My Fertility Story Pt. 1: From Burnout to Belief

July 12, 2023

I’m Clarissa
A Certified Fertility Health Coach who works with career oriented women to improve their cycle health and optimize fertility before pregnancy. 
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Welcome to the Fertility Friend Podcast! I’m so excited that you’re here and to kick things off for our first episode, I’m going to be sharing my personal fertility story. This is part one of my journey, which is essentially the background and beginning parts of when we first started trying to conceive. My hope is that you’ll see yourself in parts of my story and that you’ll feel less alone as a result. I can’t wait for you to listen in as I share all the juicy details!

Listen to the Full Episode Here

Hey there, friend. I’m really excited for today’s episode, because I’m going to be sharing my personal fertility journey. It’s been on my heart lately to share this and I just want to emphasize that I’ve been in your shoes. I felt very alone, confused, and just really hopeless during my fertility journey, which is a major reason I decided to create this podcast. My goal is to be able to help you feel less alone as you’re going through your own fertility journey. I wish I’d had somebody to talk to about what I was going through and how I was feeling. I wish I’d had a Fertility Friend. I also plan to interview other women so they can share their stories with you as well. Hopefully you’ll see a little bit of yourself in their journeys too. More episodes to come, but for now here’s more about my journey. So let’s get into it!

Cycle Health

Let’s take it way back before we even started trying. I’ve always wanted to be a mom ever since I was a little girl. To me, there was no doubt in my mind that motherhood was something that I wanted for my future. I always knew I wanted to have kids and lots of them, but just later on in life. Motherhood felt like something that was a given and I just knew that it was always going to be a part of my future. It’s something that I never doubted at all.

Before we get too far into the future, I think it’s important to share more about my period and my cycle health and history as well, so you get the full picture. I got my period the summer after fifth grade and it was pretty uneventful. I went to the bathroom and saw blood in my underwear, but it didn’t phase me. I just made a makeshift pad with toilet paper and went back outside to keep playing. I don’t even remember telling my mom, but I must have at some point. 

Growing up I was very healthy and active. The only cycle related symptoms I remember having was heavy cramping during my period, but that wasn’t until high school. They got so bad at times that I remember staying home from school. We grew up using natural remedies anytime we were sick, and my mom gave me some sort of tincture that helped relieve the pain. So that’s really the extent of my cycle health. All in all it felt very normal. 

During my senior year of high school, I started dating my now husband, Steve. Shortly after we started dating, we moved in together, so I got on birth control fairly quickly and I was 17 at the time. In an effort to avoid telling my parents, I went to the public health center to get my birth control because I was still on my dad’s insurance at the time. 

I made an appointment with an OB there and told her I wanted to get on birth control. She asked me a few health questions, did a quick physical exam, and basically just said here you go! I don’t remember being given any options, alternatives, potential side effects, other than take this pill every day and you’re good to go. 

I didn’t really know what it was, what was in it, what it was doing to my body or anything like that.  What I did like about it though was that it made my period very predictable.  I had this standard 28 day cycle with four days of bleeding (two medium and two light days), so I always knew exactly when my period was going to come, and it just made things really easy because I could work around it essentially. I also never experienced any side effects, at least none that I could recognize at the time, so it felt really easy. I just took the pill every day, no problem and at the time I didn’t even realize that it was a fake bleed. I didn’t think to question anything and just kept on taking it month after month, year after year. 

How it All Started

After high school, I went to college full time and started working full-time as well, so again I was very active and healthy. More importantly though, I was a go-getter and a straight A student. I knew I wanted to graduate college, so even though Steve and I had been dating for a while, loved each other, and we both wanted kids, it was something that was not even on our radar at that point.

We always knew we wanted to just live life before we had kids. I ended up graduating with two degrees and started working at a full-time job with an insurance company. At that point we were traveling a lot, I had a stable career along with several promotions at work, and we were just living and enjoying life. We were really just trying to tick off all the boxes, so we bought a house and I continued to increase my salary to ensure that we were financially stable. We really wanted to have all of that in place before we even thought about getting married and having kids. 

