I was oblivious
Throughout my twenties as many of my friends had those “oops” moments and I didn’t, I thought to myself “dang, we don’t have those problems, y’all man need to learn how to pull out!” I’m a lot of things, but dumb isn’t one. Infertility issues were something so foreign to me, I swear the thought never crossed my mind.
Since I was young, I’ve always had sporadic cycles, so I stopped paying attention to that a long time ago. I would go to the doctor and be asked that standard question: “What was the first date of your last menstrual cycle?” and answer “uhhhhhh” and give them my best guess.
In 2010 just months after getting married, my husband was awakened by one of those calls that come at that time of night that you just know can’t be good. The way he said “WHAT!?!” still sends chills down my spine. His brother had been shot, and was being rushed to shock trauma.
As we spent the next week in the hospital praying and making medical decisions as he clung to life, my cycle started. As my brother-in-law lost his battle and we all grieved the loss of one of the brightest lights in our lives, I didn’t think much of it when my cycle dragged on for almost 2 weeks. After all, we had spent every waking moment in the intensive care unit for the last several days and watched our loved one (who happened to be the same age as me) deteriorate until the doctors could do no more to help him and we had to let him go.
One thing after another
Just as we began to work towards returning to life as we knew it before this tragedy struck, I woke up one night in excruciating pain. The kind of pain that makes you wonder if you’re going to live. I looked over at my sleeping husband and didn’t want to wake him. It was around 1am, he had to be up at 4:30 and would surely insist on taking me to the ER. I wanted to let him rest. So I went out into the living room and suffered in silence, alone. I rolled around on the floor, I curled up into fetal position, I climbed the couch, I made it through.
The next morning, I went to work and shared what happened with my girlfriend. All my co-workers encouraged me to go home. But I’m like, for what?! Whatever it was is over now! They agreed to stop pestering me, but only if I called my doctor and let them know what occurred. So I did.
After describing what happened, my doctor responded “can you come in today?”. Baffled, I responded “ok, sure?”.
Wait, I’m confused
When I arrived at the hospital, my doctor sent me to a different waiting room where I noticed I was surrounded by pregnant women. But none of their pregnancies seemed to be going quite right. My suspicions were confirmed when the young woman beside me was taken to the back and her mother came out 5 minutes later. I’ll never forget hearing her tell someone on the phone “the baby is stillborn, she’s going to have to deliver right now”. I turned and looked at my mom like what the hell am I doing here???!!!
I’m called back, and my sonogram begins. The tech I got didn’t have a good poker face. I knew something was up but had no idea what. She calls a doctor in to confirm what she’s seeing. They pointed at the screen and whispered to each other. The doctor finally includes me in the conversation, points to the screen and says “you see all that black area? That’s blood. Your abdomen is full of it, we’re not even sure how you’re conscious right now”. My gynecologist then comes in and explains to me that what I thought was a stress-induced, extended period was, in fact, an ectopic pregnancy that had been slowly causing internal bleeding. Oh and that episode last night? It ruptured.
I needed emergency surgery. Right now, that day, right there and then. Turns out I had gotten pregnant but the fertilized egg never made it through the fallopian tube to the ovaries where a pregnancy is supposed to implant and grow. So as the tiny egg grew inside the equivalent of a string of spaghetti, the tube eventually burst.
My breaking point
So now, I’m a newlywed, enjoying my marriage and looking forward to procreating with my husband in the near future when the doctor tells me, “We are going to have to go in and clear out the blood, remove the ruptured tube, AND IF THERE IS CAUSE WE MAY HAVE TO REMOVE YOUR ENTIRE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM”.
To this point I hadn’t cried. Hadn’t had time to even process any of this. It hadn’t even been 24 hours since I was in the living room squirming around on the floor. But this was too much! I lost it. I began to think of how in the world I was going to tell my husband he may have married someone who couldn’t give him children.
When I woke up from surgery, the first thing I saw was his face. We embraced and I sobbed. Had they taken it all? Could I still have children? Would I ever be a mother?
Turns out it was the best case scenario. They were able to remove the ruptured tube and leave the remainder of my reproductive organs intact. Praise the Lord.
Can we conceive?
