“I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles,” [Raskolnikov] thought, with an odd smile.” Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky
The challenge of infertility is not that you cannot bear children. The challenge of infertility is not allowing yourself to become your infertility.
I sat on the plastic-topped exam table naked and cold in an open-front paper gown.
The ob-gyn assured me that if I wasn’t ovulating, he could fix it. But the tests confirmed I ovulated. Nonetheless, my doctor decided a little lower-order fertility drug like Clomid wouldn’t hurt. Maybe we’d get a couple more eggs to “shoot at.”
I was giddy with hope as I tossed back my first Clomid on the third day of my cycle. On my fourth cycle-day, I felt like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Stress chemicals flooded my body and my heart pounded. I existed on a tense wire between elation and terror. I was paranoid and guilty, but unlike Raskolnikov, I hadn’t harmed anyone. Anxiety morphed into chemical-hormone-induced panic.
Panic is not an aphrodisiac. Panic does not make you want to screw your husband. It makes you want to shoot him. Nice job doc.
After my dance with near psychosis, I made an appointment with a real fertility doctor, a reproductive endocrinologist, and we surrendered the intimacies of family building to science.
The diagnostics were draconian. To determine whether my fallopian tubes were open, I lay awake on an x-ray table while a technician pumped dye through my fallopian tubes. When the technician encountered a blockage—she pushed the fluid through it—and I endured it. I consented to my second laparoscopy for endometriosis (I’d had one before getting married) and a hysteroscopy. A balloon was inflated in my uterus to prevent adhesions, which might keep an embryo from implanting. When it was time to remove it, I allowed a physician to dilate my cervix and pull it out of me— with no pain medication. It hurt. It hurt like pulling a bicycle out of your nose.
But I was told it might help me have a baby. So I did it.
And then, on our second Femara and intrauterine insemination cycle, I became pregnant. After a long weekend in San Francisco, I peed on my 100th stick and saw two pink lines. It couldn’t have been 7:00 a.m., but I jumped from the toilet and ran screaming through the house.
“I’m pregnant!” My husband peered, bleary-eyed, at two pink lines.
“Wow,” he said. We hugged and began saving money for college.
Eight weeks later I was laying on a bed in the endocrinologist’s office looking at the baby’s heartbeat on a TV screen. The doctor’s forehead creased.
“The heart rate is a little slow,” he said, “but it’s probably fine. You’re HCG rates are still doubling. This is probably going to be a healthy pregnancy.”
“But what about my spotting?” I asked. The fear in my voice bounced off tile floor.
“Minor bleeding occurs in 30% of early pregnancies that go on to term,” he said. “It’s nothing to worry about.”
Two weeks later we were in the same room looking at an empty screen. I knew it would be empty because I’d held the baby in my hands three days before, when I miscarried on our bathroom floor. As soon as the bleeding became profuse I called the doctor. He encouraged me to stay home and miscarry “to increase the odds of having future pregnancies.”
I called my husband when the pain and the bleeding grew intense, but I lost the baby before he got home.
We grieved, girded ourselves, and tried two more intrauterine inseminations. We would wait and hope for two weeks after the insemination only to be disappointed when my “pregnancy symptoms” were the side effects of wretched progesterone pills. A CIA operative can’t get into your head anymore than a medicated infertility treatment cycle.
Finally, during a weekend out with friends something inside me shifted like an earthquake. I was dancing, and singing and having fun. We were laughing, really laughing hard for the first time in a long time.
I looked at my husband so he would know I meant it, even in the midst of the revelry, and I said, simply, “I’m done.” Somewhere in the dancing and laughter I had found myself again—Amy, not the Infertile—and I was happy to know I was still there.
Five months later we adopted our oldest son. I thank God every day for that quake.
This post is for my on-line writing group, formerly known as the Red Dress Club, recently re-invented as Write on the Edge: This week we’d like you to write about a moment in your life when you knew something had to change drastically. Maybe it was a relationship, or career, parenting, school, diet – anything.