This is a guest post by Hellobee community member skipra.
My husband and I gave up the hope of ever having children before we even tried.
In October 2009, we were planning our wedding and I wanted to go on the pill to avoid a period during the wedding and honeymoon. I went to a new gynecologist and discussed my history of irregular periods and unreliable protection method (withdrawal only for probably about a year). She ran some preliminary tests and unofficially diagnosed me with annovulatory cycles and PCOS. I only had some of the PCOS symptoms, like irregular cycles, unwanted hair, and annoying pimples. The tests were not extensive or really conclusive, so she suggested that it was probably what was going on. But since I wasn’t trying to get pregnant, we wouldn’t do any further testing at that time.
I never considered seeking additional testing or treatment because it goes against my belief in natural selection. Although my husband and I previously discussed my suspicions that I would have trouble getting pregnant, it was at this point that we had a real in-depth conversation. I wanted to make sure that he still wanted to get married even if it meant no children (kind of like Robin’s situation on the past season of How I Met Your Mother). Luckily for me, he is slightly resistant to change and at the time, the thought of kids really freaked him out, so we continued with our wedding plans.
We got married in May 2010. After being on the pill for a while, I knew we would never go back to the withdrawal method or use other protection. Despite the awful headaches I got regularly on the pill, I decided to stay on it at least until I was vested at work in the unlikely event of an unexpected pregnancy. We were definitely not ready for a baby but since we were finally married, it wasn’t completely out of the question.
I discussed going off the pill with my doctor at my annual well woman exam. She reiterated that she doubted I would get pregnant without some treatment based on my history, and that because of the already suspected infertility, she would start testing and treatment before the standard one year of trying, if I desired. Soon after this appointment, I received a call that my Pap came back irregular and needed to have a follow-up in three months.
I stopped taking the pill and we did not start using another form of protection. I don’t think my husband and I even discussed the implications of going unprotected. We were both convinced that I would not get pregnant. I thought it would be great if we did, but I honestly think my husband never even considered the possibility.
The next month, my follow-up Pap came back irregular and I tested positive for high risk HPV. My doctor performed a colposcopy and biopsy (using a vinegar type solution and magnifying glass she swabbed my cervix looking for abnormal areas and snipped samples for testing), and I tested positive for precancerous cells on my cervix. The doctor provided counseling on the LEEP procedure and on the risks of not having the procedure. At the time I did not know much, if anything, about the procedure. I only knew of one person that had anything similar but, according to my doctor, they are rather common and women generally do not like to admit to having them.
The procedure itself is very low risk. The doctor takes an electrified loop and removes the bad cells from the cervix. The recovery is typically a couple days of light to moderate bleeding, and 4-6 weeks where you can’t go swimming or put anything in your vagina. I was told that having surgery on my cervix would reduce production of cervical mucus, making it even more difficult to get pregnant. If I did get pregnant, I would have a higher risk of pre-term labor due to an incompetent cervix. Overall, the risks were low. I wasn’t concerned about getting pregnant and cancer is scary, so I scheduled the LEEP for June.
My doctor performed the LEEP. It was an outpatient procedure in our local hospital. A nurse made me take a pregnancy test because I hadn’t had a period since April, but of course it was negative. The procedure and recovery were not bad at all. They put me in twilight sleep during the procedure and I don’t remember any of it. Following it, I had a couple days of light spotting and may have taken an Advil for discomfort.
July – August 2011
Everything seemed to check out fine after the LEEP, but I was required to have a Pap every three months for monitoring. The first one was clean and my doctor reported that my cervix was healing nicely. By then I was feeling fine and not really thinking about it because the summer was so busy with work, vacations, birthdays, and family visiting from out of town. We live about an hour from my hometown where my parents live, and since my sister and her family were visiting, my husband and I took some time off work and made a vacation of it.
Everyone noticed that my stepfather was not acting his normal self. He is usually very social and active but he kept complaining of back pain and fatigue, and despite going to the doctor on several occasions, it seemed to get worse, not better. It became especially concerning when he did not go out for my sister’s 35th birthday celebration because he was in too much pain. A few days after, it was time for everyone to go home and back to work. My mom got my stepfather admitted to the hospital by saying he was having chest pains. They finally started taking him seriously, began testing extensively, and found cancer on the bones in his back. We were absolutely distraught by the news but did not have a lot of details.
September & October 2011
My stepfather transferred to a very well-regarded hospital where they diagnosed the type of cancer, told us that it was late stage, and his life expectancy would depend on how he responded to treatment — maybe a couple years at best. He underwent chemo and then his arm broke because the cancer has spread there – the treatment was not working yet but they continued to try. After his second round of chemo, he fell down walking to the bathroom and the doctors discovered it had spread to his spine. Within days he was paralyzed from the waist down. Radiation was the only option at that point but my family had hope of transferring him to a cancer center in New York that had had some success with late stage cancer.
As I’m sure you can imagine, this type of situation has the ability to take over your life. It’s all that you can think about, talk about, worry about…
My husband forced me to go out for dinner and drinks towards the end of the month to relax and get away from it all for just one night. I think that was probably the only time in months that there was any action between us. The strange thing is that I woke up in the middle of the night with the thought, I hope I’m pregnant running through my mind. Where did that come from? I started taking my temperature and charting after that because it was just so bizarre.
My stepfather’s health continued to decline. Radiation was not working and a transfer to the cancer center did not look promising. I started to feel slightly off in the beginning of the month. I had lost weight from all the stress, was exhausted, and knew that something was not the same with my body. When my husband suggested a drink at the local bar on the 10th, I just felt very guilty and unsure about having a drink. I had no reason to suspect a pregnancy because my chart did not show anything other than a couple weeks of consistent temperatures, but I tested on an Amazon strip that I had bought months earlier just in case. I saw what looked like a shadow of a line so I refused to go, but did not explain why.
I tested again in the morning and got a very pink second line on two different tests. My husband had already left for work, so I called him to tell him the news. He was shocked to say the least and demanded that I try a “real” test. I was so nervous and flustered, I was shaking and couldn’t focus on getting ready for work. I knew I was going to be late regardless so I ran to CVS to buy another test. That test came back negative and my husband’s reaction was “That’s good!”
I was just ready to leave for work when my mom called saying that they had decided to stop all treatment on my stepfather and were putting him in hospice. I was devastated. I took the day off and spent a long weekend with my family. I did not tell anyone about the pregnancy.
I continued to test positive on the Amazon strips and on one brand from CVS, but negative on another. I don’t know how much money we spent on tests during that limbo period. I had an appointment with my GYN for my three month follow-up the upcoming Thursday the 17th, so I took a break from testing. I started bleeding on Tuesday, tested one last time before my appointment to prepare myself, and the doctor confirmed the miscarriage after giving me a urine test and sending me for an ultrasound.
The next day, my mom called again to say that my stepfather took a turn for the worse and only had days left. He passed away the day before Thanksgiving. This was the most difficult thing I have ever been through. No one can prepare you for how it feels to lose a parent, but the worst was watching my mom suffer. Grieving the loss of my stepfather and supporting my mom was all I could do at the time. I could not deal with the unexpected pregnancy and loss and my husband’s reaction.
… to be continued