I charted my next cycle, notations and all, but I was completely wrung out. I couldn’t face any more failure. I woke up tired. I didn’t want to be sad anymore.
Plus all the hormones were taking their toll. I had chronic migraines. I was lethargic. I had several bouts of painful cystic acne, something I only suffered occasionally prior to all of this. I lost a lot of hair. I cried all the time.
For my migraines, my neurologist put me on beta blockers and prescribed triptans for when a migraine broke through. These medications helped considerably.
For my skin, my dermatologist wanted me to use creams and take antibiotics. I sat in his office and thought about the last time I felt like myself.
Sure, I felt great the first few months off the pill. But ever since then, I’d slowly started feeling worse. I wasn’t sure how much of my state was hormonal and how much was emotional and mental, but I knew one sure way to start finding out.
I took the prescriptions from my dermatologist, but on the way home I called my OB rather than go to the pharmacy. When she called back, I told her I wanted to go on the pill.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “I’m confident that we’re close.”
“I’m sure. I need a break.”
I started taking the pill in February.
That June, in 2009, I went to a baby shower for a friend. Everyone was so excited and happy for her, and I knew that I should be, too. And while a part of me truly was happy for her, I just couldn’t convince myself to stop thinking about my own situation. I was miserable and then I felt guilty on top of it.
Then my marriage started having problems. More specifically, Josh started having emotional problems. He’d previously concealed some things and they started leaking out everywhere. I can’t be any more specific because it’s not my story to tell, but I came to thoroughly distrust him. I still don’t trust him as much as I did before that summer. I don’t know if I ever will. I realize that, at this point, the diminished trust is just as much my shortcoming as his.
So, I entered a prolonged phase (that really lasted until a few months before Tiny was born two years later) when I doubted whether we shouldhave a baby, nevermind whether we even could. What kind of parents would we be? How could I possibly bring a child into this kind of chaos? Why was I so selfish?
Those old, self-defeating thoughts were back and, in some ways, stronger than ever. And now there was another person’s mental and emotional fitness to consider.
I spent the second half of the year losing the thirty pounds I’d gained during the previous two years. Josh worked out with me a couple times a week, which allowed me to exorcise some of my anger at him. We grew close again, even though I still had my doubts about him, about our marriage.
That Christmas, Josh surprised me with a planned trip to Colorado. We’d go there the following July, in 2010. I went to Colorado once as a kid and loved it. I was so excited to share that place with him. For the first time since we started trying to conceive, I had something to look forward to.
The Colorado trip was perfect. Josh did all the driving while I read aloud. The mountains were just as amazing as I remembered them and he was awestruck. We saw the Cardinals play at Coors Field. We hiked and ate amazing food. I took lots of photos. We talked about how wonderful it would be to live there.
The plan was to try to conceive after my next period. I’d been taking baby aspirin and folic acid and a folgard tab every day for over a month. A different person might have felt confident in the plan and the preparation. Instead, my anxiety had begun to fester before we’d left St. Louis. But once we were in Colorado, I found it easier, fortunately, to stay in the moment and enjoy myself.
I woke up early one morning. Josh was still asleep. I thought about the baby I still wanted, the baby I doubted we’d ever have. Then I thought about all the fun things we’d done so far. I thought about all the places I still wanted to visit, all the things I still wanted to experience and share with Josh.
I was struck with the simplest thought.
I will be okay if I don’t have a baby. I will still have a good life. Josh and I will still be okay.
And just like that, I finally felt free. A new place had actually lent me a new perspective.
I’ll probably never have a better vacation the rest of my life.
When we got back to St. Louis and I started my next cycle, I started a new Excel file. This time, I only tracked the days we had sex, suspected ovulation symptoms, and when my period started and ended. There were days I didn’t open the spreadsheet. There were times I forgot to enter data. I didn’t worry over it.
This time, I heeded my OB’s words and I stopped reading about infertility. I limited my internet reading mainly to baseball sites.
This time, armed with my new “if it happens, it happens” outlook, I felt less pressure. I know Josh did, too. If we didn’t get pregnant, well then I guess we just had a lot of sex. We were both okay with that.
During my third cycle, I began to experience all sorts of new symptoms. It started with very heavy breasts and extreme fatigue. I thought I was coming down with something. But then, I’d never had any illness where my nipples felt like they were being sliced open whenever anything touched them. This time, I didn’t allow myself to take a pregnancy test until I was actually late. I didn’t stress over it. If I was pregnant, I would find out soon enough.
When I was one day late for my period, I took a pregnancy test. It was the first test I’d taken in just under two years.
It’s going to be negative, I thought.
I set the test on the toilet tank and went to start a load of laundry. I came back to check it about ten minutes later. This time, I’d used a digital test; I was greeted with the word “Pregnant” when I picked it up.
It was unambiguous.
“Huh,” I said. I didn’t believe it.
I called Josh and told him about the positive test. I also told him I was extremely skeptical. We devised a plan: I would take another test Monday morning. If it was positive again, I’d call my OB. This time, we decided to tell no one until we knew more.
I went to a bachelorette party that night, a Saturday. I had about a quarter of a beer, sipped slowly through dinner.I didn’t want to drink too much, for obvious reasons, but I also didn’t think I’d be able to lie if any of my friends asked me why I wasn’t drinking.
Sunday morning, I had cramps. My note from that day reads “sensitive nipples, breasts. mild cramping on occasion. I think period will start soon.”
Monday morning, I took another test. Again, it said “Pregnant.” My note from that day reads “slight bloating. I think period will start soon.” I called my OB.
When she called back around lunch, she said I could go that afternoon to get my blood drawn or I could wait until the next day.
“We need to see your hCG levels,” she said.
I was dreading it, so I waited until Tuesday. On Tuesday, they drew two vials of blood: one for hCG and one for progesterone. My notes from Tuesday read “Occasional heartburn and queasy feeling.” I had the same symptoms on Wednesday. On Thursday I had more blood taken, again to measure my hCG levels.
Friday morning, I woke up and my breasts weren’t sore anymore. “I’m paranoid I’m losing it,” I wrote. I didn’t know whether I’d hear the results from my OB Friday or Monday. I spent the day watching TV, trying to distract myself.
Late Friday afternoon, my doctor called me.
“Your hCG levels have had an excellent increase!”
I beamed. This was finally happening.
(To be continued, one last time…)