It’s one of those things that many of us take for granted. One of those things that so many people try not to have happen that when we do decide to take the leap and become parents we don’t think about the possibility of infertility. I know I didn’t, I took the ability to get pregnant for granted.
I married later than most of my friends at the age of twenty-eight. Many of them had already started their families but my husband and I decided to wait a little while to have children. We wanted to be financially secure and “ready”. It wasn’t long into our marriage though that I started having intense abdominal pain and was bouncing from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong. Since I was a teenager I had always had painful menstrual cramping, now I was having mid cycle pain and it was so painful that I was losing days of work each month.
In 1990 a gynecologist didn’t dismiss my pain as psychological as most of the doctors before her had. She performed exploratory surgery and that’s the first time I heard the word ENDOMETRIOSIS. Endometriosis, I learned, is a condition where endometrial cells that are normally only in the uterus are found outside the uterus. These cells respond to all the hormonal changes and act as the uterus does despite being outside the uterus. The doctor told me that she had tried to surgically remove the endometrial patches but that some “lesions” were on my colon and she had to leave those so she didn’t perforate the colon wall. She also told me that if I wanted children I needed to try right away because woman with endometriosis frequently have difficulty getting pregnant or are unable to get pregnant. Looking back on it I wish we had tried “right away”. I can’t help but wonder if anything would have been different but we didn’t try then.
At that time doctors put women with endometriosis on the Pill round the clock so to speak to keep them from menstruating. One theory is that the endometrial cells end up outside of the uterus from “back flow menstrual blood” so stopping menstruation supposedly keeps more endometrial cells from growing outside the uterus. I tried this method for a couple of years but found that I gained weight and started having a number of other health issues that involved my feeling really tired and run down most of the time, I didn’t have any idea that my thyroid was in trouble. Also by 1994 my husband and I decided we were “ready” for that baby so off the Pill I went. Fully expecting to get pregnant with NO problems! I mean after all we had used protection for those years, the Pill, condoms before that, worried over late periods, you know the drill. Now I WANTED to be pregnant and low and behold the months ticked by and there was no pregnancy.
1996 brought my seeing an endometriosis specialist who echoed what the first doctor had said. Endometriosis causes some woman to be infertile. I was determined NOT to be one of those women and agreed to go under the knife again. This time it was the latest and greatest, cutting edge surgery and he used a laser to remove the lesions. The post operation notes were not favorable, there was even more endometrial tissue in the abdominal cavity and one of my ovaries was “adhered to my colon”. It seems that endometriosis AND surgeries cause ADHESIONS which are basically scar tissue that can glue parts of you together which are not meant to be glued together. All of which can hinder the process of getting pregnant.
About this time I started having a hard time not crying when I got the news that someone else was pregnant. Invitations to baby showers would cause emotional storms, being torn between wanting to celebrate someone else’s happiness but being devastated that I was unable to do what others had no trouble doing. Family members were starting to have their second and third children and here my husband and I were without any. More months ticked by, and every month when my period would start I would go deeper into infertility sadness.
1998 brought an emergency surgery due to endometrial cells that grew into a cyst on my left ovary. The cyst ruptured and unlike normal follicle cysts that release eggs, the endometrial cyst tore my ovary when it ruptured causing internal bleeding. I still believe to this day that this, although one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced, was a positive thing to have happen. I say that because due to there being blood in my abdomen the surgeon flushed out the abdominal cavity with saline solution several times. I don’t know if this helps other women but since having that surgery and being “washed” out I have had markedly less abdominal pain.
The bad news was that the surgeon said there was more endometriosis then in the surgical notes from the 1996 surgery and referred me to an infertility specialist. I’ll try to make that long story short because a lot of it is just plain unpleasant. I take my hat off to all the women that go through infertility treatments. Although I really liked my infertility doc and my husband and I did everything he recommended from Clomid, to hormonal shots taken at home, what seemed like hundreds of ultra sounds, and Intrauterine insemination still after months and months of it all I was not pregnant. He finally told us that the only way we had even a remote chance of getting pregnant was through Boston’s IVF at $10,000 a try. He told us that getting pregnant naturally would be impossible. At that point we gave up. We didn’t have the money to do IVF and I was so very tired of all the medical treatments. I gave up saying that the year of 2000 would bring me a baby, I gave up saying child-LESS and tried to say child FREE. I even bought a sports car because I was child free and of course I wouldn’t need a back seat right?
Never let it be said that fate doesn’t have a sense of humor because one year and a month after saying good bye to our infertility specialist, (I know the exact time because it took us that long to pay off our bill!) my husband and I went camping. We talked about how our life would be, yes child FREE but we could travel and globe trot and we had at least eighteen or nineteen nieces and nephews by that time so we could always borrow one or two when we wanted to get a child fix . . . I’m sure you’ve guessed by now and yes, our son Nicholas was born nine months after that camping trip. Do I think it’s because as everyone tells you that you need to relax and not think about it? No, I don’t and when I hear that it STILL makes me furious. I now know that my thyroid was being attacked by antibodies due to an autoimmune disorder and to be able to become pregnant you need a healthy thyroid. We were just very lucky that during that month the antibodies were low and my body was healed enough to allow pregnancy to happen.
If you’re struggling with infertility don’t let anyone tell you that you just need to relax. Reducing stress and living healthy are very positive and helpful things but just telling yourself to not think about it is not realistic. I strongly suggest you check your thyroid levels and read Stop The Thyroid Madness ~ http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/. I know now I might have been able to have a second child if I had known about and dealt with my thyroid problems earlier but I’m so very thankful for the one child I have whom the doctors said was impossible.
The author lives with her husband and now ten year old son in Maine and would like to help raise awareness of misdiagnosed thyroid disorders so others don’t go through years of infertility and health problems as she did.