The Cross of Infertility, Part 2: Understanding How Infertility Feels

Catherine Boucher continues her four-part series “The Cross of Infertility” with special guest Amanda Teixeira. Read Part 1 here.

CB: When did you start to think that infertility might be a possibility?

I became a patient at the Pope Paul VI Institute while I was still single and in college. I ended up having surgery to correct some issues with Endometriosis and PCOS. I started a variety of medications to help with severe PMS. It all helped with my quality of life tremendously. With that said, I pretty much knew what I was up against going into marriage. Yet I was still hopeful.

Our wedding day was my “day of ovulation” according to my Creighton chart. On our 10-day long honeymoon, I even stopped drinking alcohol at our all-inclusive, because of course, I was likely pregnant. I even felt pain in my abdomen which I took to be “implantation pain.”

Two weeks later, I got my period, and I didn’t get to join the “pregnant-on-my-honeymoon-Catholic-club.”  I knew in my gut we were in for a very long ride ahead. And then I was pissed that I missed out on drinking those delicious mixed drinks while sitting oceanside for nothing.

Oh, and months later I found out that pain that I thought was a baby was actually a giant cyst growing on my ovary that had to be removed by surgery.

CB: What does it feel like as a woman to be told that you are infertile?  How do you think what you are feeling is different than what Jonathan is feeling?  

This quote has been powerful for me in summarizing how I feel so often:

“…Part of the pain of infertility, however, is that it is an invisible sign. The physical and spiritual suffering caused by infertility is usually hidden. To use an analogy, the generosity of the couple who chooses to have a large family is like a brightly burning sun whose beams produce beautiful flowers that everyone can see and admire. While their love might shine just as brightly, the infertile family has no flowers of its own. Yet, as Fulton Sheen perceives: ‘There is no sign unless something happens contrary to nature. The brightness of the sun is no sign, but an eclipse is.'” (From The Gift of Infertility, Part 4 by Dr. Jameson and Jennifer Taylor)

I’ve never been told I am “infertile” since my doctor really believes we have a shot and it just hasn’t happened yet…but I coin myself as infertile. I mean, it’s been 25 months since we’ve gotten married and we’ve been open to life the whole time. I don’t know what else to call it but infertility. I feel like a big fat failure. A loser. A let-down to the Church. A fake married woman.

Jonathan feels none of that. He’s hopeful. He’s tremendously trusting of God’s will. I am tremendously suspicious, manipulating, doubtful, and hateful. This has been hard to reconcile for us. I can’t see how he can be happy or content with our life. He can’t see how I don’t re-focus on other blessings. He can’t see why a child matters SO much to me. Of course he wants kids, but they aren’t as intrinsically tied to his identity as it is mine, being a woman, made by God to welcome, bear, and nurture life.

I have felt like I will never be happy in life as long as we’re infertile. Jonathan feels sad but it doesn’t take over his life like it does mine.

CB: How did your background in nursing and knowledge of NaProTechnology play into your journey?

I mentioned previously I had already been a Napro patient and knew what I was up against. This was good in the sense I had treatments readily available and knew what we were fighting from day 1. I am glad we didn’t have to spend years getting treatment from all the quacks out there in Reproductive Health. I know many other couples have to run that gauntlet before getting to Naprotechnology, and I am thankful we didn’t.

Do you think there was a day when you accepted infertility as an official diagnosis?  How can a doctor come to an official diagnosis of infertility?  Is it still a day-to-day journey?

I think after taking the 4th or 5th pregnancy test during the first few months of married life and seeing them ALL come back negative, I accepted we were infertile.

Actually, I think the word “accept” is something I still struggle with. I identify as being infertile but “accepting” to me means coming to terms with or some level of peace. That’s fleeting for me. Most of the time I am rejecting that as God’s will for us, kicking and screaming, being depressed, sad, borderline despairing, etc. I have a while to go I think before I “accept” it.

Our doctor believes we have like a 30% chance at becoming pregnant. I look at that stat and choose to think we will probably be the 70% that never get pregnant.

