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Before IF: I felt confident that I could do anything I wanted to do in life. Anything! No matter how big the dream or goal, I thought that if I worked hard enough, did enough time/research, paid my dues, and gave it all I had that somehow, someway, my dreams would become a reality.
After IF: I realize now that sometimes no matter how much you dream, scheme, plan, and work at something, it still might not happen - not ever. That was a hard pill for this seasonal optimist to swallow. In fact, I can't really say that I'm an optimist anymore.
Before PCOS (ie: before going off BCP's when my symptoms flared up): I was 5'2", barely 100 pounds. I wore a size 00 (yeah, "double zero"). I had never experienced any real health issues. Once, I had a doctor tell me, "Wow, you're just so incredibly healthy. I wish all my patients were as healthy as you."
After PCOS: I gained 40 pounds; and even though I eat an extremely strict diet with no sugar and hardly any carbs, exercise hard every day, etc. I have only been able to lose about 10 pounds of this added weight.
I started having dizzy spells that were so bad that I would have to lie on the ground so I wouldn't fall down, or I'd have to pull over on the shoulder of the road so I wouldn't get in a car accident if one hit while I was driving.
I also learned that the acne I'd fought for years and years was due to PCOS. I have pitted scars on my face due to the cystic acne I had as a teenager. A couple summers ago, I spent $1,000 to have a Dr. laser off 150 microns of my facial skin (took me three months to heal completely) to try to "fix" this. It didn't work.
I found out that I have a floppy pulmonary valve in my heart, most likely caused by the added stress and strain that PCOS had taken on my body. One cardiologist said I'd have to have heart surgery by the time I'm 40. While I refuse to believe this or let this ruin my life, it was still daunting and terrifying to hear. I still have heart palpitations that take my breath away and make me completely paranoid every once in a while.
Before IF: When a friend told me they were pregnant, I was genuinely and completely happy for them. I would get really excited about buying them baby presents and helping to plan showers, etc.
After IF: I'm still happy for my friends; but that happiness is tinged with extreme bitterness, sadness, depression, anxiety, and jealousy. I don't feel like buying things for people anymore. I want to buy things for MY baby! I don't want to go to showers anymore - they're just depressing and make me angry.
It also makes me angry when friends are seemingly oblivious to my struggle. Deep-down, I know they're not shoving their pregnancy in my face; but damn, it sure feels like it in the moment.
Before IF: I just KNEW that one day I'd get a beautiful, pink + sign on an HPT one day.
After IF: I'm not sure that I will ever get the glory of looking down at a pee stick and seeing what I want to see shining back at me.
Before IF: I had no clue what basal body temperature was. I had no clue what temping even meant. I had no idea why cervical position or cervical mucus was important, or why I should give a shit about it at all. I would never have thought that I would care about any of this stuff at all, actually.
After IF: I temp every, single morning with my basal body thermometer. I've been doing this EVERY, SINGLE morning for over TWO years now. I check my cervical fluid/mucus every day at least once as well as my cervical position.
I can tell you from all of these things if I've ovulated; and if so, exactly when (down to a span of about 6-12 hours exactly). I can tell you if I'm having an LH surge or estrogen surge or progesterone build-up. I know nearly precisely when my period will come...and stop. I feel every, little twinge and tweak in my body and interpret it accordingly.
Before IF: I was absolutely, completely, 100% certain that God answered my prayers. I was sure that if I just prayed long enough/hard enough/with enough passion that my prayers would be answered.
After IF: I am realizing that God does not answer everyone's prayers all the time. He just doesn't. This has put a great amount of strain on my religious views. I still believe in God. I still have a personal relationship with Jesus and the God-head. I'm still a Christian. But I have lost the ability to believe that God always gives us what we desire. I pray every day and remind God of the promises that his word says, but in the back of my mind I can still see the anecdotal evidence piled up - all of the countless millions of other women with PCOS who are infertile...the words of their prayers falling like lead weights, hard and heavy on the ground around them.
Before IF: I felt good about myself.
After IF: I often feel "less than". I feel extreme guilt over not being able to make my husband a father. I feel even worse about not knowing about my IF until after we were married. I constantly worry, "Would he have married me if he had known all those years ago that I would be unable to bear him children?" I feel broken. I get so very mad at my body - why can't it just work right?!
Before IF: I would get my period every month and not think twice about it.
After IF: I get my period and rush through a gamut of emotions. I'm always sad; but then I get angry for allowing myself to actually have had hope that cycle. Why did I let THAT happen? I should really know better by now. Then worry sets in: What if this never happens, Mandie? What if you just have to "get over it" and move on with your life? What if, indeed.
Before IF: I thought I had "all the time in the world...all the time I needed."
After IF: I feel "too old" for baby-making, and I'm only 30. Each month that passes makes me feel as though I'm slowly but surely chugging toward that dreaded "point of no return". I see the years whizzing by me. I see not a light at the end of this tunnel; but a black, gaping, garish hole.
Before IF: Mr. C and I created a nursery for what we assumed would be our "very soon-to-be" child.
After IF: It is difficult for me to even step foot in that room of our house. It's empty and cold. The yellow walls, decorations, and furniture are covered in dust. It's a depressing reminder that we still have no reason for the room to begin with.
Before IF: I was a happy person. I liked to laugh. I was nearly always in a good mood.
