A journey through infertility & loss (Part One)
Every women who has suffered from infertility and/or pregnancy loss has a different story. No two human bodies are the same. What helps me may not help you and vice versa. I've encountered many women along this journey through various support groups. From the women I've gotten acquainted with over the years, some are able to get pregnant with no intervention, simply time. Some undergo surgery and got pregnant that same cycle. Some try all the drugs & protocols instructed by their Napro doctor either with success or a continued wait. Again, nobody has the same story. That being said, I thought I'd share my own if only to give a little bit of hope to one woman experiencing this hardship. Young, naive, unmarried Katie
I first got my period a little on the later side - sometime in the 9th grade at 14 years old. I don't recall much about it in those initial days, but I can vividly remember junior or senior year having quite debilitating cramps. There were times I'd have to go to the nurses office just to lie in the fetal position, other times when I collapsed during field hockey unable to stand. Then throughout my college years, I simply recall the pain being off and on, but quite intense during my senior year. I went through certain periods that felt like depression, and when I finally brought it up to Mother (then Sister) Olga, she mentioned it sounded like a serious form of PMS, which I had always just thought as quite normal.
Following college, I finally ventured to visit an OB/GYN for the dreaded first lady doctor appointment. I explained the horrible symptoms surrounding my period, and I was given two options: birth control or prescription IB Profin. Mind you, this was a Catholic doctor. I refused both (I've never been a fan of continuous pain medication). A few more things like this happened over the next couple of years, and I kept receiving the same advice: birth control.
Preparing for Marriage
I'll admit, until actually getting married, I was terrified of having kids. I was never particularly drawn to bearing lots of children like some of my other friends, and I dreaded actually being pregnant. But being a practicing Catholic who loves the Church and her teachings, even if they sometimes seem difficult, I was always firm about practicing Natural Family Planning and accepting however many dozens of children the Lord wanted for me (HA!). I actually first started trying to chart my cycle before Kevin and I were even dating, just to get to know my body. I tried out the sympto-thermal method, but my cycle was simply too unpredictable and I gave up. (That was a sign right there.) I then tried out Creighton and had a similar experience - my chart did not make any sense. I got annoyed and stopped up until the time that Kevin and I got engaged.
We took Creighton classes together and I began charting diligently, following up with our instructor every couple weeks or so. The feedback I received was that my chart was confusing and was I sure I was following the method properly? We pressed on, but eventually were fed up at how confusing everything was and got lured into learning Billings a few months before our wedding by some lady we met at marriage prep. If the other two methods made no sense to me, Billings was like Chinese hieroglyphics. It's actually meant to be quite simple, but coming from the other two methods that were so detailed, I just never got it. So by the time our wedding came, I was simply relying on my temperature to tell me when I ovulated (we basically just abstained for the middle half of the month).
Marriage & Baby Fever
When we first got married, I was so terrified of getting pregnant that we were extra conservative. The main reason was that I had just began a new job and I wanted to make sure that if we did conceive, I'd be eligible for FMLA by the time we had the baby (Boston was a very stressful work environment for me, and it was important that I qualify for the most basic benefits that would help our current situation). But later that summer, a few months into marriage, I felt a desire I really hadn't had before. I wanted a child. Badly. I believed this was completely God's work, and it was His will for us to start trying sooner than we had anticipated (now I see how beneficial it was that we began this journey early on). So that fall, we began trying. While up until that point, I had been afraid of having ALL THE KIDS, I also had an inkling in me that something was off.
There was this quiet thought inside me that it wasn't going to work. I actually had mentioned this to Kevin a while before (a very hard thing for him to hear during engagement, obviously - he's only ever wanted a large family): the summer in between my junior & senior year of college (a rough time for me spiritually), while one of my campus ministers was praying over me, I had a weird experience of knowing that my fertility would have a big impact on my life. I didn't know if it was for better or for worse, but something in me thought I might have difficulty having children. At the time, being young and ignorant, I didn't really care and I put it out of my mind. But that memory has always stayed with me.
So when we did not get pregnant after that first cycle, despite how common that is, my fear crept in. We immediately went back to Creighton and I setup an appointment with the nearest NaPro consultant. He was over an hour away and outside of our health insurance, but I knew that we needed to get started. The earliest I could see him was right after our third cycle of trying. He listened to all I had to say, was kind and understanding (not something I had received in all my years prior), and he voiced what I had been suspecting: "it sounds like you have endometriosis." I asked him, "do you think we'll ever be able to get pregnant?" I expected him to assure me and calm my worries, but instead he simply said, "I don't know." He advised waiting at least a year before pursuing surgery, even though that's all I wanted from the moment he said the E word.
That cycle he started me on progesterone, which he thought would help my PMS and maybe ease some of the cramping (yeah. right.). That same cycle, my period hadn't come and it was quite late, so I called his office. He took some blood work on a Friday, but then that weekend I got my period, assuming that was that. On Monday, his nurse called me looking for me to do another round of blood work, but I told her I had gotten my period. She was surprised and then disappointed, letting me know that the blood work on Friday had come back positive for pregnancy, meaning an early miscarriage. I didn't really know what to feel in that moment; if it was, in fact, a pregnancy, it had come and gone before I was even aware. I just tried not to think about it.
A couple of more cycles went by - no change in symptoms, no more positive test results, just more anxiety over this growing issue as well as multiple pregnancy announcements from those closest to me. Kevin and I struggled immensely. And of course there was all the unsolicited advice from others: "just relax and it will happen" is my favorite slash NOT FAVORITE AT ALL. This is one of those phrases that should never be used around couples struggling to conceive. Period. I was frustrated with the lack of moral fertility support in Boston, and while I appreciated working with my Napro consultant, it was all by phone/email and being that he wasn't a fully trained Napro OB/GYN, there was only so much he could do for me. So I began looking at my health differently and started doing things my own way.
To be continued...