I always had it in my head that getting pregnant would be easy. I knew a lot of people struggled with it, but nope! That wasn’t going to be me. No way. I always liked to think I was extremely fertile (I mean, I’d been told my whole life that I have child-bearing hips so that must mean I’m made for baby-making, right?), and with my husband’s healthy habits there was no way we wouldn’t get knocked up immediately. Or at least within a couple of months!
I was wrong.
Trying to get pregnant
I went off birth control in March 2019 after being on it for about 15 years, and the first issue was that my period had seemingly disappeared. After about two months of no period, I took my first of many trips to the doctor. The doctor told me there was nothing I could do but wait it out, and come back if it still hadn’t returned in 6 months.
It is not at all uncommon that, when a woman goes off birth control, her period goes missing. I started doing a ton of research, and some women lost their period for years or never got it back at all! This was extremely rare but, needless to say, I started panicking. What if I was one of those women who never got her period back? How was I supposed to start my family then? The more I researched on the internet, the worse my fears became. I knew I should stop and just wait to see, but I couldn’t help myself. I needed to know it all!
At the same time, a really good friend of mine announced that she was 5 weeks pregnant. I’ve never felt such jealousy! I wanted to be happy for her, honestly, but wtf?! She got married in December and got pregnant on the first try. I’d been married for over two years, and was struggling. It wasn’t fair!
And then a month later, my period returned. What a relief! Now I could FINALLY get pregnant.
35 days after my last period, and I was still without my period but the 5 pregnancy tests I’d taken over the course of the past week were all coming up negative. What gives?! I pulled up Google and started to look up “false negatives.” After convincing myself through online research that I must be pregnant and am getting a false negative, I headed back to the doctor’s office. They drew some blood, and no – I was not pregnant.
I had been tracking my period through my fitbit app, which helpfully predicted when my period would be arriving next and when I would ovulate. It made that prediction, however, based on my previous periods which were regulated by the pill. As it turns out, I have a very irregular period! I don’t know if I naturally have an irregular period or if this was yet another side effect of going off the pill that would correct itself over several more months. But either way, the app of course predicted the wrong date for ovulation and we didn’t time things right. Not only that, but it also predicted my period would be arriving weeks before it should have.
After 48 days, I finally got my next period. At this point, I invested in some ovulation tests to make sure I didn’t make that mistake again. “This time,” I thought, “we’d be successful.” There was no way I could mess it up this time with science telling me exactly what window I was ovulating.
Once again, I was mistaken.
For the next few months, I continued to track my ovulation to make sure we were trying on the most likely dates, as well as before and after the ovulation period just for good measure. I was starting to get desperate. I should have been pregnant by now! I had planned and re-planned how I would tell my family when it happened – if I tell them at Halloween, I’ll carve a pumpkin to make the announcement. Nope, that’s not going to happen anymore but if it’s around Christmas, I can send a picture of a little stocking hanging by the fire place. Nope, that’s not going to happen either.
I started trying some of the many suggestions that I found online – taking mucinex around the time you’re trying, and taking soy isoflavone because it could behave similarly to Chlomid (a fertility drug). At one point, my husband was just too tired after work to try and I burst into tears – something I’m incredibly embarrassed about, even at the time. But it had been months and I should have been pregnant by now!
And then one day in October I started noticing that my heart was racing quite quickly while I was relaxing on the sofa. I checked my fitbit app, and my resting heart rate had been steadily increasing for weeks! I googled the symptom to see what could be the cause, and there it was: pregnancy can increase your heart rate. In fact, there was one particular story all over the internet about a woman who found out she was pregnant because of the heart rate increase on her fitbit app. I was THRILLED! The pregnancy test was negative, but I knew false negatives were a thing and this really seemed like it!
…Do I even need to say that I was wrong again?
After a ton of tests, several weeks, and countless hours visiting numerous doctors, I found out I had developed what’s called “subacute thyroiditis.” This is a thyroid condition thought to be caused by a virus of some sort that results in a hyperactive thyroid, sometimes followed by a hypoactive thyroid before it normalizes. Some of the symptoms that I was experiencing included a racing heart beat (I had gone from a resting heart rate of 68bpm to 88 bpm in 3 weeks), intense anxiety, excessive pooping, exhaustion, mood swings, and shaking hands.
It could have been much worse. Subacute thyroiditis usually fixes itself and does not cause lasting issues. The alternative would have been a full hyperactive thryoid, which pretty much always ends with medication for the rest of your life. But all I could think about was that, with a TSH level of less than 0.01 there was no possible way I could get pregnant until it was resolved. And I had no way of knowing how long this would last, and when I would be able to start trying again. Not only that, but if it was hyperactive thryoid then they could give me medication to bring the TSH levels back up but all they would give me for subacute thryoiditis was beta blockers to keep my heart from exploding and asked me to “wait it out.”
I was devastated. I couldn’t stop crying for weeks. All my plans had gone out the window. It had been 8 months of trying at this point, and now there was literally no possible way I could get pregnant. And even when my thryoid did go back to normal, what if I had some other issues preventing me from getting pregnant? I started convincing myself that my entire body was a dud. That I probably also have blocked fallopian tubes or some other issue preventing me from getting pregnant, otherwise even with the subacute thryoiditis how could I not have gotten pregnant by now?!
