Gin & Zin

Interview with Heather on Infertility

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Who are you?

I am an enthusiastic mother who delights in raising two beautiful little girls, Lucy and Polly, ages 3.5 and 2. I love to read, write, travel, take pictures, and go on adventures. Keeping a cozy and colorful home is important to me; I  enjoy trying out new vegetarian and vegan recipes for our family, baking goodies, hanging laundry, and moving around the furniture. I recently started teaching English composition at the community college, two classes a semester, which is wonderful. My husband works full time at the Bookery, a used bookstore on Main Street in Placerville, and eventually we hope to run it as a family business. We are serious booklovers!

What is your biggest strength as a mom?

Probably my devotion to FUN!

How do you spend time away from your children?

It’s rare! But I do love to meet a friend or my sister for a drink, watch a good film with my husband, and read!

When did you start trying to have a baby?

In August of 2006 we casually started trying to conceive. We had been together for five years, including a six month break up and then a reunion, after which we knew it was forever. We weren’t married yet, but we liked the idea of having a baby or small child along with us at our future wedding anyway. I remember doing a pregnancy test after the first month or so. I thought it would come so quickly!

At what point did you start to think something might be wrong? What did you do?

It’s not exactly that I thought something was wrong, but I started to realize it might take awhile after several months and then a year passed with no results. My period stayed agonizingly regular. I was busy with school and work, so I tried not to obsess. I also stayed very close with my nephews and niece, keeping my  “mama heart” busy and full, and I had a very busy social life.

What are some of the things you tried to help with your fertility?

At some point a couple years in, we went to UC Davis Fertility Center. We had decided to get some treatment even though we’d have to pay out of pocket. At first we thought we would even be willing to go into great debt for this; after all, we were going into debt with student loans, while the life goal of becoming parents was actually most important to us. We attended a workshop to gather basic information, and then had preliminary meetings with a doctor. We started finding out pricing of bloodwork and other tests that had to be done before we could even start any “treatment.” I was appalled. It was going to be thousands of dollars before we could even get started. It wasn’t an immediate decision, but our doctor-assisted fertility journey basically stopped there. A couple other things I tried on my own were natural progesterone cream (by emerita, available at Raleys) and my sister bought me pre-seed, a “fertility friendly personal lubricant” for Christmas, haha! My sister-in-law, Emily, also made me a fertility charm that I often wore in a homemade pouch made by another magical friend of mine.

Can you share some of your emotional battles while struggling with infertility? How did it affect your day to day life? How did you find strength in your lowest of moments?

I think I am blessed with incredible adaptability. Despite the fact that I had desperately wanted to have children for my entire life with more certainty that anything else I ever knew, and despite the fact that friends and loved ones were having babies all around me, I truly did stay positive. I never felt resentment or jealousy when a friend got pregnant, only overwhelming love and gratitude that there would be another baby in my life for me to love.

Darin and I stayed very close and we never let our “ttc” (trying to conceive) struggles come between us or become a chore in any way. We both stayed busy with projects that engaged our minds. I was going to graduate school and working on my Master’s degree; I was reading tons and writing long research papers on a regular basis that I was really passionate about, and looking back I think that focus on something outside myself and my immediate physical reality helped me feel creative in a different way. Darin was developing and executing various filmmaking projects and creative endeavors, many of which we worked on together. We also camped, traveled, hiked, and backpacked. We went to karaoke and trivia at bars, had parties and went to music shows. In other words, we had a lot of fun during our years without children. In my journals, there was a constant “behind-the-scenes” of worry, prayer, meditation, and hope related to the strong desire to have children, but I did not allow it to affect the surface of life too much. I only remember crying about it a couple of times, times when I got to feeling sorry for myself as I seriously pondered a life without children.

Of course, there was the idea of adoption, which I researched extensively, but it seemed so difficult and expensive and overwhelming a process that it left me all the more desperate to just have my own baby biologically. It was so incredibly frustrating sometimes, thinking about how drug addicts, teens, prostitutes often easily get pregnant; how a pregnancy that I would give my right arm for could just be so mundane and even undesirable to others in other circumstances. (I do not mean to judge or minimize those situations at all, and I believe that every woman and mother has a different journey that I honor fully. But I must be honest about the possible negative turn of thoughts that could come with desperation.) If I dwelled on it too long, it could leave me so baffled and disheartened, so I usually just redirected my energies.

