Whenever I’m feeling a bit down, or if I struggle to fall asleep in the night, I tend to go back to the time when my husband Jakob and I decided that we wanted to have a baby. So far, this is the sunshine story of my life.
While trying to wrap my head around the fact that Donald Trump has been elected President of the (not so) United States, I’ve been finding it hard to come up with ideas for an inspiring post. Sadly and unfortunately, this sorry excuse for a man has been occupying my mind and for a brief moment, I feel like I need to go to my “happy place” to be able to combat my somewhat darker thoughts, and to regain energy.
We had been together for about a year and a half when Jakob was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I vividly remember everything from that doctor’s appointment in February 2013 – the look on the doctor’s face while doing the ultrasound screening, and that moment when Jakob and I looked at each other before any words were even spoken. We knew. And then we cried. And Jakob’s main concern was: “Will we be able to have kids?”
The following weeks were exhausting and scary – to say the least. First there was surgery, then radiotherapy, followed by chemotherapy. We were aware of the positive prognosis of the particular cancer that Jakob had – today more than 95% of all patients in Sweden are cured. This was some sort of a relief. However, emotions overtook rationality. And even though we’d been informed of artificial reproduction techniques, it was tough knowing that the likelihood of Jakob getting his fertility back was close to zero.
After the surgery and prior to the rest of the treatment, “we” saved sperm in a sperm bank in the hospital, for future reproduction attempts. We had more than enough already, but Jakob stubbornly went back not only once, but twice, to fill up the pantry. Both of us so desperately wanted to have children.
About a year later, we decided that we wanted to begin the “child-making-process”. I didn’t expect it to be easy, or free of complications. And it wasn’t.
At that time, I hadn’t had my period since I began taking birth control pills – about seven years earlier, and at this point I had been off contraceptives for over a year. I always felt uncomfortable with not having my period, but I was told by several gynecologists that it was “normal”. Normal? What about that is normal?
So, the first thing that needed to happen was for my menstrual cycle to return – naturally or artificially. The first didn’t happen, and after a few months of unsuccessful lifestyle adjustments, I went back to my gynecologist and told her that I had done my research and had my own theory for my menstrual absence. I told her I suspected that I suffered from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) – a syndrome generally characterized by the presence of cysts on the ovaries and irregular ovulation and menstruation, resulting in infertility – and therefore would need artificial progesterone to get my cycle back. She laughed at me and told me that I had no “classic” PCOS symptoms (obesity, acne, excess body hair etc.), and that I should give it a little more time.
And so I went home, waited a few more weeks and then went back – still with no period in sight. When I finally got the progesterone pill, my much-awaited period came back.
Followed were countless doctor’s appointments at the hospital in Malmö, where it was confirmed that I did have cysts on my ovaries. So, with Jakob being infertile and me having no ovulation, IVF was our only hope – meaning, my eggs and Jakob’s sperm combined in a laboratory. To make a long (and painful) story short: on the second round of IVF treatment I was finally pregnant with our gorgeous daughter.
In hindsight, this is the most mentally and physically arduous – and at the same time most rewarding and luminous – experience of my life. And I would do it a million times over.
In my opinion, becoming pregnant, pregnancy itself and parenthood is too often glorified in our societies. I can only encourage those who experience any sort of difficulty to dare to speak about it and ask for help and support in your community. It is worthwhile.
And oh – don’t let Trump get you down. He’s not worthwhile.