I just finished watching The View--I don't usually watch it as I can't stand how the women all talk over each other. But today they had a whole show on infertility--it was a repeat but I hadn't seen it before. Watching the show brought back a lot of unhappy memories. I was 36 when Dave and I got married and I always wanted children since I was a teenager. I always saw myself with at least 2 kids and maybe even 3. We decided to wait a couple of years before trying to have a baby and just get used to being married, especially as we were both older and had been on our own for a long time. At the time there was a lot of press that touted the idea that women could successfully have children in their late 30's and 40's--so no problem we thought.
I was 38-39 when we started trying--at first no pregnancies. I did the temperature taking and chart making to see when I was ovulating. Then in the summer of 1993 I found out I was pregnant! Hooray! We both both very happy and I expected that everything would sail along smoothly. Unfortunately, in early September I began experiencing a lot of cramping and then bleeding, went to the doctor, was sent for an ultrasound and by that time I was told that the sac was no longer viable and that I was having a miscarriage. I was devastated, I was alone in Edmonton, Dave was running for Parliament at the time in Olds and I had no one to really talk to. After the initial shock and sorrow, I read more books and most mentioned that many women suffer a miscarriage the first time they are pregnant but then go on to deliver healthy babies. So I held on to that like a lifeline and when I got pregnant again the following February I was so sure that this was going to be the one, that there would be no problems. After all this was when everyone in the family got pregnant--my mother and grandmother--as everyone's birthdays are in November-December. But by the 7-8 week, the same cramping, then bleeding occurred and I lost that baby too. Dave was working up in a bush camp in NW Alberta and there was only one phone so he could only call once a week. I dreading having to tell him, but I couldn't not tell him as that would be so unfair to let him think that all was well. Again I was alone with my loss and emptiness. I did tell my mother both times and she was sympathetic but I felt that I couldn't really unburden myself with her.
After 2 miscarriages and because of my age, my doctor referred me to the Infertility Clinic at the University of Alberta. They wanted to check my husband's fertility too--he wasn't too keen on it. He had 2 grown children from his 1st marriage so I suppose he thought there couldn't be a problem. But he had been 20 and 21 when those kids had been born--he was now approaching 50. He finally did agree to have a sperm count etc. done. But I remember being angry inside that he was not very cooperative and that it made it seem like the problems were all mine. As it turned out he had a lower than ideal count and some motility issues--but not severe enough that pregnancies weren't possible--obviously, as I got pregnant twice. So it was back to me for the dye test to make sure that the fallopian tubes were unobstructed and ovule progesterone treatments--these gave me such bad mood swings--well not so much a swing as being so emotional and fragile emotionally. Dave, never a man to cope well these sorts of things, wasn't as supportive as I needed or wanted. The progesterone treatments didn't do a thing--in fact I wonder if they didn't worsen things. I sure felt like crap. Then the doctor wanted to do another test where an instrument was inserted into the uterus--there was a fairly significant risk that during the procedure the uterus could be perforated and that of course would severely reduce any chance of a successful pregnancy. I decided against the procedure and that was the end of the infertility clinic for me. I know those were early days in the technology of treating infertility compared to now, but my experience at the clinic wasn't a good one. I found the doctors, particularly the woman doctor I saw about the progesterone treatments brusque, lacking in empathy, and very clinical. Only my own doctor was caring about my situation but she was limited in what she could do.
I got pregnant one more time, in 1995--but this pregnancy was shorter than the others--almost over before it began. I decided that I just couldn't do this anymore. It was so heartbreaking to lose each baby, I was getting older all the time and the chances were slimmer all the time, and I felt so alone. With each pregnancy, 9 months after conception I would have an uncontrollable crying jag. At first I couldn't figure it out, then I realized that those days that I cried so inconsolably were the days the babies would have been born. Those days were in April, November, and December.
I have asked myself whether things would have been different if I had stopped teaching and not been driving back and forth between Edmonton and Olds all the time, taken it easy, continued with more tests, not waited for 3 years before trying.... Who knows--it's too late to change any of it. IVF and other procedures were just starting then--a lot more progress has been made since the 1990's. But there are still around 50% of infertility cases for which they cannot find a cause. We thought about adopting but in this province, we were over the combined allowable ages for the parents to be unless one went with a private adoption--and that's got its own set of risks. So I have no children, my family line dies out with me, there's no one to carry on the family history or stories or recipes or gardening or anything.
My heart goes out to those who struggle with infertility, whether it be an inability to conceive or an inability to carry a baby to full term. They are both equally devastating and something that no one ever gets over or forgets. It's a very isolating experience too, as the couples on The View said. I found it even more isolating for me as my husband can only cope with difficulties just so far and I have learned that I can't lean on him too much. I have always been happy for friends that have had children--they are so very fortunate and blessed.
I should mention that I also tried Native healing and although it didn't help, for whatever reason, I found that Native people were the most caring and sympathetic to how I felt and what I had gone through. I was told by Native elders that if I didn't get to have children, that meant there was a greater gift waiting for me. I don't know if the gift has come to me yet or if that's in the future. In all truth my life is not a very happy one because I have no children and my family is dwindling to nothing, but I soldier on, helping out at the EG and trying not to burden people with my woes--except for this blog entry! Duffy has brought me happiness and more purpose for my life and that has been the best thing in my life for years. Maybe Duffy is that gift that the Elders meant.