The drive to my doctor’s office is one full hour and the combination of curvy jungle roads, first trimester nausea and anxiety about what the ultrasound would show made for an uncomfortable ride. I tried to talk about other things with my husband, Husein. For instance, how crazy my 1st and 2nd grade students were that day, how bread and cheese were the only appealing foods on planet earth, and so on. As much as I tried to distract myself, all I could think was: Will we see a heartbeat?
The few people in my life who know about the pregnancy so far perceive my anxiety as totally unmerited. Most pregnancies progress well! Think positive! Chillax, girl! And I tried, I really did. But when you have struggled with infertility and are in touch with a community of women who also struggle, you’ve heard the darkest stories. You know how often women lose babies, anywhere from 6 weeks to 9 months old. You try to focus on all the healthy beautiful babies that are cradled in their mother’s arms in your small Mexican town, or the ones that are learning to clumsily walk on their own on the beach. You see families with 3, 4 or 5 perfect children and think, ok, that happens. But your mind can’t help but linger back to the darkness.
We finally arrived to my doctor’s office and he greeted me with the biggest smile and a kiss on the cheek. I adore my doctor. He is the kind of doctor I can text message at 10pm on a Tuesday and get a response immediately, and the kind that will have me drive to his beach condo on a vacation weekend to pick up medicine from him. He’s also the doctor that had no idea what to do with my infertility after seeing me for 6 months, but that asked another doctor (a young German guy who happened to live around the corner) to come into the office for a second opinion. I will never forget the day I saw Dr. Marcus, this extremely serious German doctor, enter my doctor’s office unexpectedly, sit in my doctor’s chair, look at my bloodwork and history on my doctor’s computer, and completely change the diagnosis I’d had for the past 2.5 years.
“Nope. You don’t have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. You have Hypothalamic Amenhorrea,” he said matter-of-factly.
When he told me it was a problem with my brain though, I couldn’t help but feel my heart drop. That sounded so much worse than just those small cysts around my ovaries that were supposedly caused by insulin resistance. But he told us that the solution was quite easy. My brain wasn’t producing LH and FSH, so I could just get them via injection to grow a follicle, then another injection to induce ovulation, have timed intercourse and then bada-bing-bada-boom, I’d be pregnant.
It sounded too good to be true, and that’s because it kind of was. After doing a lot of research I realized that, yes, these medicines could work, but I also had to make sure I was nourishing my body properly. My current streak of fasting all day at work followed by one hour of yoga and then eating a high-protein, gluten-free dinner? Even with the few chocolate ice creams I would eat each week thrown in did not make for a balanced diet. I had already started to tone down my once-rigorous exercise schedule by doing yoga instead of Insanity workouts and running sprints, because I had a feeling intense cardio wasn’t doing my fertility any favors. I had already gained probably 5 lbs since our wedding in June, but now that I had a real diagnosis and fully realized what my years of bizarre semi-restrictive eating habits and rigid exercising had done
Project weight gain ensued, along with taking birth control pills to cause a bleed and start a clean slate for the injections. The medicines are all super affordable in Mexico compared to the astronomical prices in the states, so with our expected move back to the states in the summer we felt like the time was now. We started Dr. Marcus’ plan, I cut my yoga down to 30 minutes a day and my food intake up dramatically. Here’s the photo evidence if you don’t believe me: (disregard awkward self-photography, how melancholy I look in that black bathing suit picture and the fact that we moved to the beach this year and my skin color is now completely different)
I had read on my Hypothalamic Amenorrhea forums that a BMI of 22 or 23 was ideal and that’s where I happened to land.
So about 2 months later, in fact the day after I took that awkward bikini shot in my living room seen above, I peed on a stick and saw two lines.
It’s funny looking back because there was such a roller coaster of anxiety leading up to that test. Scheduling the timing of each injection, making sure Husein got the perfect amount of mL into each syringe, every time we’d go to the office to check on my follicles and my lining, adjusting dosage, scheduling sex (eh, this wasn’t actually stressful for either of us) and then the two week wait between ovulation and testing time. Weird new sensations were springing up in my body each day. Twinges and cramps and heaviness down there. Boobs swelling up. Waking up to pee in the night. The most intense physical exhaustion I’ve ever felt in my whole life. Cervical mucus or worrisome brown spotting. I never knew if it was the medicine or pregnancy or what.
Oh, and then of course when you get a positive test, you feel this exhilarating rush of happiness!!!! Immediately followed by this heavy drop of worries that it might be a chemical pregnancy or you’ll have an early miscarriage or blah blah negativity boo. And that’s how the next few weeks progressed for me.
So, yeah. There had been a whole dizzying display of anxiety dancing constantly in my brain over the months leading up to today’s appointment. But I had come that far, and my intense nausea was telling me something legitimate was happening down there.
We went into his office, reviewed my recent blood and urine tests (all good except for a slight urinary tract infection which he treated with antibiotics) and then I laid down for a vaginal ultrasound.
We saw the flutter of the heartbeat immediately. Phew.
My doctor patted my knee through the paper sheet and said, “Perfecto, Carly, perfecto.” We had calculated that I was at 7 weeks and that day the baby measured 7 weeks 1 day with a heartbeat of 148 BPM.
I couldn’t stop smiling as we drove away from the doctor’s office that day. Sure, it was no guarantee that I was out of the woods entirely, but I decided then and there that I had to focus on the good and stop letting worries paralyze me.
My baby’s heart is beating inside of me. This is so beautiful. No matter what happens, this right now is real and how can I not appreciate it and let myself be distracted by pointless worries?
That night, as part of my bedtime ritual, I read a book of poetry I have by Iranian poet, Hafiz. I read this and immediately scribbled it down in my journal:
“When all your desires are distilled; You will cast just two votes: To love more, And be happy.”
I decided that this is now my focus. I am going to love more — love to everyone from my husband to my chihuahua to the smoothie guy on the street, from my most annoying students to strangers on the beach to the heartbeat inside of me. I’ve never regretted loving anything or anyone, so why not love more?
I’m also going to be happy because, you know what, being happy is a choice. I always looked at my father (the most chipper, optimistic, happy-go-lucky fellow on earth) and wondered how the heck I came from him. His default was seeing the bright side while I always felt consumed by darkness. It might come easier to him, but I can see the bright side, too. It’s easier to let my mind flood with worries, but I can acknowledge the worry and then keep it moving through the river of my mind and then choose to focus on what’s awesome. And there’s so much awesome in my life, there really is.
So this is where I’ll write about my journey to love more, be happy and — oh yeah — that whole growing a baby thing.