Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without words,
And never stops at all…
– Emily Dickinson
We never really did much natural cycling when we first started trying to conceive in 2012. My cycles were so incredibly abnormal right from the start that we had done our initial testing, gotten the PCOS diagnosis, and started seeing an RE before the one-year mark. Even when we’d do a few months between medicated cycles and then ART cycles, I didn’t have normal natural cycles.
Once I quit breastfeeding (or, more accurately, attempting to breastfeed), the spot-bleed-spot-bleed-no-normal-periods came roaring back for several months. Since that was my normal before my daughter was born, I wasn’t particularly surprised, just frustrated. In some deep, dark recess of my mind, I’d genuinely hoped that giving birth would “fix” my reproductive system. I tried a bunch of supplements, stayed on met.formin, lost weight, and nothing changed. I saw my OB/GYN, got a prescription for birth control pills, picked up a pack, declared myself done with natural cycles, and then in a fit of pique, decided to pull a Scarlett O’Hara: “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.
Every day thereafter, I reprised. I kept up with the supplements and met.formin. Until one day, the bleeding stopped. I marked the date as cycle day 1 and shrugged. I wasn’t too hopeful. I had an ultrasound in December because I was having pelvic pain and wondered if I had a cyst. My ovaries had the classic “string of pearls” appearance of PCOS.
I started spotting on day 21, but then on day 28, had an actual round of bleeding that was easily identifiable as a real period. I marked the cycle again and waited. The bleeding stopped in a timely manner. Again, I had a period on day 28. The acne also started to let up a bit.
Well, this is new.
In late February, we decided to see what would happen if we ditched any form of preventing pregnancy. In April, unsure if my body was even making the right hormones or trying to ovulate despite having cycles, I ordered some cheap OPKs. They’ve come up positive each month for an LH surge and are appropriately negative otherwise. I have a basal body temperature thermometer, but with my odd hours (I work nights twice a week) temping has not clarified anything.
A couple of weeks ago, I realized my met.formin prescription was going to run out, so I called the RE’s office to get that prescribed. Since I was on the phone with them, I figured that I’d go ahead and schedule my saline sonogram. It’s a bit on the early side since we’re not planning to transfer until next spring, but I reasoned that if anything showed up as an issue, then we’d have some time to figure out next steps.
Today, I saw Dr. E, my RE, for the sonogram. When Dr. E checked my ovaries, he noted that they don’t look polycystic the way they usually do. I looked at the screen. I know the appearance of my ovaries well, and the usual bunch of immature follicles was definitely missing. Dr. E asked about my cycles, and I told him about the positive OPKs, regularity, and the supplements. “Well, keep it up,” he said. “It seems to be doing something good.” He told me that it was hard to say given my history if I’d get pregnant naturally, but it was worth continuing and he hoped it would work out for us.
It’s somewhat promising as infertility situations go. Definitely an improvement in many ways, but is it enough to actually get pregnant? Even with ICSI and a surfeit of eggs, we really don’t make a lot of embryos – and the ones we do make tend to be about a day behind.
I really want to be hopeful. I really want to think that even after all this, the “old fashioned way” might be truly possible. I really want to think that even if this doesn’t work out, one of the embryos will work next spring. There’s no doubt I have seen (and had) longer odds and stranger things work out.
At the same time, I also know all too well the painful wounds that appear when hope flits away and reality unwelcome rushes back. As I told Arthur recently, “Everyone keeps saying you need hope to live. But in my case, it usually just f*cks me over.”
That’s where we stay for now in terms of infertility. In the gray area between hope and not, possible and not, that unsatisfying non-answer. What I keep reminding myself is that this is a season, not forever – and much of the rest of life is good right now. Today, though, definitely lightens that gray a little and causes the ‘thing with feathers’ to stir.
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