Updated: Apr 6, 2022
And then, you wait. Five days.
Five. Whole. Days.
Okay. It's not really a long time, but it's kind of like waiting for Christmas... except you aren't waiting on presents, just a lot of needles. Last time, I was excited and nervous, apprehensive and hopeful. The wait this time was filled with a lot of different emotions. Unexpected ones.
The nurses had to remind me about the five day wait. I think last time, I was so naive and unaware of what I had signed myself up for that I didn't really know what to process. I had no idea what I was getting myself into: how many needles and blood draws, how Menopur burns, how Cetrotide makes me itch, or how uncomfortable even peeing becomes days 5+ and I didn't have any expectations about the outcome. But now, knowing what is ahead and having an idea of what outcome I hope for, made my thoughts and emotions a lot more complicated.
I normally exercise a lot. Shocking, I know, for a former professional athlete. And, as much as I've dialed it back from my days of competition, I normally workout everyday for at least an hour. However, thanks to a lingering injury I've been battling for the last two years, it's made dialing exercise back in order to have a successful retrieval much easier. My doctor believes, so I'm sure the research also suggests this, that running anything over 25-30 miles per week has a negative impact on female fertility. I'm not going to say I completely agree with this, considering I was running 100 mile weeks at times and consistently have run north of 50 for the last 15 years, but who am I to argue with the Doc. I'm paying him enough money, I should probably listen to him.
I also tried really hard to gain a few pounds to make the whole shots in the stomach thing a little easier on me and on my poor mother who administers he shots every night. She wants grandkids - she can help! Also, zero chance I can inject myself. For all of you women who can, you're true badasses.
All that being said, I did allow myself to enjoy a few longer runs - which for me means 5 miles right now - in the last five days, just to help tide me over until after the procedure. I just don't find walking all that satisfying.
When it comes to exercise during the treatment cycle, I've learned that everyone is different. My doctors recommend that I limit my exercise, maybe overly aggressively because they know me and they know if they give me an inch I'll take two miles. But, honestly, between my absolute fear of my ovaries twisting around one another (yes, that's a real concern), and the discomfort I felt by day 5 last cycle, sticking to a lot of walking and very flat flip turn-less swimming is good enough for me. I say that now, but by day 10 I'll be climbing the walls, itching to workout again, and because the swelling doesn't subside immediately after retrieval, on top of the 10-14 days of treatment, I'm also signed up for limited exercise for the following 10-14 days while my ovaries recover and return to normal size. It's a marathon people, not a sprint.
I tried to enjoy just moving during those last runs, and I tried to sort through the emotions I was feeling. While I am lucky that I am home, with my mother for support, I have to be honest, the whole process is really lonely. For me, it largely brings up feelings of failure and sadness which are compounded by the loneliness of this journey. Yes, what science can do is truly incredible and I'm so grateful to be in a position where I can do this and where I can hopefully leave myself with the possibility of a future family, but that doesn't take away from the other very multi-dimensional emotions.
Failure. I'm 37, almost 38. I should be married. I should have a house. I should have a family by now. Or so society would have me believe. While I absolutely wouldn't change my life path for anything, it's hard to completely ignore the fact that in this part of my life, by normal standards, I am a failure.
Sadness. Walking into the clinic every few days I am certainly not alone. There are plenty of other women and men there. Almost every chair is full in the waiting room, always. That, makes me sad. It makes me sad that so many people are struggling with having a family. I see couples there, holding hands, going through this together and it makes me sad that I'm there, alone, that I'm even having to freeze my eggs. It never crossed my mind, even eight years ago, that I would need to do this, or that I would want to.
Loneliness. Whether you're freezing eggs alone to preserve your fertility, like I am, or going through it with a partner in the hopes of starting a family, it's a very lonely process. You feel very isolated. You're asking your body to do something hard and even when you do everything right - eat well, sleep well, hydrate well - the outcomes aren't always what we want or expect. So, even when having friends that are going through it and having a good laugh about how bloated and like a "stuffed chicken" I feel, it's impossible to ever truly understand what they're going through as they can't truly relate to my journey. It's also one of those things where as much as you want to share, you want to have others along for the ride, the disappointments are so heavy that voicing your success could be heartbreak for someone else.
I recently had someone close to me ask me if I was envious of my friends who have found their partners and are now having children. It was an interesting question. It caught me off guard, actually, because I'd never really thought about it. After pausing to digest the question, understanding that it was coming from a place of love and concern, I told them that no, I'm not. I'm not envious at all. I'm so happy for them. I know how hard it is to find the right person, to find that love that's worth fighting for, and so I'm genuinely happy for each of them. And, as for having kids, the same. No, I'm not envious, I am thrilled for them. If walking into a fertility clinic days on end, and listening to stories from friends, and friends of friends, has taught me anything it's that having a child is not a guarantee. I think we take it for granted. Sixteen and Pregnant makes it look like babies are conceived as quickly and easily as getting takeout delivered to your home thanks to Uber Eats and Seamless. The honest truth is that it is truly a miracle to have a healthy baby and becoming more and more so.
Honestly, I wish I'd just done this when I was 30, put them on ice, and never had to think about it again. Especially as a female athlete, I wish the conversation had happened. I wish it was normalized and rather than feeling like a last minute Hail Mary as the clock is ticking down, I wish it was more of a proactive ownership of my future, eliminating variables out of my control, and putting what I want into my own hands. Yes, I recognize, it is still very much that, but I wonder if there wouldn't have been more of a freedom to the way I approached dating and relationships over the last eight years if I knew I had this tucked in my back pocket.
I don't care what anyone says, undergoing any kind of fertility cycle or treatment is a lot. Whether you have a partner, a mother, or you're doing it alone. It doesn't matter why you decide to do it, or when, it's filled with a whole host of emotions from loneliness and joy to fear and hope. And, that's even before all of the hormone filled medications course through your body sending your head spinning.