An interesting and unexpected possible turn of events has captured my preoccupation. The problem is, the development is something that walks a tightrope across my most sensitive scars.
For the past two years I’ve been struggling with infertility. I’ve tried to manage it with the best sabr possible, since it’s a road I traveled before many years ago before I had my first child. The first time I traversed it was extremely painful, and I tried to learn my lesson from it by not getting caught up in the despair that beckons with every reminder of my state.
When I was infertile before I was very young, only 21. All my years growing up as a lonely only child had cultivated in me the desire to be a loving mother to many children in the family I would eventually have as my own. The older I became, the more I planned and daydreamed about making this reality come true, never once imagining that anything would hinder it. I studied about the reproductive cycle, natural family planning, signs of ovulation and basal temperature tracking. I was fortunate to be one of those who had regular menstrual cycles, so I anticipated that when I finally married I could start my family as soon as I liked.
However, as soon as I got married my clockwork cycles started getting longer and longer. Initially, I thought it meant I had already become pregnant, so the first time it happened after I was a week late I tested…negative. My cycle came and then again it was late, this time by three weeks. Tests remained negative. The third time it happened, I was late by a month, but the tests were still negative. My fourth cycle went on for months while I continued to have negative pregnancy tests for the duration, and it was then I realized that something was wrong.
I went to a doctor who looked me over and determined I had polycystic ovarian syndrome. He didn’t do any blood work or labs, it was just his surmise. He told me that the only two treatment options were to go on birth control pills to regulate me back to normal cycles, or to have an intervention that would cause me to conceive. Neither option seemed possible, because I had just taken immunizations for graduate school that would endanger a pregnancy. I didn’t want to take the birth control, because for one I was morally and religiously against it (even as a Christian at that time, I felt that God should be the one to determine our family size and not we ourselves in our human and fallible understanding), and also because it was counterintuitive toward the goal of getting pregnant. After all, getting pregnant IS the only cure to infertility. The doctor insisted that if I didn’t treat it one way or the other, the condition would only worsen, and perhaps cause even more problems when I did want to conceive.
Due to the immunizations, I reluctantly opted for the birth control. I took them for exactly one month, thinking all the while that it seemed unlikely that the doctor could have reached an accurate diagnosis without any sort of tests. I also had a hard time believing that the two options given to me were truly the ONLY two available forms of treatment for someone with amenorrhea. A friend of mine suggested looking for a Catholic gynecologist, since they would more likely to avoid birth control treatment options unless it were truly unavoidable due to their religious beliefs.
So that’s exactly what I did. By this time, the possibility that there was something majorly wrong with my body, that could very likely prevent me from having children naturally became frighteningly real. I was so young, and so invested in that dream, that the idea of barrenness was like a knockout punch. I started to have a difficult time being around babies at all. I didn’t hold the babies of my friends, because the thought of never holding my own hurt too much. I couldn’t walk by the baby departments of stores like walmart, because I would burst into tears from longing. I became nearly dysfunctional around any triggers that reminded me of what was going on with myself, and the triggers were endless and everywhere: expectant women, children being pushed in strollers, commercials for diapers and infant formula, the infant clothing section of the thrift store, friends announcing their own pregnancies…the list went on and on.
Fortunately, the Catholic doctor I found took the time to run a battery of tests to check my thyroid, hormone levels, etc to determine what was causing my amenorrhea. Unfortunately, all the tests came back with normal levels, and nothing could explain what was going on. I told her what the previous doctor had said and suggested, and she was flabbergasted at his lack of professionalism. She also advised me that given my condition, I would likely only be able to get pregnant with fertility medications. I told her I just wanted my body to work as it should, just like it had all the years of my life until this happened. She told me that progesterone supplements would regulate my cycles, and we both hoped that would in turn cause me to start ovulating again.
So I took progesterone for about a year. I began having regular cycles again, but because of that I saw that I was not getting pregnant. I was charting my basal temperature and saw clearly that I was still not ovulating…the progesterone was only causing a shedding of the lining. During that time, the triggers only became worse and worse, and when one of my professors announced the birth of his baby girl and continued to give anecdotes about her throughout the course, I lost it. I had to leave class repeatedly, and when he confronted me about it and I explained my behavior, he apologized and tried to avoid the subject of his new joy in lectures. I felt very guilty, because I knew he shouldn’t have had to do that on my account. I realized that something had to give, and it had to give soon before I became a total wreck.
