It’s time we share that this is the end of our journey to conceive and carry a baby.
When you get to the point where you realize that your family isn’t going to grow from a night of unbridled passion, you find yourself with a giant barrel of very confusing, totally foreign, and extremely expensive options that your 7th grade health teacher didn’t prepare you for. There’s no if/then to infertility, and there are no intuitive next steps to building your family. These options are widely ambiguous and massively daunting, and a lot like throwing $65k spaghetti at the wall. You kind of just pick one and go.
IVF seemed like the natural next step. You make a baby, then you carry it, and then you birth it. It’s what we’ve learned from the beginning, and intuitively, it’s just how it happens. You have tubes that suck? OK, let’s just get around them. It sounded like something that couldn’t not work.
But for 60% of people who have undergone IVF, they walk away without a baby, and we get to be part of that.
We did 3 egg retrievals, and 6 transfers of 10 embryos before we accepted that we picked the wrong option. Never a second pink line, never a flicker of light at the end of that very long tunnel. We thought IVF would circumvent all the issues we thought I had, but transfer after failed transfer brought on more and more testing, of which most came back totally normal.
I had my 8th laparoscopy in December. While I knew it was unlikely we’d find anything new, there was a shred of hope that hobbled itself along thinking that, just maybe, there’d be an answer. And for better or worse, there was.
I finally had a diagnosis of adenomyosis. The short description is this: endometriosis is cells that are similar to the lining of your uterus that grow in other parts of your body, outside the uterus. Adenomyosis is when those endometrial cells start growing into the walls of the uterus. It’s invasive and extremely painful all month, with debilitating periods. It’s not only a major contributing factor to infertility, but can also make for an incredibly unsafe pregnancy. Adenomyosis pregnancies have significantly higher rates of miscarriage, preterm labor and delivery, infection, placenta issues, and on and on. There is no cure.
I came out of surgery, and the first thing I remember is hearing “you’re going to need a hysterectomy”. I don’t know who said it, and honestly, I vaguely remember being really calm about it (likely the drugs and in hindsight, probably the best way to get the news), like it’s what I knew all along. If you want the truth, it was a relief. After years of failed fertility treatments, just knowing it was something I was doing wrong, actually feeling like I was being punished for something in my past, maybe it wasn’t my fault? Note: no one other than me blamed me, but no one else had to.
Right before surgery, I had read a quote (that I apologetically cannot cite, so if you know, please chime in) that said something like this: you’ll never miss a message from the universe. It’ll just keep getting louder and louder until you acknowledge it.
Pretty sure this was it.
I decided to take advantage of the fact that I’m childless and do the surgery now. It’ll never get easier to take a month off, and the pain won’t get better as time goes on. Adenomyosis is rough. Really rough. And maybe I’m not spending my time parenting, but the least I can do is try to get some of my life back.
I’ve spent the last 2 months grieving. Like, really deeply mourning the fact that our journey to conceiving and carrying our child is over. I desperately wanted to carry and birth our child. I wanted to feel them in my belly, I wanted them to know my voice before they were born. I wanted my husband to have a pregnant wife. I wanted to bond with other pregnant women over stretch marks and swollen ankles. I find myself getting emotional over weird things, like never being able to tell my husband my water broke. And I hate that I have to be defensive here, but I’ve gotten enough comments to know I need to say this: this isn’t all about grieving biology. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little part of me that was excited to see who Mike and I would create, but it’s certainly not everything. I’m grieving being pregnant with our child – emphasis on the pregnant, not the genetics.
This isn’t the end of our journey to parenthood, but we don’t know what it looks like from here.
My hysterectomy is in March, and I’ll be focused on healing body and heart. If it’s anything like having my tubes removed, the gravity kind of sets in after the fact, and while I’ll be no more infertile after the surgery than before, there’s just something about that perceived permanence. We’ll also be removing an ovary, so my hormones will be off for a little while. And with that, I just say I’m sorry. For everything. The healing journey is going to have a lot of ups and downs, and while I know this, giving myself grace and patience will likely be the hardest part.
You’ve been on this journey with us through meds, procedures, surgery, embryos, transfers. You’ve seen the ups and the downs. You’ve kindly helped me steer the convo away from things that will make me cry, and mercifully pretended not to notice when I cried anyway. You’ve been gentle and kind, and done your best to support even when it was something you didn’t understand. You’ve learned alongside us, and for us. I see you make a conscious effort to stop saying things like “it’ll happen, I just know it!” and “have you tried” and transition to “are you ok?” Some have grown distant because it’s uncomfortable to watch, and to you, we understand and are always ready to welcome you back into my/our lives should you so choose. I’ve watched you, my empathetic friends, start questioning your own lives because you just *knew* it would happen for us, and when it didn’t, grew uneasy in your ability to visualize something we all wanted into existence. To you, I hope you rest easy knowing that life works out differently for all of us, and should you ever hit an icy road in your path, we’ll be there for you too.
Above all, thank you for being there when it gets heavy and uncomfortable. Thank you for reading our story and squeezing your babies just a little bit tighter. Thank you for taking care of yourself first. And more importantly, thank you for being you. Every single one of you has added your own unique piece to our story, and for that, I am grateful.
For those who are so inclined, my beautiful friend Lucy set up a Meal Train for us after surgery. Please do not feel obligated. I’ll put the link here if it’s something you feel called to do.
I’m always open to conversation, so please don’t hesitate to ask, as long as it’s for information with an open mind. Here are things that I’m always open to talk about, but appreciate not being challenged on. I’m grateful in advance for your effort:
- Decision to have a hysterectomy
- Fertility news, advancements, doctors
- The article that you saw on Facebook about transplanted uteruses
- Anecdotes about your friends who miraculously got pregnant naturally after fertility treatment. I don’t have tubes, I can promise you this won’t be us.
Here are things I’d LOVE advice/anecdotes/discussion on. Thank you for any help you can offer!
- Hysterectomy healing
- Bengkung belly binding
- Hormonal balance after having an ovary removed
- Personal accounts from families that came to be in ways other than pregnancy. Bonus points for testimony from a grown child of an unconventional family.