A few weeks ago, a friend posted about National Infertility Awareness Week and her struggle with infertility. I didn't know that this was a thing, but I love that it is. Infertility has such a stigma attached to it (Why!?) and couples who struggle with it feel like they can't talk about it, which makes it exponentially harder to deal with.

Let's talk about it.

I stopped taking birth control in June 2015 after Spencer and I graduated from college. Our plan was that we wouldn't actively try for a baby while he was in law school, but we also wouldn't use any contraceptives. We felt like if it was supposed to happen, it just would. My first period was several weeks late, but this wasn't really unusual for me. My periods had been wildly irregular before taking birth control. To the point where I spent about 1/4 of my time in high school with an irrational fear of immaculate conception.

Except without the sex.
As my periods continued to space further and further apart, other strange things started happening. Despite diet and exercise, I started to pack on weight. And then my hair started to fall out to the point that the sink, shower, and vacuum were getting clogged almost weekly. Month after month, my period would be 3,4,5 weeks late, but when I took a pregnancy test, it would be negative. When I went a three month stretch without a period around Christmastime and was still not pregnant, I decided that I needed to go to the doctor.

My general practitioner ran a few tests and the only thing that was unusual about my bloodwork was that my testosterone levels were high. I immediately called Spencer and told him, "We've discovered why I can't get pregnant! ...I'm a man." I was told to go to a gynecologist for more specific tests.

I made an appointment with an OBGYN whose office was filled with pictures of babies to make me feel even worse. I should have taken this as a sign that this was not the office for me. I described what was happening to the doctor and she immediately took me back for an ultrasound. She told the tech to look at my ovaries. She pointed the wand over and they both gasped.
Not actually my ovary (because weird) but this is what it looked like
I'm pretty sure that it says somewhere in Med School 101 that you should never gasp at your patient's anything when they are in the room with you. "Wow," they kept saying over and over, "that could go in a textbook!" Which, once again, not the best thing to say while your patient is next to you. They went on like this for a few minutes before they remembered I existed. I was told to put my clothes back on so we could discuss what we had found. The doctor still hadn't told me what was wrong, but I figured that "textbook" ovaries were not a good sign.

When we got back to the exam room, the doctor told me that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, which was causing my weight gain and hair loss as well. She told me that I had two options, go on birth control to get rid of the symptoms or start fertility medication. I told her that we would start fertility medication. She gave me a prescription for clomid and told me to start taking it three days into my period which should start soon based on the ultrasound and shooed me out the door to get blood work to make sure I didn't have diabetes. Oh, but she made sure to tell me before I left that she had patients with PCOS who could "eat nothing and gain weight."

A few weeks later, my period had still not started. I called the office repeatedly and finally got my doctor on the phone. This was our conversation:

Me: "You told me to start the clomid once my period started, but it hasn't started yet. What should I do?
Doctor: "You need to start taking it on day three of your cycle."
Me: "Yes. I know. It hasn't started yet. I saw you several weeks ago. You told me that my endometrium was thick and my period would start soon. It hasn't"
Doctor: "Hmmmm. Let me get your chart....Oh, your endometrium was only a few millimeters thick"
Me: "You told me it was thick"
Doctor: "That's very thin. If you knew how itty bitty a millimeter is..."
This is when I decided to get a new OBGYN as soon as possible
Me: "Ok, well what do you want me to do. I can't start the clomid until my period starts and it hasn't"
Doctor: "Yes, you need to take your progesterone and then you can take the clomid on day three of your cycle"
Me, internally: AHHHHHHHH!
Me: "You didn't prescribe me progesterone."
Doctor: "Yes I did."
Me: "No, you didn't."
Doctor: "Hmmm well, I'll send that in to your pharmacy and then once your period starts, you need to take the clomid on days 3-7 of your cycle."
Me:"......got it. Thanks."

You go through several cycles of clomid before other options are explored. While I was dealing with the joys of hormonal treatments, I had to deal with people saying these things:
"Why don't you have any kids?"
"When are you going to have kids?"
"You're lucky you don't have kids"
Spencer was at a "Fathers and Sons" campout for church because it was a part of his responsibilities at the time and someone literally said to him, "Why are you here? You don't have a son."

We told a few of our close friends about our infertility and talked with them about these experiences. One of our friends helped us come up with some fun responses to rude questions. When people asked why we didn't have kids, we wanted to say:
"Guess Spencer's shooting blanks!"
"It's so weird. We have unprotected sex all the time!"
"We saw your kids and decided we didn't want any."
Or, my personal favorite, "I don't know what we're doing wrong! We kiss every night before bed!"

We were lucky. I got pregnant on my third round of clomid and had a healthy pregnancy and a successful delivery (I won't say healthy delivery because y'all know what went down). But, at the time, we didn't know how long we would have to struggle with infertility. We still don't know what's going to happen when I stop breastfeeding or when we decide to have another baby.

I tried to make this post as humorous as I could because I think we can find humor in even the darkest times, but infertility is real and way more people struggle with it than you would think. Please don't ask people when they're going to have children or why they don't have any. And be sensitive around Mother's and Father's Day. And if you're a doctor, don't gasp when you look at someone's ultrasound.


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