A few months after that, a friend of ours who knew my situation told me that a girl she met was looking for an adoptive couple to take her child who was to be born in a month’s time. We made arrangements to meet this girl and discuss our wants and her needs, and at first I thought the whole chain of events was rather serendipitous. After speaking with her, my husband and I felt that adopting her baby would bring the ease we were looking for, and resolve her situation as well…and she agreed. Because she was only 6 weeks from her due date we really didn’t have time to get everything set up for the formal adoption, but she agreed to sign formal guardianship over to us so we could bring the baby (a little boy) home from the hospital and then work on finalizing the adoption after that.
Everything seemed to be going well, and I was soaring and excited that I would be raising a child, even if it weren’t one I bore myself. We made an appointment with an attorney to have the guardianship papers written up. That morning, everything changed. The girl phoned us and told us she had been talking the situation over with her mother, and that she had decided she was going to keep her baby after all and allow her mother to help her raise it. The adoption was off.
I crashed, and I crashed hard. I couldn’t take anymore. I didn’t know what to do, and what made matters worse was that while I was in the throes of this heartbreak, my husband (at the time, now ex) was AWOL. He chided me for my reaction, for even getting invested. He told me I was silly for getting upset about my infertility to begin with. He belittled my dreams, and rubbed my natural emotional reaction in my face and told me I was weak and pathetic. I should’ve realized then that me not being able to bear children with him was probably a blessing in disguise, but being so young and so distraught I still wanted to pursue that course. We had only been married for almost two years by then, so I naturally thought more time and experience as a husband would soften his heart toward me.
I went back to the doctor and told her that since nothing had been happening with the progesterone, and I could no longer take being infertile, I was ready to try the next step and try to get pregnant with drugs. She gave me a prescription for Clomid, and warned me that I could only try three rounds of it at a time, with a break of several months between them.
I was grateful that I was able to conceive on my first round of the Clomid. That pregnancy was a closing to a horrible chapter of my life, one I hoped I never revisited. After a successful pregnancy and delivery, I went on to resume my “clockwork” cycles and conceive five more pregnancies naturally, with no interventions.
My most recent pregnancy was in 2006. However, that pregnancy didn’t thrive and the fetus stopped developing at 9 weeks gestation. For whatever reason, my body didn’t want to expel it naturally, so I had to walk around knowingly in that state for 2 weeks, hoping it would expel on its own. That was a horrifying experience, because it brought up sad memories of my deceased baby daughter who had only left me two years before that. In addition, all this was going on while I was in the middle of a heated custody battle with my ex. Since many of his allegations were against my current husband, I had to live separately from him until everything was resolved. So in a sense, I was dealing with it alone. Eventually, my doctor had to give me medicines to cause the miscarriage to expel.
After that episode, I decided to go on birth control for the first time in my life (excepting the one month the quack doctor had me on it). I didn’t want to risk getting pregnant again before the court proceedings were over, as it may have influenced the outcome to be one where my two oldest children would be out of my care. So for the next 3 years, I was infertile by choice. I knew I would want to have one more child someday, but I figured it would be best to wait until a more ideal time.
In 2010, that time seemed to have arrived. The court battles were over, our family was stable, and I was at a good age to have one final pregnancy. I went of the birth control and waited for my cycles to resume on their own, very aware that it may take a few months to do so. Several months had passed and I had not had any bleeding, and of course my pregnancy tests were all negative. I expressed this to my doctor at my annual exam and he suggested I get my thyroid checked, and sent me to the lab with orders.
Sure enough, my thyroid was the culprit. The initial tests seemed to indicate it was being over stimulated, and a referral was made to an endocrinologist at the beginning of last year (2011). At my first appointment I detailed the reason for my visit, and indicated that I did have a history of insulin-dependent gestational diabetes with each pregnancy. The endocrinologist ordered labs to have my thyroid levels rechecked, as well as a glucose tolerance test.
