You know how they say you get “pregnancy brain”? Then when you become a mom you call your forgetfulness “mommy brain.” Well, I have what I call “infertility brain” sometimes. Mostly about the fertility stuff—thankfully it hasn’t infiltrated the rest of my life yet, I don't think? I started going to a fertility doctor back in April, not May as I stated earlier. The months, and treatments and side effects tend to blend into each other—ask anyone who’s been through a few of them and they’ll probably agree (I hope). Similar to how you forget how painful childbirth is, which is what enables you to want to do it again…you tend to forget how difficult each step of this process is, once you’ve moved onto the next one.
I remember the first phone call I made to the fertility clinic (I go to FCI—the Fertility Centers of Illinois—the one Giuliana and Bill Rancic made famous on their Style Network show). I didn’t even bother calling my OB first to tell him I’d been trying to conceive for seven months—when you’re over 35 and you’ve been trying for more than six months you’re considered infertile. Under 35 they give you a year to try before giving you that label—another perk of youth.
So, the only reason I didn’t see my OB first is because the fertility doctor I called was an old family friend—he was actually in the delivery room when I was born; talk about life coming full circle. He’s one of the founders of FCI, so rather than calling my OB and having him run some preliminary tests, I figured I might as well get on with it… Patience isn’t one of my virtues.
The first and most pressing question I had is probably the same question most women have: How long until we’re able to start the treatments? And how long will it take? I wanted the end result, and I wanted it months ago. Unfortunately that’s not the way it works—they need to monitor your ovulation cycle for at least a month before diagnosing the problem.
Make no mistake though: Tests are run on both women and men—that’s about the only thing fair about this. I think Jay complained once about having to drop off a semen sample at the clinic and get his blood drawn. Boo-effing-hoo. When I see men there alone I know exactly what they’re there for—I always feel a little sorry for the guys, but I’d trade places with them in a second for everything I have to go through.
The doctor appointments that followed really put my vulnerability to the test—I always say that after being pregnant and giving birth, you have no shred of modesty left. You are so exposed during those 10 months, if you had issues with modesty before you certainly don't have them after. But that pales in comparison to getting ultrasounds every other day, with technicians who use a probe, and no fetus inside of you to be fawning over. Looking at your ovaries and uterine lining—which actually is kind of cool—isn't nearly as fun as looking at a growing baby.
“OK, now, help guide me in…” I've heard those words from so many different ultrasound technicians; they start not phasing you after a month or so, but there's still something a bit demoralizing about it, even now.
After our initial tests the determination was made: His semen was fine (high five!), and so was my ovarian reserve and anatomy. The only problem they found, after one month of monitoring me, was that I didn’t seem to be ovulating regularly. (Hello, 37!) And here I thought I was as regular as they come…certain of it, actually. But it turns out, even if you do ovulate every month, you may not be releasing enough, or any, eggs. And herein lies the problem.
As most infertile couples do, we decided to try Clomid first (clomiphene citrate)—it helps stimulate the ovaries to release more eggs, and is probably the most common fertility treatment for women. It’s an oral pill you take for five days—simple enough, right? I thought nothing of it, until two weeks later when I became an emotional wreck (my husband will surely attest to this). I remember sitting in my office at work, having to shut my door so I could cry…and cry…and cry…for no particular reason. I was totally aware at the time that I had no idea why I was crying, too. The worst was trying to carefully plot my path to the individual coed bathroom we shared with the men in the office so I could clean myself up—hoping, praying no one would see my puffy red eyes in the hallways.
It’s not exactly the kind of thing you want to talk about at work, with dudes, around the offices of Playboy. I didn't know if it was the drugs or the mere fact that I was having to take them, but I was definitely feeling very isolated, and dealing with a bought of depression, or some form of infertility brain. That much I am sure of now.