Well, really, I shouldn’t be here. It’s 8am on a Saturday morning, and I’m in bed writing this post. In an alternate universe somewhere, I am nursing a 2-month old, or I’m heavily pregnant and waddling to the loo, or I’m placing a hand on my bump and smiling at the life inside. But I’m here, in this universe, and over here I am definitively not pregnant. Not flush with joy at the life inside me. Not hallucinating from baby-induced sleep deprivation. Not. Pregnant.
It’s been a tough week. I decided to start this blog as a way of processing the emotions that boil inside me every month. It’s something we don’t talk about openly – trying for a baby. You hear about the successes, the women who ‘got pregnant at the drop of a hat’. But we don’t talk about how hard it can be, how emotionally draining it is when your period keeps turning up. Or it doesn’t turn up and you allow yourself to hope your dreams might have come true, only to find it is just your body playing tricks on you. So I wanted to start this blog, to be open and honest about my struggles. And to share the ways I am trying to cope. Who knows, maybe it will help someone, some day.
We (my husband and I) have been trying for a baby for about 14 months now. Not so long, you’ll all say. And no, in the grand scheme of things it’s not long at all. I hear roughly 80%* of couples get pregnant within a year, then about 15%* within the next 6 months, and who knows what happens to the rest. But I’m 35, will be 36 next month, and things are not shaping up to be so straightforward for me.
A little more context. I took the Pill for around 17 years. If you do the maths, you’ll work out I was 17 when I started taking it, and 34 when I stopped. So basically I spent half my life forcing artificial periods, barely giving a second thought to whether this was ok because science says it is. (Now, with hindsight, I am older, wiser, and better placed to question why women have to drug themselves to force temporary infertility – surely there’s a better way? – but that’s another story). As I got older, my periods became lighter and for the last few years of taking the Pill, they would be accompanied by chronic headaches (as well as the usual joys of mood swings, bloating, etc). I didn’t think too much of it – a visit to the doctor was fairly useless as he advised I would need to come off the Pill before they could investigate anything, and at that point I wasn’t ready.
Then, aged 32, I met my soon-to-be husband. We fell in love, moved in together, bought a house, got married. My very own fairytale. So, a few months after we came home from the honeymoon, I came off the Pill and we started wishing and hoping.
I was full of expectation in the early days. Each month I would listen carefully to my body, identifying signs that meant I was or wasn’t pregnant. I know now, my body was still (may still be) getting used to producing it’s own hormones again. It took a few months for my cycle to start properly, and it has taken far longer for me to begin to understand it.
I am fortunate. I have a wonderful husband and a very supportive GP. When I went to see her back in April, full of anxiety, my GP was the one who suggested I go for tests. It took me a couple of months to get my head around the idea, I desperately want to conceive naturally and to go for tests meant admitting to myself that might not happen. However a pattern was beginning to emerge from my erratic cycle, and finally, in August, I agreed to be referred.
Since then, I have been prodded, poked, had blood taken, and experienced the joy of discussing my cycle and symptoms in a room of three men. My husband knows far more about my periods than either of us would like. A visit to the radiologist revealed that my right ovary is polycystic. Blood tests showed I may have low oestrogen levels. A trip to the consultant was more reassuring: my left ovary definitely ovulates, most of the time, and therefore there are no obvious reasons why I shouldn’t conceive naturally. The human body is an amazing thing. It might take a bit longer, is all. Come back in six months if nothing has happened.
That should have been enough to put my mind at ease. And to a certain extent, it did. But maybe I’m programmed a bit differently. I kept listening to my body, and began to better understand the signs and symptoms. Grumpy and horny = ovulating (day 15-18 of cycle). Bloated and highly emotional = PMT (always 12 days after ovulating). Anything outside that and I haven’t ovulated. I became obsessed with looking up diets, supplements and ways to manage stress. I did a LOT of yoga. But the anxiety never went away. In December I knew I hadn’t ovulated, so pressure piled on to January and February’s cycles.
Most recently, March, I have not ovulated again. I’ve had my shortest cycle yet at 22 days, and have been incredibly hormonal. At times it’s hard to tell if the tears are fuelled by PMT or if I’m genuinely distraught. All I know is I’ve been a train wreck for most of this week.
But. I am a BIG believer in the power of positive thinking. I have been a victim of my own head for too long. This is not the first step I have taken to try to do something about it. Right now, I’m trying a combination of diet, yoga, hypnotherapy, reflexology, vitamins, mindfulness – and now writing a blog. I’ll write more about each coping mechanism in future posts, and I hope you’ll join me along the way.
One way or another, this blog will have a happy ending.
*These figures are completely anecdotal.