I failed the glucose test miserably, so at that point I was officially diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes. The thyroid panel this time seemed to indicate that it was being under stimulated. The endocrinologist explained to me that there is a temporary condition that causes the thyroid to first over-act, then under-act, but it usually self regulates within a 6 month timeframe. So the doctor started my treatment plan for the Diabetes, and determined to keep an eye on my thyroid levels to see if they would return to normal.
Over the course of last spring, my thyroid levels remained low and my menstrual cycle still stayed away. It felt like infertility 101 all over again, so I tried to ignore what was happening and be grateful for the three beautiful boys I already have. Finally, last summer, the doctor was convinced that my thyroid was not going to improve, and started me on a supplement. I was hoping the treatment would impact my cycle, but it only did minimally. While the doctor spent the remainder of the summer and fall regulating my dose (first the dose was too high, then too low), I had inconsistent and infertile cycles. By fall, the dose was correct, my thyroid levels in-range, and my cycles “seeming” like they were returning. What I mean by that is I was having cycles, but each one was a different length, some were longer by a few days, and some were on-time. I had begun tracking my temperatures again, and it seemed that I actually was ovulating. We even tried making that work for us and tried to get me pregnant at the best times indicated.
Throughout all of last year’s uncertainty, I took many pregnancy tests. Needless to say, they were all unquestionably negative, even under my intense and obsessive scrutiny (of course I was hoping one of them would’ve been positive). By the time I had my next annual exam at the end of the year, I thought with more time of being on my thyroid medication they would become more regular, and decided not to mention anything to my gynecologist. Besides, by that time things with my husband and I were starting to get hairy, so I didn’t want to go get something started without knowing what the final outcome would be with our situation.
When this year began, it seemed like what was moving toward normalcy (regular cycles) decided to move back toward chaos. My first cycle of the year was pretty late, but the pregnancy tests remained negative. I was still charting, and it was clear that even with us capitalizing on my fertile periods nothing was coming of it. I knew what time it was. I knew that if I did want to conceive, it wasn’t going to happen naturally and that I was going to have to hit up my gynecologist for a round of Clomid. I accepted this, because I figured with all the turmoil going on with my husband and I and his charges and our possibility of not being able to live together eventually, it might be better that no pregnancies jump off right now.
I finally did mense in February, but not again after that for some time. After over 60 days of charting this spring, and no signs of ovulation, I gave up. I tried to accept things as they were and move on. When I had another mense right before Memorial day I was a little thrown off, but considering the way these things go I didn’t find it too surprising. I thought nothing of it, and expected my next one probably wouldn’t show up until Septemper, if then. Nothing was going to make me think about any of that, or even worry about those issues, until I had a resolution to the ordeal regarding my husband and I.
And now…the reason why I’m having an emotional crisis:
Last week I started to feel crampy. Mind you, I don’t get PMS really, so it wasn’t cramps for that reason. The first day it happened, I ignored it. The second day, I found it peculiar. The third day of cramping, coupled with some nausea, I got to thinking, and thinking got me to calculating. IF I was a normal girl, I would be due to have my period. I calculated when my fertile time might’ve been (usually it falls around day 18-20 of my cycle), and realized there was a chance I could be pregnant. Of course as soon as I thought this, my next thought was “yeah, right” given my history. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t hurt to take a pregnancy test and see my negative result just so I could get it off my mind. After all, that’s what I had been doing for the past two years anyway.
So I got a test and went to work. As soon as I saw the urine reach the control line with no giant flares where the positive line would be, I threw all the trash away and left the test on the bathroom counter and left to go do a few things in my room. I didn’t think anything of the test, but I knew it still needed a couple minutes to give a final result. I returned to the bathroom a few minutes later and glanced at the test and picked it up to toss it in the trash, since it at first it appeared to be a standard negative (which I was more than accustomed to). However, something about it caught my eye, and I decided to take a closer look. Indeed, there appeared to be a barely visible positive line. I took it into my room where the better lighting was to re-evaluate it, and saw that something was indeed there. However, like I said, it was barely visible and so not convincing enough for my taste and skepticism. I thought maybe I should retest in a couple days, expecting either a stronger positive line, or a crystal clear whiteness indicating the negative result.
