Trigger warning: infertility.
And this isn’t going to be one of those stories with a happy ending, in the sense that I struggled with IF and then had a miracle baby. There isn’t a sad ending because I appreciate the family I have and many other aspects of my life. But I can tell you right now that this isn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows. I won’t go into too much medical detail.
2018 in Review
I recently did a review of my 2019, which was a great year for getting back on track with my writing career and a lot of other aspects of my life. But then I thought, maybe I should talk about what happened before then. I mentioned health issues including carpal tunnel but I didn’t explain anything beyond that.
The rest of my health issues in 2018 were much more personal and at first, I wanted to keep them private. I struggled to deal with everything alone and only confided in a few close family members. There were also some online support groups that I joined but I kept it all very secret. Now I don’t want to do that anymore because I don’t have anything to be ashamed about and maybe my story will help other people who are struggling with similar problems.
I have been diagnosed with infertility for unknown reasons. This issue has actually been ongoing for many years. I’ve seen a lot of doctors and specialists who run a lot of tests but come back with no real answers. Although my body appears to be functioning and healthy in most respects, I am just not getting pregnant. I’m turning 36 this week so it seems like my chances are going down but since I don’t know if there are any real issues it could be that my “chances” have been zero all along.
The reason why this affected me so deeply in 2018, in particular, was that for a brief time, I actually had a potential diagnosis and treatment plan. It was actually the end of 2017, while I was working on the first Divine Warriors novel, that I had a test to see if my fallopian tubes were blocked. The doctor told me, “Your tubes are clear, but there is a shadow in your uterus.”
So early in December, my infertility specialist (a wonderful woman who tried everything she could, but didn’t mince words) explained to me that I probably had uterine fibroids. Basically, extra tissue is growing where it shouldn’t be inside my uterus. These growths are almost always benign but they can cause pain (explains my terrible menstrual cramps every month) and might, she stressed, potentially block a fertilized egg from implanting. But even then, she said that removing them might not have any effect on my chances of getting pregnant.
Still, I was hopeful. If there was no other explanation because everything else appeared normal, this had to be the answer for me. A simple outpatient surgery would remove my fibroids and then I’d be pregnant in no time!
It wasn’t that easy. First, they had to confirm the fibroids which involved a few more invasive tests. Another doctor was surprised by the large number of fibroids and said one even looked large enough to be a polyp. There was a lot of waiting to get lined up with appointments. I didn’t feel like writing because I was stressed out, worried, and ignoring my wrist pain. I published Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts in January, managed to write one short story for the fairy tale anthology, but otherwise, I barely touched my computer. I spent a lot of time in online IF support groups looking for other women who had had the same surgery, but there weren’t a lot of mentions about it. I felt isolated even in the niche community of women with IF, which only added to my depression.
Then I was finally scheduled for surgery on July 5th, which put a damper on any holiday plans for Independence Day but I didn’t really care. The surgery went smoothly, but when I woke up, the surgeon had some bad news for me.
“I don’t think we got all of it,” she said. “There was even more than we expected. That polyp was 1cm alone. Then I got two smaller fibroids but I think I saw at least one more before I was forced to end the surgery.”
Because the procedure has to be completed in two hours. So she wanted to send me for more tests to see if any tissue remained.
I recovered from the first surgery in about three weeks. It wasn’t too bad, mostly resting on the couch for the first week or so and then gradually increasing my activity. But for some reason, my menstrual cramps got even worse after the first procedure. And I was dreading having to go through the whole cycle of testing and surgery again.
The good news was that the tissue they removed did come back benign in the biopsy, as expected.
But more tests showed that there were two fibroids left. I had to wait to get back on the surgical calendar. The doctor prescribed me birth control pills to thin my lining and skip my menses to avoid the extra pain, thankfully. The date coincided with another holiday–two days after Christmas. My family gave me warm blankets and holiday pajamas because we all knew I was going to be curled up on the couch again.
The second surgery also went smoothly and this time, the surgeon was confident that she’d gotten everything. But the second recovery was even harder. I was bleeding for four weeks straight and could barely walk.
Finally, I was given the all-clear to try again. The IF specialist said there was no reason she could see that I wouldn’t get pregnant this time.
It’s been a year and still nothing. I’m happy to say that my cramps are much less painful right now, but the thing about fibroids is that they tend to come back. (I don’t know how many years I had them undiagnosed, but they’re usually a lifelong problem.) The only real cure for fibroids is hysterectomy. Apparently, they’re the most common reason for a hysterectomy. But that would make getting pregnant impossible.
I’m no longer seeing the specialist or getting any tests done. I could go to an expensive fertility clinic and trying IVF but that’s not covered by my health insurance, and I don’t know what my chances are with that. I don’t even know, after going through all of this heartache and physical pain, that I want to put myself through more invasive tests and procedures. I’ve been working through my disappointment and depression so my mental and emotional health is better along with my physical health.
And it’s not all doom and gloom. As much as I’ve always wanted to be pregnant and have a baby, there’s a lot of other great things in my life. I have two wonderful step-children, the best husband who has stood by my side through everything, a lovely home, and two great rescue pets. I have my writing career, the opportunity to go on vacations, and do many other things with my life. A baby would limit a lot of other opportunities that I have. I will probably always wonder “what if” things had turned out differently, but all things considered, I have a really good life and I am happy.