Infertility can be stressful, nerve wracking, demanding of your time, emotionally challenging, and many times, isolating. It is a subject that is often not freely discussed. Friends may not know how to offer support and couples may not know how to ask for it. At RHS we understand, because, while in the U.S. 1 in 8 couples have trouble conceiving, that percentage is even higher among RHS staff. Many members of our staff have used reproductive technologies and medications, suffered miscarriages and waited years to conceive. For some, their experiences with infertility have drawn them to their lives work. We know everyone’s journey is different, but we understand you, because we ARE you.
Some of our staff has agreed to share their stories. We offer our encouragement and our empathy and we hope that our stories help you realize that you are not alone.
First up, Nina’s Story.
Recently a patient was discussing with a staff member about how we would probably not “understand” their situation. Lady! I understand! Because I did everything WRONG!
I laugh now because the road was long and hard and painful but filled with lessons and gifts I didn’t see coming.
I always had problems with my weight and subsequently my periods. My period was never regular growing up and after packing on the “Freshman 15” in college my period all but disappeared. I ignored it because I was young and stupid! But once in Nursing School I realized that it could be a big issue.
Fast forward, I graduate, get engaged and move away. And once married, “Sure let’s try to start a family!” By then I’d had 2 periods in 2 years. Now it was inevitable, I had to find out what was going on if we were ever going to have a baby. This started a 4 year journey that was filled with drama and heart break.
So I see a doctor I don’t even know in a city I’m new to and I get the news that I’m overweight (not a shock) and have features of PCOS (that was a shock). And in a cold but simple manner the doctor told me to lose weight and then call him in a year.
That was the first moment time began to really tick in my head and my age suddenly mattered. And sadly, I didn’t listen.
A year passed and nothing had changed, I didn’t try to lose the weight and I wasn’t getting my period. By now my husband was concerned and in a not so supportive or subtle way suggested “maybe you should lose some weight and we might be able to get pregnant.” Arguing ensued and my fertility became a background issue for us, always hanging out there as our friends started to get pregnant and have kids.
A turning point became my sister –in-laws pregnancy. Here I was, wanting a baby badly yet not doing much to make it happen. Then my sister-in-law, carefree, irresponsible and wild announces she is having a baby boy. Anger and jealousy were all I could muster up in my heart. How could this be? Why her and not me? She doesn’t even want a baby! I couldn’t believe it. I sneered at their announcement, rolled my eyes in disgust at their shower invitation. I couldn’t stand it. And at the same time I felt like a truly horrible person for feeling this way towards my family member. I didn’t even want to meet their baby. I felt like a crazy person and in retrospect hurt a relationship with her because of it.
Between my new nephews birth and months and months of no periods and no pregnancy I broke. I lived thousands of miles from home and was unhappy and lost. I told my husband I wanted to move back to Pittsburgh or get divorced. We agreed to try to patch things up and start over back in the burg.
Once home, I met with my old doctor and had a heart to heart about how to get pregnant. I finally owned the fact I had PCOS and needed to take control of it. My doctor suggested signing up with a weight loss program, starting Metformin and then return after I had lost 50 pounds. I started the medicine and signed up for Weight Watchers. I bought a scale and an elliptical and faced my fears. I got on the scale and weighed 282 pounds. I hadn’t weighed myself in a couple years and was horrified. I started 2000mg of Metformin and thought my stomach was going to explode. The side effects were horrible. But I stuck to it. I wanted to be a mother so badly, I fixated on that goal and knew if I worked hard I could make this happen. Magically, I started getting periods on Metformin! I started seeing things happen!
Weight Watchers was easy, weight started to come off. I would count steps on a pedometer and then slowly built up to short workouts on an elliptical trainer.
At first my husband tried to be supportive and eat healthy with me but slowly stopped participating. He would joke about “rabbit food” and sneak away for beers and wings with coworkers.
I was determined however and after more than 10 months I reached my doctors weight goal. Next step would be semen analysis to rule out male factor. That came back acceptable so the doctor felt we would be good candidates for Clomid and IUI.
That next step marked a critical change for my relationship with my husband. In hindsight, I should have talked to my husband. I should have asked him if this was something he wanted and was really ready to do? I didn’t include him. Instead he became the sample source. And in my shortsightedness, I treated him curtly. I questioned him when he couldn’t move work commitments and couldn’t have intercourse when it was recommended. I cried when our schedules didn’t match up and yelled when we would miss “OPK” peak windows. I became insane! And I turned my partner into a villain. I littered our bathrooms with ovulation predictor sticks and calendars on the wall like a crazy person. I was rude, angry and mean.
This should have been the point where we talked to a counseling professional not just each other. A counselor would have helped us! I tried to turn to the nurse that was helping me at this time and I’ll never forget her saying “You’re a nurse! Deal with it!” That stuck with me and as I work at RHS today, I’m determined to be there for people when they need answers and help. I never want someone to feel the way I felt in that moment!
After months and months ,more weight loss and more arguing I finally got the call. I was bleeding and ready for more Clomid and my nurse said my pregnancy blood test was positive. I was bleeding heavy and I told her she was wrong! She said she would repeat my bloodwork in two days but I was in fact pregnant. I hung up the phone in shock. You wait all this time for this moment and it is not what you imagine it to be. It’s a Tuesday afternoon on your couch kinda thing! I was in disbelief. I called my husband and he too was in disbelief. This rocky road finally ended in pregnancy and all at once my journey was over and onto the next – pregnancy!
Today, I am no longer married! And my son is now 6! And when I look back, I made every mistake and I hurt my marriage during my time in fertility treatments. We let our struggles divide us. Many other things contributed to our demise but our behavior in treatment didn’t help!
Remember why your partner is your partner in the first place! Be a team, don’t blame one another for your infertility and let it bring you together. If you are struggling, think about talking to a counselor that can help you work together not against one another.
And remember, we do know how it feels and that is why I am at RHS!