**This week in April is National Infertility Awareness Week. We are mindful of those women who are struggling to get pregnant. Read one local mom’s story who is brave enough to share the major ups and downs of her pregnancy journey.**
My husband and I were married in May of 2011. While I suppose that’s irrelevant to the whole “having a child” issue, I tell you that more as a reference point.
You see, in September of 2010, during a routine annual checkup with my OB/GYN, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. It had some fancy, hard to pronounce name, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was. In fact, when my OB called me with the news, the only two words I heard were “cancer” and “hysterectomy.” I was 29 years old and eight months away from marrying the love of my life. This was not happening – I was devastated.
My husband comes from what I consider to be a large catholic family and when we envisioned our future, we saw ourselves with children. And now…well, now that didn’t seem possible.
My doctor referred us to the cancer center at OU to explore what she called “options.” Apparently it wasn’t as cut and dry as it sounded. I’ll never forget the day we went in for our consultation – I made my husband wear dress pants (something he doesn’t even do for work) because I wanted to look like a couple that “deserved” a baby. I realize now how insanely crazy that was.
At the cancer center, we learned I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which likely contributed to my unlikely cancer diagnosis. I’m no doctor, but basically PCOS affects hormones and ovulation making it difficult to become pregnant – another blow to our hopes of starting a family.
With that news, our first step was to eliminate the cancer.
There were drugs. Terrible drugs that made me ravenous (which is exactly what every bride wants to be in the months leading up to her wedding, right?) There were tests and MRI scans in that terrible tube (which required a different kind of drug), and there were surgeries.
There wasn’t chemo or radiation and I count my blessing for that EVERY day.
Finally, in January of 2011, five months before our wedding, I got the all clear from my doctor. Cancer free – for the time being. It was made clear to us that this good news came with a deadline. We would inevitably have to face the dreaded “H” word. The doctor felt comfortable giving us a six month window of time. If we wanted to start a family, we had to start immediately – married or not.
I’d be lying if I said we didn’t struggle with the decision to start fertility treatments. After all, we weren’t yet married, and we faced the very real possibility that I might be when I walked down the aisle. After countless conversations and overwhelming support from our families, we met with the fertility doctor.
What we discovered is that fertility treatment is a lot of trial and error. You pick a course of treatment, do it, test it, try it again. If that doesn’t work, you do it, you try it, and you test another course of treatment. We tried oral drugs, including Clomid, before finding some success with injectables.
We also discovered treatment is as much an emotional journey as it is a physical one. We did our best to keep a positive outlook, especially during our wedding time, but when you are injecting yourself full or hormones daily (literally), you’re bound to take the train to crazytown a time or two.
After nearly a year of treatment, we faced another deadline. Given my history, and the hormones used in treatment, the doctors felt we could safely pursue only one or two more rounds of injectables before we would need to take the next step and do in-vitro fertilization. We knew going into treatment that in-vitro was a possibility, but had always leaned away from going that far. Nothing against it, it just never felt like the path for us. However, we decided early in our journey that we were going to take things one step at a time and reserve any final decisions until the choices were staring us in the face.
Fortunately, we never had to decide. A pregnancy test on New Year’s Eve confirmed our last round of injectables had been successful – we were pregnant!
Pregnancy brought a whole new round of emotions. How would my body, that had so many issues pre-conception, react to pregnancy? Would I be able to carry this child to term? Scared to lose the baby we tried so hard to conceive, I went overboard with precautions – I quit running, I quit caffeine, I quit soda. I read everything I could find and avoided anything I thought might harm my child. I even canceled a massage I had scheduled months in advance. Not only had we tried so hard to get pregnant, it was very possible that this might be our ONLY chance to have a child.
As per usual, my obsessive worry and paranoia was for not. Pregnancy was a breeze and in September 2012, two years after my initial diagnosis, we delivered a healthy and happy baby boy. We were overjoyed and started to settle into parenthood. However, the lingering issue of baby number two was already hanging over our heads.
Once again, the clock was ticking. On my doctors advice, we planned to wait until my 9 month post baby check to make our decision on baby number two. As the months ticked by, our desire for a second child grew. We started to make plans and even called the fertility clinic to get information for round two.
I was told pregnancy and nursing were among the best ways to prevent my cancer from returning, but was also put on a daily pill to assist with my hormonal imbalance as an extra precaution. In my mind, a hysterectomy wasn’t even on the list of possibilities anymore. After all, we had done everything right.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. My cancer returned, with a vengeance.
Three weeks before my son’s first birthday, I had a hysterectomy.
Knowing we won’t have any more biological children was a tough pill to swallow. One of the hardest parts is knowing the best way to respond when someone innocently inquires, “So, when are you guys going to give that boy a sibling?” But, looking back on our journey, I feel very lucky. With all that we endured, there are so many who have endured or will endure so much more, many to never have even one child of their own. While we faced our share of disappointment, we have so much more to be thankful for – including a healthy child and a healthy mama.
Born and raised throughout the Midwest, Lindsey has officially called Oklahoma home for nearly ten years. Wife to Michael and mother to Ivan, she left the corporate world to be home with her family full time in 2012. When not chasing her ridiculously active 18-month old, Lindsey enjoys being involved in community organizations and planning outings for a local moms group. She also enjoys running, reading, road trips and all things mid-century.