Infertility Leaves a Mark on Body and Soul
By Katie O'Connor
For Women's Health Foundation
When you live through infertility, it leaves a mark on your soul.
It changes you.
It doesn't just affect you emotionally, it affects you physically as well.
I have always been a very active person. I love working out, running marathons, challenging myself. It was very hard for me to give all that up when going through infertility treatments. My running was my therapy; it relaxed me and gave me time to think and just focus on my breathing, my feet hitting the pavement, and my music.
I was in treatment a little over two years and had to put life on hold. I felt like a part of me was missing. It just felt empty. I didn't feel like myself, and I wanted so badly to be a mother. I kept trying to tell myself it was temporary, it was for a greater good. But I couldn't help be jealous of the women still able to do this all naturally!
Part of my struggle was getting and then maintaining a period. Being on numerous medications definitely took its toll on my body. I would get dizzy from the clomid and had sciatic pain shooting down my leg and severe leg cramps. I also started to build up scar tissue around the sites of my shots (both abdominal and glutial).
Finally, my period came, and we were able to start with a few rounds of intrauterine insemination to try and get pregnant, but nothing happened. Still waiting, still more medications and still more monitoring.
We decided to move on to in vitro fertilization, or IVF. It was more invasive but had higher pregnancy rates. If I wasn't getting blood drawn or an ultrasound, I was shooting myself up with medications to suppress something or stimulate something else.
Finally, after two trying years, I got pregnant! I was ecstatic, and considering what I had endured to get pregnant, my pregnancy was pretty easy.
However, I had a very rough labor. I pushed for over four and a half hours, and then needed forceps to deliver my daughter.
My recovery was tough. I got an infection four days later. I was a mess—emotionally and physically. Sleep deprivation really took its toll. Breastfeeding was going horribly, and we decided to switch to formula. Overall, my first month as a new mom was an experience I will always remember as one of the hardest times in my life.
When I finally had the OK from my doctor to start exercising, I went on my first post-baby run (and took it VERY easy). But I had excruciating pain in my groin and cramping in my abdominals.
I had minor diastasis/herniated belly button in my abdominal muscles and had strained my groin/inner thigh muscles. I went through months of physical therapy rebuilding my strength and also pelvic floor therapy. I was lucky my OB/GYN was progressive and suggested these therapies as soon as possible. She knew what an active life style I led and wanted me to get back to feeling "normal."
Honestly, the whole first year of my daughter's life, I spent doubting every "motherly instinct" decision. I felt like I was failing at being a mom. But once I was able to regain some of "me" and get back some of "my" life, I realized I was gaining confidence in being a mom. I resumed running and later returned to marathon racing. I felt like me again—a whole me.
It took a few years, but eventually I felt at home being a mom, and my body was 100 percent back to its pre-baby self—if not stronger!
I was lucky to have proactive doctors and strong support system. Becoming a mother is one of the most amazing gifts in life but can also be a stressful time on your mind and body.
Katie O'Connor is the founder of Shine: a Light on Fertility, a unique fertility support community. She is a wife, mom, only child, marathon runner, fitness instructor and fertility advocate. She brings a candid perspective about struggles with infertility. Check out her website, like her on Facebook (at Shine Fertility), follow her on Twitter, and explore her Pinterest!