Thoughtful Thursday: Timeline

August 13, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayLast week Baby, Interrupted had a wonderful post about the tenses of infertility. The future (or perhaps subjunctive?), “I might be infertile;” the present, “I am infertile;” and the past, “I was infertile.”

This reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, particularly in the context of IF newbies I’ve encountered online and in real life.

What was the hardest phase of infertility for you?

It can be natural for long-time infertility veterans like myself to look at those who have just started having trouble and think, “You think it’s difficult now? You have no idea. Keep failing for a few years and see how you feel.” I’ve heard many infertiles complain when a friend comes to them upset because of trying a few times without success (“Three whole months? Boo hoo!”). Think back, though: the first BFNs might have struck you as flukes, but within a few months after each stark white pee stick, you probably wept. Even though you may have no idea what’s coming, that 5th BFN is as much disappointment as you can possibly imagine.

At my now-disbanded real-life support group, most people had been TTC for one to two years, except for myself (7 years) and another veteran (6 years, with many losses including multiple late-term losses). Occasionally one of the young’uns would say something like, “7 years and you still don’t have a baby? I think I would die if it took that long!” (Thanks a lot!) The other vet and I would reassure, “Actually it gets easier after a while. You’re probably in the hardest part now.”

In Tertia’s book So Close, she also talks about this issue, describing a peak in emotional difficulty after the reality of IF sets in, then eventually some level of acceptance. Of course, many people resolve their infertility before they make it all the way along the long path to acceptance.

For me, I certainly cried plenty during the first year and a half of trying, but the real heartache came when I started seeing my first RE and got pulled into a whirlwind of escalating treatments. It was awful. Awful, but there was lots of hope. “This next one has to work!”

Then, after I hit rock bottom with Miscarriage #1, I stuck my fingers in my ears and pretended la-la-la-la that the problem didn’t exist.

My next low point came a couple of years later when we’d resumed trying naturally (augmented by alternative treatments like acupuncture and herbs) but were still staying far away from the RE. I wrote about this period last year:

The proportion of our friends who are parents went from Just A Few to Basically Everyone quite suddenly. I became aware of this transition when we heard two announcements in one week.

–My uncle (whose kids are my age) and his new wife (who is also my age).
–A very good friend of my husband (who has been strangely paternal since he was a teenager, and who obviously would be a wonderful father) and his bitch of a wife (the least maternal person of all time, who loves no one but herself).

As it turns out, both of those couples had some problems conceiving. My uncle after his vasectomy-reversal required something like Three Whole Months to conceive my new cousin. The other couple, Mr. Dad and Anti-Mom, were married almost a decade. I always assumed that they were not trying most of that time, but Mr. Dad’s question in response to our announcement of a twin pregnancy proved unequivocally that they are members of the club:

Did you find out they were twins at the 5-week ultrasound or the 8-week ultrasound?

Maybe knowing about their difficulties at the time would have made me feel less forlorn — but, I didn’t know, and it was one of the worst times of my life.

It took me a few months to recover from that reality check. During those few months, I decided to resume treatments and made peace with the need for major intervention. After half a year of treatments including my first IVF, I started blogging. Soon after, I reached a place of acceptance. It seemed to have a lot to do with the revelation described in my Bridge post. Not that I never had difficult moments after that (such as medication-induced batshit nuttiness or the 2WW during IVF #2), but for the most part, infertility became not so bad, just another part of my life.

To sum up:

  • First 1.5 years: weepy but hopeful, lots of denial
  • Next year: the worst ever, but still hopeful
  • Next couple of years post miscarriage: total denial hiding hopelessness and fear
  • Year and a half after that: mostly okay, with a few very-close-to-the-worst weeks in there
  • Year after that, once blogging started: acceptance

I reached a place of true acceptance, and it only took 6 years. For some reason, newbies don’t find that very reassuring.

What was the hardest phase of infertility for you? Feel free to replace “infertility” with “loss” or “the adoption process” or whatever is appropriate for you.

