This post continues our infertility story, so if you haven’t yet read Part 1, head on over there first!
Heads-up: This post is a little longer, but I promise it’s worth it. Hang in there.
Now several months removed from stopping birth control and still no period, I took the progesterone meds and had my bloodwork done at 21 days post-bleed. So, finally, in December 2018, the bloodwork confirmed my anovulation.
Yippee. It took six months to confirm what I knew shortly after stopping birth control. I was not ovulating.
I mean, I get it. Doctors have a job to do. They have training that I don’t. They have protocols to follow. But, when your Instagram feed is filled with weekly pregnancy announcements and you can’t even get your body to function properly, feeling like you’ve “lost” six months of time is just plain frustrating.
At that point, my doctor started me on Letrozole (a generic brand of Femara) to induce ovulation. She said she’d give me six cycles of Letrozole and if I still wasn’t pregnant by the end of six months, we’d need to be referred to a reproductive endocrinologist for additional testing.
When I started the Letrozole in January 2019, I had this feeling.
You know—that feeling that’s deep in your gut. There’s just something that gnaws at the back of your mind. You may never verbalize it, you may not want to even acknowledge it…but you know it.
I just knew I wasn’t going to be pregnant at the end of six months.
And yet as I type this, I almost still can’t believe this is our story. Occasionally, you might hear of a friend of a friend or a distant relative who had trouble getting pregnant. But eventually, they usually do. And so you think, “Okay, sure, infertility is a thing that some people experience. But I’m sure it won’t be me.”
I don’t know if it was sort of a Great Expectations thing where I subconsciously held to the motto “no expectations, no disappointments”, but I held these two mindsets in tension: “I’m sure it won’t be me.” Right alongside “this isn’t going to work.”
So, six months of Letrozole came and went. Six months of fertility apps, ovulation predictor kits, sifting through crazy conception tips and myths. Six months of carefully tracking basal body temperatures each morning, refusing to drink wine for the two-week-wait, and packing this tiny pill in my flowered yellow lunchbox to take to work with me.
Six months of cautious yet hopeful anticipation, thinking, “this could be it.”
Six months of analyzing every cramp and every bit of spotting around the 28-day mark to figure out if it was implantation bleeding (it wasn’t) or an impending period (it was).
And then six months of making the devastating phone call to my doctor’s office to write me the next month’s Letrozole prescription because I just started my period.
So, in August 2019, we met with the reproductive endocrinologist (RE) referred by my OBGYN.
I could write an entire blog post on our experiences with fertility doctors through this particular medical network, but I won’t right now. Maybe later. For now, I will simply sum it up by saying it was terrible.
Our initial appointment with our first RE was 15 minutes, and he really didn’t care about our story at all. When I explained that I was concerned that I hadn’t had an adequate luteal phase for a few of my cycles, he responded not with sympathetic understanding, not with a helpful suggestion, but by condescendingly asking me what I would consider an adequate luteal phase to be (generally 12-16 days, if you’re curious) as if to say, “It’s cute that you think you know anything about your body, but you don’t.” We were just two of obviously thousands of patients he’d seen in his lifetime, and that’s exactly what it felt like.
We moved forward with the testing he recommended—the next steps in the standard infertility work-up. We had bloodwork to check our hormone levels. We had genetic testing to make sure we weren’t both carriers of cystic fibrosis. I had an HSG to confirm there were no blockages in my fallopian tubes.
And Brian had a semen analysis.
Much like everything else that had come back normal, we expected normal results with this analysis as well. I mean, c’mon. After more than a year of thinking that something was happening in my body that was not allowing us to become pregnant, after more than a year of testing and medications prescribed only to me, after more than a year where no one mentioned that Brian may want to visit a doctor too…the semen analysis was essentially just a formality, right?
I will never forget what it felt like sitting at the little round table in that cold, white doctor’s room. Watching the clock hands slowly spin while we waited there with nothing to do, a frustrating metaphor for what the last year of waiting felt like. Looking out over the parking lot down below, construction workers breaking up the asphalt in the lot and cars slowly driving around orange cones.
Seeing the ultrasound equipment in the room and wondering about how many couples got to see their baby for the first time right on that very monitor, mere inches from me. Wondering if we’d ever get to have that experience.
Hesitantly noticing the box of tissues kept on the table, wondering about the stories behind the tissues that had already been used from the box. Wondering if we’d have to have that experience.
A new doctor we hadn’t yet met opened the door and sat down beside us. From the moment she walked in, the air felt heavy. Her face was expressionless; her introduction was fast. She rushed through our hormone levels—they were fine. But Brian’s semen analysis had come back with bad results. Like, really bad.
Like, we had no chance of conceiving naturally bad.
And I remember that sinking, heavy, crushing weight landing squarely on my chest so that I couldn’t breathe. I remember thinking that this is one of those moments you want so badly to be a nightmare, and it’s not.
And then, quickly, I wanted to tell Brian how much I loved him. That this would not change a single thing in our marriage. It would change our trajectory, sure. It would change the way we would or would not build a family.
But it wouldn’t change our marriage. It wouldn’t change my love for him. It wouldn’t change our faith in God. And it certainly wouldn’t change God’s faithfulness to us.
The doctor immediately jumped into our IVF options. I wasn’t listening. Eventually, I cut her off mid-sentence and said, “We’re not really interested in pursuing IVF.” And we weren’t. We’d talked about it already. Of course, we didn’t think it’d come to that, but we had talked about it anyway.
She nodded and said she’d order a second analysis for Brian just in case something was off with the first one and she’d refer us to a urologist. Then she left.
We sat in the room, silent for a moment. I looked at Brian—the initial disbelief beginning to fade and the new reality and heavy emotion beginning to set in. I remember thinking that the first words out of my mouth in this moment were going to be very important and that I needed to be very intentional.
And so, I simply said, “I love you. It’s okay.”
We did have the second analysis, the follow-up with the urologist, and all the other recommended bloodwork. But it all points to what is likely just an unfortunate mutation in Brian’s genes—likely a Y chromosome microdeletion. Nothing he did, nothing he could have known about. Just an unfortunate defect in his DNA.
But you know what?
The God I serve does His best work—the work that most displays His glory and honor and power—in our defects. Much like the construction workers outside the window and the broken asphalt below, He takes our broken pieces and makes something new.
So, the story doesn’t end here with the broken DNA or the broken dreams or the broken pieces. He’s not done.
Check out the third and final part of our story of infertility. And though it will be the last part of this particular post, God’s story is just getting started.