Learning to be grateful.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, and just haven’t known where to begin. Now seems like a good time, so I suppose I will try.

Disclaimer: there’s going to be period talk up in here. Feel free to see yourself out if you don’t want to hear it.

But the road to becoming pregnant wasn’t an easy one for us.

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Robbie and I got married in January 2015. We knew immediately that we wanted more children and we didn’t want to wait, especially with Robbie being 9 years older than I am and with James becoming almost too old to appreciate having a younger sibling. But we decided that, if we had any choice in the matter, we’d like to not have our baby in December (haha), since James’ birthday is already close to Christmas – spacing them out seemed the smartest, kindest way to do it for everyone involved. So we waited until April to start trying. No big deal.

I had been using hormonal birth control in one form or another for 10 years when we decided we were ready to try. I expected my body to take a few months to readjust before it would be ready to function normally without any synthetic hormones to tell it what to do, so I wasn’t all that surprised when I still wasn’t pregnant by the end of the summer. What did surprise me, though, was how completely irregular my cycles would become. At first, they were like clockwork – every 28 days, just like they’d been when I was on birth control. And then they gradually became longer and longer, until by January I had gone over 8 weeks without a period.

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It was extremely frustrating. Each time my period was later than it should have been, I was convinced I was pregnant. I don’t even want to know how much I spent on store-bought pregnancy tests. And then, of course, I was devastated each time it turned out to not to be true. I began to really take it personally. I began to feel hopelessly broken, as if my body were not capable of doing the one thing it was so obviously designed to do. What was the point of having these giant breasts since age 12, or these wide, child-birthing hips, or the horrendously excruciating periods that plagued my adolescence with regularity, if not to be able to have a baby? Was God playing some kind of cruel joke on me?

And, as anyone who has ever really played the conception game knows, having irregular cycles makes it extremely hard to plan when to “do the baby dance,” as people like to delicately put it. It’s hard know when the window for conception is even open if you can’t tell when you’re ovulating, or if you even are. It begins to make you wonder how anyone gets pregnant accidentally, when you have to try this hard to do it on purpose. Not to mention the tremendous strain it puts on a relationship when you turn an intimate act that used to be fun and spontaneous into a chore that has to be scheduled.

So by February, we were ready to really get serious about figuring out what was going on. I had started tracking my basal body temp every. single. morning. and bought a large pack of (rather expensive) LH ovulation test strips to see if I could pin down whether I was ovulating at all and if it was actually happening with any kind of regularity. I figured if I went to see a specialist, these were the first steps they were going to have me take anyway, so at least I could walk in with some information already in hand. The temperature readings were somewhat reassuring, showing a relative pattern that mimicked what my body was supposed to be doing, but I wasn’t getting any positive LH results anywhere in my cycle. All signs pointed to the idea that I simply wasn’t ovulating.

Then, in a last-ditch effort to try anything before we gave up and saw a fertility specialist, I decided to try acupuncture. I wasn’t honestly convinced that it was going to help, but I figured it was worth a try. The first thing she did was start a lab work up for PCOS. Along with the irregular cycles, I was having other symptoms, like hormonal acne and increased facial and body hair, that pointed to a PCOS picture. Then she did her acupuncture voodoo, including hooking a couple of the needles up to this interesting electric pulse stimulator thing, and I went on my merry way.

Maybe it was all in my head, but the results seemed almost immediate after that first appointment. I saw her in the morning, and by afternoon I felt like something was going on with my hormones – I was emotionally very sensitive, almost like PMS. Then later that week, it happened – my first positive LH test. Maybe I wasn’t broken after all.

A few weeks later, it was time to find out. I woke up early one morning, anxious to test, but I’d had enough negative pregnancy tests before to know that I should wait another day or two to avoid a possible false negative. “It’s going to be negative,” I prepared myself as I took the test out of the package anyway. I put it on the counter to do its work, and walked away, not really wanting to even look at the negative result I knew would surely be there. I came back to the bathroom a while later and glanced at the test, and there it was – the faintest little line in the positive column. I literally laughed – no fucking way. And then I cried. And then I proceeded to take 3 more tests over the course of the day, because there was no way it could be right. Completely at a loss for how to tell Robbie, I left them all on the bathroom counter, all lined up, and waited for him to simply come home and see. (You would think months of trying would give me time to come up with a fun way to tell my husband I was pregnant, but nope, lol.) And then, like a crazy person, I tested again every morning for the next 4 days, just to be sure.

