Fertility Battles Part One

It has taken me nearly 2 years to start writing about this. It feels incredibly vulnerable and I'm a therapist!!! I know all about vulnerability. There was a part of me that didn't want to blog about this specifically because I am a therapist. My thinking was..., "Why would I want to put myself personally out there like this?" "Why would I want my clients to potentially know these things about me?" As I thought and prayed about it I realized, this is what healing is all about...connection. If we feel connected to someone or something- we open, we move, we release, we feel...we change. I'm in the business of change, so who better to actually put my money where my own mouth is? So here it goes....

My struggle with fertility started about 2 years ago now. My husband and I were newly married and started to think about growing our family. I was 37 at the time and my husband 51, so we were definitely not spring chickens. For some reason 40 is the age that all of my doctors cleared their throats before referring to, and all of the research scared me about. 40 just happens to be that age where (according to my doctors, books and research) the % of your chance of having a child decreases significantly. My grandmother had my father at 40 years old without any fertility help, so I was thinking that genes were at least on my side. So we started to "try" to have a baby, which basically meant I went off the pill and we started buying ovulation predictor kits (OPKs).

I remember our first "real" month of trying. We were on our "post-nuptial" honeymoon in Chipping Camden, England. I recall thinking, "Oh we are going to get pregnant on our amazing honeymoon...how perfect that would be." I had no other reason in the world to suspect that we wouldn't become pregnant because now we were ready. So our honeymoon came and went... and more months came and went... and still no positive pregnancy. (BFP) So I started slowly doing some research, and barely talking to close friends about it. Then I started to wonder and begin to worry, "Why can't we get pregnant?" We tested my husband's sperm first to see if there was an issue there and there was not at all. YEA!! In fact his sperm was considered "very good". So the issues had to be me...GREAT. I started to read books, slowly change some of my habits and diet, but I didn't want to obsess, "freak out" and go crazy. I just keep thinking to myself, "this will pass, I'm sure it's nothing". So we just kept on trying...which does kind of kill the mood of what sex is supposed to be all about.

It wasn't until I think around 6 months or so later that we started getting more aggressive. We went to my OBGYN and did what they call a post-coital test, which is one of the most ancient fertility tests apparently. Of course I had no idea about this at the time. This is a test where you have intercourse with your spouse and then within 1 hour you have to go to your OBGYN/MD where they collect a sample of the sperm and your cervical environment, after having sex. The test is designed to see how the female environment is for the sperm. Our doctors' office is a good 30 minutes from our house, so I remember my husband driving mock 2 to get us there as soon as possible. It was crazy! My feet were up on the dash "to keep it all in" and my husband was dodging traffic to get us there safely...it was insane. The need for the rush is that the sperm basically begins to die after it is released, so you only have about an hour before that happens. When we got to the office, the doctor was waiting for us to collect our "sample", which he then looked at underneath his microscope. I will never forget the look on his face when he came back into the examining room. My OBGYN isn't necessarily the most lively guy, but he usually has some expression when he sees me. When he came back in his expression was completely flat. You know that look people get right before they are about to give you some bad news...that was his look. Everything kind of slowed waaaay down, but the main thing I remember him saying was, "your body is apparently toxic to your husbands sperm." Basically my husband was allergic to me. He believed this because when he looked at the sample underneath the scope, basically all of the sperm were "not moving". I was absolutely heartbroken and shocked. I put on a relatively brave face in the doctors office, but when I saw my husband I just broke down.

All of the mistakes I had made in my past I felt rising to the surface. I thought, "this is probably my punishment for making so many bad decisions with my relationships in the past...this must be what I deserve." The shame was potent that I felt that day. I truly felt that our prospects for having a baby were just severed and now there was technically and truly, something wrong with me.  As a therapist I know this is such a common thought that so many of us have. "I must've done something to deserve this, This is my fault". As a christian I knew this is NOT the way God loves us. Even though it is super hard to discern and comprehend when you're faced head on with harsh truths about yourself; God just doesn't punish us for the things we do wrong. There are obviously consequences, but his LOVE for us is SO MUCH BIGGER than that. God can't be limited by man, let alone little ol' me and my mistakes. He has a plan for me and "works all things for his good." Writing this today...nearly 2 years later this feels congruent with me to say, but back then my cloak of shame was real and nothing was getting through. I remember my husband and I going to Bricktops afterwards and completely indulging in comfort food. My hopes had just been crushed and my heart was utterly broken. Even though their cheeseburger was extra amazing that day, my husband and I literally had no idea what would lay before us. I truly truly thought that just because we were now ready for a baby, a baby would come. I never dreamed that we would be that 1 in 6 couples that struggle with "INFERTILITY" (The dreaded word) But the truth is...we were.

To be continued....

Julie Mangus