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24 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Timeline”

  1. maybebaby63 Says:

    Wonderful post! I just started my blog (I am hoping it leads to the “acceptance” phase as it did for you as I have been pretty mired in the “denial/anger” phase)and came across yours. The hardest phase of infertility….I’d probably say it is a little like marriage – the hardest year is the year you are currently in! As treatment escalates, it is easy to look back and think the past was easier, and it is always scary to think about what the next phase may entail. I see from another post that you finally got your BFP – CONGRATULATIONS!! I am keeping my fingers crossed for you. 🙂


  2. Thinking back over the past 9 years, I find it difficult to determine the hardest parts. I remember when we first approached my family doctor about our struggle (about 8 months in) she said, “I’ve known couples who tried for 18 months and finally got pregnant…we’ll get you there”. I remember thinking that 18 months seemed like a lifetime.
    If I could pinpoint a time that sticks in my mind as incredibly difficult (the whole process is incredibly difficult) if would have to have been when we heard about the fate of our biological embryos. Our doctor said that in all of his years of practice he had never seen embryos like ours. He contacted colleagues across the globe and nothing like what happened to our embryos had ever been reported and to this day we are the only reported case. I remember crying through that day’s transfer and through to the subsequent miscarriage that happened as a result of transferring these embryos. We couldn’t afford an egg donor or surrogacy and we knew that there was nothing we could do to build our family (the adoption we had started had become lengthened beyond belief and that was difficult as well).
    Even when we finally did achieve a pregnancy with donor embryos, the fear of miscarriage was heightened by the fact that we couldn’t simply “try again” as we had no other embryos with which to try.
    I suppose the idea of not having available options has been the most difficult.
    I feel like I’ve rambled, but I was processing while writing. I hope it makes some sense.

  3. nicole Says:

    The toughest part for me is so obvious in retrospect. It was the nearly 9 months I spent doing clo.mid under the care of my OB, who actually had no business trying to help. First, he just prescribed 3 months and sent me on my way. I didn’t know better, I didn’t realize what would be happening or that it would have been better to be monitored. I just went on my way and thought that a couple months later and I’d be pregnant.

    It didn’t work and after a couple of months off of the meds, I went back to the OB who gave me more clo.mid. At least he did have the sense at this point to have me get an hsg and to have DH get an SA…and here’s where the wheels fell off. I was semi-busted, DH was apparently semi-busted and being on clo.mid was making me a crazy person.

    At the end of that year, we were referred to the RE and I had reached my lowest point. I recall sitting in my car following that first hsg with the OB–and I was so very sad. I just cried and cried. Once we moved on to RE, we were better because we felt like we were finally doing something under the care of someone who knew what they were doing.

    My message to everyone I know is don’t waste time with the OB. If you aren’t pregnant in 6 months, get to an RE. In my opinion, you wouldn’t regret it.

  4. birdless Says:

    I guess I’m still new to this compared to you. My husband and I started “officially” trying back in January, so this is month 8. We were “not preventing”, however, for two years prior to that. At first we thought it would just happen, of course, then we starting wondering if something was wrong, so that is when we started really keeping track and doing everything we could to hurry it up. We’ve just now begun the process with doctors. We got the SA and I have my first appt with an RE coming up.

    I guess the hard part right now is just not knowing what is wrong, so I don’t know whether to be hopeful or scared. I know I’m not too old right now, but I’m not that young either, at 31, so if we do have to wait for testing and treatments(for financial reasons) it is going to be really hard to continue being hopeful.

    Reading blogs like yours does help. Thanks for sharing so much about your journey.

  5. Shinejil Says:

    There were a couple particularly difficult phases, some that make complete sense and some that came as surprises. The terrible time after my ectopic, when I felt slammed to the ground both emotionally and physically. A couple crazy months when I threw the entire non-Western sink at my problem and put myself on an insanely restrictive diet that galled me and annoyed me deep inside. The wait until the ultrasound, and then the wait to see if the littler of the twin embies would make it. But overall, the hardest time for me was the loss and what it did to my body and mind. I went deep into darkness for a few months.

  6. Kristin Says:

    I hit rock bottom about midway through our losses. I just couldn’t see how it would get any better and how we could possibly ever have a pregnancy succeed again. It was bleak. I felt like I was in a deep, dark hole. I actually went on antidepressants for about 4 months because I desperately needed help getting back up out of that hole. Once I had the help of the Antidepressants, I was able to see things logically and deal with it.

  7. CC Says:

    Just found your blog and love it! We have been in this IF nightmare for 5 years. I think the hardest was the first 2 years when I still thought I was the “problem” and we should be able to conceive with some minor intervention, AKA Hellish Clomid. All of our friends were pregnant with their first babies and I felt so alone. The last 3 years have not been easy, but after we learned of DH MFI it was a lot easier. It smashed the hope of a “oopsie” pregnancy… but that brought me the closure I so desperately needed. Now we are in the waiting and saving period. And I have come to accept IF as just part of who we are. Everyone has their trials and this is ours. That’s ok.

