Crime and Punishment: Un-becoming Infertile

“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.

11 Responses to Crime and Punishment: Un-becoming Infertile
  1. Raizel Kahn
    August 15, 2011 | 11:56 am

    Hey Amy! Great post. I can't think of a better way of describing the challenge. Your journey brings tears to my eyes… with such a happy ending. Hugs—

    • Hoang
      June 17, 2012 | 10:10 pm

      What you are feeling is heinalg and a wonderful place to be for a soon-to-be adoptive mama. I went through the same process before we adopted our daughter and we are a very healthy family unit. I have a close friend who did not go through this heinalg process before she adopted…. she still struggles with other people’s PG and is very bitter. The worst part is the strained relationship between her and her child. Don’t feel bad about your feelings. You are learning to appreciate your new reality and love the path your life has taken. Dealing with this now will make you the best mother who finds blessings in adoption. Best of luck to you!

  2. Anastasia
    August 16, 2011 | 9:02 am

    That is awful. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. But I am glad you got out the other side and found another way to give your love to someone.

  3. Kir
    August 16, 2011 | 9:59 am

    “A CIA operative can’t get into your head anymore than a medicated infertility treatment cycle.”

    this line, right here, was so amazing, so true of how I felt as an infertile and how I could never know how I was going to feel. I hated every moment of that.

    this was so raw and real, but full of hope too, full of promise, just like you were.. :)

  4. Cheryl
    August 16, 2011 | 11:38 am

    This is a beautiful post, one to which I'm sure many people can relate.

  5. angela
    August 16, 2011 | 11:58 am

    This is beautifully written. I am always so humbled by hearing about fertility treatments. They are so invasive, personal yet impersonal.

    I am glad for you that you found a solution that was right for your family.

  6. finallyMom@blogspot.com
    August 16, 2011 | 12:05 pm

    cripes you said it all in the first two sentences: “The challenge of infertility is not that you cannot bear children. The challenge of infertility is not allowing yourself to become your infertility.”

    i'm so glad you found you again.

  7. letmestartbysaying
    August 16, 2011 | 12:19 pm

    Beautiful and spot-on. The ups & downs of trying to make a baby when your lady parts aren't so cooperative are perfectly summed up with:

    “The challenge of infertility is not that you cannot bear children. The challenge of infertility is not allowing yourself to become your infertility.”
    and
    “Panic does not make you want to screw your husband.”
    Perfectly perfect.

    I am so sorry you had to go through so much before you knew you were done. Thank you for sharing all of this. Came from WOE linkup.

    • Yusuf
      March 14, 2012 | 2:33 am

      Many years of trying, 3 seirergus for endometriosis, countless treatments, we finally decided to stop trying to conceive and went the adoption route. We decided we wanted to be parents more than be pregnant. We went through Catholic Charities and brought our oldest home from the hospital. When faced with the decision to be parents again, we looked at all our options. This time insurance covered 3 rounds of IVF. On our first round we got pregnant with triplets. My oldest is 11 and the trio are 8. I’m here to tell you that if you want to be parents, you will be parents. I blog about my experiences with adoption and raising children by birth. You can always read there. RESOLVE is a great resource for infertility. I went to several RESOLVE meetings while trying to decide what I wanted to do. You can always try them out. Hang in there. I know it’s rough because I’ve been there. I remember how much I hated the holidays, or people trying to tell me to just relax and it would happen. I hated going to kid birthdays. It’s rough. You’ll survive. It made our marriage much stronger. The funny thing is the stress of raising triplets is what ended up causing the divorce.

  8. Merle Zorn
    January 2, 2012 | 3:02 pm

    Many couples have tried undergoing fertility treatments and attending infertility counseling to help them in their desire to conceive a child. Although some have been successful, there are still those who find it difficult to bear a child. If you’re one of them, there’s no need to give up. Perhaps it’s time to consider alternative approaches, like taking herbs to increase fertility.

  9. Julius Murcko
    January 3, 2012 | 6:26 am

    Just wanna state that this is very useful , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

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