All in good time
As I opened my laptop I knew this post was going to be a teary one, tissues in hand I began.
Society has almost made it impossible to look at a female and not ask two questions; “Are you married? “If a positive response is received, the next question to follow is; “do you have kids?”
Whilst I cannot tell you how difficult it may be for some people to answer the first question, I can personally tell you what it feels like to have the second question posed to you when you are facing infertility issues.
Every single time in the last four years that I have had to answer the question, it felt like someone plunging a knife deep inside me. Smile and nod you say to yourself, while you attempt to hide the sadness you feel.
For the longest time I wished there was a way where people would understand the feeling. I realised that I am on a journey, my own journey! I cannot expect people who have never struggled with infertility to understand my journey. It is through this understanding that I have tried to deal with people in an extremely polite manner. Oh what a difficult journey this has been….
Through my post I hope to let other sisters who are struggling know you are not alone. I also seek to enlighten those who have never experienced infertility issues to what the journey has been like.
Being married young has had its challenges but I am eternally thankful to Allah for granting me a spouse that has held my hand through this journey. As with many marriages, our initial years were not focused on starting a family, however as time proceeded this became more significant. Yes, the pressure began mounting, family started asking questions but we took it in our stride.
A year after trying I visited my GP as I missed a period and was not pregnant. She put me on Femara however, she suggested I go and see a gynae. I was oblivious to infertility and made the appointment as part of the process, not realising the significance of it. A quick fix I thought, I mean I had never pictured myself as someone who would have fertility issues. I always dreamed of the way I would broach the topic of starting a family with my husband…this was definitely not part of that plan.
My gynae started me on fertility drugs for the next 6 months. Upon completion, with no positive results of a pregnancy it was suggested both my husband and I go for further testing. In my case this meant a laparoscopy to rule out cysts or endometriosis. A laparoscopy meant time out from the office; yep I had to have the conversation with my Manager regarding our situation. As you can imagine this was indeed an awkward conversation, with a number of uncomfortable questions that followed. I have always been a private person and prefer to keep my private matters exactly that way…private. This process was already forcing me to push that boundary.
A laparoscopy later and I was told I had no issues that are affecting my fertility. It was suggested we begin IUI. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the acronym it is in essence artificial insemination. As we were nearing the December break we decided to give it a rest and kick off the IUI’s the following year – I scheduled my fertility specialist appointment accordingly.
Once again, being young and naïve one never knows what to expect in these appointments. Appointments seldom happen on scheduled times and you await your fate in a waiting room with other patients, sensing the same desperation to have a baby from everyone else.
My name was called and I was taken into a room and asked to fully undress from waist-down. Being shy I was naturally uncomfortable, the only time I had to do this before was at the time of my laparoscopy and my initial gynae appointment. I responded to the nurse saying I have my period; she smiled and replied “you are going to have to get use to this.”
I cannot even explain to you how distraught I felt…having to lay there and be probed while you are on day 2 of your menstrual cycle, all feelings of shame being ripped away. The Dr entered and proceeded with the internal scan, having patients on a period was obviously something he was used to. Once I was clothed he explained the process to us as well as what to exppect. A fresh set of fertility drugs in hand I left and returned a few weeks later for my internal scans before the procedure.
The day of my procedure I was handed Dormicum by the nurses, this would help knock me out and relax me for the procedure. When it was time to begin you are allowed some time to undress before the procedure – sheets are left for you to cover yourself. Again uncomfortable, but at this point uncomfortable feelings seem to be the norm. Your legs are strapped up wide apart and again…you wait for the Dr.
Sisters I wish to tell you, there is nothing more degrading than being tied in stirrups and having another person probing your private regions, while having your husband by your side. I cried…not from the procedure but from being left with no shame.
You are asked to do a pregnancy test 2 weeks later and call in with your results. 2 weeks later I called in and let the nurse know my results, they were negative. We were absolutely heartbroken. I did another 2 IUI’s, testing at the end of 2 weeks for procedure sake even though deep down I knew it was not positive. At this pointy Clearblue pregnancy tests and ovulation kits had found its way to my monthly shopping list.
I wish to point out while this was an extremely important time in my life, this wasn’t shared by my doctor where I was treated as just a number – each time needing to remind him why I was there. At times he requested to see me, and when I met with him he often would ask”how can I help you today?” Well I don’t know? Maybe you should tell me? None the less as time went on I learnt to take it less personally.
The Dr informed us the next procedure would be an IVF; this was much more expensive however it would up our chance of success to 45%. We decided to wait a few months before doing the treatment as I was emotionally drained and wanted a break from the fertility drugs.