  8. Michele Says:

    I think the hardest part for me was the period where I saw doctor after doctor with no diagnosis. Just “unexplained” or “you must not have eggs” or a variety of other comments. I was young (we married right after I turned 18 and were trying ever since) and the docs never gave me an u/s or even b/w to try and figure it out. One even told me, if we still didnt conceive by the time I was 30, to come back (I was 22 at the time.) I felt like I’d been blow off. I was 27 when we saw our RE and she was wonderful. I finally had real care and a diagnosis (PCOS) and was pregnant within a month after ovulation induction.

    The second hardest part was coming to terms with my incompetent cervix, which has only happened within the last week, after some soul searching. It still hurts, mind you, but I am at a place of acceptance. Losing my children because MY body failed them has been something that is still going to have to come on a day by day basis.

    On the note of your hub’s friend… It amazes me that, when I am open about our diagnosis or treatment, how many people open up to me. People who have several kids or none at all, or one after a long time. It is such a silent sorrow.

  9. Carrie Says:

    As always, great post. And yes, it is REALLY hard to type while laying on your side.

    For me, the second miscarriage was the hardest. After spending about six months trying, with one miscarriage in there too, we found out at 9 weeks that we’d lost our little baby. I LOST IT. I cried harder and longer than ever.

    After that, ineffective Clomid and IUI cycles, followed by the discovery that my tubes had to be removed. That might’ve been harder, actually to know that it is now IMPOSSIBLE for me to get pregnant without IVF.

    Even though I may be lucky enough to bring these babies home (Please, please) I will always be infertile. There is no past tense for me.

  10. Heather Says:

    After 15 years of marriage, 10 years of trying hard for children with and without the RE, 3 children, 2 successful pregnancies, and 3 miscarriages, I think the worst part of infertility was the toll it took on my marriage. Sex is just now getting to be fun again, but we’re too tired with the new twins to work on it too much just yet.

    And even though we’re finished having children (I even got put on the pill for the first time in my life!), I will always consider myself infertile. There will be no past tense other than I had to deal with infertility.

  11. Cat Says:

    The hardest part for me was spring of 2008 after TTC for 2.5 years when my OB told us he recommended IVF after several failed cycles of clomid and an HSG showing one blocked and one questionable tube. I’d been laid off six months before and hadn’t done a darn thing about looking for a job. DH kept bugging me about it and one night I finally broke down and told him that I couldn’t even get through the day without crying at least once, I was consumed by my IF and couldn’t possibly start a new job. He stopped talking about me finding a job, but that was the only part that got easier. Shortly after that we started the roller coaster of IVF.

    Now we have our beautiful triplets and are on the NICU roller coaster. I, too, will always consider myself infertile. Yes, we have children, but we wouldn’t be able to have anymore without more help. I’m less bitter than I used to be before the babies were born, but I still feel twinges when people (like the NICU nurses today) talk about their baby-making plans like it’s something they *can* actually plan. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ALL just *decide* to get pregnant? (See, there’s one of those twinges again.)

  12. Photogrl Says:

    I do believe that there are stages to IF.

    After almost 4 years of TTC#2, with multiple losses under my belt, I’d have to say my darkest times were around year #2. I had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured and took my left tube with it, then 4 months later, I was pregnant, but lost the baby around 9 weeks. At that point, I couldn’t look ahead and felt that fate was too cruel.

    Lots of counseling and tears later, and a few more losses, I’m starting to play with the idea that our family might be complete at 3.

    Honestly, though, it just depends on the day. Even if I do somehow (IVF, adoption) have another child, ut I don’t think I’ll ever NOT think of myself as an infertile.

  13. Jules Says:

    “Timewise” we weren’t in it that long – about a year. I have no idea what years and years would feel like but from the beginning, we knew it wouldn’t be years and years as we only could “try” with assistance which equalled money and stress and that just wasn’t going to be what we wanted to deal with for a long period of time, at least without a long break here and there and saving up money for treatments. (just our way of thinking) We had planned on the first long break after IUI #5 since at that point it was move on to IVF which we both weren’t ready for at that point and wanted to save a bit before that anyway.

    Realizing there would be no “try naturally” phase was the hardest part. Naively I would do OPKs during the just clomid months but there was nothing going on. (anovulatory after going off BCP) 6 months into it, we were at an RE and onto the IUIs after clomid alone from my regular OB had done nothing.