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Given how unreliable my hormonal regulation seemed to be, I wasn’t convinced that my body would be able to sustain a pregnancy yet. I continued to go back to acupuncture almost weekly during the first trimester, in the hope that it might help. But aside from that, I tried hard not to focus on fear. I know enough about the law of attraction to know better than to focus on what I don’t want. So instead, every day I repeated this little mantra to myself and to God: “Thank you for my perfect, healthy body. Thank you for my perfect, healthy pregnancy. Thank you for my perfect, healthy baby.” Pray with a grateful heart, as if it has already happened, right? It might seem a little “woo-woo” for some, but it helps me. I still say this little prayer every day.

However, I’ve still had a few reasons to be anxious. I’ve had high blood pressure for most of my adult life, which got worse when I worked nights, and I’ve been on medication for it since 2012. And I work in the NICU, so I see first-hand what high blood pressure can mean during pregnancy. The last thing I wanted for any of us was to wind up with a micro-preemie due to pre-eclampsia or to have a baby with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). But I thank God every day that so far my blood pressure has been 100% normal (which was unusual for me pre-pregnancy, even on medication), and even sometimes low. And there’s been no concern for IUGR yet, as our little man has actually been measuring almost a week bigger than his gestational age.

With extra concern for gestational diabetes – due to a strong family history and being already overweight – I’ve had a glucometer for a while now, too. (I work in the medical field, so forgive me for wanting all the information I can get, lol.) I’m extremely grateful to report that so far my blood sugars have also been normal. I know that can change going into the third trimester – as can blood pressure – but it’s reassuring to feel like I’m already keeping an eye on it.

Then, of course, there is always the nagging worry about congenital anomalies that comes with seeing heartbreaking cases at work every day. We chose not to do the early blood tests for chromosomal abnormalities, since it wouldn’t have changed our minds about anything anyway, and I’ve known people who’ve had false-positive results on these tests and spent the entire pregnancy needlessly worrying about a baby who turned out to be perfectly normal. We figured we could get all the important information we needed from anatomic ultrasounds, which would most likely show if there’s was anything structural to be worried about. But of course my NICU traumatized brain went into each ultrasound terrified of what we might find. Gastroschisis? Diaphragmatic hernia? Heart defects? Again, I tried not to focus on those things too much beforehand, but I know too much not to wonder. But everything has been perfectly fine on each scan, and I say a huge grateful prayer every time because I know just how lucky we are.

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And after all the frustration of trying to conceive, and after all the worry about whether we’d get this far, here I am, with an active, healthy, viable baby boy kicking away inside me. It makes me cry with gratitude just to say that.

I try not to take any part of this experience for granted. I know how lucky I am to be having it.

I still don’t full understand why it took so long to regulate my cycles enough to conceive. Maybe it was the long-term use of hormonal birth control, though medical professionals say that shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Maybe working nights for so long messed up more than just my circadian rhythm. Who knows. And it’s anyone’s guess what any of it will be like after our baby is born.

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Or maybe it was God’s way of trying to teach me something. Maybe it was a just a big slap in my control-freak face to show me that I’m not really in control of anything, least of all when a new soul gets to come into this world. Maybe our little guy was just determined to be a Sagittarius no matter what we wanted, and he had to wait this long to make it happen. Maybe I needed to be grateful that I have James to raise, even if I didn’t give birth to him. Maybe first I had to learn what it really means to be happy for someone else when they get what I can’t have yet – Lord knows that was perhaps the hardest lesson of them all.

All I know for sure is that I am immensely grateful. I’m grateful to be pregnant at all. I’m most especially grateful that my baby is healthy, and so am I. No matter what lies ahead, I’m not taking any of it for granted anymore.Ā Maybe that was really the point all along.Ā 

I’m sorry for long-winded post, my friends. But I know I’m not the only one of us here who either has dealt or is currently dealing with fertility issues or PCOS. For those of you still in the throes of it, know that you’re not alone and I that I wish you all the best as you continue forward on your journey. We may never fully understand it, but I hope you are able to find some peace or learning in whatever you’re going through.

Love and peace, friends. ā¤

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