My struggle to get pregnant nearly had me at my wit’s end, but here’s what it taught me about my body and self-worth
I’ve always wanted to be a mother. When I played make-believe as a kid, I’d pick out names for my children and practice how I’d sign the notes they would bring to school, allowing them to go on school trips. Many years later, when I started falling in love with my future husband, I needed to know for certain that he, too, wanted children. Luckily, he did.
So, in 2015, after we had been married for a while, we excitedly started trying to conceive. My mind spun faster and faster each day as I embarked down a road I had dreamed of traveling my whole life. What if it happens right away? What if we have twins? When do we move out of the apartment?
I questioned everything except the one, big, dark reality that temporarily lay before me: What if I could not have children?
The thought was so blasphemous and crude that I didn’t let it enter my brain—until months had passed of trying to conceive and we had gotten nowhere.
“The normal, healthy young couple should get pregnant after 6 months of trying,” I would read over and over as I frantically googled every combination of why+me+no+pregnant (and trust me, there are lots, and all yield different results). Could it be bad luck? Bad timing? Were my eggs and his sperm two ships in the night, steadily missing each other month after month?
I made up a chart that I kept under my bathroom sink with a pen, religiously charting my ovulation with pee sticks I had bought in bulk from Amazon. I watched what sadly never became a spike in the hormones I needed to prove that I ever ovulated at all.
After a life of inconsistent menstrual cycles but an otherwise healthy reproductive system, this became all I thought about: What if I was not meant to be a mother?
I went to a fertility specialist who looked me over, asked me basic questions, and told me if I kept charting, “it would just happen.” Thanks, Doctor Useless, for literally nothing.
Two doctors later I finally went to a highly rated OB-GYN in my neighborhood. She told me it sounded like I was not creating my own levels of progesterone, the messenger hormone that tells your uterus to shed its furnishings each month if nobody is living in it. She gave me synthetic progesterone that I would take for 10 days monthly, which would onset a period. Then I would take an estrogen modulator called Clomiphene to “shake the branches” of my ovaries to release an egg for baby-making.
I did it all, and it wreaked havoc on my mind some more. Real, natural hormones make us crazy, so imagine what the synthetic versions are like. Not pretty.
I tried all different sized doses for many months. During this time, two of my cousins’ wives had beautiful healthy babies. As I held them, I held back tears. I wondered if I was meant to spend a lifetime holding other people’s children.
At that point I could have looked into adoption, but the process is lengthy and I didn’t know where to begin. The thoughts came like hungry wolves into my usually positively-charged brain, and I wanted them to stop so badly I considered rescuing another dog and calling the whole baby thing off.
I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I struggled in silence.
My doctor upped my Clomiphene dosage one more time. If this amount did nothing for me, I’d probably need to start looking into more invasive procedures.
The month of July was a hard one. My husband was called to California for work, smack in the middle of my projected 48-hour ovulation window (yet another sign that this was not meant to be). In preparation for flying out to see him in LA, I packed my various pills and a handful of pregnancy tests and ovulation predictors. How many times will I have to do this shit, I wondered. We went to Disneyland and Universal Studios on that trip, half because we love it, half because we desperately needed a break.
When August rolled around, I begrudgingly got out my now enormous kit of conception goodies and peed on my first test. I waited to see the familiar lonely pink line. It came, but it didn’t come alone. As a second, faint pink line showed up next to it, I didn’t breathe out of fear I’d blow it away somehow. It was but a shadow of a stripe, but it was more than I’d ever seen.
I felt my eyes get hot, my hands shake and my face fill with blood.
My body had done the thing I’d been begging it to do—and I needed to know ASAP if it was real or not.
We ran to the corner of our block and bought out Duane Reade’s entire shelf of pregnancy tests. I drank a giant Gatorade on the way home, knowing I’d need the fluids for tonight’s experiment. Eight positive tests later, my husband and I held each other in silence. We had done it. I had done it. We were having a baby.
Now it’s May, and my tiny, perfect newborn daughter Winifred sits in my arms, attached to my sore but thankful boob for most of the day. My pregnancy was long (41 weeks!) and not easy (9 months of morning sickness and a hospitalization for dehydration!) but it happened for us.
I understand that this is not the case for everyone. There are mothers out there with no children, women who have gone through much, much more than I have and have not seen that faint pink line appear. I understand what it feels like—the heaviness and the self-doubt of potentially not being able to do a thing that women have been doing for as long as the Earth’s been spinning.
But in my struggle I’d learned to take inventory on all the things my body can do.
I’d taken advantage of my body’s ability to ward of the common cold while people in my office sneezed all around me, or how I can swim better than the lifeguards when I’m caught in a riptide at the beach. I’d been so focused on what I could not do on my own, that I ignored the things I could do that so many others cannot.
There is a chance Winifred will be my only baby, and that’s okay. I am just as much a woman and a mother as those who instantly get pregnant on their wedding nights. Mothers are strong women who make lives better for the people around them. I’m happy to be able to celebrate my first Mother’s Day this May, and I’m honored to share it with those mothers of ten children and those mothers of none.