Plan, Hope, and Wait: Fertility Advice for a Friend
By: Amber Leventry
A friend recently asked my partner, Amy, and I for fertility advice. I was prepared to spew the abundant amount of information in my head about ovulation, basal body temperatures, and cervical mucus. Information I never thought I would know, but information I now know so well from our own attempts at having a baby.
She didn’t need to hear about cervical mucus. She needed and wanted support, comfort, and faith that she and her husband would achieve a healthy pregnancy and add a baby to their family. Several things ran through my head. I cannot predict the future, so I have no right to assure my friend that all will end well. Pregnancy is both a scientific achievement and a testament of determination and hope. It can also be something that never happens despite endless amounts of hope. She already knew that too.
Another thought I had was that I am so glad my partner and I are no longer in this phase of our lives. I can still feel the initial excitement of deciding it was time for us to start a family. But I can also feel the absolute dread and suffocation of the planning, the trying, and two week wait between pregnancy attempt and pregnancy test.
When Amy and I began our well-considered and detailed plan to have a child, we had no idea we would go so far off course. Our initial sperm donor was to be a friend of ours, but we quickly learned that life has a firm way of letting you know that things do not always go as planned. For reasons none of us desired—or could have predicted—we were not able to use our friend as our donor. We were all incredibly disappointed, and before we turned to a cryobank, Amy and I allowed ourselves to mourn a loss of something we never really had.
Once we had a new plan our excitement grew again as we shopped for sperm. This time around we focused on a donor who resembled me in looks and characteristics. Then we narrowed the candidates by their wish to be an open donor. One of our criteria when picking our donor was an open status. When 18, any child produced with an open donor’s sperm is able to meet the donor through a meeting arranged by the cryobank. After the initial meeting or interaction, the bank leaves it up to the donor and the offspring to continue the relationship.
Amy and I felt very strongly that our child or children should have the opportunity to meet their biological father if someday that is their wish. Besides being a wonderful man, this was one of the reasons why we had asked our friend to be our donor. And we still wanted that with an anonymous donor.
During the sperm shopping process, our doctor recommended we move on to an infertility clinic for intrauterine insemination, IUI. Thawing and using frozen sperm at home was not going to be in our best interest. The odds of getting pregnant were just too small, and the price of frozen sperm was just too high. We agreed, but felt disappointed that we needed reinforcements to help our pregnancy campaign. Our new plan meant stripping away a level of privacy and adding the stress of expensive procedures and appointments. And we were required to delay the trying process until we were enrolled into the clinic’s program.
But then we were ready. And there it was, the newest member of our family: the two week wait. The equalizer between the gays and the straights. It is the time between an attempted pregnancy and the results of said attempt. No amount of sexual preference or suggested stereotypes can change science. You introduce egg to sperm and you wait.
During the first rounds of trying the wait was exciting and hopeful, comparable I suppose to the wait before deciding if the Justin Beiber look-alike you met in the bar will turn into a serious relationship.
My partner and I were experiencing something new together and it was exhilarating. Like children on Christmas Eve, we loved the mystery and the anticipation. We naively expected she would get pregnant right away. So, when we chatted in bed before sleep, we imagined what it would be like to be parents, what we would do to the spare bedroom, and joked that our child would name itself because we would never agree on a name.
One of our first IUI attempts was a couple of weeks before Christmas. The wait still felt good. We were back on track to achieve our goal. And we joked that if my Jewish partner conceived our child around Christmas, we would name it Viklkind (Yiddish for baby) Jesus. But our hopes were shadowed by a small layer of fear: What if the new plan didn’t work either?
Intellectually we knew we would keep trying; it might take several tries before Amy became pregnant, but no amount of intellect could stop our growing disappointment and sadness when the wait only turned into a period. Not getting what we wanted made us want it more. Our conversations had a level of desperation and we realized our what-ifs were more negative than positive.
After several more failed attempts, we began to dread the two week wait; I almost preferred knowing Amy wasn’t pregnant, instead of not knowing and wondering. I was tired from the anticipated disappointment and the energy I used to stay positive.
We adjusted our plan again and made more changes. Tests were done to verify Amy’s fertility, and we turned to Eastern medicine: Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. A family member encouraged us to see an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility. This family member also believes in the healing power of sun-charged crystals, but we were willing to try anything.
Amy had a great first appointment and came home with a baggie of brown, stinky, powder she was supposed to consume with hot tea. I joked that she was drinking dehydrated unicorn poop and the ashes of cremated fairies. She shooed away my comments until the acupuncturist gave her supplements and we saw that among the ingredients were unicorn root and donkey hide. She was also supposed to do deep breathing and find a way to be one with nature. Look at the spring flowers, observe the trees, think fertility!
Quite frankly, if it worked, I would have tarred and feathered Amy with grass clippings.
In addition to the Eastern medicine, Amy also started taking the fertility drug, Clomid. One or both did the trick and Amy became pregnant with our daughter after the first round of the fertility drug. And this is where our friends are, at the beginning stages of Clomid. And at the beginning stages of a new plan.
This is what I want to tell my friend. Plans are just a way to get you started and you end up making new plans until you need to make more. We knew we would eventually get our baby, but it was hard not knowing when. As long as the tests indicate that all parties are fertile, it’s okay to make changes to maximize the chances of getting pregnant. It’s okay to take a chance on something unknown. And there is no shame in getting help.
Relax and allow the wait to become a stripped down, less emotional time. Reserve energy for whatever results come at the end of another two weeks. Stay positive and allow yourself to become hopeful again. Because pregnancy is a testament of determination and hope.
Photo Credit: Super UBO
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