[[Caveat up front: I have felt a reasonable amount of guilt during my pregnancy so far, and that’s partly why I want to write about it. I have many friends who have struggled with fertility, and several who have had to use IVF to achieve a full term pregnancy. I know the journey to parenthood is not easy (even though it does appear that way for some). On the pure aesthetics of it, Tom and my pregnancy probably looks just like that – married for a few years, had an adventure abroad and now announced pregnancy: well done guys, looks like you’re following a good plan. But that’s not the reality.
I am massively grateful that we were able to conceive naturally, and after just less than two years. But that has also left me feeling slightly guilty at times for sharing the joy and delight I am now. I have seen 7 of our friends become pregnant and give birth since we started “trying”, and another 3 announced pregnancies, giving birth after we found out we were expecting. Let me tell you, it’s hard to watch. I have felt genuine happiness and celebrated with each of my friends, but that doesn’t stop the sting you feel deep inside with each announcement that isn’t yours. You feel like you’re getting left behind, like maybe it just isn’t going to happen for you, ever. And then when it does, suddenly the guilt comes up, why were we able to conceive naturally? Who is getting a sting from my posts? Should I share pregnancy or scan photos if I know it could make someone feel sad?
I haven’t got definitive answers, but I hold onto the joy I felt when I got to see friends experiencing it, and just hope that maybe that’ll be the same here. So, friend, if that’s you – know that you’re not alone in how that sting really penetrates deep, know that not all journeys look the same, and I am writing our journey partly for you.]]
Moving to the lighter side of what I have decided to call my pregnancy journal… I decided to dedicate a section on my blog to this journey – it’s something I’d like to be able to look back on, and I figured maybe some other people might find it interesting too. Maybe you won’t (particularly if period talk isn’t your thing – come back next time!), but don’t feel like you have to stick around, check out the other topics under the blog tab to see what else I write about!
So, the title of this post, when I say the very beginning, I actually mean kind of the middle. By the time I was 15 I came to understand that my body was a bit abnormal when it came to menstruation. All my friends seemed to click into rhythms and routines and I just didn’t. My periods were sporadic and a total unknown. The only time I was guaranteed to get my period was when I was going on holiday…
My mum took me to the doctor as it was obviously something we wanted to figure out. The doctor was entirely unhelpful telling me that in the past (like 100 years ago) women of my age wouldn’t ever have really had their periods because they went through cycles of being pregnant so regularly, so I shouldn’t worry. Yes – that’s totally the same situation, A+ on your deduction there, doc! So I settled into the unsatisfactory rhythm of no rhythm.
Knowing that this was the case, I always figured that I might struggle when it came to wanting to have babies. If you don’t have regular periods, then logically, you’re not ovulating as you should be, and therefore conceiving is likely to be irregular too. Knowing this from a young age kind of mentally prepared me for the fact that pregnancy may just never happen for me, and if it does it probably won’t be as easy as others find it.
Sure enough, when I was 24(ish) and still having no regularity, I did a load of blood tests, and went for an ultrasound and was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovaries (PCOS because you just add syndrome on the end, obvs). This is actually super common in women these days – 1 in 10 women “of child bearing age” have it, and I would say of all of my friends, the number seems higher. For those unfamiliar with it, it basically is a bunch of tiny insignificant cysts that sit on your ovaries and bother your menstrual cycle but don’t really have any further negative affects on your body – I think period pain is a lot more common, and trouble conceiving are the main symptoms (plus the fabulous presence of dark facial hairs, and difficulty in losing weight). How do you get rid of it? Well, you can’t! It can improve with weight loss, as it’s affected by insulin and stuff I don’t understand, so losing weight can improve the symptoms, but it won’t go away. That’s how I understand it anyway.
My doctor went through my post-ultrasound appointment with me to explain what being diagnosed with PCOS meant, and told me in no uncertain terms, if I wanted to have a baby, then the sooner I try the better, as it can take a while for pregnancy to happen and the longer time frame you have to try, the better your chances. I’m a little hazy as to the timing, but I’m pretty sure Tom and I were dating at the time not imminently thinking about marriage yet, so that was interesting conversation to have! I mean, he already knew what I wrote about above, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to him, but it definitely meant we had to be more serious about the slim chances of us having a baby naturally and how soon we might have to start a family. If memory serves correctly, it was only a few months later that Tom proposed to me (not related to the biological clock’s ticking getting louder), but we had hoped to enjoy our life just the two of us for a while, like ideally after getting married having upwards of a couple of years so we could get some sweet holidays in the books and make the most of carefree living!
As most of you probably know, we did indeed manage to get some great travel in – for a start we moved to Canada! We also travelled to Belfast, Dublin and lots of trips to London before leaving the UK, then once the Pacific North West was home, we went to Seattle and Bellevue, Victoria, Whistler, Ucluelet and even Hawaii! So we did manage to get out there a fair bit.
The other side of the whole messed up periods thing was the contraceptive pill… when I was diagnosed with PCOS they prescribed me a contraceptive pill to try and regulate my periods and OH BOY what a number that did on my mental health. It made me so depressed, I cried a lot, couldn’t figure out what things were affecting me hormonally and what I actually cared about. I think I was on that one for about four months before I couldn’t take it any more. A few months later, after I’d kind of come down from the emotional rollercoaster, I switched to another one (a mini-pill) which was better, but started up having a “period” every couple of weeks, along with the mood swings and the cramps to accompany it. That was some newlywed bliss. LOL. It did settle eventually, thank the Lord.
When we moved to Canada I had about a three month supply of this pill left and we figured that timing was what we’d go with and let nature take its course beyond that. And I’ll save that for another blog!
**Photo is from Teen Vogue, CAROL YEPES.