This is hard to write, but it’s something I feel I absolutely must – my soul feels broken and heavy, and my heart has been put through a wood chipper.
Dan and I have been trying to conceive for a long time now. I was worried I may have some trouble, but did everything I possibly could to prepare my body. I adjusted medications, got advice, started tracking my cycle, and started supplements.
Then, one of my best friends (AM) got pregnant with her first child. She has PCOS, and was expecting to have a hard time. We had talked about this a lot. I was happy for her, especially since it took her so little time (3 months) despite having a diagnosed fertility problem and almost every doctor since her diagnosis saying that she couldn’t have children.
After her first was born, my baby fever got significantly worse than before.
Then, in July 2017, Dan and I decided to start trying. I had been on the “right” meds for over a year at that point, and my cycle was extremely regular.
That first month trying, I thought I may be pregnant – but ultimately wasn’t. So I decided to get a specific fertility app, and some ovulation tests. I bought a large packet of tests on Amazon for cheap (here). I used them right, and no positive at all. AM said she never got a positive with ovulation tests, so I figured maybe my levels were too low.
I kept testing, and we kept trying. The app (Ovia) would say I was ovulating and we would time things properly during my “fertile window.”
After six “months” (my cycle is a bit shorter than a full month, averaging 26 days), I told my OB/GYN that I kept getting negatives and was really scared that I wasn’t ovulating. She wasn’t too concerned as my period was as regular as clockwork, but was willing to give me referrals for some basic testing before she would put me on anything. She recommended I try for a year though, as insurance doesn’t cover any infertility stuff (with very rare exceptions), so the tests are pricey.
I was hoping to get pregnant before that year mark.
I kept testing. I finally switched to a more expensive ovulation predictor kit (OPK) – it detects both the LH (all ovulation tests do this hormone) and estrogen spikes that occur around ovulation. I would regularly see the estrogen spike, but still wouldn’t get the LH spike. But we kept trying.
AM found out she was pregnant with her second little, after 6 or 7 months trying, and her second daughter was born a few days before Mother’s Day 2018. I was super happy for her, and utterly devastated for me at the same time.
May 2018, after 10 cycles of trying (I took 2 off for my elbow surgery), I got my first positive ovulation test! The estrogen spike was detected, as usual, but then I looked at the test one morning and saw a solid (not flashing) smiley face! I had a positive test! Dan got several caps lock text messages in excitement! I even got weird pain/cramps that seemed like they were likely ovulation pains. I was beyond ecstatic that my body, apparently, had decided to start working properly!
Seven to twelve days after ovulation, a fertilized egg will implant into the uterine lining. Once there, your body starts to produce hCG, the hormone responsible for all the “normal” pregnancy symptoms (nausea/vomiting, sore breasts, moodiness, etc). HCG is also the hormone that pregnancy tests detect, which usually doesn’t have high enough levels in the urine to be detected until a week after implantation (which is around the first day of your period). HCG can be detected in a blood test prior to that, as blood tests are more sensitive, but the tests have to be ordered by a doctor.
A week after my first positive ovulation test, I felt weird! After that initial month of trying, I had never felt pregnant and would be the first to say “yeah, no, not this month” – though I continued to act pregnant (only approved meds and foods) for the time between ovulation and my period. But, this first cycle with a positive test was very different.
I was getting random dizzy spells that were completely different than my dysautonomia dizziness. The spells came on hard and fast, and almost literally knocked me over several times. After a few days, I was that dizzy constantly. I was also getting full very quickly, had a severe spike in my nausea, was peeing a lot, and my dysautonomia was getting worse (particularly the temperature dysregulation).
I tried not to get my hopes up, but I just knew – I was pregnant. Even Dan was almost positive I was pregnant, and he was only seeing what was obvious (the dizziness and nausea).
I got some brown very light spotting, a few days earlier than my usual pre-period spotting. This increased my hope! “Implantation bleeding” is spotting that can be heavy enough to be mistaken for a light period, and I hoped this was what I was experiencing.
Then, suddenly the “I’m pregnant” certainty was gone and I was 100% positive I was not pregnant. This realization was heartbreaking.
I still tested a day before my period was supposed to start: negative. And my period started overnight that night.
My period was extremely heavy, had a lot of severe cramping, triggered severe IBS symptoms (I got stuck in the restroom for several hours straight with spasms and dry heaving), and made me feel atrociously ill. This was definitely not a normal period.
There’s very little (if any) doubt in my mind that I was pregnant, and lost it. The symptoms were too undeniably “weird” and my period was far too different to be anything except pregnancy and miscarriage. Update September 2019: After further testing, we highly doubt I have ever been able to get pregnant. We’re pretty sure this was my body overreacting to suddenly producing its own hormones again. See the bottom of this post for links to more recent posts.
A “chemical pregnancy” is a pregnancy that ends right around the time the woman’s first period post conception should be starting. It’s estimated that many more chemical pregnancies happen than anyone is aware of, as they can happen before a positive pregnancy test.
This would be what I had.
I had been on turmeric and l-lysine for a while (my immunologist put me on them), and had been having some GI symptoms for a while, so I decided to look up the side effects. When looking up turmeric, I discovered medicinal quantities of turmeric have been shown to promote periods (which can promote miscarriage), so I immediately came off it. The turmeric had been giving me no obvious benefit anyway. I’m frustrated because all the doctors involved in my supplements knew of my desire to conceive and no one said anything.