So I retested at work a couple days later, and interestingly enough the line still appeared, faint as ever. This perplexed me because all my negative tests didn’t have any faint lines, ghost lines, evaporation lines…nothing. They were just clear as could be, even when I dug them out of the trash days later just to make sure. When I went home that day and dug the first test out of the trash, the faint positive line had darkened into a more visible, faint positive line.
I began to accept the possibility I was pregnant. No, I began to believe that I really was pregnant. I wanted to be. I needed to know for sure if I was, though, because given my thyroid issues and diabetes, I would need to start prenatal care and monitoring as early as possible. I called my gynecologist and made an appointment to confirm my suspicions.
In the meantime, I still was not satisfied, and still felt the results were unclear. I believed more time, more building of the HCG hormone that would darken the positive results, would give me the assurance I needed. Either that, or I would get a clearly clear negative test, and figure the first two were flukes. So, before last week was over, I took a third test first thing Friday morning. I believe that sample would have the best results, but the test results were identical to the first two. I saved that one in my drawer to see if it would dry darker like the first one, and it did.
It would be enough to try to figure out these unclear test results. However, while all this has been going on, I’ve been having bouts of nausea, light cramping almost every day, and a feeling of fullness in my lower belly. I have been craving water (and if you know me, you know I NEVER drink water and I think it tastes gross), and crying about insignificant things frequently. By nature, I am usually not very emotional, so all of this are things I have only experienced when previously pregnant.
I am the type of person to get real agitated when faced with a lack of information or certainty about something. I couldn’t stand not knowing what all of this meant for sure. I had my husband go buy me a fourth pregnancy test Monday morning, hoping it would be different from the others. I didn’t care what kind of different, any kind of different would bring me more clarity of one sort or another. However, that 4th pregnancy was no different. It was still a barely visible positive. It still dried a bit darker. This is madness.
At this point, I’ve only concluded a few things:
1. These four pregnancy tests are not following suit of my countless negative tests, which were all unquestionably clear.
2. Something is making me secrete trace amounts of HCG, but it doesn’t appear to be a standard pregnancy because by now the HCG levels would have doubled and increased to the point of causing a very undoubtedly clear positive test line.
3. That no matter how many pregnancy tests I take, I’m probably going to get the same results, and the only thing that is going to clear it up is whatever my doctor finds out at my visit tomorrow.
I have been researching this, and I’ve so far found that low HCG levels can be caused by an ectopic pregnancy or blighted ovum. Neither is desirable for someone who wants to have a baby, and right now that someone is me. Thinking, believing that I could be pregnant gave me hope that things would work out for Bashir and I after all, and I don’t want that ripped away from me.
Yet, if it’s not going to work out with him and I, I can accept that not being pregnant is probably for the best.
However, what is really getting to me is not knowing which it is. I just wanted a clear answer. I just wanted a totally blank negative test, or a totally clear positive one. It’s already bad enough I can’t depend on the presence or absence of my cycle to indicate these things, like any other woman could. Going through this uncertainty, even though for just one more day, is dredging up all the memories and triggers associated with my first bout of infertility, attached to the events surrounding the loss of my baby daughter, and even the sad memories of my miscarriage 6 years ago. All of it overwhelms me and wakes me in the early morning hours, enticing my tears and my supplications for relief of any kind.
I know if I am not pregnant, my doctor will ask me if I want to try to get pregnant with the Clomid, because of what has been going on with my cycles already for two years. I don’t know right now what I should tell him, because I still don’t know what the final outcome will be with Bashir and I. But, perhaps this is Allah’s way of saying “go ahead and move in that direction, trust Me, I am bringing you to this and all you have to do is walk it out”. I wonder if it’s that because I wasn’t looking or hoping for that first test last week to be anything, it just happened to be out of the norm. On the other hand, the risk I take by opting for that choice is bringing a child into the world who may not even have his/her daddy around to help raise her. I see how much of a toll it takes on the older kids, and knowing how sensitive a new baby and child is, I can’t imagine doing that willfully. I know Allah is aware of all outcomes, but with me not knowing them I don’t know which choice is the one He would be guiding me to.
I hope it will be clearer at my doctor visit, and I hope I can hang on to my sanity a little more until then.