A few months ago during Bell’s Lets Talk Day, I shared a situation in my life over social media, in an attempt to connect with others who may be in a similar position. The out reach I received blew me away, as did the number of women who could relate to me, who shared their stories with me, and who ignited a flame of hope inside of me. So this week, during National Infertility Awareness Week, I am sharing our story.
This word has consumed my life for the better part of two years now. This word has been hidden deep inside of me, consuming me and my husband and our everyday life, without me even knowing it. And when I shared this, and when I reached out for the first time, all of a sudden this word seemed to lose its grip on me.
Two years ago, Dan and I were your typical newlywed couple. We had run away and shouted our love from the mountain tops, we both had a career and job, a lovely farm to call our own. It was time to write that next chapter in ours lives; children.
I went off of the birth control pill that I had been on for nearly ten years of my life. And within that first month, I knew something was off. I didn’t get that monthly visit from Aunt Flo. I pushed aside any kind of thoughts, chalked it up to the fact that my body needed to sort itself and its hormones out, and life continued on. After four months of still not having a period, I booked myself an appointment with a local doctor in town to figure out what was going on with my body. I was prescribed a hormone to induce menstruation, and began to take this every couple of months. I was holding out hope that eventually my body would catch up, and start working on its own.
After a year of this, I wanted to get serious about figuring out what was wrong with my body. I wanted answers. I was referred to a women’s clinic in Edmonton. I saw a doctor. We didn’t click. I left without the answers I was looking for, and yet another drug to take for my issues.
When this course of medication still didn’t get us the child I was now longing for, I asked to be referred to a new clinic in the heart of Edmonton specifically for reproductive and fertility issues.
So, in December, after a year and a half of seeing doctors, completing all the blood work, ultra sounds, contrast radiology and any other test you can imagine under the sun, I was finally diagnosed with P.C.O.S (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). A condition resulting in hormone imbalance and metabolic issues, it affects 1 in every 10 women and is a common cause of infertility.
Finally, I had an answer.
I thought having an answer would solve all of my issues. I thought knowing why my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to would make me feel better.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Now I had a name for it. P C O S. I had the reason why my body wouldn’t cooperate with me. But there wasn’t the simple answer I wanted. There wasn’t one set plan of action that would be guaranteed. There wasn’t one miracle drug to make it all go away. I knew I had this, and now I needed to know how to deal with it, how to cope through it and what I needed to do to help my body out.
The struggle has not been pretty.
You know that toy you buy off the shelf, or that electronic item you covet, but then it just doesn’t work right. So, naturally, you return it. You take your receit back to the store and you give them the item back because it doesn’t do what you want it to.
That’s my ovaries.
Except there is no receipt from God to be like, “Excuse me, Lord, these don’t work properly, may I exchange them for a set that do?”.
My defective female organs cause me grief. More than I would have thought possible or would like to admit most days. They make me feel broken. Like what kind of woman am I if I can’t even function like a woman is supposed to.
And these hormones, don’t even get me started on the hormones! I have never in my life had such up’s and downs, such highs and lows, all within an hours time. My husband will vouch for it, sometimes I am a complete monster. The struggle is real. Some nights I wake three or four times, drenched in sweat and hot as Hades. Night sweats; they’re a thing and they’re not fun.
Each month is like a roller coaster. You begin with this hope and determination. You see the hills before you, maybe that little corkscrew turn halfway through, and you face it head on. I take a hormone medication which allows my body to ovulate. I start to climb that first hill of the roller coaster ride, with hope in my heart, that I will ovulate this time. I can’t do basal body charts, they end up looking a lot like the Rocky Mountains because of the imbalance in my hormones. I have tried the ovulation tests at home, to no avail. So I wait, and I do blood work to see whether or not my body cooperated. First hill down. Then they throw in the corkscrew. Timed sex. Yes I said it. Did you know that there is a defined time when your eggs are released, travelling down the Fallopian tubes, waiting to meet that little sperm. It comes down to a time frame of about 24 to 48 hours. Do you know how much fun sex on schedule is? For the sake of sharing too much information, let’s just say it takes a strong couple and a little imagination to make the best of it! The second hill, is the largest, it’s that looming drop you have anticipated the whole ride. It’s called the two week wait. It’s the two weeks when, that little egg who has hopefully met it’s sperm, is travelling down the Fallopian tubes to be implanted into the uterus. It’s trying to figure out if you’re experiencing early signs of pregnancy or just early signs of PMS, because let’s be honest, they are way too similar. And for me, I endure the long and looming ride up that hill and I crest the top and for just one moment, there is hope, before the ground drops beneath me, my breath catches in my chest and I feel the whole world falling away. Hello Aunt Flo, we meet again.