After IF: I often feel on-edge. I am never certain if I'll see something or run into someone, etc. that will remind me of my childless state. Sure, I still laugh. Sure, I'm still happy. But, I have noticed that I wake up and go to bed with a constant, nagging ache in the heart area. I sometimes wonder if it will ever go away.
Before IF: I had actually stated, out loud, on several occasions that I "didn't even know if I wanted children".
After IF: I regret saying those words. They haunt me. Did I curse myself? Is God teaching me a lesson for being so careless?
There's something so terrible about choice being taken away from you. If I chose not to have children, that would be one thing; but my choice has been taken away from me...I would never choose to have PCOS and IF.
Before IF: I would hear stories of couple's going through fertility treatments - spending so much time and money and energy on "getting pregnant" - and I would honestly think that the people were nuts. "Why would you spend all that cash on trying to get pregnant?" I would think. "Ridiculous."
After IF: Mr. C and I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.
I have taken every pill imaginable.
I have stuck myself in the stomach with needles every.single.day (ME! the girl deathly afraid of needles and shots!).
I have had my feet in stirrups more times than I care to remember.
I have had my blood drawn so many times that the procedure that used to make me nearly pass out does not affect me at all anymore - in fact, I just sit and intently watch the blood being drained from my arm now - no nausea or dizzy spells!
I have had Mr. C's "washed" semen squeezed through a catheter straight into my uterus - always the very romantic, full-of-love way I thought I'd get pregnant - errr, NOT!
And, most shocking of all, Mr. C and I sincerely contemplated doing IVF - something we vowed we'd "never do". We even went so far as to see about getting a loan and found a doctor in Arkansas.
Now, I go to an acupuncturist - another thing I NEVER thought I'd do - at least once a week, if not more. I have needles stuck in my stomach and throughout my body for hours at a time; and I'm preparing to start taking nearly 1/2 a cup of powdered Chinese herbs every day to combat my illness (PCOS).
Before IF: I thought adoption was the easy answer. After all, my mom was adopted. I had cousins and friends who were adopted. I looked at the process and the life-long journey of it all in a really blase manner.
After IF: I know that adoption is not easy, and for many it's not an easy solution either. While I know that I will love my future adopted children, nothing - NOTHING - can take away the pain and disappointment of having your body fail you in the area of reproduction.
I know now that I will never get over this loss of choice. I know that I will never be able to forget the pain - no matter how much I move on and love my adopted children. Loving them entirely will never fix the hole in my heart created by PCOS and the failure of my body in this way. I'm sure it will soften the blow in time, but I will never just "get over it".
Before IF: I looked at people going through struggles (especially of the physical kind) with pity and a desire to help, but not true understanding.
After IF: I want to help people. When I hear of some struggling with MS or HIV or epilepsy or blindess or poverty or death, etc...............I just want to be kinetic. I just want to be active. I just want to DO SOMETHING.
The idea of waiting for "them" or "they" to come to "help" is lost on me now.
I am "they".
I no longer look at those struggling with pain and suffering with pity. I'm right there with them. I may not be struggling with what they're specifically going through, but I've known that deep sense of loss and stress and strain and bewilderment and hopelessness and anger and bitterness.
I suppose the greatest "gift" I've received through all of this struggle (and yes, I do count it as a blessing and gift) is that God has opened my eyes to all the hurting and pain in this world. There are so many people hurting - all around us - daily. While I knew this before, I didn't really know it. Every need is different in it's own way, every story unique. I'll never meet them all; but if I could, I'd scoop them all up and hug them so tight and just let them know how greatly they are loved.
Before IF: I took my health, and my family's health for granted.
After IF: I know that every day is a gift. It's a gift that my mom survived endometrial cancer. It's a gift that my sister, W's epilepsy is getting under control - no more grand mal seizures, praise God! It's a gift that my sister, M's lumpectomy was a HUGE success! It's a gift that my cervical pre-cancer was caught just months before it became full-blown cancer. It's a gift that PCOS hasn't ravaged my body any more than it has. It's a gift that my father didn't die like the doctors said he would in 1993, because his lungs were charred from his parents' second-hand smoke coupled with decades of inhaling pesticide-laden field dust. It's a gift that every one in my immediate family has literally fought death in one way or another - and won.
So much to be grateful for. So much.
Before IF: I'm sure I would have taken fertility and children for granted.
After IF: No matter how they come to me, I will never for one second forget how miraculous my children are. I will constantly be amazed at their mere existence. I'm not saying I'll always be the perfect mom; I'm just saying I'm sure I'll never forget the struggle to become a mom or how grateful I should be that I get to be a mom at all - how could I?
Before IF: I didn't think twice about how supportive and loving and kind and compassionate and giving my husband is.
After IF: I am more grateful for and mindful of Mr. C. I am blessed beyond words to have him in my life.
Before IF: I probably took just "being a couple" for granted a lot.
After IF: Even in the midst of attempting for so long to make a baby, I often find myself thanking God for the time Mr. C and I have as "just us". I try not to focus so much on our goal that I forget to just be in the moment and enjoy this time we have together. I know Mr. C will be a fantastic father, simply because he's the best husband. So, in the meantime, I revel in the deliciousness of sleeping in with him on Saturdays and going for romantic dinners and walks and watching late-night movies in the theater and staying up till 3 a.m. working on art projects together.
I'm still transforming...I can feel that I'm not entirely out of my cocoon yet. I have been feeling the aches and pains of metamorphosis for a long time now; and honestly, I can't wait to see what the other side holds for me...still waiting...