…And then the holidays arrived, I got distracted, and I stopped thinking about it as much. I started to accept that there wasn’t anything I could do until the new year, at which point they’d take start doing blood tests again and see if things improved. I pushed pregnancy to 2020, and just enjoyed the holidays. I started to relax about it. It was something to worry about next year.
On January 16th 2020 they drew my blood again, and my TSH levels were back to normal and well within the pregnancy range. Now I just needed to wait for my next period so we could start trying again.
On January 17th I noticed I had some very minor cramping and slightly tender breasts. I figured it was the regular premenstrual stuff I’d been dealing with every month or so.
On January 25th, after 6 weeks without a period and the cramping not subsiding, I decided to take a pregnancy test “just in case” and the plus sign appeared within seconds.
I was in tears, I was so happy! I ran out to my husband and shoved the stick in his hands (forgetting all about the fact that I peed on one side), unable to say anything. He did a double take, grabbed in from my hand to look more closely, and then started crying himself.
Confirming the pregnancy
On February 6th, I had my first doctor’s appointment. We were so excited! They told me it would take about 2 hours, and my husband took the day off work to go with me. I was under the impression that my pregnancy would be officially confirmed by a doctor at this point.
No. That is not, apparently, what this appointment was for. Instead they gave me a bunch of information about pregnancy (all of which I knew already, because I’d be planning this for TEN MONTHS), asked me about my medical history, and gave me urine and blood tests including a glucose test. Then they scheduled my next several appointments in advance and assigned me an OBGYN. We left feeling pretty disappointed. I still didn’t have proof that this was a real pregnancy, and had to wait another week for the next appointment.
My test results began coming in within 24 hours, and quite a number of them were not normal. The OBGYN who I still haven’t met sent me a message the next day saying I had to go back in within the next week for a 3-hour appointment to check my glucose tolerance again, as it was a little too high and she thought I might have developed gestational diabetes. I also googled a couple of other test results, and it was suggested I might have a UTI. A little more googling and a UTI can give you a false positive on a pregnancy test.
Now I’m in full-blown anxiety mode: I have diabetes, a UTI, and a possible false pregnancy. I don’t have nausea or food aversions/cravings, which made me even more nervous that the pregnancy test was false. I did have a missed period, but then again I have an irregular period anyway and maybe it was extra wonky after recovering from the thyroiditis. I was tired, but that’s a sign of diabetes. I clung to the fact that my boobs were really tender, that I had lower belly cramps, and that my sleeping patterns had taken a hit.
On February 11th, a little over 2 weeks after I had gotten that positive pregnancy result, I got up extra early to get my second glucose test done. It sucked, and I almost threw up at one point which would have made the entire test void.
That afternoon my parents joined me for my doctor’s appointment. My husband couldn’t take another day off so soon to join me, though he desperately wanted to be there. My dad waited in the lobby, and my mom came in with me. She was just as nervous as I was!
The first thing the midwife did was check my pelvis (surprise! Her hand is going up
there). She said it did feel like my uterus had grown, but then when she went to do the ultrasound she said, “oh, you have a full bladder. That could’ve been what I was feeling.” Not a vote of confidence. She had me go pee, and then tried again…and there it was! Very small – I was only 6 weeks and 1 day – but there was clearly a embryo with a beating heart. What a relief! I took video on my phone to bring back to my husband, and she printed out a photo for me to take home as well.
That night I received my glucose test results – I needed to fail two of the four blood tests to confirm gestational diabetes, and I only failed one. Phew! I do not have gestational diabetes, I’m officially pregnant, and the baby’s heart is beating – all good signs!
I’ve since had a second ultrasound at 8 weeks, and that time I was able to see the heartbeat with my own eyes!
It has been a hell of a journey, and I’m sure it’s far from over! Already I’ve been anxious about the possibility of miscarriage, knowing that it’s a high risk up until after week 12. I’ve been told that the anxiety and worry never ends – especially after the baby is born! But I’ve received a huge wave of support from my family, and being extra emotional it’s put me into tears nearly every time.
Everyone told me you can’t “plan” a pregnancy, but for some reason I thought I’d be different. Well…I stand corrected. I really thought I could plan this pregnancy around the numerous weddings and significant birthdays I would be traveling to in 2020, but all of that went out the window. In fact, my estimated due date is a mere 3 weeks before my best friend’s wedding on the other side of the continent, where I’m supposed to be a bridesmaid (and my husband a bridesman). It’s also 2 weeks after my cousin’s wedding, which I may unfortunately have to miss. At this point, we’ll just see what happens!
If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that babies really do have their own timelines. You can only plan so much, and then it’s up to nature to decide what it’s going to do. And I’m one of the lucky ones – it took me 10 months to conceive, but for some women it takes years…or they’re not able to conceive at all. I’ve read numerous stories from other women online who have said they struggled to conceive until they gave up trying, at which point it happened naturally. Babies don’t like stress, and frankly, trying for a baby is extremely stressful! My story is the same. My pregnancy only happened once I thought there wasn’t a chance of conception and stopped trying. I’m not saying that works for everyone, but it worked for me.