Brace yourself, kids, as I’m about to tell you what my secret life has been like since 2014.
I want to have an Oberstadt baby.
I desperately want to have a curly, dimpled, brown-eyed, wildly talented Oberstadt baby.
Brian and I started talking about it seriously in 2014, when my endocrinologist gave me the thumbs up to go ahead and try. We always knew that we wanted kids, but things are complicated without a thyroid. I usually take two different thyroid hormones, and one of them is not the best to take during pregnancy.
It’s a shock to my body to stop taking one and only rely on the remaining hormone, plus it takes a while for my hormones to level off, and of course, I feel like shit when I’m not taking both. We decided to wait until after the crazy holidays, and I would stop taking the second hormone on the day after Christmas. We celebrated that Christmas with a sweet little secret, thinking it would be our last Christmas “alone,” and I imagined what our Christmas card photo would look like the following year: when I had a baby bump.
It took two months for my hormone levels to become “safe” to try and conceive, so we gave it a go in February. Of course, I wasn’t feeling the best, but I didn’t tell many people. I am always paranoid that if I tell people when I’m not feeling well, my business will suffer. I’ve written about that first year, 2015, and the crazy thyroid-related problems that I had, but we tried solidly to make our little Oberstadt baby for all of 2015.
It has been a nightmare of a rollercoaster.
Every month, I’d track my ovulation with these little strips, and pray like crazy, and every month, I’d wait anxiously to see if I was pregnant. The “Two Week Wait,” as well known in infertility circles, is the two weeks of hell between when you ovulate and when you find out you’re pregnant… or not. Every little twinge in my tummy or weight gain or bloating or change in my body caused me to wonder… is something happening inside me? Will this finally be the month? Every month, I’ve come up empty. Only one little stripe on the pregnancy test. I would stare at those little strips and think maybe I saw a faint little line, or maybe it was all in my mind. Was it there, or was I imagining it? I started buying ovulation kits and pregnancy tests in bulk, and I spent my free time reading forums filled with posts from other women clinging to hope that they may be able to get pregnant.
Mother’s Day came and went, and I was a little sad.
Father’s Day came and went, and I was a little more sad.
I didn’t register for a fall marathon. I thought, “If I’m pregnant, I won’t want to be running such a tough distance. I better not register.”
I thought I was pregnant in August. I probably was. Without giving you all a serious case of TMI, I’ll just say that my breasts were huge, my sense of smell was incredibly perceptive, and I cried non-stop. All I know for sure is that when my period came that month, it was horrendous.
My current fertility specialist thinks that I miscarried very early, and that it might have been caused by the large amounts of uterine polyps that I’d been growing. Needless to say, my uterus wasn’t exactly welcoming to a fertilized egg… but I didn’t know that at the time.
Our birthdays came and went, and I drank a lot of wine. I thought for sure that I’d be pregnant by now, but I kept hoping. I was sure that this would be our last September without a baby. I turned 30, and that’s a pretty serious thing for a woman trying to get pregnant. 30… the year when everything gets difficult.
I regretted not signing up for a marathon. I watched all my friends do races and sat here, with an empty womb, thirty pounds heavier than I’d been when I started the year.
I talked to my endocrinologist, and went back on both thyroid medications. We decided to just stop one of them when we discovered that I was pregnant, since I was feeling so miserable.
I had testing done at the UW in November, where they found the polyps. The test itself was terribly painful and I laid there, awake, with hot tears streaming down my cheeks and dripping into my ears. They showed me all the many growths, and explained that they really shouldn’t be there. They scheduled me for polypectomy surgery in December, and it went well. I asked my surgeon to place a “Welcome!” mat in there- I don’t know if he did. I tried to be brave and joke around with stuff like that, and I was hopeful that this would make things finally work for us. I was pretty lucky that our insurance covered the surgery, but I had to fight to get them to do it. I was pre-approved, then they said they wouldn’t cover it, and then I asked them a lot of questions and wondered why I even bothered going through the whole pre-approval process, just to discover that it didn’t matter…? Eventually, they paid for it, and I was relieved.
In December, Brian sponsored a Compassion child for me, through Compassion International. We send a little money each month to help our little 5 year old friend, Fernando, have access to school in Mexico, learn that God loves him, and be healthy. We send him letters and pictures, and he sends us drawings and notes through a translator. Every time I receive a drawing from him, I cry. I wish I had my own little kiddo.
We took our Christmas card photo: no baby bump.
In January, we discussed treatment options. Apparently, the polyps could have contributed to our difficulty getting/staying pregnant, but they’re not sure. At the UW, they skip all oral fertility meds unless they’re paired with in vitro fertilisation (IVF). It was a very expensive option for us- almost $1,000 a month. We didn’t have an extra $1,000 laying around. 😦 I also worried about the logistics of the treatment- Brian and I would have to make the two hour trek to the UW every month at least once, and I’d have to go down again a second time each month. So much driving, and so much stress.
I asked around up here for a local OB/GYN who specializes in fertility to see if I could try something different. I did a bunch of research and decided that I wanted to see if I could find someone who would work with me on just oral medications, without IVF. I did, and I started hormone therapy in March.
