Surgery recovery is ugly: me and anesthesia don’t get along. But the news is: definitely PCO; definitely mild to moderate endometriosis (now burned out and out of the equation); no blockage of the fallopian tubes or scarring. Dr. Stegman prescribes glucophage, because PCO is an insulin-resistance condition. I resist the idea of starting long-term medicine—by now I have a screaming antipathy to pharmaceuticals for anything related to fertility. But he convinces me that the end, in this case, is worth the drug. And he’s right, because almost immediately my irregular cycles settle into a reasonable pattern of length.
My college roommate emails to announce her first pregnancy. It’s a big moment for me, because weeping is my second reaction; first, I feel joy on her behalf.
We are feeling hopeful for the first time since it all began. Christian uncovers some research which reveals that the water in our region is filled with alachlor, diazanon and atrazine, which adversely impact male fertility. We go to Lowe’s and pick up a PUR water filter, because we drink a lot of water.
Thanksgiving Day, the priest talks about the Gospel passage “Seek and you shall find.” In Greek, he says, it actually says keep seeking and you shall find; keep knocking, and it shall be opened to you. It seems particularly apt.
By Christmas of 2002, we’ve decided it’s time to start the adoption process. We tell our families. Mostly, there is support, both loud and quiet…but one family member can’t accept that there’s more to this than the fact that we’re stressing out about it. Christian blows up, and I get a rare glimpse of just how deeply this affects him emotionally, even though he doesn’t talk about it.
In January 2003, we begin collecting paperwork for our “dossier” to send to Russia. We don’t stop trying to conceive, and we consult via phone with Dr. Stegman, who prescribes various things to try to help improve the quality of my signs…but it’s time to move on. “I love my Russian adopted children already,” I write, “but I still ache for the fulfillment of womanhood.”
On Holy Saturday of 2003, I have a dream. In it, I’m sitting on the floor, holding my adopted children. I wake up feeling completely at peace for the first time in as long as I can remember.
Late spring, we finish the dossier and head to the Secretary of State’s office to have it “apostiled” (think notary on steroids), and mid-June 2003, the paperwork heads to Russia. We are officially expecting. And it’s a good thing, too, because a few weeks later, Dr. Stegman announces he’s moving, and his partner, Dr. Dixon, is too overbooked to take on new patients. I go on his waiting list. In July, we have our fingerprints taken by BCIS, and we receive travel visas. It feels real—even more so when my sister gets The Call in August, and starts making plans for travel to China. At last, my Journal begins to fill up with normal life again, without the pain and angst of unfulfilled dreams.
At first, we expect the wait to be about the length of a pregnancy. But specifics are hard to come by. We call the agency every so often to keep a finger on the pulse of our wait. By the time the 9-month mark comes along, the wait is still 9 months long. I fill the time by learning some rudimentary Russian.
In the meantime, I get a call in November 2003: Dr. Dixon’s practice has opened up enough to offer me a spot. I take it, promising that I won’t crunch their schedule with infertility appointments right now, as we’re expecting to adopt shortly; we’ll get back to infertility treatments after we bring our Russian kiddos home.
The “infertility moments,” as I come to call them, still pop up every so often, but mostly 2004 is a study in frustration as the process in Russia slows to a standstill…for months. In November of 03, we are #8 on the list; by February, we’ve crept to #7. Putin has fired the entire cabinet, and the entire Ministry of Education, which oversees adoptions, is in chaos. It’s been a whole year since we finished the paperwork, and we’re still waiting. And waiting. And waiting. But now, instead of yelling at God, I yell at the Russian government.
At Dr. Dixon’s suggestion, Christian gets re-tested and we discover that the water treatment has done its job. Hallelujah! The first of April, we move to #5. We’re actually getting close enough to taste it. For one cycle, we go back to using NFP to avoid pregnancy, and then we realize how ridiculous that is, after 2 ½ years. We actually give notice at my job, telling my pastor it’s time to find a new liturgy director.
I’ve always given blood regularly, but this summer I keep getting deferred for iron. Every time, it’s lower, even though I’m taking supplements. It’s driving me nuts. The first of August, I’m officially unemployed, waiting to be a stay-at-home-mom to two little ones born around the world. I prepare for two weeks of traveling: one weekend to my cousin’s wedding in Michigan, the next to a composers’ retreat in Minnesota. And in the week between the two trips, something happened that has never happened in the three long years we’ve been trying to conceive: My temperatures stay up for 16 days. And 17. And 18.
On the Feast of the Assumption, I go to church, where I hear Mary giving praise for the life within her womb. I tremble at the edge of incredulity. After all this time, is it possible? The next morning, I wake impossibly early. Heart pounding, I take a pregnancy test. The results are supposed to show up within two minutes, but it only takes about fifteen seconds for a little stick to rock my world.
Well, there are some loose ends to tie up. What about our Russian babies? Apparently it’s feast or famine time for parenthood; just as we find out I’m pregnant, we find ourselves at the top of the wait list. At first we think we’ll keep the pregnancy under wraps and go ahead and bring home the kids as planned. Then we start thinking about the sheer insanity of going from zero to three kids in less than a year—and not babies, either, mind you; we would have had a 3 year old and an 18 month old from Russia, plus a newborn. We decide that’s not fair to the adopted kids, who are going to have a big enough transition as it is, so we opt to get pulled laterally off the list, meaning when we’re ready to adopt they’ll stick us back in at the top. Of course, as pregnancies #2 and 3 come along, the paperwork expires, and we realize that we have to let go of that dream.
What was it that caused my infertility? Stress? Certainly, I was in a stressful job. But as my friend Alison noted on her blog yesterday, stress is a short-term factor, not a long-term one. Water had something to do with it; PCO had something to do with it. But I’m afraid nothing quite accounts for our infertility. Nothing was severe enough to justify it, and thus we just have to thank God that it finally ended.
Which brings up the question why? For a long time, I thought I was going to have to accept that I’d never know the answer to that one. But then Julianna came along, and I realized that all our suffering had prepared us for her arrival.
Well, there you have it. My thanks to all who stuck with us through this long, extremely personal, often “TMI” story. I share it because I think it’s important that we stop treating this subject as taboo, as “too personal.” Infertility is an isolating experience, and the more off-limits the subject is, the more isolating the experience becomes.