We got engaged in November or December of 2016 and I was 27 years old, so I’d been on birth control at this point for nine years. Once we got engaged though, that was really the first time I started thinking about the possibility of getting pregnant. That was when the desire was officially placed on my heart. I still knew that I wasn’t fully ready and wanted to wait until I got married, but that’s when it started to feel like this would happen right around the corner.

Now that I had my own insurance, I was getting ready to go to the OB for my standard annual visit. I remember thinking that I should ask about getting off the pill. For some reason I just had this inkling inside that was telling me I should stop taking it soon. So during my appointment, I told her that I was newly engaged and definitely wanted to get pregnant and have a baby soon. I asked her if should get off the pill now and if “everything looked ok down there.” I had absolutely no understanding about how my body worked , but was wondering if I was healthy and would be able to have a baby. She reassured me that yes, everything looks okay and not to worry and then she said these words I’ll never forget. “Don’t get off of the pill until you’re absolutely ready to have a baby, because the second that you stop taking that pill, you will get pregnant.” 

Well I knew I definitely didn’t want to get pregnant until we were married, so I kept taking it against my better judgment. I trusted her though, you know, she’s a doctor, so I thought she knows what she’s talking about. She deals with this all the time. After that I just assumed that it’s going to be really easy to get pregnant after we get married and I get off the pill.

We had a two year engagement and ended up getting married in August of 2018, when I was 29 years old.  At first I thought it’d be perfect to get pregnant during our honeymoon, but then I realized we had an international trip coming up the following year to the Dominican Republic. I knew I didn’t want to be pregnant during that trip, and again assumed it would happen immediately, so I stayed on the pill a bit longer. I turned 30 in February of 2019 and I officially, officially got off the pill in May of 2019. We were finally ready to start trying. 

Officially Trying to Conceive

At 30 years old, I had been on the pill for 12 years at that point, and I didn’t think anything of it. Once I turned 30 though, there was definitely something about that number and feeling like the biological clock is ticking. I always knew I’d wanted lots of kids, and for some reason I had this perception that you’re not able to, or that you shouldn’t get pregnant after 35 because you’d have babies with birth defects or down syndrome. So I felt like we needed to start trying right away to have as many babies as possible and just have ’em back to back. 

Once I got off the pill, I started tracking my period on my Fitbit app, which really just showed when my period started and ended. When I got off the pill, there was no interruption to my period and it seemed normal. My thought process was, “well, in order to have a baby, you just have to have sex all the time., right?”

So we got busy and started having sex all the time because we thought that’s all you really need to do in order to get pregnant. I knew nothing at that point about ovulation or timing sex accurately or anything like that. After the first month of us trying, I took a pregnancy test. Both of us were really excited and so hopeful about the idea of getting pregnant and having a baby. Of course the test was negative, but we thought no problem, shook it off and tried again.

But then month two came around and the same thing happened. We were still really hopeful and excited though. We were living life thinking that any day now we’d be pregnant and holding our baby soon. Month after month we continued with the same thought process of trying all the time. After 6 months, I still wasn’t pregnant though. That’s when I started to feel like something was off. 

I made an appointment to go see my OB again and told her that we’d been trying and still weren’t pregnant. She then said, “oh yeah that’s very common.” My jaw dropped! This was the same woman who six months earlier had told me to stay on the pill because I’d get pregnant right away. She then proceeded to tell me to try taking an at home test and confirm if I’m ovulating, and then come back for next steps. I felt really frustrated walking out of that appointment. She made it seem like it was no big deal, and to me it kind of felt like a slap in the face. I felt kind of dismissed and annoyed at the fact that she didn’t ask more questions to try to understand what was going on.  

This was also the first time I felt shame kick in. It felt like a struggle to even open up to her in the first place about not getting pregnant yet. It was the first time saying it out loud to somebody else, because we hadn’t told any friends or family that we were trying, other than my best friend. I was kind of scared to admit that something might be wrong. After that experience and receiving zero empathy from the OB, I never went back there again and decided to figure this out on my own. 

I purchased a pack of ovulation tests to try out and sure enough, it did confirm that I was ovulating. Then I thought, okay, perfect, there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m ovulating. I should be able to get pregnant. I started to just do some research on my own by Googling things and started taking a prenatal vitamin course, but it was a cheap gummy one that I wouldn’t recommend. I also discovered a birth control detox drink called Premama, that I started taking and Steve took the male version, although he hated the taste. I figured I probably just needed to detox off the pill after being on it for so long. Unfortunately that still didn’t work, so by this point it had been a full year and we still weren’t pregnant. 