Infertility has brought out my pessimism in full throttle. But to come to our current diagnoses, I’ve had three surgeries, many ultrasounds, dozens of blood draws and lab tests, and a series of hormone profiles. Jonathan has had a few tests of his own. That’s how they gathered the medical evidence to give us our current diagnoses:

  • Endometriosis
  • PCOS
  • Insulin-resistance
  • Bicornuate Uterus
  • Endomitritis
  • Low post-peak estrogen and progesterone
  • Luteinized Unruptured Follicle Syndrome
  • Low T3 levels
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Varicocele (Jonathan)

The journey very much is day-to-day…usually time passes by what medications/tests/blood draws I have to take on that particular day. For example, here are my current medications (most of which aren’t covered by insurance):

  • Metformin 750mg ER 2x/day
  • T3 15mcg 2x/day
  • Clomid 50 mg CD 3-7
  • Mucinex 1200mg twice/day peak days-P+2
  • B6 ER once a day
  • Multivatimins
  • HCG injections P+3,5,7,9
  • Progesterone injections P+4,7,10 (if anovulatory cycle)
  • Naltrexone 4.5mcg/day
  • Cortisol 20mg/day

Not to mention the ever-changing orders:

  • P+4 Ultrasound to confirm ovulatory/anovulatory cycle
  • P+7 Blood draws monthly, then ship to Omaha
  • Thyroid Panel blood draw
  • Semen Analysis

With infertility, life seems to pass by in two-week windows. It’s a vicious cycle of hope and sadness. I am always over-analyzing potential pregnancy symptoms only to be let down. Keeping up with the day to day changing protocols is practically a part-time job.

I am convinced that Satan’s #1 target is the family, and I am sure infertility puts major stress on a marriage.

How has infertility impacted your relationship with Jonathan?  How do you prevent infertility from defining your marriage?

As mentioned earlier, we are both reacting to infertility very differently. Many days Jonathan’s positive attitude just pisses me off. I need to see that he hurts too. It was then that I discovered that it does hurt him…just not to the core like it does me. What makes him cry is seeing me hurt so badly and being able to do absolutely nothing about it but beg God for a miracle only to see the miracle never come and my pain grow as the months pass us by.

Infertility has certainly been a cause for fights in our marriage, and I totally see how Satan has attempted to use it to drive a wedge between us to make us grow away from one another. There have been times that Jonathan didn’t feel like he was “enough” simply being a loving husband. That I only loved him if it meant he could give me a baby, or something crazy like that.

Thankfully God has poured out his grace and used infertility to bring us closer to one another. We pray every single day about it and have a plethora of devotions to many saints to carry us through this together.

We have a lot of sadness but more often than not, we maintain a spirit of humour in the midst of it all and that has been life-saving for our marriage.

What were your conceptions of infertility before being in these shoes yourself?  Did anything change?  

Honestly, I knew infertility was really hard and I’ve  always had compassion for those going through it. Of course, I couldn’t fully grasp what it was like to live it. I guess I used to naively think things like “Oh, Naprotechnology will fix ANYTHING, so these friends will eventually get pregnant if they simply use it.” or “They can just adopt, right? Then it will all be OK.” Now I understand it and know better.

*     *     *

Amanda’s last lines are a perfect segue to Part 3 tomorrow.  In Part 3, Amanda and I will discuss what NOT to say to your loved one experiencing infertility.  I love this section of the series.  Not only does Amanda identify the insensitive things people often say, but she explains why the things people say are hurtful.  

Tomorrow, in Part 3, Amanda answers these questions:

  • What are some of the most hurtful or least helpful things you and Jonathan have been told?  How do these comments make you feel, and what makes them so hurtful to hear?

  • What do you think are the common misconceptions people have about infertility?

  • Within your own relationship, I am sure you and Jonathan had to figure out the best ways to support one another.  What did you learn were the worst things you could do or say to each other?

  • I imagine there is some tension in some of your relationships with friends not struggling with fertility.  What are the worst moves for friends with children to do?

Come back tomorrow to read Amanda’s powerful responses!

Copyright 2014 Catherine Boucher

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