The real poison pill

What do you do when you learn that your body has stopped ovulating?

First, search the Internet to re-teach yourself everything that you should have learned in sex ed classes. (Where are my ovaries? What are hormones? Wait, a menstrual cycle isn’t really every 28 days? Thank you Taking Charge of Your Fertility – and the friends who recommended it – for setting me straight).

Second, create a list of possible explanations for why your body choose to abdicate one of its core responsibilities.

Theories on why I stopped ovulating:

  • I led a double life as a elite athlete. (Thanks for considering this to be included on the list doc, but alas, my pole vaulting career lasted a grand total of four weeks, and I never get off the actual ground)
  • My thyroid is wack. (Test, re-tested, medicated, test #3, cleared)
  • I’m hormonally imbalanced (WHO ISN’T?!)
  • I am experiencing stress. (SOMEONE TOLD ME I AM NOT OVULATING AND HAVEN’T BEEN FOR POTENTIALLY YEARS — AND MAYBE I AM ALSO HORMONALLY IMBALANCED)

Problems with ovulation are one of the top causes for infertility. Answers as to why said women are experiencing problems are less common.

Here’s a quick backstory: I stopped taking oral birth control in August 2015. Aaron and I had been married for almost one year, and we had decided to give ourselves that time before embarking on the potential for pregnancy. You know, that whole trying to figure out this marriage deal. I remember finishing my final pack, tossing it valiantly in the trash, and preparing myself for what could come. In September, something didn’t come: my period.

I was flabbergasted. My monthly flow was more Type-A than me. I could nearly chart it to the hour on the appointed day. But, no period for the first time in 15 years? Finally, this moment of being late that didn’t evoke an immediate panic attack.

Like any dutiful mom-in-waiting, I allowed the appropriate time to pass and then purchased my first at home pregnancy tests.

Negative.

Alright, perhaps I did this one too early. I let a few more days slide by (noting that my mind could only focus on the fact that I could at that very moment be formulating some zygote monstrosity that would ideally reform into a beautiful, healthy baby).

Negative #2.

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I didn’t understand. THERE IS ONLY ONE POSSIBILITY. WHY DID I BUY ALL OF THESE JUNKY PREGNANCY TESTS?

We’ll glide over the confusion and hurt I felt because, little did I know, this was only the beginning of my infertility journey!

Wonder woman on a unicorn on a rainbow

I wish this is what the infertility journey felt like. Image credit to the Tumblr blog “Power Pussy Says.” No, I’m not making this up. Brilliant!

How could I have foreseen that 2016 and 2017 would morph into my very own episode of “Unsolved Mystery”? Side note: easily one of the best television shows on Lifetime Television in the 1990s.

My period did not come back. Of course, I met women who shared that despite the fact that did not return to regular menstruation after birth control, they still were able to achieve conception. Have hope! Stay positive!

Nope. Well, I mean yes, I tried to stay hopeful and positive. But I certainly didn’t find myself procuring the coveted “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” novel or flocking to the nearest Target to oodle over burp blankets and onesies.

I’m less interested in talking about what transpired between those 24 months today. In fact, I don’t think what happened was really all that interesting, period (Ha! She’s got jokes). We tried a few things. I had some atrocious interactions with medical professionals whose callous, cold hearts made Charlton Heston look like a softie. What I really want to lament about on this Sunday evening is the evils of birth control.

After a failed round of hormonal injections last November and December (culminating in getting my period on Christmas Eve as I was in the midst of a wretched bout of food poisoning — happy holidays, folks!), we decided to take a break to start off the New Year. Or, I made that call as I do have an incredibly supportive partner in this process (even willing to be present in the room when I gave myself injections, if needed, but also would have had to turn away and not allow himself to hear any noises of pokes, or else I would have been waving smelling salts under his nose a half-beat later).

Fast-forward: STILL NO PERIOD. My ob-gyn is like: “ok, soooooo…maybe we should put you on birth control for a little bit to at least go through a couple of cycles. You don’t want your vaginal lining to get too thick because that can lead to complications. And, since you’re not producing estrogen, you should notice improved energy and mood. You may get some headaches initially but they should dissipate. Sound good?”

I am going to start taking medication that will prevent me from doing the one thing I’ve been trying for the last 2+ years to do? As Tony the Tiger would say:

Here I am: 33 and back on birth control. AND FEELING MISERABLE. The headache promise came true. But, what I wasn’t prepared for were the following:

  • Overnight weight gain (I’m sorry, what does my scale say?)
  • Bloating — or how I prefer to describe it — feeling SWOOL
  • Sore breasts that don’t fill sexy but just feel the pain
  • A general squishiness to my body (where did you go, muscles?)
  • Extreme anger — I may or may not have thrown vegetables at the wall at one point
  • Exhaustion
  • Constipation (something needs to come out of this damn body)
  • Generally unpleasant wife/co-worker/friend/human being
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I put Grumpy Cat to shame during these seven weeks.

The silver lining after three weeks: I got my period. Hooray?! Shed that lining. Feel like a functioning reproductive woman. All I felt was awful. Nearing the end of my second pack this last week, I said: “no more.” I chucked those last pills into the rubbish and dusted my hands of that experiment.

How do I feel now? Despite currently enjoying my second cycle of 2018, I feel so much better mentally and emotionally. I can’t hide from the fact that I will need to find a replacement therapy to put estrogen into my body.  That I may never get pregnant or carry a baby to full-term. But, like hell I’m going to allow myself to be subjected to feeling like shit and spending money on tampons by ingesting something that is designed to make sure I do neither of those first two things. I don’t have enough time or energy to sort that would with a therapist. Or to rationalize it any longer with myself.

Perhaps it’s time to give that pole vaulting career another try…