I was terrified that I may have missed my one chance. “There’s no way I’ll get a 2nd positive ovulation test.” Well, I did!
This time, I wasn’t taking chances. I bought Pre-Seed for a little help, and we scheduled as much as possible. (I take a lot of antihistamines for my allergies, and they dry out mucus membranes, which can create a hostile environment for sperm.)
I was trying to not be optimistic. My body started acting weird, in a different but similar way as before. The most noticeable symptoms were that my breasts hurt (the breeze from the fan caused me to cringe and try to protect myself) and I had no appetite! I wasn’t that nauseous, but I didn’t want food at all. I did force myself to eat, though, since it’s necessary for you and a growing baby.
As I got closer to testing day, my nausea spiked, my breasts still hurt, and I still had zero appetite. I did not allow myself to think “I might be pregnant” – at least, not until I got uncharacteristically moody/hormonal. It literally felt like my brain was switched out.
I had brown spotting, but it was very light. Then, it got pinker and heavier… I started bawling because that almost always means I will wake up to my period. I screamed and cried in heartbreak and despair for over an hour.
The next day, my period started. Once again, I started bawling my eyes out. This was not a “mistaken spotting” period – I had a heavy flow, bright red blood, cramps, etc.
It’s almost impossible to explain how devestating that period was.
You see, the only thing I’ve ever known for a fact about my future was that I would have children (at least 2, but the actual number has changed a lot). I literally cannot remember a time I thought any differently – my future always included children. When I first realized dating Dan may be long term, or even possibly forever, I asked him if he wanted kids. I explained to him how important they were to me, so I needed an answer before it got serious. Thankfully, he was neutral on the kid thing, so it wasn’t a deal breaker! (Had he said there was no way that he would ever want children, I would have broken up with him – that’s how much of a “thing” it is for me.)
My dreams for the future also included changing the world. As I started getting noticeably sicker, I gave up on my dream to change the world myself. I still try to change it in small ways, but I had originally wanted to change it in big ways. Instead, my dream morphed into raising children that would be strong and brave enough to change the world themselves. How am I supposed to raise world-changing children if I can’t get pregnant?
Dan and I are now starting fertility testing. He did a semen analysis (we’re waiting on results), and I will start with an HSG. (An HSG is an imaging test where they inject a dye into my uterus and out my fallopian tubes to check for any blockages that would prevent pregnancy.) We’ll then go from there… I’m scared this may not happen, or that we won’t be able to afford any fertility treatments or procedures. And, until I get the plus sign on my test, I will continue peeing into cups every morning for over a week to check on my ovaries and then peeing into cups for a few days to impatiently check for that plus sign… I will also likely continue bawling my eyes out every single time my period decides to remind me I’m struggling for yet another month.
One in eight couples you know are struggling with infertility. One in four women have at least one miscarriage during their journey to conception.
Before commenting on this post:
- Think carefully about your words.
- Having a chemical pregnancy does not mean I need to be grateful that I can get pregnant – because we don’t know if I can. In theory, my eggs can be fertilized, but we can’t be 100% positive that is what happened. Without a positive pregnancy test, there is no way to know if my egg got fertilized and implanted, or if my hormones were just being confusing.
- I’m not “too young” (nor “too old”) for this. People have children and successfully raise happy families from their teenage years until they’re in their 40s! Couples under the age of 35 with no preexisting fertility diagnoses (like PCOS) take an average of six months to conceive – each cycle only has a 20-25% chance of success. Fertility starts to decline after age 30. If you try for over a year (and are under 35 years old), you need to see your doctor because that’s “not normal.” I’m currently 28, and have tried for 12 cycles now (I have had 14 cycles). We will hit one calendar year of trying at the end of July 2018.
- Relaxing won’t make me pregnant. I’d be pregnant already if that was the case, since I started trying relaxed and happy. Yes, stress can make things harder, but it doesn’t mean relaxing is a magic baby pill.
- I’m doing literally everything I can to help the process – except acupuncture because I find it absolutely excruciating! But, now I’m even starting to consider that because I’m that heartbroken.
- I’m allowed to be devastated and shattered during this journey. Because other couples have been trying for longer, have had more miscarriages, have spent more money on failed treatments, whatever, does not invalidate my emotions.
- I’m not sharing to ask for advice; I’m sharing to help raise awareness for the 1 in 8, and to connect with others on this journey. (And because it feels weird to hide medical news when my blog is primarily medical based.)
Yes, Dan and I talked over me writing about this process. We both agreed that it’s probably a necessary step for my processing and mental health, and that we’re okay with this story being online.
If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay. You can also read this page from RESOLVE (The National Infertility Association) for friends and family: Infertility Etiquette.
For more information about our infertility struggle, check out these posts:
- Making Baby B: Infertility Test Results and Next Steps
- The Necessity of Becoming Numb
- We Did an IUI (part 1)
- We Did an IUI (part 2)
- New Fertility Clinic: Answers and a Plan
- Our Infertility Struggle, So Far (Part 1)
- Our Infertility Struggle, So Far (Part 2)
- Our Infertility Struggle, So Far (Part 3)
As I post more updates, they will appear at the top of my ‘Infertility’ page.