Two Years Ago

As you know, yesterday was my daughter’s first birthday.

I decided to check out my journal from exactly a year prior to Lydia’s birth. I’d been trying to get pregnant for over a year at that point, and I was in the throes of incredible disappointment, confusion, and despair. When I checked out my journal, I found that exactly 364 days before I gave birth to Lydia, I was grieving another cycle that had gone by without conceiving. I had to call in sick because I was so emotionally distraught that I couldn’t drive to work safely.

Here’s what I had written:

I did it!! I made it through the day without killing myself.

I had my monthly day of sorrow, despair, and writhing on the floor with pain [from menstrual cramps].

I am certain, now, that my suffering is largely hormonal in nature. Yesterday I had told myself, “If I get my period tomorrow, I’ll be totally cool. I don’t even expect to be pregnant, and I’m pretty comfortable with staying a non-mom indefinitely.” And when I awoke to cramps and a temperature drop,* I thought, “Meh – no big deal. I saw this coming.”

[*If you’re not familiar with fertility awareness and basal body temperature, that’s what I’m referring to: the drop in body temperature a woman experiences at the end of her cycle, if she is not pregnant, as her body prepares for menstruation].

I got ready for work as usual, got in my car and enjoyed the first couple of songs from my new Regina Spektor CD. But the cramps were just killing me. They were dizzying. I was afraid I was going to get into an accident. So I called [my boss], and he said it was OK to take the day off, and I turned around for home.

And on the way, inexplicably, I lost it. I was weeping all over the place. I had to pull over until the sobbing fit was over, my eyes were blurred over with tears, I was afraid I’d never make it home.

Throughout the day, I continued to have these bursts of intense sadness. Usually whenever the cramps got the worst. So every so often, I’d take a break from my writing or cleaning and do some yoga or breathing to alleviate the pain and the stress. And, as I’ve learned to do over the last 16 months, I repeated the mantra, “All I have to do today is survive. Tomorrow will be better. If I get through the day without killing myself, I will have succeeded.”

And I did.

I just thought I’d share that excerpt, in case anyone else is finding themselves in the midst of terrible hopelessness and sorrow.

I was there, and only one year later, my world was a completely different place. Everything had changed.

Tomorrow will be a better day. Just hang in there.

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  1. I’m so glad you have your daughter now. I know many going through that journey and it is hard and sometimes breaking. I’m going through my own version of it as we try to have a second child. For unknown reasons, my body struggles with trying to carry, and we’ve been through way too many losses. I can only hope that in a year it will be different, but it’s been almost three so far, and can you hear the hopelessness and grief creep into my voice?

    Anyway, on a different note… Did you ever have any testing done, or any idea why you went through that? Pregnancy and birth can do amazing things for your body and maybe you’ll never end up in that place again, but if you have/do find your periods getting back to that point, please let me encourage you to find some answers. Despite what some of us are given to believe, cramps that bad are NOT a variation of normal, and in my experience are often a sign of endometriosis, something that affects many, many women (even if they don’t realize it) including me. If you have any questions about it, I would be happy to share what I know.

    • Thanks, Vanessa. Through my own research, and through charting my cycles with the Creighton method of natural family planning, I did determine that I had short post-ovulation phases/luteal phases (not sure if you’re familiar with these terms?), which suggests low progesterone. I started to take special multivitamin developed to improve progesterone levels for a few months, and this may have allowed me to eventually conceive. I can’t know for sure, though!

      I do have fears that I’ll struggle again (I definitely want more babies!,) but now I at least have a few places to turn if I do (namely, I’m familiar with a NaproTechnology doctor in Toronto who can help with those kinds of things).

      I now know that you’re so right: cramps that bad are not normal, and are a sign that something isn’t right. One blessing that has come out of my experience is that I was forced to learn about the female body and can hopefully help other women, too!

      • I’m really glad to hear that you have a good place to turn, Kathleen. It is really frustrating to not know what’s going on with your body, although even more frustrating to find out that the doctors have no idea either.
        I’ve only just recently heard of NaproTechnology, and it sounds like they’ve got a really good approach to this stuff. I have to say that I was frustrated with their site though. I hate that you can’t really find much concrete information on what they do, and it what little I could gleam seemed to indicate that endometriosis was treated with surgery, which is what any other doctor would do. I’m not against it, but surgery sucks, has limited ability to “fix” anything, and carries the possibility of making things worse by creating adhesions. Bah. But, they do seem to be a really good option for many other fertility issues, certainly for helping a couple figure out where the problem lies.

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