The Messy Middle 

So moving into May of 2020, we still hadn’t told anybody else even though we’d been trying for a year. This was really based on the shame that I felt, a little bit of embarrassment, but also confusion. It just seemed odd that we’d been trying for so long and nothing was happening. I didn’t want to be faced with questions from people, because I knew I didn’t have answers yet. But also, I felt really embarrassed because, as a high achieving woman, it’s not something you really want to admit to people.  

We continued trying and I ended up doing a hormone test through Modern Fertility, who offers at-home hormone testing. You just prick your finger and they’re able to do a blood test to show your different hormone levels. Thankfully everything came back normal for me, which felt encouraging. There was one marker that was slightly low and thinking back, I think it might have been AMH. I just remember the report saying it was slightly lower than average, but that it was based on age. 

The next thing that I found was the Ava bracelet, so I ended up trying that and wore it every month for about two years total. I will say that with everything I had tried so far, I went in thinking this is it, this is the reason I haven’t gotten pregnant yet. So when we tried the Ava bracelet, I was hopeful. I’d read through the testimonials and their guarantee and decided I needed it. I tracked my cycle with it, but one thing I will say is that my skin is very sensitive and wearing the bracelet gave me red rashes around my wrist where the band and the sensor were. It would also give me syncing errors from time to time as well, which seemed to throw things off. Nonetheless I continued to use it and month after month we’d have sex on the days it said I was fertile and ovulating, but we still didn’t get pregnant. 

In an attempt to continue to try and solve the mystery, I felt a little bit of a shift after that first year of trying. I started to feel less optimistic, less excited, and it felt more like a chore with all the things we were trying. It was a vicious cycle of that didn’t work, so let’s try something else and then something else and so on and so forth. It started to really drain my energy and then I started to be more upset both emotionally and mentally. 

I remember one day when Steve came to me after I had just gotten my period and we were both upset and down about it, and he said “we’ve been trying all of these things with you, and timing and other stuff, but what if it’s me?” Up until that point I just automatically assumed it was something wrong with me or my body and the thought never crossed my mind that his sperm could be the issue. I felt a bit of relief for a moment. 

So we ended up buying an at-home sperm test, but then his results came back normal too. Now we were back to the drawing board and back to square one. Once I knew his results were normal, for some reason I still ended up putting that pressure back on myself and thinking that there had to be something wrong with me that I was unaware of.

The next plan was signing up with Parsley Health, which is an online service where you get to work with a Functional Doctor. I liked their approach of finding the root cause of what’s going on. The Doctor had me do a lot of different blood tests where she looked for nutrient deficiencies and various other health markers. She recommended that I get on several different supplements and I also worked with a health coach, as part of their services.

All in all, the experience was really insightful as I found out a few different things about my health. Even though I wasn’t experiencing symptoms, it felt like my health was starting to decline as a result of this journey. At the start,I felt really good and energized, but once the year hit and we were trying month after month, I started to emotionally eat and gain weight. Other than the weight gain, I still felt healthy, but the blood tests did reveal a few different things. The first being high inflammation markers, but also that I was borderline Hashimotos and insulin resistant. For the overactive thyroid, the Doctor recommended a desiccated thyroid medication. 

She also prescribed a CGM tracker, which is a continuous glucose monitor. It’s essentially a device you wear on your arm that allows you to get live and real-time blood sugar monitoring. I used that to track how my foods and understand how the things I was eating were affecting my blood sugar. This was really insightful because I actually learned that I tend towards lower blood sugar, so skipping meals or not eating breakfast right away had a big negative impact on my blood sugar levels. The Doctor also recommended that I remove gluten, dairy, and sugar for my diet, which I did for a while.  

By this time I was diving deep to learn as much information about fertility as I could. I started Googling things, reading blog posts, listening to different podcasts, reading books, taking courses, and group programs. Basically anything and everything fertility related that I could get my hands on. I was just in full-blown research mode trying to get answers and find the missing piece. We were still trying month after month and I just wasn’t able to ever get pregnant. 

