January – December 2007
[Previously: Part I]
A warning: Sometimes in these posts I’m going to talk about girl stuff, like getting my period. This is a story about my reproductive system, and that’s just how it goes.
In January 2007, four months after our wedding, we headed off for our belated honeymoon in Thailand. I had gone off the pill in October, but we decided to wait until we were actually on the trip to start trying, because I was terrified of being in early pregnancy on a huge trip. I didn’t want to be in the most amazing place I’d ever been, surrounded by exotic food, monkeys, and Buddhist temples, and be too tired or nauseous or scared about what I could eat to enjoy it. I estimated, using special girl math, that our first real shot would during the last few nights of the trip, which were luckily picture-perfect for making a baby. There was the night in the treehouse, high above a pristine forest, followed by a few nights in a floating rafthouse on a silent lake, and one last night in a beachfront hotel. On our way home, just to be sure, we even tried — unsuccessfully — to get a few hours at one of the “day rooms” at the Tokyo airport, just to get another shot.
We found out in early February that it didn’t work, but it was easy to move on. It never happens the first time, right? So we tried again. In early March, visiting friends in Austin before the start of SXSW, I started to notice some very light pink spotting days before I expected my period. This was new and different, so I did what any lady of the modern age would do: I googled it. Turns out, early spotting can be something called “implantation bleeding,” where the burrowing embryo shakes loose some old cells from your uterine wall. YES. This was it.
It wasn’t. But the googling was a gateway drug. I started approaching getting pregnant the way I approached planning a vacation: lots and lots of research. I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility, a veritable encyclopedia of the female menstrual cycle. And I went to the message boards. Oh, the message boards! I discovered site after site populated by women who, just like me, wanted only one thing. By April, I had started reading Mothering Magazine’s Trying To Conceive message board like I was studying for an exam.
From the boards, I learned all sorts of things about TTC (trying to conceive), including the meaning of hundreds of special acronyms, like BBT (basal body temperature). From your BBT, you could track your O (ovulation) date. A high BBT in the AM? You just ovulated. I started measuring my temperature every morning with a highly precise, loudly beeping digital thermometer. From the outset, my chart continually looked awesome. Plus, every month I was clearly feeling the effects of ridiculous-sounding mittelschmerz, a cramp caused by ovulation.
There were physical signs of ovulation beyond the temperature shift, and they came with their own hilarious acronyms. For instance — sorry, lady parts stuff ahead — a woman’s natural secretions change texture around ovulation, and become slippery to help the sperm swim through the cervix. This is called, quite seriously, egg white cervical mucous (EWCM). When you have it, you’re at your most fertile, but it doesn’t last for long, so I was compelled to check several times a day. I started to instant message Sandy with EWCM updates, a new stage in our relationship that I don’t think he was ready for.
The acronyms I loved most were the horrible/cutesy ones. Like, you don’t have sex, you BD (baby dance). Not much of a dancer? You can still DTD (do the deed) or GIO (get it on). You don’t get your period, you get AF (a visit from your dear Aunt Flo). The days after you O but before you can take a pregnancy test is your 2WW (two week wait). Once that’s up, you POAS (pee on a stick). This is most accurate with your FMU (first morning urine). Your HPT (home pregnancy test) will either be a BFP (big fat positive) or a BFN (big fat negative). You share this result with your DH (dear husband) or DP (dear partner), and possibly your DS and DD, if you’re lucky to already have kids.
And the acronyms weren’t even the awesomest thing about the boards. The best thing were the animated gifs. Like the angel spreading “baby dust”:
Or this walk-through of the procreative process:
Message board users’ signatures were littered with little symbols of their values. Since I was on the super-crunchy Mothering Magazine boards, most of the users were who were or maybe even not to mention and planning a .
And so, buffeted with the optimism of all that baby dust, Sandy and I continued to BD, while I charted my BBT, gritted my teeth through the 2WW, and got BFN after BFN on my HPTs followed by a sad visit from AF.
The first few months weren’t so hard. The odds, as Sandy would constantly remind me, were still in our favor. But after maybe four or five tries, it started to sink in that maybe this wasn’t going to be so easy. The BBT charts were taunting me. Every month, they looked beautiful, and every month, twelve days after my temperature spiked, it would drop again, signaling the end of another cycle. The regularity stopped being comforting and starting feeling like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In the first few months, I took pregnancy tests, but after a few rounds of it, I couldn’t muster the hopefulness and I couldn’t manage the disappointment. Somehow, finding out slowly over a few days from my body was easier to bear than finding out from the stark empty window on the test.
Several more months passed. Several more attempts and several more let-downs. Each time, they got harder to take.
After about nine months, when it started to feel like it was becoming actively unfair, I started to seriously consider the prospect of getting some doctors involved. I started with one of the nurse-midwives at Swedish Covenant. She was sweet as could be, but her only advice was “keep trying.” We did some initial blood tests and a semen analysis for Sandy, and everything came back normal. I kept floating ideas gathered from the message boards of diseases and conditions to check for, but she just smiled and said “keep trying.” My acupuncturist had all sorts of ideas about my Qi and advice about eating only cooked foods and drinking only warm beverages, but it was expensive to keep going to her for lovely but ineffective sessions of relaxation, hand massages, and recipes for lentil soup.
So we started fixating on the idea that everything was going to be better if I could just get in to see an infertility doctor. Whatever was stopping up our system, there would be some problem they could clearly identify, then fix with a pill or laparoscopic surgery or something, and suddenly there would be a baby in my tummy. It happened on the message boards all the time.
In December, after a few months of wrangling with the HMO, I finally got the referral. I made the appointment. And then it really sank in: we’d been trying for a whole year. 85% of couples get pregnant within a year, and we hadn’t been able to manage it. A friend who started trying at the same time we did had a baby a few weeks before my first appointment at the fertility clinic.
No matter, things were looking up. Now that our efforts were going to be augmented by the miracles of modern science, we’d be pregnant in no time.
[Next: Part III]