Thoughts and Struggles with Pregnancy by Melissa Strong
I first met Melissa when I started living in Estes Park in 2000 . I’d see her hiking to and from the bouldering in Chaos Canyon, a relatively novel and new area at the time. She had a huge smile, infectious laugh and a welcoming attitude. Always one to want to climb together, open her home to people and make community. A handful of years later, she and her husband Adam opened their arms and home in Heuco Tanks to me. I was in the midst of separating from my husband. My heart was in tatters and I was shell shocked to be around people. Adam and Melissa showed me nothing but kindness.
About a month ago I read a blog post on Melissa’s site that left me wishing I could jump through the interwebs and give her a huge hug. She and Adam had been trying to get pregnant and had a failed IVF treatment. Reading Melissa’s raw, honest account of being on the other side of the spectrum reminded me of the other friends that I knew who shared her same position. I reached out to her to see if she would be okay sharing her story on this site in hopes that it would help other women out there in a similar position. She’s always had an amazing attitude about life and climbing, and I hope that her words reach some other women out there.
Sisyphus was condemned to move a stone up a hill over and over again. Today I chose a similar fate for myself as I picked up as many logs as my fragile self would allow from the pile of wood in the front yard. I walked the logs 10 to 25 feet stacking them into a wall. This wall of wood took eight hours to construct as I slowly methodically moved each log. Not sitting idle was my goal and this task was the solution. My knee still swollen and not recovered from my ACL replacement surgery kept me from moving fast but what was the hurry. All I had to do was wait. Wait for a phone call that would tell me if my surgery that morning could possible result in us having a baby.
It was not really a conscious decision I made to not have kids. We just waited. We had a lot of growing up to do and growing together in our 30’s. I was 31 when we met. We married a year later at 32. Looking back I feel like we barely knew each other then. We are two stubborn and unyielding people and it took us awhile before we stopped banging our heads against one another and calmed down, grew up and grew into each other. We loved each other passionately along the way but I did not feel we were prepared to bring another being into our world. I have always been envious of the people who unequivocally know they want to have a child or they don’t. I was never one of those people. I never knew, always on the fence–either too busy growing up or having fun. I also questioned whether I was ready for the challenges that could come along with having a child. When we did reach that point I guess I waited too long I guess. I was never really worried – I have plenty of older friends who were able to have kids. It is hard knowing if the waiting was the issue, since I had never tried to get pregnant before nor was I ever pregnant before and also Adam never had accidentally gotten anyone pregnant. Through science we found out it is not that we cannot have kids it is just a low ovarian reserve common as women age, yet also occurs in 20-year-old women. I have to admit I was surprised to see so many younger people at the fertility clinic. I thought it was going to be filled with a bunch of women in their late 30s and early 40s.
For about a year we have explored the possibilities of having a child through in-vitro fertilization. I had no idea the road to one trial of in-vitro would take about a year but for us it did. It started with tests and medication and hope. Then we kept getting delayed – apparently you cannot have your cycle over the holidays because for about 10 days prior to egg retrieval surgery you have to go to the doctor’s office every day for labs and ultrasound and being that they are closed a few days another month was pushed off. Then my body did not react well to the birth control cycle—before the 10 days of injections prior to the egg retrieval they gave me birth control pills that resulted in temporary cysts that would only hurt our chances. Then obviously while I was facing ACL surgery and recovery a few more months went by.
Finally our time had come. I was excited about the possible outcome but not the journey. One of my nurse’s explained to me that this process was natural because I was going to inject hormones my body naturally produces. This was a nice attempt to ease my mind but in no way was this process natural. When the FedEx man arrived with a large box of medication that cost about $7500 was one of my first freak-outs. This exorbitant price was only a tiny bit of the cost, which of course added stress. But the fact that I had to take the entire content of that box and inject into myself over a 10 -13 day period was extremely traumatic for me.
Somehow when the time came I accepted what I was calling hell week with grace.