Each month is a mix of joy, hope, anticipation and then heartbreak. It is the highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows.
But I am trying to work through it, the best that I can, in the healthiest way possible.
I will tell you this, I wouldn’t be on this journey if I did not know how much of a rock I have in my husband. My husband is my biggest supporter in life. He works hard every day to make all of our hopes and dreams come to life. When I can’t pull myself from bed some mornings, when the tears won’t stop pouring from eyes, when life overwhelms me, he is there, holding me, comforting me, being silent and strong when I need it. If this man was not my partner in this life, then I would have given up on this journey already.
My Mom has also been there for me through my journey. She is my closest and best of friends. And while she may be half way across the country, she is always just a phone call away. She has listened on the other line as I cry and explain in anger how life just doesn’t seem fair. She is my voice of reason sometimes when I want to act irrationally. She has cried her own tears through the phone line as we talk and sometimes just sit in silence, feeling what we need to feel to get through this.
Having this support system, and the support of some of my nearest and dearest friends, gives me hope and gives me strength to know that I can get through this, and that my dreams can and will come true, one day.
Over the years I have collected little items here and there. A child’s farm book. A beautiful quilt kit. A stuffed pig. All these items I hold on dearly too when it all becomes too surreal. I keep them on the top shelf of my bookcase. They don’t stare me in the face on the days when it is all too much, but they are there for when I need hope and purpose to keep fighting. I have also started a little side knitting project that feels close to my heart and gives me purpose. I was gifted a pattern for the little newborn hats they give at hospitals. So in my spare time, I knit these little new born hats, put them in a box and one day will find a hospital to donate them to. The first one was hard, I finished it, and then immediately broke down into tears on the couch while my husband held me. This first little hat sits on my shelf of the bookcase.
Another step I took in my journey to healing, was seeking help.
I hadn’t noticed that ever so slowly, this gradual shift was taking place with me. I had no energy anymore. I had lost interest in a lot of things that used to bring me joy. Sewing projects sat out on my spare bedroom floor for months incomplete. Knitting projects stared at me from the shelf. I hadn’t sat down and written in weeks. All these little things that used to bring me joy, no longer sparked my soul. I was tired, ALL THE TIME. There was no reason, I went to bed early, had a good sleep and woke up at a reasonable time. But I woke feeling exhausted. And the crying. There was so much crying. A picture here, a sad song there, and I was beside myself with emotion, and the tears came.
Finally one day, after a spell of tears and feeling completely exhausted, I told my husband that I needed help. That I was not OK. And while I knew I had all his love and support, I needed something else.
So I started seeing a therapist. I see her once a week now, and I am healing. I am writing again. I am knitting again. I didn’t know at the time how much this burden was weighing me down, but I feel like slowly the weight is being lifted from my shoulders. We are working through ways of dealing with my emotions and imbalances in healthy ways. Through writing or journaling, through mindfulness meditations and through being true to myself and my needs.
It’s OK, to not be OK. But there is help out there. Please know, there is always help out there.
Our journey is far from over. Currently we are on our fifth round of hormone treatments.
But I wanted to share our journey, I wanted to reach out and tell our story for others to hear, not for pity or apologies about what we are going through, but in the hopes that maybe our story will speak to someone who is also struggling. That maybe someone needed to see these words to know that they were not alone. Maybe someone needed to read our story to know that there is hope beyond the heartbreak. That maybe someone who is struggling will read this story and find the bravery to seek the help they need.
I hope for all of these things.