  14. Mel Says:

    The hardest phase came apropos of nothing–meaning, I can’t connect it to what was happening with treatments. We were stuck on a roundabout–this roundabout where we couldn’t find our turn off and went around it three or four times and while Josh was driving, I was thinking, “I hate myself.” And I realized in that moment how much I hated myself for not being about to get/stay pregnant. And it lasted for about a month or so.

  15. Ana Says:

    Took me a while to answer because I didn’t have the time to drudge through these memories yesterday…

    The hardest part was when the reality hit. When the hope of a romantic “natural” conception was gone. We had convinced ourselves we just weren’t “timing it right”, despite the temp charts & OPKs—that we were somehow missing the mark, but certainly it would happen… It was hard to accept, I didn’t have anyone at that time to talk about it with—DH was in denial and didn’t think it was a “big deal”, and meanwhile, those announcements and bellies kept parading by.

    Once acceptance set in for both of us we could begin to learn, research, plan (things I do best!), and even reach out for support. It wasn’t easy, but it became another part of our hectic lives at that point.

  16. Elaine Says:

    So, DH and I are 24 months into TTC #1. Early on, we caught that I was rarely ovulatory so I have done 4 cycles of Clomid. My first low point was when Clomid round 4 was a no-go (I woke up early, tested, got a BFN and went back to bed. Woke up 30 minutes later and Sarah Palin’s daughter was talking about teen pregnancy. Ruined my day).

    Turns out that was a tiny molehill. I had an HSG in July (all clear! hurrah!) and DH had an SA (low volume, low motility, mostly dead) and that is where we are now. I don’t know what to do (planning to beg my OB to send me upriver to the RE).

    Anyway, I just wanted to share and tell you thank you for writing about your experiences. I truly do consider blogs like yours to be inspirational. Thank You.

  17. strongblonde Says:

    i have very similar stages, but lasting only 3 years. (i can’t believe i just said “only” 3 yrs). the first year i felt like i wanted to kill someone. people who started trying after me would get pregnant and complain to me about it….when they *knew* that we were trying. my doc was not very supportive, even though i had documented for many months and was NOT ovulating. i still remember being on vacation in 2006 and getting my period. i came back to bed and b said, “F them all. we’ll just go and see a RE. we don’t need a referral. maybe we can finally take care of business!” i was happy to finally be doing something. then, as we were doing our workup we got pregnant “naturally”….we were happy, but i kept having weird feelings that something was majorly wrong. i never felt comfortable with the pregnancy. b thought i was crazy. when we went in for an US around 9-10 wks we discovered that there really was no baby. not that it had died, not that it looked abnormal….just no baby. my body was playing tricks on me. my betas were high, i was sick and tired…. then we had our d&c and the pathology report came back positive for molar pregnancy. i think this was the lowest point. i had to start weekly monitoring. somehow i knew it was just a matter of time before the cancer was found and diagnosed. maybe i was just looking for the bad side of things? i didn’t feel good about any of it. the molar pregnancy and cancer meant that i had months of monitoring, chemotherapy, and then at least a year of when we wouldn’t be *allowed* to TTC. however at my 6 month checkup my oncologist told me to start trying b/c she thought it would take a long time. then we started our 2 years of intensive trying. every month. we did 6 IUIs. we did 2 IVFs. it seemed to take forever. but i was *doing* something. yes, it was expensive. yes, my body was under stress. but i felt better b/c i was doing what i could do. …and i started blogging during my first ivf cycle. i think that’s when i finally felt okay with things. it was what it was. IF was part of me. it would always be part of me.

  18. Kate Says:

    I’m closing in on year 2 of IF and recurrent miscarriage. Blogging helps ease my pain because I know there are others like me.

  19. jill Says:

    Oh gees – I have been TTC for the better part of 13 years now and I seriously think it just keeps getting worse.

    When I was in my 20’s, it sucked but I still felt like I had so much time. Once I hit 30, I felt like a complete failure that my one dream in life had not yet been fullfilled. Every year now I just feel worse and worse and a little bit more hope of ever having even one baby slips away.

    I think the hardest part is still in store for me. That will be when my sisters finally have babies. I’m soooo dreading that day but also extremely looking forward to being an aunt.

    I don’t think there will be any kind of acceptance for me until I finally know it’s completely impossible for me to have a baby (menopause, hysterectomy, etc).

  20. WiseGuy Says:

    A little late to the TT party, and you can kick my chin! 🙂

    What was the hardest phase of infertility for you? Feel free to replace “infertility” with “loss” or “the adoption process” or whatever is appropriate for you.

