I went into fertility cocky and full of energy. I was paying for everything out of pocket as I went so that I did not incur any debt. I just bought a house in a great school district and everything seemed to be going as planned.
Three years, ten inseminations and one in vitro fertilization later, I was lacking in confidence, overweight, weepy and I didn’t know how I was going to survive not being able to pull this off. My acquired two credit cards to charge my procedures and medications since I could no longer pay things off as I went. My mind questioned everything - Should I just hire a surrogate? Why did I buy this house? Why is this happening to me?
I am embarrassed to type the following but it’s only fair that I do. During this time, I saw the same family in the grocery store every time I was there. The husband and wife were quite obese pushing a cart full of unhealthy, processed food. They were surrounded by four children who were also overweight, unruly and into everything. It was while hearing an exchange at the checkout counter that I learned that she was pregnant with her fifth child.
It’s their choice to be obese and eat what they do. How they raise their children is their business. Yet seeing them in the store enraged me every time yet I could not look away like it was some fiery train wreck. Here I am relatively healthy, with healthy foods in my basket and I can’t get pregnant. There they were unhealthy, overrun by children and they could not stop getting pregnant. The universe put them there to taunt me.
When I was in the waiting phase between insemination and waiting for the pregnancy test result, I took great care of myself. I made sure that I got plenty of sleep, ate my vegetables, meditated and enjoyed my morning walks. Once the ball dropped and I learned that I was not pregnant, my health choices went out the window. Yes, I still got sleep and went on my walks, but my car knew the way to my favorite burger joint. The staff there knew my order by heart and greeted me as a familiar friend. My water glass found itself full of bourbon and ginger ale. I cried a lot without the need for any outside stimulus.
I remember like it was yesterday sitting in my specialist’s office once the third and final doctor gave up on my fertility. I was visibly depressed and I didn’t want anyone to see my body. My doctor noticed that I held myself differently during my physical exams as I tried to hide my large belly under the paper gown. I was at my heaviest weight ever when my in vitro procedure failed of 198 pounds. My mind dwelled on just how close my body was to 200 pounds. It made me sick. Then, my doctor, my nerdy, scientist guy doctor said these words, “You really need to lose some weight.”
I was too angry to say anything, but in my mind, I was screaming. Fertility had put over 25 plus pounds on my body. Yes, I was never fit and trim, but before all of the drugs and procedures, I was healthy. Here was the man who wrote the script for the majority of the drugs I had ingested for three years telling me that I needed to lose some weight.
Something happened in my brain at that moment. It was a combination of depression, anger and a strong desire for change. My friend Lori who experienced a similar fertility fate gave me some great advice. She told me to allow myself to grieve after fertility before I jump into any other process. You owe it to yourself to recover fully so that you go into the next process whole. This was great advice for me especially since I was the type to jump head first into new adventures before fully recovering from the last one.
It was fall 2010. I told myself to use this time to do research on adoption agencies and take excellent care of myself. The research on adoption agencies took a longer time than planned since many agencies would not even talk to me since I was a single person. Many of them were religious in nature and they would not take my word for it that I was not a lesbian. The price tags on adoption agencies spooked me a bit. Of course, they were less than fertility treatments, but keep in mind that I was already in debt from trying to conceive.
I had been taking pilates from my favorite trainer, Tonya since 2005. I had toyed with the idea of stepping things up and work with her privately for more intense sessions. After my in vitro procedure, I walked into her studio and she gasped at my body. She pointed at my breasts, “What are those things”? Then, she pointed to my belly, “What is all this?” I felt like a beached whale being eyed by the spectators on the shore.
The same tenacity that I devoted to my fertility was now aimed at my body. My trainer put me on a cleansing diet consisting of no processed foods or sugars, lots of water, lean protein and heaps of vegetables. My earlier habit of trying to learn to run with my new running app escalated into training for an upcoming race that quickly turned into multiple races. I was getting up at 5:30am to run between three to six miles every other day.
This is also the time that I found a belly dancing studio around the corner. I had taken dance classes before, but with close girl friends by my side. This time, I walked in solo and braved the beginner series. Soon, I was purchasing unlimited dance passes so that I could return several days a week.
Intermediate pilates turned into occasional advanced pilates classes. I saw my trainer once a week for an hour on Thursday nights where she literally wore me out. Sometimes after class, I would find the energy to get into my car and wait for a second wind to drive myself home.
Now, please don’t read this as me using exercise to recover from fertility. I exercised three hours a day. Was I happy? Nope. I wasn’t happy. I was frustrated and I needed a safe place to release my frustration. Some people go to a bar, I went to a pilates studio and belly dancing class. It helped, but it didn’t make me happy. I was still someone who desperately wanted to become a mother without a child.
I went to see a counselor. My work place suddenly announced during this time that employees got six free sessions with a counselor a year as part of their benefits. It was like the universe was trying to force me into professional help and it knows my favorite word, free. I signed up immediately with the next available counselor.
You are not going to believe this but the random counselor that I was assigned went through years of fertility and an adoption. Good grief. She asked me some good, hard questions, but what helped was hearing her go through her ordeal. As a single person going through fertility, you are isolated. Yes, I had a fantastic support system of friends and family, but at the end of the doctor’s session, I was alone. My failed pregnancy attempts were just mine. I had no one else to experience the heartbreak with me. Listening to this counselor describe her situation, the setbacks, the heartbreak and the sudden turn of events that brought her doctor into her life was what I needed to hear. I was not alone. The universe was not against me.
When fertility fails, it’s like a death of a dream. In my head, my younger self envisioned my motherhood journey with pregnancy. When you have to admit to yourself that things are not going to work out the way you want them, it’s like a death. You can never have those dreams again. And with every death, you have to grieve. You need to cry, get out your frustrations, talk to other people who had to bury the same dream and wait for the fog to lift.