What No One Told Me About Taking a Fertility Test

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a mom. None of my female friends seemed to relate to this; they never felt as strongly about motherhood as I did, and some of them even cringed when babies came up in conversation. I would laugh and pretend I could relate, cringing along with them, but deep down, I wished I could be as laissez-faire about the whole thing. The truth was, I desperately wanted to be a mom.

“You probably won’t be able to get pregnant,” a gynecologist told me seven years ago, extracting her gloved hand from my nether regions. “You most likely have Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.”  I’ve carried these words with me like a curse ever since, wondering if she was right. I had been irresponsible about condoms at times when I was younger, but I’d never gotten pregnant. I had thought I was just lucky, but was the real reason simply because I couldn’t get pregnant? I spent years obsessing about this thought, so when I stumbled upon an ad for free fertility testing, I decided that I had to make the leap and find out.  I may not have been ready to conceive, but I was more than ready to stop worrying about it.

I had just turned 30, and it felt like a metaphorical line had been drawn just ahead of me in the sand: I only had so much “safe” time left in order to conceive, so I had better start planning. The fertility test is something I did for myself. I know when most girls have “me time”, it includes relaxing things, like getting their nails done or going to the spa, not allowing someone to stab them with a needle.  But this was what I really wanted.

I didn’t tell my boyfriend that I was going, not to be sneaky or underhanded, but because, after some consideration, I had decided it would simply be easier.  For one thing, it’s my body and my fertility—my business, no one else’s—but I also knew that telling him would force us into an awkward conversation that he wasn’t ready to have yet. Over the years, I had gotten used to hiding my dreams of motherhood from boyfriends to keep from freaking them out, and he was no exception.

The fertility test itself was a piece of cake: I walked in, filled out some very basic paperwork, they drew a vial of blood out of the back of my hand, and I was done. I would get the results in 10 to 12 days. The specific test that I was taking, the Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) test, could be taken while I was still on the pill, and at any point in my menstrual cycle. It was such a simple process for such an important and life-altering matter.

But what I didn’t expect was the immediate psychological impact of the test. By being within the walls of the fertility clinic at all, I felt like I was wearing a big sign that read: “I want to get pregnant.” I looked over at a couple in the waiting room and I could sense the same invisible sign on her. We were all here for similar reasons. When the nurse took me into the next room to take my blood, I became hyper-aware of this: she knew I wanted to have a baby.

This might seem obvious and foolish, but it brought up a strange feeling in me. The nurse mentioned something about veins becoming more hydrated as the day goes on, and I sheepishly admitted that I had been on the road for the past three hours and hadn’t had any water since I left the house. I hadn’t had lunch, either.

“That’s not good!” she told me.

“I know,” I admitted. “This isn’t normal behavior for me. I just haven’t been home for most of the day.”

The nurse was perfectly kind, but in the back of my head, a little voice said, If you were on the road all day, would you have let your baby become dehydrated, too? I tried to ignore it.

To be honest, I don’t like shots or vaccinations of any kind, and this includes having blood drawn. Sometimes I’ve been asked to lie down during the process, just in case I faint. I kind of considered this a testament to how much I want a baby: I willingly walked into a clinic and asked someone to draw my blood.

My palms were sweaty when the nurse swabbed the back of my hand and readied the needle. As I felt the pinch, I let out this strange sound, almost like the Sanskrit mantra “om”, but instead, I said “ah,” and held the sound until it gradually transitioned into The Circle of Life, from The Lion King.

Yes, that’s right. I started singing The Circle of Life while I was getting my blood drawn for a fertility test.  (The coincidence of which didn’t strike me until much later.) I laughed, the nurse laughed.

“I don’t know where that came from, but I bet no one ever did that before!” I said.

She thanked me for the chuckle, but the nagging voice crept up again. You can’t handle childbirth if you can’t even have blood drawn without freaking out. The voice is mean and does not let up! Lion King? Really?, it continues,You’re 30 years old. Grow up.

On the way home, there’s a patch of traffic that causes me to slam on my brakes. Everything in my passenger seat (my purse, audiobooks, papers, my glasses case), all flies forward onto the floor. Good job, now your infant has whiplash. “Sorry, baby,” I say with an embarrassed laugh, as if I have a child in the backseat. Irresponsible mother.

I had a long drive ahead of me and lots of time to think about it. Was that nagging voice right? Was I really too irresponsible to have a baby? I’d never felt that way before. Surely there were many girls much less responsible than I am that have kids. How is it that I’m already feeling the pressure of being judged as a mother before I even have a child? Why do I feel like I’m not worthy of being a mother?

Exactly twelve days later, my cell phone rang while I was at work. I recognized the number, but panicked and hit ignore in order to send the call to voicemail. If it was bad news, I wanted to be able to process it on my own, not with a nurse on the other end. After what seemed like an eternity, my voicemail alert finally appeared. And just like that, after seven years of uncertainty, I had my answer.

My friends have always unanimously agreed that I will be the best mom ever.  I’m attentive and caring, and I clearly have no qualms about belting out Disney songs in public.  And now, thanks to the magic of fertility testing, I know that I have a completely normal level of hormones, which indicates that I likely don’t have PCOS, after all. When the time comes, I will presumably be able to get pregnant with no issues. It’s great news, and its taken a huge weight off my mind.

While I know that I’ll do everything in my power to be the best mom I can be when the time comes, I know that I’ll still feel pressure and judgment from family (and strangers) who are only trying to be helpful. I’ve seen my friends stress over whether or not their parenting style is “correct” and whether or not they “should be worried” about something their child is doing. Are they on time, developmentally, for example? When I hear this, I always think of the line from Now and Then: “You have it, you raise it, you inevitably screw it up, it resents you, feels guilty for resenting you and then it has a baby, which only perpetuates the vicious cycle.” I believe there’s no such thing as a perfect mom, or a perfect person for that matter. We are all just doing the best that we can, and will inevitably make some mistakes along the way, with or without a kid in the backseat.

Alison Downs wrote her first “novel” with an orange marker when she was four years old, and she hasn’t stopped writing since! A copy editor by day and a grad student & bookstore volunteer by night, Alison spends most of her spare time hoarding more books than she can ever hope to read, and chasing around her lovable “big-boned” cat, Major Tom. You can follow Alison on Twitter here.

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