It pains me to admit it, but when my endocrinologist told me that there was no way I could get pregnant without medical assistance, I didn't really believe him. It's not that I didn't trust that the lab results were valid, and I knew his ivy-covered schools had taught him correctly. It's wasn't because I believed God or some higher power would make me one of those miracle pregnancy stories you see on the cover of magazines in the checkout line. I didn't believe my doctor when he told me I couldn't get pregnant naturally because failing at something I put my mind to was such a foreign concept to me.
Since I was a child, I've set high goals for myself, and then worked to meet those goals, even when those around me told me I wouldn't or couldn't pull them off. I'm short and slow, but that hasn't stopped me from running a half marathon, and I'm currently gearing up to train for a full. My college advisor told me freshman year that a "girl like me"(whatever that meant) would be better off setting her sights on being a paralegal than going to law school, yet I ended up with several scholarships to great schools and passed the bar exam on the first try. I even convinced my entire first grade class to learn the song from Kindergarten Cop, and then persuaded our teacher to let us go from classroom to classroom giving performances. I'm not someone who knows how to fail, because everything I've earned I've worked incredibly hard for.
Up until the point of trying to get pregnant, I'd never failed to accomplish anything I set my mind to, so the part of me that loves lists and color-coded schedules saw pregnancy as just another challenge to complete. Rather than accept my infertility, I thought I could train and study my way into getting pregnant.
In a normal ovulation cycle your discharge goes from sticky, to creamy, to wet, and finally, when you're ovulating, it looks and feels like raw egg whites. After weeks of seeing little to no change I started to wonder if I even remembered what raw egg white looked. Confused and a little desperate, one morning I brought an egg into the bathroom with me to do a side-by-side comparison.
My fertility issues stemmed from the fact that I wasn't ovulating, so bought a ton of ovulation testing strips online and used one each morning, hoping it would turn a dark shade of purple. Part of me knew those strips were lilac at best, but since I always tossed them out each morning, I convinced myself that maybe they were getting darker, but I didn't know because I was forgetting what my past ones looked like. So I started saving them, like you save your notes after a class. Soon my office was filled with a handmade calendar noting the days when I had sex, ovulation strips, and the very faint smell of pee.
I saw my creation as something out of a crime show where the star detective has a wall filled with clues, but my partner viewed it more as a serial killer's shrine to their latest obsession. One day he said to me very gently,
I love every piece of you, but maybe we should stop hanging onto the parts of you that belong in the toilet.
Since the ovulation strips didn't work, rather than admit my doctor knew what he was talking about, I decided to take matters into my own hands — literally. Each morning I checked my own vaginal secretions for signs of ovulation, which is a fancy way of saying I'd wipe myself and then stare at the tissue until my eyes went fuzzy like I was looking at Magic Art.
In a normal ovulation cycle your discharge goes from sticky, to creamy, to wet, and finally, when you're ovulating, it looks and feels like raw egg whites. After weeks of seeing little to no change I started to wonder if I even remembered what raw egg white looked. Confused and a little desperate, one morning I brought an egg into the bathroom with me to do a side-by-side comparison. My family has never been great at privacy, which is how my mom walked in on me sitting on the toilet with egg whites dripping through my fingers.
I tried to act casual but before I could say anything she asked, "Are you doing a spell? Is this because I let you watch The Craft when you were younger? I knew that movie was too old for you." I tried to tell her that I was conducting a very scientific experiment and not a magic spell, but she still gives me the side-eye whenever we grab breakfast, so I'm not sure she believed me.
At the same time that I was trying to make myself ovulate I was also studying up on pregnancy facts as though there was a multiple choice test I needed to pass before being allowed to take a baby home. I read baby books like my old law school textbooks, complete with a complex highlighting system and note cards. To this day I can still tell you what size fruit a baby is depending on what week of your pregnancy you're in.
When I finally realized no amount of planning or wishing was going to change the reality of my reproductive system, I had another solution. Since my body wasn't giving me signs I was ovulating (because I wasn't and refused to see that), I thought my best chance of getting pregnant was simply to have sex every single day.
As I tried to cram my way into having a baby, I kept coming across fertility diets: different foods you could eat to help boost your body's chances of getting pregnant. Naturally, I tried it. Salmon, healthy oils, whole grains, leafy greens, beans, and dairy are all great foods and I was feeling healthy thanks to the new changes in my diet — until the day I had a bean burrito and ice cream for lunch. At first I thought the unsettled feeling in my stomach could be morning sickness, so I ran into the bathroom to take a pregnancy test. I wasn't pregnant, but let's just say it was a good idea I headed to the bathroom anyway.
When I finally realized no amount of planning or wishing was going to change the reality of my reproductive system, I had another solution. Since my body wasn't giving me signs I was ovulating (because I wasn't and refused to see that), I thought my best chance of getting pregnant was simply to have sex every single day. Not surprisingly, my husband was fully supportive of this part of my master plan to have a baby, until I came down with a horrible cold and the last thing I wanted to do was get it on. I had a sore throat, a fever, and plenty of unsexy phlegm. But I was so focused on getting our sex sesh checked off my to-do list just in case I was ovulating that I was determined to do it anyway. After all, I'd pushed through workouts I wasn't motivated to do, and this was just like that. The same need to stay hydrated even applied. I knew my husband's severe mysophobia and his concern for my health would mean he wouldn't want to come anywhere near me, so I'd need to use all my best seduction moves if I wanted to have sex that night.
I turned on a sexy song (Color me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up," for the record) and started to do what I hope was a cute little dance to change his mind, but I honestly wouldn't know how I did because within a few seconds I was so dizzy I passed out.
I dressed myself for success in a sheer nightgown when all I really wanted was my comfy fleece pants, and anointed myself with different cold rubs in hopes that my partner wouldn't think twice about my glistening skin and found the scent of eucalyptus attractive. When I stepped out of the bathroom, as predicted, he told me there was no way we were having sex. I turned on a sexy song (Color me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up," for the record) and started to do what I hope was a cute little dance to change his mind, but I honestly wouldn't know how I did because within a few seconds I was so dizzy I passed out.
When I came to I realized that this was the equivalent of falling down mid-marathon. As hard as I had tried to make my body get pregnant, no amount of effort was going to change my medical reality. I could study up on pregnancy and make all the sex charts I wanted, but this was one thing I couldn't do through hard work or sheer force of will. As soon as I was feeling better I made my first appointment to talk about IVF, which eventually led to a successful twin pregnancy. Failing to get pregnant on my own was the first big goal I set my sights on that I didn't achieve, but I know it certainly wasn't due to a lack of trying.