I’ve meant to write a new post so many times over the past few weeks, but haven’t been able to figure out what to say. I feel like I should be writing an obligatory 2014 wrap-up post, but I don’t really know what that would look like for me. It’s been an incredibly hard year – one of my hardest – and I don’t want to focus too much on the details. In many ways, though, I’ve been feeling like I have a pretty significant crossroads in front of me, and I’m not sure where I want life to take me from here. I have plenty to say on that topic, so I guess this is my version of reflecting on where I’ve been and what might be in store for the next bit of my life.
Graduation is coming up in just a few short months, and it’s time to start planning for life after school. It’s time to decide what kinds of jobs I want to apply to and which places we might like to move to. As we’re closing one chapter of our lives and moving on to another, it’s also time to decide where we want to go on our infertility and family building journey.
We started trying for a baby a year before I entered my Master’s program. It’s hard to believe that I am now almost finished with that program and still don’t have a baby. If I had gotten pregnant quickly, as I thought I would, I probably would have postponed grad school for a year or two. Pregnancy and a baby was our first choice, but since that dream was not realized right away, we decided that we would both move forward with our career goals until our non-pregnant status quo changed.
I think back on all the conversations we have had about how we would work things out if we had a baby while going to school. Each month, we would think forward to where we would be in 9 months: what semester we would be in, where the breaks would fall. We stayed up late, wondering if it would be too difficult to balance studying, teaching, and being pregnant at the same time, but knowing that it would be worth it in any case. We discussed who would work what jobs and how much time we would take off and what kind of class load we each could handle, and we reminded ourselves that our student schedules afforded us a large degree of flexibility that would serve us well as new parents. As it turns out, none of that conjecturing was necessary.
28 cycles later, I’m tired of pretending that my sole focus is on my schooling and my work, when in reality this is only my plan b, the path I have followed because I didn’t know what else to do. Don’t get me wrong – I love what I am studying and am excited to be moving further along in my career. It seems so hollow, though, when I can’t have the one thing I want most.
At the same time, I’m tired of the unending ups and downs of infertility. I’m tired of constantly being aware of what cycle day I’m on and of keeping track of how often and when we’ve had sex. I’m tired of waking up early every single morning to stick a thermometer in my vagina. I’m tired of peeing on test after test and of subjecting myself to ultrasounds and blood draws with doctor after doctor, watching my bank account decline just to hear, time and again, that they can’t find anything wrong and that I should move on to treatments.
The thing is – I don’t know if I’m ready to jump into treatments. A couple of months ago, I thought I was ready for an IUI. We decided to wait until after the holidays, though, and now I’m not so sure. Part of the problem is that moving on to treatments seems so final. My doctor has told us that they would do three IUIs, then recommend that we move on to IVF. There is of course a possibility that all it would take is one IUI, but I think I’m scared that we would fail all of those treatments, and be left completely broken and hopeless. I would almost rather stay where I am, where I still have hope that it could happen naturally, especially since we are unexplained. We really don’t know if there is anything wrong, and it’s hard to pour so much money into fixing this when it is all so uncertain.
And that’s the other thing – money. As grad students, we don’t exactly have a luxurious income. It’s more than enough to meet our needs and it would easily cover the costs of a baby, but it’s not enough for all the costs of treatments, especially since we have no infertility insurance coverage and would be paying out of pocket. The costs of what we have done so far have already been quite overwhelming. We have a good chunk of money in savings, but I’m not sure that draining it at this time is the best way to go, and we’re not willing to go into debt for treatments at this point in our lives. Maybe it would be better to wait until we are more settled, with stable jobs and incomes, before moving forward.
I don’t know. On the one hand, perhaps I’m being naive, and we should try at least one IUI in the next few months. At this point, it’s pretty unlikely that we would conceive on our own, and postponing treatments just means that we’ll have to wait longer for our baby. On the other hand, I think it might be good for both of us to take a break from the whole baby-making business for a while. The sadness and emptiness wouldn’t go away, but perhaps some of the stress and anxiety would dissipate if we took a few steps back. I feel like we’ve been living under a fog for so long now, and I want to break free and enjoy our lives by diving into something else that can provide meaning and fulfillment.
We still can hope for a miracle, and maybe we’ll get lucky on our own. The way I see it right now, if we absolutely do need help to get pregnant, we might as well wait until we are at a better place in our lives before getting that help. We have age on our side, so there is no pressure from my biological clock for a few more years.
I worry, though, that we might have a problem that will get worse over time. What if we miss our opportunity by not being more proactive? I don’t know if I could forgive myself if we found out down the road that our issues could have been solved, but it was too late because we waited.
Also, does my reluctance to jump into treatments mean that I am not ready for a baby, or that I am not committed to becoming a parent? I don’t think it does, but I worry about that as well. I worry that those we have told about our situation might judge us for our decisions, assuming that we don’t really care if we’re not willing to do anything at all and make any sacrifices necessary to get pregnant as soon as possible. I have to remember though that people will judge no matter what we choose, and I know my heart. If I were to get pregnant naturally, I would be 100% ready and committed. I am ready for a baby, but I don’t feel ready for treatments, at least not right at this moment. I’m not sure I’ve let go of the old dream of how I thought it all would happen.
I know that most women who have gone down these paths no longer care how they get pregnant; they would give anything just to get a positive test, regardless of how it happened or how many doctors or procedures were involved. These women might be shaking their heads at me, and I hope I don’t make light of their situations by saying this, but I’m just not sure that I’m at that point yet.
I’m not sure I want to relinquish my fragile hope that we could still conceive on our own, and, somehow, in my mind, starting our first treatment cycle seems to signal giving up that hope. I desperately want a baby, but I also want to be sure that we’re doing in this in the best way, especially since we do (presumably) have time to spare. I want to be sure that we’re taking our mental health and our financial situation into consideration. If we have the possibility of making this whole process that much easier for ourselves by waiting for a while, shouldn’t we at least consider it?
These decisions of where we should go next have been hanging over me for the past couple months, and I really don’t know how I am going to resolve them. There are pros and cons each way, and I know that no one else can tell me what we should be doing (although I am sure everyone could offer an opinion). At least in this moment, my heart is telling me to take a break. Not a permanent one, but at least for a month or two, to gather myself back together. Maybe even for a year or longer, to allow us to get settled into the next new chapter of our lives, which will probably involve a move and new jobs, before returning to the world of doctors and needles and ultrasounds.
I’ve been reminding myself that my story is my own, and it’s okay if it ends up looking very different from that of those around me in real life or in the online infertility world. Sometimes it almost seems like there is a competition of who’s been at this the longest and who has endured the most treatments. Really, these comparisons don’t help. My story is my own, and I need to do what is best for me. I don’t know when this journey will end, or what that ending will look like, but I really do want to be sure that I am careful and intentional in each of these decisions that I am making.