I’m failing miserably. I have a full supply of sticks, but this time they’re pregnancy tests. Sticks with big fat NEGATIVES that I toss into the trash every month.
Months of TRYING with medical support. Ultrasounds to see how the eggs are growing and developing. Tears. More tears. Failing at what seems like a simple task. Unable to envision any other path to motherhood. Some of the darkest days.
One more round of IUI, and then we will move on to IVF.
And that is the month we get the POSITIVE.
*My story has a happy ending. I was eventually able to get pregnant not once, but twice. I am blessed with two healthy children. Not every woman who struggles with infertility is as lucky as I am. Wherever you are in your motherhood story, someone may understand your journey. And others may not. Be gentle with all of the women.
Contributing Sister Site and Author
Colleen Timimi, a former middle school English teacher turned stay-at-home-mom, moved to Rochester in 2005. Texan by birth, Floridian by high school graduation, she has truly found her home here. She and her husband are parents to a nine-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son. When she isn’t trapped in the great internet time suck aka Facebook (Hey, where did that hour go?), she spends her days chauffeuring children and volunteering. She is passionate about reading, writing (eventually one of those works-in-progress will be finished), and running (and you thought the next word was going to be arithmetic!). Nearly 10 years into motherhood, Colleen continues to navigate parenting, where she is her own boss and the schedule is never consistent.
Colleen is a contributor for Rochester Moms Blog, one of our Sister Sites.