It also felt important for me, on my own personal journey, to come to a place of acceptance. I needed to be comfortable with the idea of just Darin and I growing old alone together. It seemed vital to our relationship and my own growth as a human that I did not depend on this “other” thing (which was out of my control)  to feel fulfilled as a human. I needed to be able to feel like a creator, a contributor to society, a fully developed person with an important spirit to share with others, like a mother really, even without the obvious outward symbol of the child. I grew up in a religion where a ton of emphasis is placed on the mother and the family. I felt like this created an unfair pressure and made some part of me feel I would only finally be of worth as a woman once I became a mother; even though that desire was also very natural for me, it was complicated by this lifetime of external compulsion. I had to fight against that. During the year or so leading up to my pregnancy, I worked hard on arriving at a healthy perspective in all this. I did yoga, meditated, wrote in my journal, made lists, and just worked on loving my family and my husband!

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What support/help did you need from your partner and loved ones around you?

Darin and I supported each other. We talked about it sometimes, but other times we let it rest. I liked when friends checked in with me about how things were going. I would discuss much of what I’ve written here, but I always came to the conclusion that I just felt like somehow, someday, it was going to happen to us. I was confident that we’d be parents. I just liked my loved ones to share in this sense of positivity and good energy. I even had friends who proposed fundraising ideas. Even though we never took it that far, it made me feel good, like our community knew how much this mattered.

What advice would you give to other women going through infertility. What advice would you give to those with a loved one dealing with infertility?

Try to stay positive! Even though that old wives’ tale that “just relaxing about it all” will lead to a pregnancy is totally not true, and even a little insulting, as if you are just way too high strung to get pregnant, I do think that having a good attitude and trying to appreciate all the other positive aspects of your life will do nothing but good for your health, your body, your spirit and your family. I would also recommend taking a strong proactive approach to personal health. I’ve never been sure that it’s related, but Darin and I did both almost completely eliminate Diet Coke about eight months before conceiving. We were also eating tons of greens (kale, chard, etc) around that time! He had also taken up running and we were each in a really good mental space right around the time we conceived, free from most stresses and surrounded by really positive relationships. Again, I know every situation is so different and these things might make absolutely no difference for other couples, but for us I felt like it was helpful that all these aspects were solid.

I would like to say, “Just be patient and it will happen!” since that was kind of our reality, but I know that is not always true. To those for whom that is not true, I offer empathy, humility, the sweetest hugs, and abounding and eternal hope. I envision a reality of peace and fulfillment for all women, no matter what their experience of motherhood or otherwise, a reality in which we can discuss these matters with the most responsive and keen of hearts and offer endless support.

If you have a friend or loved one dealing with infertility, all you can do is be supportive, be open, be positive and listen. If the moment is right, offer advice, share stories. If she is not receptive, if she is frustrated or depressed, just hold her close and be there for her. There are so many types of encouragement. For me, a talk about this subject was never taboo. It felt good when friends asked about my dreams for the future, how I envisioned our life, what adoption might be like, how things might be if we never had kids. Even when my dad said he was praying for me, it didn’t bother me. It felt good to know that my loved ones supported me in this journey and were putting good energy into the universe for us.

There were times when it was on my mind and I held back. Sometimes it’s scary to let the world know how badly you want something. Be brave. Let the world know. You will be rewarded, one way or another.

I will add that once when I was in the waiting room down at the UC David Fertility center, I read an article about how some crazy high statistical number of couples who kept doing invasive fertility treatments would have gotten pregnant anyway if they had waited and kept trying naturally for five years. I have no idea how they could prove that or if I’m even quoting it right; I could never remember how they did the research or anything else about the study, or even the name of the magazine. So I never found the article again. But that information dug itself in and became a little kernel of hope it my mind. It spoke to my heart. Somehow I knew, deep in my heart of hearts, underneath all the despair and uncertainty and hope, that we could and would get pregnant naturally.

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Now, can you share your happy ending with us! How did it feel to finally be pregnant and give birth?