    Hmmm…

    a) Knowing that I would not have a baby the hopping-popping way.

    It took me a while to grasp that. It was not about coming to terms with it. It was first acknowledging it. Immediate to my off-contraception phase, certain reasons made me and hubby stay in different cities, and it was always suggested that perhaps timing was the spoiler. It is when it first struck me that something was wrong, and then the convincing my mother part that something was wrong, that was the hardest. IF was not a natural thought to me in the first go.

    Every IUI was stupidly this-is-it hopeful.

    b) Not having a baby the way I ‘planned’ to.

    I think I have repeated time and again about the way I wanted to space the babies, and how many I wanted and at what age I wanted. It hurts to know that I am left behind, while my peers are already planning admissions to schools and such for their kids.

    c) Being extremely hopeful of the IVFw/ICSI, I thought I was playing the ultimate game. I remember the morning of my ET, I wrote a big 3 under the tiny 3 (the nurse had written). And I made the nurse read it and we giggled together. I was so sure that this was it. Falling flat on my face right in the middle of the froggy pond was like the hardest thing.

    Gah.

  21. Shelby Says:

    In my 5 year journey, I can recall two distinct periods of time that were the absolute worst:

    1. Soon after our official diagnosis and our first very confusing and quick IUI, we moved across a few states and took a year-long and torturous ‘break’ from further treatment, but in many ways, it was not self-imposed. We had new jobs (thus taking time off didn’t seem to be an option), didn’t know the area, had new insurance and felt we couldn’t afford to seek treatment out. I felt trapped and unable to do anything. We never spoke of our infertility that entire year, but it was far from non-existant to me.

    2. After our miscarriage. Now that I had been lucky enough to experience the sought after two lines, I realized how little that meant in the pursuit of a child and how much more heartache I could actually experience. By that time, four years had passed and parenthood seemed even farther away.

    For me, it wasn’t the passage of time, persay, but the specific events in the timeline of our infertility that contributed to the harder times.


  22. I’d have to say the hardest part was TTC before our problem was diagnosed. Coming from a family of rabbits, I just knew something was wrong after 6 months of officially trying, but of course the doctor wouldn’t refer me until I hit the year mark b/c I was under 35. I was a bit of a mess until then.

    I’ve known and read about so many people who were surprised by their fertility issues, but I’d be interested to know if there were others, like me, who suspected a problem from early on — though I wouldn’t say I suspected something was wrong. I maintain that I knew and that from 6 months on, it was just a matter of everyone else getting on board.

    I’m a doer, so I just felt ten times better after my year was up when I finally got in to see a fertility doctor and we started running tests. I was still crying all the time and the Clomid did a complete number on me, but I can’t describe the immense peace that came over me when the doctor finally diagnosed the problem and said that it could only be solved with IVF.

    Yes, IVF might not have worked and yes, it was super expensive, but at least I knew exactly what was going on. No more (okay, well not a lot of ) tears after that, I just started the treatments and got to work.

    I also liked feeling like I was in control again. My husband and I sat down and figured out a plan: 2 cycles of IVF and if that didn’t work, we would use our remaining savings to start adoption proceedings. I loved and still love having a plan. So I think other than finding out I was pregnant that was the best part of my experience.

  23. Jen Says:

    I think this blog was exactly what I need today. I have spent the last year while my husband was deployed to Iraq basically working and visiting my RE. I’ve kept so calm and matter-of-fact about everything until this week. I thought that I had accepted my infertility. Apparently I had accepted that I would probably need IVF to conceive. When my test came back negative on Monday, I cried. Then my husband came home on Wednesday, I cried happy tears. Then I thought I needed to give my one year old puppy away, and I cried and couldn’t stop. I think I scared my husband with the depth of my despair. I think I always thought IVF would work. When it didn’t, I realized there was a whole other part of me that still needs work.

    Sorry this is all about me, but I wanted you to know how your post helped sooth my wounds.


  24. That’s an interesting question. Looking back I think the hardest phase was between the fertiloscopy and the decision to go for the first IUI. The fertiloscopy had showed that everything was OK except for some endometriosis, which was removed. We started TTC again thinking that must have been the problem, only to realize 8 months later that nothing had changed, and that we needed to switch gears if we ever wanted to be parents. All six BFNs after the IUIs were hard too, especially the first four (after that I lost hope they would work, almost did the last two just for form). But what was also very hard is the whole thing of love-making becoming strictly timed duty… Only now, after our baby was born, is it getting back to normal and spontaneous in that respect.


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