Hormones are not something to be messed with. Basically, this medication made my body think that I wasn’t producing enough estrogen, in an effort to get my body to create even more, and hyperstimulate my ovaries. Simultaneously, I had all the symptoms of menopause- the night sweats were the worst. I’d wake up in the night and have to change my clothes, so I was always a little sleep deprived. I wondered if this was some kind of preparation for the pregnancy hormones and broken up sleep that I’d be lucky to have when I made my own little bundle. I had terrible mood swings (buy Brian a beer the next time you see him, he deserves it!). I’m so thankful that a friend of mine has a wife who took the same medication, so he warned me that the side effects are often the same as the symptoms of pregnancy, so at least I knew in part of my brain that everything I was feeling was from the medication, and I shouldn’t get my hopes up.
The first month, I started on a very low dose. I didn’t get pregnant. They didn’t tell me that the medication changes everything about your cycle, so I was five days late, and swore I was pregnant. I had to go see my doctor and have him feel up my ovaries to make sure they were okay.
The second month, they increased my dose. I didn’t get pregnant. I had to go see my doctor and have him feel up my ovaries to make sure they were okay.
The third month, they doubled my dose over the first month. I didn’t get pregnant. I had to go see my doctor and have him feel up my ovaries to make sure they were okay.
The fourth month, they increased my dose again. The side effects were awful. I alternated crying and screaming then switched back to crying. I felt broken. I felt like less of a woman. I wondered what I did in the past to make this happen. I snapped at Brian, and felt bad about doing it. I wondered if he’d be better off with another woman who could give him a child. I was convinced that I was too fat to get pregnant. Any time that I was having fun, I wondered if I was having too much fun and wasn’t taking our fertility attempts seriously enough. I tore myself to shreds in my heart and in my mind. The pressure of treatment and the effect it was having on me took all the romance out of the conception process, and made the whole thing feel like a calculated routine, instead of something special.
I was elected for my second go-around as an alderwoman. Constituents would tell me, “Oh, you must not have kids…” They wanted me to know that not many people on city council have little kids, and that’s for a reason. They told me I wouldn’t have time to be in local politics when I had kids, then they’d look at me like I had some crystal ball and I was supposed to tell them that I was only planning on finishing this second term, or that I was already pregnant and I’d be resigning in a few months. I never knew what to say to that. My childlessness has nothing to do with with my ability to help run the city, and if I’m lucky enough to have children, I’ll still be just as capable- maybe even more so.
People make well-meaning comments to us all the time. People ask me when I’m going to settle down and have kids… as if my general enthusiasm for life is what’s keeping me from getting pregnant. They tell me that I won’t be able to keep up all my work and my hobbies once I have kids. I wish I could tell them all that I’d give it all up to have the chance to make my own Oberstadt baby. One person told me that I was selfish to spend my life as a career woman and not have children. That one has stuck with me in my heart, like a little parasite. They ask if we’ve considered adoption, which I have thought about a little, but it mostly makes me feel like I’m giving up on trying for our own. On Father’s Day, a family member with three kids asked Brian when he was going to join their club. I sat next to Brian and held back tears. We wanted to join their club quite a while ago, buddy. I’ve had people tell me that I travel too much to be pregnant, and that I’m not home enough to be impregnated. My grampie told me to stop running because my uterus would fall out (something that people in his generation used to actually think!).
I started telling people close to me that I was in fertility treatment a couple months ago, because I was worried that I’d have a crazy emotional breakdown in front of them and they wouldn’t know what was going on. As a result, less people are telling me that my clock is ticking, because they know that I am oh-so aware. My close friends and family know what’s going on, and they’re really sweet about it. As I keep struggling through this, month after month, people are trying to be supportive- but I often feel alone. I wonder if I have friends out there who feel the same way I do. I wanted them to know that they’re not the only ones- I want to help support them. Life is just too short to be sad, or timid, or angry, or resentful.
Thus, I’m baring my soul to all of you.
And now, I’m telling you all that I’m taking a break from treatment. I’ll re-enter it in a few months, once my body has gotten back to normal for a while. I’m choosing to go back to spreading joy and making beautiful things. I want to be positive again, I want to have hope for the future. I’m working on relaxing more and learning new techniques for stress management. I signed up for a race. I lost a little weight. I’m playing outside, paddleboarding and fishing, hanging out with Mr. Mustache, and enjoying my life, even though it’s different than what I’d imagined.
I think it’s going to happen for me, I really do. I have faith that something beautiful will come out of all of this. I don’t want you all to tiptoe around me or around the subject- I’ve come to terms with this situation, and I’m just trying to enjoy the life that I’ve been given, whatever it entails.
I was waiting and waiting to write this blog post- I thought the ending of it would result in some adorable pregnancy announcement where I could announce to the world that it was all worth it. I wanted to have a good way to tell everyone about what is going on, and have a positive ending. I worry that by telling our story as it stands now, people will be afraid to share their joys of pregnancy and babies and kids with me, because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. I don’t want that- I want people to share their excitement! Someday, I’ll be sharing my good news, and I’ll want everyone to be over the moon excited for us, too.
Brian has been absolutely amazing throughout this whole process. If you see him around, please give him a good handshake- I wouldn’t be able to get through this without him.
So… this is what infertility feels like. I hope that the next time I write about this journey, I’m closing out the post with a baby bump picture.