4 months later we were ready to begin the IVF process. Without going into all the details we met with the doctor, went through the necessary scans and again a new set of medications was issued. These medications send you on an absolute emotional rollercoaster; at times had to stop myself from having emotional outbursts. The medications included injections; thankfully my husband was brave enough to give these to me. These injections were incredibly sore and stung like crazy – “all part of the process we said to each other”. In summary the medications are intended to make you produce more eggs than normal and force you to ovulate at the correct time. By the time I was nearing time for egg retrieval my pants could not close, that’s how bloated and uncomfortable it was.
We entered the IVF procedure confident and excited as can be, we believed this was it and the child we wanted would be planted inside my belly in no time. All previous negative feelings regarding the Dr’s and procedures were forgotten. This baby would begin with a clean slate.
The procedure was successful and due to the quality of the eggs that Dr recommended only putting 2 in as the chance of success was very high. We had to wait 2 weeks before testing.
I had never spent as much time on google as I had that week. I viewed every forum on IVF success rates, symptoms associated with success and how to calculate your due date. I knew every acronym on the forums from HPT, BFN, 2WW to BFN. I felt every symptom I was supposed to be feeling, did everything I was supposed to and I was confident. “I wonder if it will be twins? What will we call them? How will we manage?” These were all thoughts that ran though my head. My husband was equally excited and confident; there was no doubt in both our minds. Few people at work and extremely close family and friends knew we had done the IVF and we were in their duas / prayers.
The 2 week wait was awful, each day longer than the next, until eventually the day arrived. I did a blood test as early as possible before heading into the office. The laboratory would send my results to the clinic and I would hear from them. The anticipation was killing me; eventually my cell rang at around 13h00. The minute I answered I heard the sadness in the nurse voice, I immediately knew it was negative and she confirmed my worst fears.
I cannot explain the feelings that passed through me; I called my husband and let him know. We agreed to meet at home. Shortly after cutting the call, every emotion I felt came out in the most heartfelt cry I have ever felt. I left the office and cried my eyes out on the 30km journey back home, I begged Allah to stop letting me feel this way and give me strength to deal and accept his decisions. I have never cried as much as I cried on the way home, something inside of me broke – every piece of hope that I had ever had. My husband I both tried to be strong for each other, each of us knowing what we felt that day. In each passing day it got better, until we were able to talk about something else besides “what next?”
A few months later I was healed and ready to do my next IVF with my remaining eggs. The medications were changed but the process and emotions attached to it remained the same. As I sat in the procedure room, I vowed that should this not be successful I would not put myself through this for another year. I did the second one accompanied by acupuncture, duas and a good diet – I wanted to do every thing in my power to be able to say I had tried my best. The procedure was unsuccessful, but we were stronger and able to deal with it much better. Thank you my Allah for giving us the strength.
Has it been difficult? Yes it has. Ramadaan has helped me heal and accept what Allah has set out for us. I have come to realise that yes doctors are a means, but they cannot change your fate, only Allah can. Thoughts cross my mind all the time, will I ever be called “mom”, will I ever have a family, what will happen to me when my parents leave this world and my siblings continue their lives with their own family, who will I have? I am on a continuos journey of hope, yet reminding myself that my life will only be as Allah wills. I have tried every dua, herb, super food and alternative healing suggested to me and I can happily say I am done. I have full acceptance that Allah knows and he does what is best for each of us.
I at times dread attending family functions, I cant remember when last I WASN’T asked about the family I need to start planning or offered possible solutions as to how to fix my problem. At times I feel like any progress I have made healing is ripped away when these questions arise. Can I not for a day be myself and enjoy a family function or day out without being reminded about my inability to have a family? I am now at a point where I have people greeting me and a second later saying you are in my duas – yet they don’t know my journey. I keep reminding myself that people are only trying to help and don’t know any better. I truly value those that know I am struggling but choose not to ask me about it. I know in my heart that I am in their duas and that is all that matters.
To my sisters who are unintentionally asking others about starting their families. Please don’t. If a person feels comfortable and close enough to you to share their journey with you, they will. I understand the intention is good and if you really have to do it, raise it in a sensitive manner. Every one of these individuals are trying to come to terms with their own situation and accept. Yes you may only ask them about it once, but if everyone asks them about it, it is a continuos reminder.
To my sisters struggling, I keep you in my duas. Your relationship with your spouse will be tested in a number of ways, be there for each other and make dua to Allah to make your bond stronger. Focus on the positives Allah has bestowed to you and continue making dua to him for only dua can change a situation. Your value of life isn’t based on you being a mother. Maybe Allah would love for us to add value to the world in another way for he knows best. This world is only temporary and therefore this test is only temporary. Never be rude to anyone asking you about you not having a child – treat them with kindness and if need be let them down gently. I am confident you will have your happy ending with or without a baby!