We’ve just finished the most magical time of the year; celebrating Jesus’ birth, the New Year, and all of the Ho Ho Ho’s you can handle. We’ve been to holiday parties for both sides of the family and even an 80th birthday party for my Grandma. I thought I was in the clear; that I’d successfully made it through the holiday season without being asked “the big question”.
There have been times in my life where “the big question” didn’t bother me as much. There was even a gal at one of my previous jobs, before I was married, who would remind me of “it” whenever she found out I had been on a date the night before. Somewhere along the way, being asked “the big question” began to bother me. At first, I would get upset with those who asked; then I would try to calm down by reminding myself that they didn’t know. For a while, I pretended like it didn’t bother me… which was a total lie to myself and everyone else who apologized after they saw the look on my face. There was even a period of time where it didn’t matter, because my husband and I weren’t ready to provide a timeline for “the big question”; a time when I didn’t feel that I had to explain. But then I turned 30 and then 31. When I turned 32 you would have thought I was going to die soon because people started saying things that in hindsight were out of line, but for some reason our society has deemed acceptable.
And then it happened. I own an early childhood center and someone asked me for advice and then when they didn’t care for my response said to me “You don’t understand… because you don’t have kids.” And something happened deep inside of me.
It was panic.
It was anger.
It was sadness.
I blurted out “We don’t know if we can have kids”.
They blurted out “Well there’s always adoption.”
I have many friends who have adopted; I have friends who are adopted. But for me, hearing that as a follow-up somehow made me feel like I’m just supposed to get over it; as if it’s not a big-deal if we can’t have biological children… It wasn’t this person’s fault. They didn’t know.
I have a photographic memory, or for those who don’t believe that is a “thing”, I have a mind that remembers images, words, and events very vividly. I can even remember where everyone was sitting at my best friend’s child’s 1st birthday party… or see words of things I’ve read, which comes in handy for the bazillion pages of statute and rules that I need to remember for my work.
But it also means I can remember things that are traumatic.
I can still see myself the day I found out that we might not ever have kids or if we did, that it wouldn’t be easy. I was working on a Saturday, trying to get things done when the phone wasn’t ringing and there weren’t a million distractions. All of the sudden I was overcome with a stabbing feeling in my abdomen. It was excruciating. I ran into the restroom across from my office. And that’s when I saw it. I looked down at the floor. I panicked. Do I call someone? Do I keep this to myself? What is this? I called my husband repeatedly and it kept going to voicemail. I called my sister-in-law, by this time crying hysterically. It was odd to hear the words coming out of my own mouth as I shouted through tears “I think I’m having a miscarriage. Josh isn’t answering his phone do you know where he might be?”. She said he had gone to Mass. I called my friend Jen. She said she’d come and drive me to the hospital. I didn’t know what to do, so I put some of what I thought might be my unborn child in a Ziploc bag; thinking maybe they’d be able to somehow magically test it and tell me what had happened. I think it was my way of trying to rationalize what was happening.
The waiting room was full. I called my parents while I was waiting. By the time the nurse called me back Jen had gotten ahold of Josh. When the Doctor came in I showed him what I brought with me in the bag. He probably thought I was insane. He said they could do further testing but most likely it was a miscarriage. Further testing in the ER on a weekend wasn’t something that I felt was in the budget… at least that’s what I told myself. I think deep down, I just didn’t want to know. Josh asked me if I was sure about denying the extra testing and I said yes. The Doctor recommended I see a specialist to rule out endometriosis. To make a long story short, a few uncomfortable appointments and scans later, including an ultrasound wand that the Fairy Godmother of Cinderella, aka nurse, bippity-boppity booed inside of my pumpkin, I was scheduled for surgery for endometriosis. They removed cysts and adhesions and while they were in there apparently my appendix looked suspect, so that went too. I was bummed to see it wasn’t a 2 for 1 deal when I received the bill… I mean come on, the whole gang was already there, they saved on sponges and sutures.
I was still having problems with my cycle, so after being told that “birth control will fix it” for the 80th millionth time, I was over it and decided to switch to a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy). I’d grown used to giving out vials of blood like I was the Oprah Winfrey of lab work, so what harm would a few more do? When the bloodwork came back, it was explained to me in a manner that I’d never seen or been told before. My progesterone was low, and my estrogen was high. This was causing my extreme pain during my cycle but also would hinder our chances of conceiving. I did an estrogen cleanse and went on progesterone supplements and my cycle improved greatly. Eventually it was determined that I have hypothyroidism, which directly impacts hormone production. I went on a natural hormone for my thyroid and we discontinued the progesterone to see if things would work themselves out.
One day in late Summer last year, my husband and I were standing in our kitchen, and he said “They’ll never be a perfect time right?” I had no clue what he was talking about. Perfect time for what? To repaint? To clean the gutters? What are we talking about here? “The perfect time to have kids”. I was excited. I had always wanted kids.
And then it hit me…. What if I can’t give him kids. I optimistically stayed hopeful, but after a few months of “trying”… it didn’t happen. I ordered so many “sticks of hope” aka pregnancy tests and ovulation kits, on Amazon, that whenever I logged into my account it had “suggestions” of things for me to try. Lord have mercy.
We decided to tell our families about our decision to “try”. Everyone of course was excited. A few more months passed and still nothing. Do you remember in Winnie the Pooh where they play “Pooh Sticks”? Well I felt like I was playing my own game of “Pee Sticks”, only I was always losing. The single line on the stick reminding me that I was still minus being pregnant.
I called my DO and she recommended I do a blood test on the 21st day of my cycle. So… another 2 vials of blood later, I received the phone call. “Your levels came back. Your progesterone is at a 7.4. It needs to be closer to 14 to successfully conceive. We’ll start you back on the progesterone supplement and then if you do conceive, we’ll continue that in a different manner, to try and avoid”… I stopped listening. I knew what she was going to say. To try and avoid a miscarriage. An hour later I was in the Walgreen’s drive-through, verifying my address for my prescription.
When deciding if I should write this blog, I struggled for a long-time. Will it offend people? Will people be upset because they recognize something I referenced that they have said?
And then I thought to myself “How will people know if I don’t tell them? When did it become okay to ask people about their reproductive decisions?”
If you’re reading this and you’re the person who constantly told me that you could “hear my clock ticking”, I’m not mad at you. If you’re the family member who told me “it’s your turn” and then pointed to the kids running around at Christmas, I’m not upset with you.
I’m not sure if there is any one purpose for writing this blog post; maybe it’s to help me heal and be okay either way. Maybe it’s to help others understand that not everyone can get pregnant by sitting next to someone on the couch (I’m kidding, but seriously it seems like it’s that easy for some people). Maybe it’s to help someone else who is struggling by making them feel less alone.
Or maybe, it will help others pause and perhaps stop before asking someone “the big question”; because maybe the person you’re talking to, is a 7.4.