One more time around the sun, one more time passing through National Infertility Awareness Week as an unintentionally childless woman. I guess you could say this is my third time.
It’s an understatement to say that a lot has gotten in the way of my attempts to become a mom.
In 2014, not long after we had starting trying to get pregnant, my battle with endometriosis took the forefront. Within a span of six months, I was hospitalized, diagnosed, and had two surgeries, one of which was out of state with an excision specialist. Then recovery began, and our efforts to get pregnant resumed in 2015.
Needless to say, I did not become pregnant in 2015, and we were baffled as to why not. After trying and failing three rounds of high-dose Clomid in the fall of 2015 (I didn’t even ovulate), we sought the help of a reproductive endocrinologist in February 2016. We had narrowed the likely cause of my infertility down to three conditions, and it turned out (but of course) I had the least likely of the three: a benign brain tumor called a prolactinoma. This tumor was on my pituitary gland and was overproducing the hormone prolactin, which was then suppressing the production of FSH and LH required for ovulation to occur. All I needed to do was take medication that would lower my prolactin levels, I would get pregnant, and all would be well with the world.
So why didn’t that happen? Why am I still, more than a year later, childless? Well, let’s just say 2016 really threw a wrench into our plans.
First, those medications to treat the tumor. The side effects were awful. Constant headaches, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, night sweats. Like I said, constant. I could barely function, much less be intimate.
Then my pelvic pain, which had started back in with a vengeance the previous August, really took off in March and April. Intimacy was completely out of the question. Finally, in May, we decided to schedule a pelvic surgery for July with my endometriosis excision specialist to see what was going on (turns out it was a very rare type of hernia. Huh.) So no pregnancy until after the surgery.
Less than a week before the pelvic surgery, I had an appointment with a neurosurgeon because I was unable to tolerate the medications for the tumor. The next step was brain surgery, which was scheduled for September. Ok, so again. No pregnancy allowed.
At the end of August, during the pre-op scans of my brain, it was discovered I had an aneurysm on my carotid artery in my head (inconveniently located right next to the tumor.) Thankfully, it was decided it was safe to proceed with the tumor removal. We decided to wait until consulting with a vascular neurosurgeon to see what to do about the aneurysm. Eventually, we scheduled a stent procedure for November.
Again, no pregnancy allowed. Plus, I was put on Plavix for six months, so better to delay a pregnancy even further so I wouldn’t bleed to death during delivery.
I started having symptoms of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) right before Christmas, and the diagnosis was confirmed in January. In order to determine what physiological malfunctions might be causing my symptoms, I had testing done in January that involved being injected with radioactive materials that would be in my body for three months. So no pregnancy allowed until after April.
And now here we are. The ironic thing is, I don’t even know if I’m technically still infertile. I should actually be quite fertile now that my prolactin has normalized and an MRI from last week confirmed the tumor is still gone. (Yay!) But we were forced into taking a year off without having planned to.
Basically, I gave my heart a break.
I was at complete peace with that part of myself. Not even having pregnancy on my radar was the most wonderful thing, and so liberating. So much so that…I really don’t know what I want anymore. Do I even want children? I don’t know.
POTS has become my life because it interferes with and controls pretty much everything I do, from what I eat to how often I shower. Many women with POTS say they feel better while they’re pregnant because of all the fluid retention. But once the baby is born…then what? There are days I can’t get out of bed because of my symptoms. How am I supposed to care for a child? But I have to wait until July for possible answers to those questions, when I see a POTS specialist. So, honestly…no pregnancy until after that either. I want to know what I’m getting in to and what to expect.
So as it turns out, this year during NIAW, I’m not pregnant and I’m still childless because I had my own health to worry about. Obviously, if I’m not healthy, I can’t possibly expect a baby to thrive inside me. The past year was a very stressful time, and it still is at present. But taking the option of pregnancy off the table for awhile was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I gave my heart a break from the heartbreak that is infertility.
I guess the best advice I can give this time around is take some time off from the infertility merry-go-round for awhile. It may turn out that giving your heart a break is the best thing you can do for yourself.
“‘Cause you’ve been hurt before
I can see it in your eyes
You try to smile it away
Some things you can’t disguise…”
“Give Your Heart a Break” by Demi Lovato