My Journey to Becoming a Fertility Specialist -- Part One
By Jen LeClair July 19, 2018
When I trained with BeboMia in 2017 for their MSP course, one of the first classes was about fertility. (Please see their website at the bottom of this page to check out the awesome programs they offer!) I remember how emotional I felt while reading the manual and watching the videos they provided. I was sitting in Starbucks and it was raining outside. Toronto had a very rainy, wet winter in 2017, reminding me of the west coast. We moved from Vancouver only 7 months earlier, so I was loving the wet weather. And there I was, decaf caramel macchiato in one hand with tears streaming down my face while everything I read took me back to 2011/12 pregnant with my daughter, Isadora.
My experience with getting pregnant was not a long treacherous road of clinical appointments and needle injections and medicine and various labs. It ended happily and safely, naturally after 1.5 years of TTC. What I lived through emotionally though, was enough to put me in a place of fear and anxiety throughout my pregnancy instead of feeling happy and safe with my baby while I was pregnant. I never thought to explore those feelings I had, because I just assumed they were normal.
Looking back on things, I realise that my journey to becoming a mother has some history that began long before I met my husband. A history of medical conditions and a surprise miscarriage that traumatised me and affected my ability to conceive in ways I didn't understand.
The doubt I had in my body began the summer when I was 30 and found out I had polycystic ovarian syndrome. I had been on depo-provera for upwards of 5 years and went off of it that year. The year I turned 30 was the first time I had been off birth control in 8 years after a long term relationship ended. I didn't show any of the typical symptoms of PCOS, so my doctor was surprised to hear that my ovaries were covered in cysts. My doctor told me at that time conception is always hard for women, and infertility becomes an issue for those who have PCOS. This news devastated me as I always imagined I would be a mother. My doctor's suggestion was to go back on the pill again to get my period started. I had an ultra sound a year later, which showed my cysts had cleared up. I had made some big lifestyle changes and lost about 30 pounds that year. So I went off birth control again. In the meantime I had a couple cysts rupture on my right ovary which was extremely painful and all the naporoxen in the world did not even relieve me.
Since my diagnosis I have always wondered if there is a connection between PCOS and depo-provera
In August, one year after my PCOS diagnosis, I was hanging out with a friend, talking about the continuing dull ache I was experiencing in my lower right abdomen. It felt exactly like a cyst rupturing again. I went home, took some naproxen and went to sleep. A few hours later I woke up in excruciating pain and went downstairs to use my bathroom. I was stunned to see so much blood and I could barely walk back upstairs. I called a cab to go to a nearby hospital and an ultrasound at 1 am shockingly confirmed I had an ectopic pregnancy with implantation in my right fallopian tube. I was transported by ambulance to another hospital to get treatment. After 14 hours from initially going to the hospital I finally took a cab home at 5am.
The treatment I received was methotrexate which is a chemotherapy drug. They use it to kill the fasted growing cells in your body. One of the worst parts of getting this treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is the ongoing blood work you need to do to confirm that your hCG levels are continually dropping. The doctors want to ensure you are not pregnant anymore and there are not any lingering cells needing to be removed.
For me, getting blood work done is an ordeal as I have very tiny veins and they are also really deep. I usually get poked and prodded several times before they can find a good vein. I always ask that they take blood out of my hand with a butterfly needle instead of my arm because I just want to get it over with. Very rarely are techs supportive of this request. It's like they need to prove something while sticking me multiple times unsuccessfully. They refuse to believe me that my veins are hard to reach, when meanwhile I obviously know my own body. It's an extremely upsetting and stressful experience for me. This was my life for 6 weeks when what I really wanted was to put this time behind me and move on with some normalcy. I am highly sensitive to medication as well, have numerous allergies to several drugs, so even the two doses of methotrexate knocked me on my ass for weeks. I started a detox lifestyle to try and feel healthy and well again.
Little did I know that my emotional recovery would take more time and I needed healing.
While this pregnancy was in no way planned, I found myself in a state of depression and sadness because I was grieving for the baby and a life I didn't even know I wanted. For the record, I was no longer connected to the person I got pregnant with, and I did not reach out to him to tell him about my loss. He was dealing with other things. He had recently moved from Vancouver to Toronto, to be with his mother while she was dying of cancer. It feels weird to share such details of his life here, but I am in no way concerned he will ever read this. I actually had a lot of empathy for his situation, even though he totally ghosted me the week after I unknowingly got pregnant. We had only been dating for about three months, and I knew the last thing he needed was a call from me, his ex, talking about my shitty ectopic pregnancy. Even though the time we spent together felt real and loving and connected, I had to remember that he literally dropped me from his life. It was painful when it happened. I wasn't about to trust him with my emotions again, and I wasn't capable of having a conversation with him about any of it. I knew he was not in a place to offer me the comfort I needed.
The truth is, after this experience I had such a fear of getting pregnant that it interfered with a lot of my connections in relationships for a few years. There was a long period of time afterwards when I remained single and celibate. When I started to date someone I would hold off on sex and intimacy altogether. I was almost pathologically afraid of sperm, with a hidden stash of pregnancy tests to take and retake if my period was even slightly wonky or my body felt any symptoms of pregnancy, which PMS mimics.
I would share my fears of pregnancy with my best friend but never with any guy I dated, because I was so worried they would think I was crazy for having this almost debilitating fear. I also never told them about my miscarriage because I carried so much shame from it.
Really, only my closest friends and family knew of it, and the truth is that I lost friendships because of the healing I needed. Those people had no clue what I had gone through emotionally and accused me of over-reacting to my experience when I tried to tell them. One former friend (a ten year long friendship!) claimed that she knew many people who were trying to get pregnant and had several miscarriages but "they just moved on." I was called "crazy" for needing to talk about it. (Gas lighting to the max!) So the people who could not support me emotionally were left on the side.
I think before I met my husband in 2008, I spent a lot of time wondering if I would ever meet the right man to create a family with. My emotional healing taught me that this was something I needed to have a fulfilled life. I wasn't expecting to have some issues with pregnancy or becoming pregnant again.
It was so easy the first time! Why would there be difficulty a second time, with the actual intention of pregnancy, and with the right guy?
... to be continued
xox thank you for reading