There is no describing in words how it felt to finally be pregnant; I was so accustomed to a regular period showing up, to being disappointed every single month for years. Even when I was late that month (early November, 2011) I refused to get my hopes up for so long. My husband and I were on a joint birthday trip to southern California. We stayed a couple nights in Joshua Tree, then visited our brothers in L.A., then camped in Big Sur on the way home. It was a completely magical trip; I felt so MYSELF during that time, hiking in long skirts feeling like some ancient desert priestess, watching the moon, staying up drinking beer, listening to great music together, dancing across beaches, gathering flotsam and jetsam, just drinking it all in and secretly, so secretly, starting to feel like maybe life was growing inside me. During this whole week I was waiting for my cycle to return. It was a day late, then three days, (my boobs felt sore int he shower) then eight days late. I was soooo cautious. I remember by the time we were driving north through Ventura, I was driving and we had the new Nick Cave on and I was letting my mind wander. I was letting myself “go there.” It was the scariest but most freeing feeling, thinking stuff like, “If I really was pregnant, when would the baby be born? I wonder if it would be a boy or a girl? What names would we like?” By this time I had told Darin that my period was late but I totally played it off like it was no big deal.

On 11-11-11 I took a pregnancy test. (I was going to wait till my birthday, but Darin was like, no way, that’s crazy. Let’s do it now.)  It was positive. Darin and I were together, just in utter incredulous disbelief, smiling, laughing and almost crying, falling into each other’s arms. We didn’t even know what to do next. We called our good friend Becky, whose Dad is an obstetrician, to find out what to do. My brother Joey cried when I told him that afternoon.

There was a dance party at Cozmic Cafe that night and our friend Zack was the dj. It was so much fun. Zack hugged me so tight and even shed a tear if I remember correctly. It was a whirlwind of love and excitement. We told everyone right away. We were super nervous (especially as I spotted on and off for a few weeks) but we figured that the positive support we would get from our community would be beneficial no matter what. We were right. Even through my spotting, I got lots of stories about how normal that can be. I did plenty of visualization and meditation to send messages to my precious baby: “You are so welcome here. We are ready for you.” I “checked in” with her constantly. I felt very whole.

I was a nervous wreck the whole pregnancy though. Despite my attempts to stay calm and centered, my anxiety was through the roof. After six years of trying, I was so paranoid that this somehow wouldn’t work out. I always said that as soon as I got my baby into my arms, I knew all would be well. The moment I finally saw my perfect little Lucinda, in the early hours of July 17, 2012, it was like seeing an extension of myself, a deeply hidden, beautiful part of me that was brought out into magnificent light. I felt like I had known her forever. It was written in the stars that we would be together.

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Sometimes I reflect back on my infertility journey and I am grateful. There is nothing like waiting for a reeaalllly long time to get what you want to make you finally appreciate it that much more. We were so ready, body and soul, to bring children into this world, which is a position I do not take lightly and I am ultimately grateful to have been in. I think that coming to motherhood with open eyes is very important. We had lots of time to have fun being adults; we also were able to spend plenty of time getting ready for the changes parenthood brings. There are women who never get pregnant after so much time trying, there are those who have a hard time with the transition into motherhood, women who deal with excruciating birth injuries, women who battle post partum depression and anxiety; there are mothers who fly to different countries to meet their children; there are mothers whose children are angels, and of course, there are many women who choose not to have children. I support all of these women wholeheartedly; they are brave and they are powerful, and I think our society needs to find ways to validate all women’s lives, no matter what their experiences or choices. As for me, I will never take it for granted that my body was able to create, carry, bear, and nourish these wonderful children. To get the chance to live out the role you feel is right for you is richly rewarding in this life.

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Thank you for sharing your journey with us Heather!!

3 thoughts on “Interview with Heather on Infertility

  1. “Even when my dad said he was praying for me, it didn’t bother me.”
    What a fortunate young woman, to have a father who takes the time to pray for her happiness and well-being. I would imagine that his prayers, a profoundly personal practice, are an expression of his deep love for her.

    1. These words rock me. I can easily be over sensitive to my parents concerns even with the best intentions. Such a reminder to always remember loved ones intentions, so blessed to have those good feelings no matter how they come. This account is so touching on so many levels.

  2. So true! I am blessed with the most loving father ever. And when his prayers were answered, he became the world’s sweetest, most helpful, adoring grandfather; he’s with us pretty much every day. He was already a grandfather many times by the time my girls came along, but he knows me so so well, and knew how much this blessing of pregnancy and children meant for me and our family’s life. His positivity and strength have affected every ounce of my being. My whole family is pure LOVE and I am deeply humbled every day with gratitude. xoxoxo

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