You know how you didn’t know how badly you wanted something until it was taken away? Well that loss sent us into full trying-to-get-pregnant mode. But after 2 long years with no success and what seemed like EVERYONE around us getting pregnant without even trying, we realized something was going on. Selfish as this may sound, I know other moms who have struggled to conceive can relate – it got harder and harder to act happy when someone announced to me that they were expecting. Over time my reaction went from genuine excitement, to a forced “yay” to wanting to burst into tears with each passing announcement.
The hell was going on?! Why wasn’t it happening for us?! And worst yet, how bad is it? I was terrified to find out. But we had to.
Turns out my husband was fine, so it was me – shocker. I had one tube, a partially blocked one at that, and PCOS. Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. This causes you not to ovulate regularly, sometimes not at all. Doctors ran tests and saw that I hadn’t ovulated in months. I had plenty of eggs but they would just sit there, never falling to meet their sperm suitors for a date. That explained the sporadic periods all my life. So if we COULD have a baby, it wasn’t going to be easy.
But I’m a go-getter, so with each new piece of information we received I tackled the doctors with new questions and demanded options and plans of action. The first step for Adrian and I would be hormone shots. Try to stimulate ovulation to see if the rest could come naturally.
Scheduled sex isn’t sexy
Now we were on a schedule. Apps for tracking my cycle, apps for tracking my ovulation and peak fertile days and apps telling us when to get busy. Sexy.
We weren’t doing it for fun anymore. It was technical and cold and anything but spontaneous. Sorry to say that the day our son was conceived, it wasn’t out of our truest sense of love, we could barely stand each other by then. Again, harsh but I know other women out there who have been through infertility struggles can relate.
The tension the process caused in our relationship had us fighting over the most insignificant things. We really didn’t even want to be in the same room that day, but after weeks of injecting myself in the stomach every day I was finally ovulating so…
Success! Not so fast…
After our very first round of hormone shots, I successfully ovulated and we conceived, our luck was looking up! But wait, not so fast. Voicemail: “Good afternoon Mrs. Kelly this is Dr. So-and-So from the Fertility Center. Please give us a call. It seems you may be pregnant but your hcg levels are low and we don’t believe the pregnancy is viable.”
Well, that call took a turn.
From immense excitement and joy to extreme sadness and confusion in the 10 seconds it took to listen to her message.
So, once again, I gathered my strength to forge onward and called back. They scheduled a DNC to abort the pregnancy and be sure no remnants of the pregnancy were left behind because those can become cancerous if left to linger. Lordt. They do however, schedule it for quite a while later to watch how the pregnancy progresses, just in case.
I continue to go in and have my hormone levels taken weekly. They continue to be off, way off. Too low for the point I’m at in my pregnancy. The DNC remains on the books.
The day comes. We go in and prepare ourselves for another loss. The room is dark, and cold. The nurse comes in and introduces herself, my husband responds, I don’t, I’m trying not to cry. Cold gel hits my stomach, and the sonogram machine is turned on. You could hear a pin drop. Then it happens.
The sound of my son’s heartbeat begins to reverberate through the room. Like a horse trotting through a field. Like a drum in an African folk song. Just as strong as can be. It brings tears to my eyes as I write this. Miracles are real. God is real.
Call the doctor in, God has other plans today.
The doctor takes over and assess and reassesses me. It’s true, this baby has a strong and healthy heartbeat. There will be no DNC today.
9 months later, have you heard of a smart, outgoing, and charming little boy named AJ?
Oh, and by the way…
We can talk about my surprise pregnancy when AJ was just 9 months old another time 😉
I’m here for you
To all my ladies going through infertility issues, I pray my story doesn’t bring you more pain in the midst of your journey. I pray it gives you hope. I pray you find the strength you need to press on and press forward during what I know was one of the most difficult things I’ve been through. I know it’s hard, I know it feels lonely, I know it feels unfair. I know it gets harder and harder to be happy for people who seem to get pregnant by sneezing, and going to a baby shower feels like torture, that’s ok. Know that I understand that, even if it feels like no one else does.
If you want to share about your journey below please do, we’ll support you. If you have encouraging words for women going through this, I welcome them. If you want to share your journey with me privately, I’d be honored to listen, just DM me: @YolandeKelly
With love, hope and empathy,
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