The year is 2016. I’m a newlywed. We decide it is time to have a baby. As a science teacher, I have a strong understanding of the physiology involved in human reproduction. There are no congenital health defects that run in our family. I also have no reason to suspect getting pregnant would be one of the hardest challenges of my adult life.
That word really smacks you in the face, doesn’t it? Yet that’s what my diagnosis was. “Unexplained infertility,” to be specific. After my husband and I were married in July 2016, we decided the next step was to have a baby. I stopped taking birth control, started tracking my cycles using an app (who doesn’t love data?!), and played the “if it happens, it happens” game. One cycle down and I had a baseline of when I ovulate (approximately day 18-20) and how long my cycle is (average of 32 days). Once I know this information, the rest seems SO EASY. Just do the deed during your fertile window and – BAM! Pregnant.
Only that isn’t how it happened.
When you’re actively trying to get pregnant and it doesn’t happen, time drags on indefinitely. I lived my life in two-week windows; first, waiting to ovulate, and then waiting to take a pregnancy test to see if maybe, just maybe, this was the magical month of conception. More test strips were peed on than you can count. I became an expert at reading the tests, looking to see if the test line is as dark or darker than the control line. An evaporation line, I discovered, is a cruel false hope, an error of the test, a figment of your imagination. I manipulated the contrast on photos of a test to see if maybe the camera saw something my weary eyes couldn’t.
To pass the time, you join support groups. Everyone is desperately clinging to hope and “baby dust.” You learn all the lingo. TWW. TTC. TTA. BD. BBT. BFP. DH. EWCM. It’s an entirely different and unique language created around the yearning to have a baby. Everyone tries to be supportive, but it is superficial. As soon as someone is successful, the saccharine congratulations fly out while everyone dies a little more on the inside that it wasn’t their BFP.
THE NEXT STEPS.
After a year of unsuccessful attempts, it was time for medical intervention. Both my husband and I were screened and our results came back normal. There was no explanation for the trouble we were having, which was the hardest part of it all. How can you fix something when you don’t know what’s wrong? We were given a map of medical steps to take – intrauterine insemination (IUI) was first. If that didn’t work, we would need to discuss in-vitro fertilization (IVF). However, before that, we had one last diagnostic test to run, a hysterosalpingogram (HSG).
An HSG involves inserting a catheter into the uterus, injecting a contrast dye, and taking an X-ray of it moving through the fallopian tubes. This test is supposed to check for obstructions or scarring that may be present in the tubes, but many say the thing that “shook the cobwebs loose” and allowed them to conceive. Despite my OB/GYN saying it would “only be a pinch” I found the test to be incredibly painful. Thankfully it is very quick, otherwise, I think I would have passed out! And, the results are immediate; the contrast dye spilled out (as it is supposed to), indicating there were no blockages in my tubes. Legend has it that the HSG boosts fertility for 3 cycles, so we felt…hopeful. For the first time in a long time.
Lo and behold, a few weeks later, there it was. Our BIG FAT POSITIVE (BFP) pregnancy test! Only it wasn’t big & fat. It was the faintest whisper of a positive test line you could imagine. It was a Monday morning before I went to work. I had visions of surprising my husband with a positive test as a gift prior to this. In reality, I jumped into bed next to him and shoved this freshly peed-on-stick in his face. “Do you see it?!” I asked. Cautiously, he said, “I..uh…think so…?” We didn’t want to be too excited. I took a picture of the test and texted it to two of my dear friends. They both did not see what I saw. Somehow in my gut, though, I KNEW it was positive.
I repeated dipstick tests every day that week, each one getting darker and darker. But I still didn’t trust them. I took a digital test and there it proclaimed it big bold letters – “PREGNANT.” And what an amazing day that was.