I did blunder the first injection badly and used the gigantic mixing needle to inject myself instead of the smaller injection needle. Mixing the medication and then pinching the skin to inject while watching the video I just wanted it over. As one video rolled into the other I missed the part to switch the needle. When I picked up the video again it said to put the entire needle into your abdomen— and inject subcutaneously. I felt the muscle wall and the needle was still not in so I aimed it sideways trying to get it all in, then I started to panic and plunged the contents in leaving a burning lump of fluid between my skin and muscle. I screamed and tears welled into my eyes—how on earth could I do this 3-4 times a day for the next week or more, I thought. I was relieved when I realized my mistake and the injections got easier.
Each morning I woke early injected and got in the car and drove from 3 hours to 4 and a half hours round trip depending on the day and what office was open. I did this for 10 days. Each day getting an update on my follicle growth—not enough at first then I got what they needed to do the egg extraction but we waited and they saw more growth. I had 7-8 mature follicles and the time had come for the trigger shot and then surgery. I did very well emotionally despite the severe hormone manipulation. With this many follicles I went in with a lot of hope but I am not sure what happened. I feel like they waited a day too long and when I woke up they told me they only got two eggs. Two is better than none, I consoled myself.
Four hours had passed as the log wall grew larger and the woodpile receded and then phone call came—one egg fertilized. One is better than none, I thought but I knew the chance of a successful transfer with just one was a long shot.
I asked the universe to make it stop now if this was the case. If it wasn’t going to transfer, if I was going to loose it after a transfer—just please lets stop now. We had 5-6 days to wait to see if the fertilized egg made it to the blastocyst stage. Each day I tried to not focus on our lonely little egg struggling and continued to move wood. The great wall of wood was now growing into a second row and I tried to live life normally. I got updates that the egg was still growing which grew so much hope in my heart. Then on day six the phone rang. Adam was home for lunch and I was just finishing up some physical therapy for my knee and rolling out a mat to do an ab workout. I could hear it in her voice before she said anything of importance–the empathy was audible. The egg did not mature; the blastocysts stage was never achieved. Adam could tell by my reaction. I tried to choke the tears back when I ended the call. He hugged me and told me he would see me though another round if I wanted. He assured me he loved me and we would be just fine. I accepted his love and told him I guess I better do my ab workout and to please get online and buy us tickets to Australia. If we weren’t going to have a kid I wanted to continue living like a parentless couple and jetting off to an adventure far away was the best consolation I could think of.
Now, back at home, I’m attempting to pick up pieces of my emotional self—the shattered dreams of not becoming a mother. Knowing IVF did not work I am realigning my expectations on life. For the past four years I have lived with the thought of, I might be pregnant, when I look to our future. I never gave up on me keeping fit, climbing, running, yoga, hiking and having fun as these years of trying passed by. But our future, in my mind, had us with our baby in it. And now it dose not. This is a challenge that weighs upon me daily but one I can identify and work with. I am understanding my sadness, accepting the vision of our new future while growing closer to the man who loves and supports me like non other. Keeping in the back of my mind I could always try another round of IVF if I was ever ready (however, those expectations and hopes are another world of mental obstacles if they don’t come to fruition and I am not sure I want to go through those hopes and dreams not being met again and again). I admire the conviction that some women have doing this process multiple times but I don’t think I have it in me. I know how to live this life. It is a life I have lived for a while now it is a life without children but a life filled with love and happiness. Obviously if I have come this far without children I have never been chomping at the bit to have them. I have never been the person to just love babies or kids in general so we waited. Maybe a bit too long if we wanted the opposite to happen. Despite not having a natural in general love for kids my regrets will be with me, not having anyone to pass my love and memories along to, not seeing Adam’s eyes light up seeing the baby we made and there are many more. I have my “kids” there are plenty of people I take care of and will continue to do so. Now it is time to live life happily and move on with my regrets but knowing I tried. Let’s accept, live and love and move on together. At times I can be sad if I dwell on things but I try not to. I know how to live a life without kids — I have done it this long and had a good time at it so far, so we will continue our adventures in life.