Right now I’m sitting here at my computer, watching a light rain fall on this early October afternoon. The rain is reminding me that any minute, my eyes will be flowing just as much water, as I don’t believe I can tell this story with dry eyes. And yet it’s been over a year, and it’s time the story is told. In however many parts it takes me.
Last year this time we were approaching the due date of our sons who did not make it past 20 weeks in utero. Had they been born full term, they would have been born around the beginning of October 2017. I fought for them as hard as I could, and I know they did too. They were born at 20 weeks, actually 19 weeks and 6 days and 20 weeks and zero days. They have their own birthdays, May 30th and 31st. But we’ll get to that. First, how it all started …
My husband and I have been married for 15 years. Throughout our entire marriage, we have been dealing with “unexplained infertility”. Which basically means, you can’t get pregnant and there’s no medical explanation for it. This is not easy. Not only is it not easy, a lot of times wanting to be a mother and a family so desperately, and not having it happen, is excruciatingly painful, isolating, debilitating, and downright depressing. And this cycle continues, EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Pain, loss, grieving what never was but what you wanted, then some faith kicks in, excitement, hope, anticipation, only to be met with the pain of loss and the grief that fills your heart for the baby that is not there. EVERY SINGLE MONTH for about 13 years now. How I can even get out of bed in the morning and face life, I have no idea! Infertility is not for the faint of heart. No matter what, I keep showing up in life, showing up to my relationship, my family, my yoga students (my elementary school students in my pre-yoga life) … I just keep going. I believe I keep going because life is worth living, and I’ll be damned to have something bring me down that is literally 100% out of my control.
I wanted a family right away. I guess he did too, or he wanted me to have what I wanted, so we decided to see what would happen if we “tried” (UGH ok I won’t use that word again because it’s absolutely awful, it just means timed sex around ovulation without protection, and it’s about as robotic and mundane as it sounds-ha!). Six months went by and I wasn’t pregnant. No big deal, I figured. We were 23 years old (holy shit, I know!) and it could take up to a year, right?? Then a year went by, and some of my friends started to get pregnant or even have babies. Yes, at 24, or even 22, they were having babies. Where was this strange land we lived in where children were not only married, but having children? That’s for another time, and trust me, that time will come. But not for this post.
I think about 2 years had gone by when we decided to see a doctor. Blood was drawn and they may have done a semen analysis, I really can’t remember, I was probably 25 or 26 years old at this point and we’d been married for a few years. Everything looked “fine” but we didn’t have a fertility specialist in our area. And we were both students, on student insurance, and didn’t have thousands of dollars to put in to fertility treatments. But still, I chalked it up to being young, and maybe it was ok that we were still in school and hadn’t had kids yet. It was probably the stress of busy life, and they would come soon after we graduated and started paying off our loans. That seemed to be reasonable, adult behavior and a good time to have kids. Even though I rationalized, A LOT, my heart was already broken. All around me babies were being born, pregnant bellies were everywhere, NO ONE was talking about infertility, and I only knew one couple who talked about their first baby who was still born. Other than that, I never even heard of anyone having a miscarriage. What was in the water that wasn’t working for me? What was everyone doing and why was I missing out?
What seemed like an answered prayer came soon after graduation. My husband was offered a job with not only amazing health insurance, but infertility coverage. WHAT? This exists?? We can use our insurance to help us pay for infertility treatments to have a baby? It was a no brainer. He said yes to the job and after a cold, long winter apart, I left at the end of the school year and moved to where he was in Southern California. I didn’t hesitate. I jumped on the forums and checked with insurance and found a doctor, completely covered by our insurance. I was, I think, 27 years old at the time. I was so young and naive, and had just moved out of a very patriarchal society where I fully trusted men and looked to them as an authority figure. Not once did I stop and ask myself “What kind of doctor do I want? Do I want a female doctor who has had her own struggles with infertility? Do I want a compassionate doctor who will do whatever it takes to help us have a baby?” It sounds INSANE, I know, that none of those thoughts crossed my mind. Let me paint this picture for you. I was 27 and had been living in a very conservative, religious, patriarchal community for the past 7 years. Although I had pieces of my identity, I was not truly whole knowing who I was. I also completely trusted Western medicine. I had no reason to believe that doctors were nothing but kind, helpful and altruistic. I had never had an experience where I was assaulted by a man. I moved from a bubble to about an hour outside of LA, and I continued to live in a bubble there as well. My intention was to get pregnant and become a stay at home mom as FAST as I could. I wanted to fit in, because that’s what everyone else around me in my community was doing. I was an outcast, lonely in my childlessness. No one knew what it was like to experience infertility. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I needed a baby, fast. Because I was 27 and the clock was ticking.
I found a fancy reproductive endocrinology office in Beverly Hills. We saw a doctor and got the work up right away. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. No diagnosis. We got the drugs and all the instructions needed to get started with IUI (intra-uterine insemination). I became a crazy woman, completely obsessed with my desire to become pregnant and completely psychotic from all of the hormonal medication. And I didn’t have any tools to help me cope. No friends in the area, no one to talk to, I had never considered therapy (because I was young and we just needed to have babies!) and no one suggested it to me, I didn’t have a way to handle the ups and downs of being a complete mess all the time. Those days are honestly a blur. I’m not sure how we survived our marriage. Three months of treatments and no pregnancy. I was exhausted. I needed a break, and we had sucked our insurance benefits dry. I got on the phone with my doctor and he pushed me towards IVF. I had never even considered that we’d need IVF. I didn’t want to do that. If the IUI’s were bad, and on IVF you take even more meds and stronger doses of them, I didn’t want to get near any of that. I was emotionally spent. My resilience was gone. So I told the doctor off and hung up on him, never calling them back.
What was I supposed to do with all of my pent up emotions? I felt, on a daily basis, sadness, anguish, bitterness, resentment, anger, rage and intense pain. How I didn’t find yoga at that time is beyond me. But I did find, sort of, my yoga. I started running. And I ran, a lot. And it helped. A lot. Even still, I was lonely, even more so. We were supposed to move here and take this job so that we could use the insurance benefits to get pregnant, right? And I was going to make friends with other mommies while we got together and played with our babies. And I was angry, so angry, at Western medicine. I went from completely trusting doctors to feeling like they were good for absolutely nothing. This all led to me going on a rampage.
It has to be something I’m eating! Or something I’m putting on my body! Or something I’m not doing that I’m missing! Seemingly overnight, I cleared our cabinets of toxins. I started using toxin free cleaners, soaps, body products, make up, skin care, etc. I started changing my diet, rapidly. I bought kale at Whole Foods for the first time (hey this was in 2008 so that was a while ago!) and made green smoothies. I cut out dairy and meat. I had my first Meatless Monday and loved it! And I kept running, hoping that all of these changes would result in a natural pregnancy.
Suddenly, wanting to be pregnant, wanting a baby and wanting a family with children, all got put on the back burner when my husband was let go from his job in 2010. Everything we had worked so hard in college for, everything we sacrificed by moving away from the community we loved, moving where we didn’t know anyone and didn’t feel like we fit in but still dealt with it, and all of the anguish that came with the fertility treatments that did not result in pregnancy, all felt like it had been in vain. We looked at each other and said “Let’s get out of here”, so we did. And we started over, moving back in with family to get our feet back on the ground.
Oh, did I mention he was let go two weeks before Christmas? Yeah, that sucked. It was so hard. So you can imagine, having a baby was the last thing on my mind for a little while. And actually, not having a little mouth to feed while we were unemployed and living with family, was a really big relief.
Part 2 comes tomorrow …