The struggle to conceive has taken over my life.
I'm not one of those women who coo over babies or gaze longingly at a pregnant belly. I haven't thought hard about, or chosen, the names of my unborn children. But I did assume that one day there would actually be children to pick out names for.
I'd say things in passing like, "Well, when we have children we'll probably do this, or we'll probably move there." I just assumed that when my husband and I decided we were old enough and responsible enough, we'd start a family. It was the same as assuming I'd wake up in the morning.
I assumed a lot of other things, too.
I assumed that my history of an eating disorder wouldn't hinder my efforts because I'd returned to a healthy weight. And I assumed that when I stopped taking a form of birth control that cut off my period, my menstruation would return and I'd be ripe and ready to go.
But then the period never came. At first I thought I was pregnant straight away. Little did I know I wasn't even close to ovulating.
When I found myself, at age 30, seated in front of a fertility doctor after producing not even one tiny droplet of blood for six months, I quickly realized I'd been wrong to assume anything. Suddenly, a life without children—who I hadn't really given that much thought about until then—flashed before my eyes. And suddenly, those children were all I could think about.
From then on, having a baby went from being my assumption, to being my purpose.
Ever since we got married, my husband has been raring to get the baby show on the road. He couldn't wait to be a Dad. I, however, wasn't ready. My plan was to enjoy living in New York City, and then in a few years buy a house in the suburbs and settle down. Going off birth control was a compromise to "get my body ready" for pregnancy.
Today marks almost a year since I learned my body wasn't ready at all. I've still yet to have a natural period or ovulate on my own. I've been diagnosed with "unexplained infertility." The name itself drives me mad. How can there just be no reason? And with no reason, how can you fix the problem? So far I've had countless unsuccessful rounds of fertility medications, and I'm about to go through yet another.
The process has taken over my life. My husband tells me I've become obsessive. During a medicated cycle, I see my doctor at least three times a week, undergoing ultrasounds, blood tests, and injections. I know all the nurses and staff by name, and my local pharmacist sees me more often than my own family. At times I actually dread going to pick up my next round of medications. I can tell the pharmacist feels sorry for me as I go in one week full of hope, and the next with bloodshot eyes.
It's not just that I'm struggling to get pregnant; I'm also spending a fortune trying to do so. I've lost track of the thousands and thousands of dollars we've paid so far, with nothing to show for it. Then there's the amount of hours I've wasted doing "research" on Google for fertility tips—and the subsequent cost of vitamins, teas, and books promising, yet failing, to help. No matter how many "fertility-friendly" foods I've eaten, vitamins I've popped, or intense exercise classes I've missed, I've been greeted with a single line on a pregnancy test.
I now have to plan everything else in my life around my monthly cycle. I can't plan any trips, and I dread my husband going away on business in case it interferes with times we're supposed to have sex.
Each cycle so far, I've been given false hope that I'm pregnant because of the side effects of drugs like Femara, Estradiol, Ovidrel, and Progesterone. Every time, despite the tender boobs, nausea, and cramps, I've been proven wrong.
Meanwhile, it seems that everyone around me gets pregnant at the drop of a hat—friends, family, even a constant stream of celebrities.
I know there are so many women out there who've been trying much longer than me, and who've gone through so much worse. But the sense of failure is starting to eat away at me. I've begun to hate myself. It's been impossible not to; after all, my body isn't doing what, as a woman, it's supposed to do. And I have no idea why.
My husband and I have discussed the possibility of adoption, which in itself can be a very long, expensive, and emotional process. Despite yearning to experience pregnancy, and the feeling of a child growing inside me, I am open to the idea.
My husband assures me he is too, but I can't help but think I'd always feel guilty for not giving him a biological child; someone who shares his intelligence and kindness or the same thick wavy hair and chubby cheeks.
I no longer feel like me. I've quit running, for fear that it will reduce my practically nonexistent estrogen levels even lower. I'm scared to even have a sip of wine or caffeine in case it wrecks my chances of conceiving.
And yet, until I put this in writing, I've been pretending to the outside world that everything is absolutely fine.
My doctor told me that if this cycle doesn't work, my only option is IVF. The words terrified me. Not because I'm scared to go through the process in order to have a child, but because it's going to cost at least $15,000 (plus an estimated $5,000 more for drugs), and my medical insurance doesn't cover a cent.
For the first time ever, I assumed that I wasn't going to be a mother.
But then I realized that it's time for me to stop assuming, and to start believing. I still don't know how I will have a child—but I choose to believe that I will.