In addition to the Ava bracelet, which I was still using, I also added in the Mira Fertility Tracker and the OOVA tracker. Using both of these involved peeing on a stick every morning and then inserting the wands into the device to read your hormone levels. They each measured different things like estradiol and progesterone to determine if you ovulated or not. They are more advanced than the ovulation predictor kits and give you more data. I was using all 3 at once and eventually got burnt out by all the tracking, especially since they often gave conflicting results. For example, on one day the Ava would say that I was ovulating, but then according to Mira, I was ovulating on a different day, and the OOVA showed me ovulating on a different day altogether. I started to feel even more confused and didn’t know what to trust at that point. I was also spending so much money on all of the different supplements I was taking and ordering the tracker wands. Plus all the time every morning to use the tracker on top of monitoring my blood sugar, remembering my supplements, logging my food and avoiding things I couldn’t eat. I was also listening to podcasts, taking the courses, and attending group calls for various programs. It felt like I was spending every spare moment, every spare second, trying to figure out what was wrong with me and why I wasn’t getting pregnant.

I became completely obsessed with all things fertility at this point. On the one hand this was helpful because I learned a ton about my body. Things that as a 30 year old woman I had never been taught.  After spending so much money and time on trying to get pregnant, it really started to wear on me. I could no longer hide the emotional and mental toll that this was having on me. 

My Breaking Point 

My mental wellbeing was significantly impacted and I felt really sad all the time. I also felt a lot of shame because it felt like my body was broken. Like it wasn’t working and wasn’t able to do the one thing that it was designed to do as a woman. I still didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn’t want to admit that I felt like a failure as a woman. I felt like a failure as a wife. It was embarrassing to admit that there was something in my life that I wanted really really bad and I wasn’t able to achieve it. No matter how  hard I worked, no matter how much money I put towards it, no matter how much time I put in, I still wasn’t able to get pregnant. It was so hard. Looking back, I can confidently say it was the hardest time of my life to date.

This is when I started to feel jealousy as well. I wanted to have a baby so badly and wasn’t able to, yet there were so many women around me who were getting pregnant. Whether it was friends, family members, random people on Instagram, or women at the grocery store, it felt like everyone around me was getting pregnant and having a baby except me. This would make me mad. I hate to admit this, but I would get angry because it wasn’t happening for me. I felt bitter towards them. I felt really sad and depressed. I vividly remember seeing different pregnancy announcements or even pregnant women and fighting to hold back the tears. I wanted to cry so bad, but I didn’t let myself and I would just stuff down my feelings.

On a daily basis I would just feel a pit in my stomach and continue to stuff it down. It was just really, really hard. I tried my best to hide it from everyone, even Steve, but I know he saw the shift and the change in me. Even with him, I still didn’t want to admit how I was feeling and how bad it was. I would cry occasionally and break down from time to time despite my best effort to hide my feelings. 

It’s so hard to describe, but when you want something so bad and you can’t have it, it’s devastating. It’s almost like this aching internal desire in your heart. Not only do you want to be a mom, you know you’re meant to be a mom, but for some reason it’s not happening for you. You don’t know why and you don’t understand it, and don’t know if it will ever happen. You start to doubt if it’s even a possibility. You start to doubt your future. You have this vision for your life that’s always included a baby and when there is no baby, it’s heartbreaking. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s just heartbreaking. 

I started to feel like a shell of my former self, kind of like I was on autopilot. Like I was going through the motions every day. Everything was a trigger, I felt sad all day, and was constantly holding back tears. I started to think am I being punished? Did I do something wrong? I thought I was a good person. I tried to do my best in life. I felt like I’m a good human being, so why? Why am I not getting pregnant? What am I being punished for? 

The feeling of hopelessness was unshakeable. Even though it felt like it would never happen for me, getting pregnant was the only thing I wanted. It’s all I could think about. My mind was consumed with getting pregnant all day long. It felt like something was missing from my life and that something was a baby. After being a year and a half into the journey, it got so bad that every time I would get my period, it honestly felt like a miscarriage. To me, every time my period came that blood was the baby that I could have had. The baby I should have had. The baby that was meant to be mine and now it was no longer with me. 

I had never been pregnant, and technically never experienced a miscarriage, so my heart goes out to everyone that has. I feel grateful though, because I don’t know that I would’ve been able to handle it at the time. Because for me, with every period it felt like the endometrial lining that was shedding and the egg that was being released that came out in my period was a baby. A potential for life and inside of me that never grew. 

This was very traumatic for me month after month and I would break down when my period came.  I started to question what’s the point of trying, because month after month, I would just get my period. Then I got to the point where I didn’t even want to try anymore. I didn’t want to have sex because I thought, if we don’t have sex this cycle, then that means there’s no chance of getting pregnant. I was okay with that because at least that was something I could control. I could handle the disappointment when it was within my control. 

I specifically remember, one night when we had some friends over for dinner. They’re very good friends of ours and they have a little girl, but they also wanted more kids eventually. So we were hanging out that night and we were all enjoying dinner together, when all of a sudden they looked at each other kind of like they were asking each other “ok are you ready?” And at that moment I knew. I knew what they were about to say and the fear started to creep in. They both looked at us and said “we have something really exciting to share with you guys…” My body started to tense up and I felt a wave of anger and frustration start to build up. They continued to excitedly say “we’re pregnant!” 

It took everything in me to hold back the flood of tears wanting to come through. It was so, so hard. I managed to force out a smile and say congratulations, when in reality my heart was breaking inside. I’m ashamed to admit it, but at the time I wasn’t even happy for them. Instead I was mad. I was angry. I was frustrated. I was so jealous. Somehow I got through dinner that night by basically downing a bottle of wine to try and hide my emotions. Once they left though, I completely lost it. I broke down and was sobbing hysterically. 

I kept crying and just asking why? Why was this happening? Why am I still not pregnant? That was the first time that I let it all out and it felt like I was falling apart from the inside out. And it almost felt like life wasn’t worth living if I couldn’t have a baby. That was a very dark and scary thought, and although it was only for a second, it really scared me. That was my wake up call. I knew at that point something needed to change because I didn’t like who I was becoming. I didn’t like the person I was and wanted to feel like myself again. I’ve always been a very optimistic, joyful, encouraging, and happy person. This fertility journey was turning me into an angry, bitter, jealous, mad, sad, hopeless, low energy, low vibe person that I didn’t wanna be around anymore. So that was my wake up call and I knew I needed to do something different. Something absolutely has to change.

This was my breaking point, but there was another piece that really got me down as well. I was experiencing the lowest point of my life and even though I was falling apart from the inside out, nobody even knew. Nobody even realized. Nobody even reached out or asked if everything was okay. No one ever noticed that something was wrong. Now I don’t blame other people, because this is more about how much I did to try and hide how I was feeling. I was completely broken inside, and secretly I think I just wanted someone to ask me. I wanted to open up and to talk to somebody about how I was feeling because I  needed that outlet. I needed to know that somebody else understood what I was feeling, what I was going through. I wanted a little bit of empathy. I wanted somebody to acknowledge that everything was going to be okay. 

That’s a big reason why I’m starting this podcast, because I felt like I didn’t have anybody on this journey to talk to and to go through this with. I hope that if you’re suffering and you’re struggling, please know you do not have to go through this alone. I know how hard and how challenging it can be to tell your friends, your family, and people that are close to you. I know the shame that accompanies you in this journey, and if you don’t want to talk to them about it, you can talk to me. I would love for you to reach out to me on Instagram, or you can shoot me an email. Let’s start that dialogue, because again, you do not have to go through this alone. 

I just want you to know that there are other women out here who feel the way you feel, who are going through what you’ve been going through and it will be okay. You will be okay. I’m here for you. We are here for you. 

As we wrap up, this is part one of a two part series, so I’ll be sharing part two in an upcoming episode. I’m looking forward to sharing more and I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you being here. I appreciate you listening in. I would love to connect with you and support you on your journey as well.

If you’re looking for additional support on your fertility journey, be sure to download the Fertility Affirmations Meditation I created just for you. It’s completely FREE and will provide you with a sense of comfort all while helping to reignite your belief in your ability to get pregnant naturally. 

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