‘His sperm is not swimming where it should.’ I dreaded telling my husband. Nervous tears fell from my eyes.’: Couple raise awareness about infertility after struggling to conceive naturally

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“My husband and I met when we were teenagers and got married when I was 18 and he was 20. I had always imagined we would start having babies as soon as we were able, so when we decided to start trying, I was over the moon!

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

It was December 23rd, 2017 and I was less than a month away from my 21st birthday. We took the plunge and I threw away my pack of birth control. I remember feeling so thrilled and nervous all at once! I actually went to the store and purchased a onesie that said ‘I’m about to blow up your newsfeed’ thinking it was clever for an announcement. Little did I know, I certainly would not be announcing a pregnancy any time soon.

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

I have always had irregular periods and a lingering concern maybe they would cause some difficulties in conceiving. Still though, I just KNEW I wouldn’t be one of those people who took over a year to have a baby. Not that there was anything wrong with them, but I wanted a child so badly that I was certain it would happen before December of 2018.

A few months after starting to try, my period still hadn’t shown up. I had never had a pap or breast exam, and hadn’t had a basic check up in a long time. My mom had cancer cells on her cervix at my age, so I thought it would be wise to go in and get checked out. I remember laying on the table, feeling anxious as she preformed the tests on me. After the exam was finished, I explained to her that my husband and I were trying to have a baby. I told her about my history of very irregular periods. Her response shocked me. ‘I don’t think it would be abnormal for you to be seen by a fertility clinic. Irregular periods are caused by a type of ovulatory disorder and the clinic would help diagnose you as well as help you conceive.’

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

It felt like a punch to my gut to hear she was referring us to a fertility clinic. We had only been trying for about three months at that point, and it almost made me angry that she didn’t want to do some basic tests on me first, tests that many OB doctors commonly preform. As far as I knew, most doctors don’t refer anyone to a clinic unless they had been trying for over a year or were over the age of 35. I was so shocked I couldn’t even argue, I just left with my husband and kept replaying the words ‘ovulatory disorder’ and ‘fertility clinic’ in my mind.

We had a lot to talk about at that point. Did we want to see a clinic after we had just began trying? Did we feel comfortable waiting to see if my period would regulate a bit since I had just gotten off the pill? Ultimately, we decided to put the clinic on the back burner and give my body some more time to adjust to it’s new normal.

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

As the months passed by, my period remained absent. I had only had two within a six month time frame, and one of those was due to taking a medication to induce it. I had tried several forms of tracking my cycle to help conceive. I read a book, I began tracking my basal body temperature every morning, I used ovulation strips, and paid attention to all of my ‘fertile’ signs. I even got my pap test results back and found out I seemed to be in good health. It was so discouraging that I was doing everything I could to help us get pregnant, but my body wouldn’t cooperate and ovulate like it should.

I was at my wits end when I broke down to my husband and asked him if he thought we should call the clinic. He had been so supportive those six months we had been trying, but I knew he had concerns that maybe something was wrong. It didn’t surprise me when he said he wanted us to give them a call, but I felt my heart sink with the realization this likely wasn’t going to be easy.

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

When I called the next day, the nurse on the phone gave me a list of tests that we had to get done before we could see a doctor as well as the cost of each test. It’s not common for insurance to cover the cost of fertility treatments or testing, so I knew we were going to rack up a large bill as we started the process.

I was beyond TERRIFIED of taking an HSG test. I asked the nurse if I absolutely had to in order to talk to the doctor and she said yes. This is a test where a doctor puts a balloon like device with a tube into your cervix, blows it up, and puts dye into your fallopian tubes to ensure that they are open. I had watched many a YouTube video where women described the experience as one of the worst pains they had ever felt. So when she listed that test as one of the first I’d have to do, I nearly backed out. After all, six months wasn’t very long to have been trying!

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

Despite that fear, I took the test. It was a bit uncomfortable physically, but more so emotionally for me. I was so nervous tears fell from my eyes the entire procedure even though nothing was wrong. When you think about fertility treatments, you focus a lot on the drugs, needles, and waiting, but there’s so much more to it than that. For someone who has always been with the same person, having a male doctor poke around your private areas is nothing short of horrific. I imagine it’s nerve wracking for any person! The poor nurse assisting him kept asking me if I was okay and felt compelled to stand next to me and hold my hand during the process. Even the doctor was kind and sympathetic, but it was a huge relief when the procedure was over.

This was the start of me truly beginning to grasp the physical and emotional toll infertility could take on a person. I had a very small peek into the world of infertility in comparison to some of the more taxing tests and treatments out there. I was fortunate that my tubes were open, my initial (very general) labs were okay, and the next thing to do was have my husband’s semen analysis sent in.

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

This was the part I had expected would be easy. My husband, on the other hand, was nervous he may have been contributing to our struggles conceiving. I was adamant it was my body causing the problem and he had no reason to worry. After all, I obviously had some form of an ovulatory disorder. I figured the likelihood of him also having an issue would be very slim.

The day after my husband’s test, I went to work and took a moment to check and see if his results had been sent to our email. I was a nanny for a woman who actually worked at the hospital I was going to, so when I saw that we had the results she sat down with me and explained them. ‘Everything looks fine, except that he seems to have low motility. That means not all of his sperm swim the way that they should.’

I was shocked to hear her say those words. I instantly felt guilt seep in as I recalled myself telling my husband he had nothing to worry about. I was so sure that it was just me, that his test was going to be fine. I was dreading telling him the news. I didn’t want him to feel guilty or have the burden of knowing his body may also be contributing towards us having a hard time getting pregnant.

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

When we both got home I sat him down and let him know the test results. ‘See?? I told you. It IS my fault,’ he said. It was so hard for me to hear him say those words, but I knew it was even harder for him to say them. I told him it wasn’t his fault, that we both have a disadvantage, but it didn’t mean we could never get pregnant.

I had been vlogging the entire process of our journey from day one, but I didn’t want to share any of it until we got pregnant. Well, after my husband’s semen analysis, we made the decision to stop testing. We both felt so exhausted from how fast our experience trying to have a baby took a turn for the worse. That coupled with a big decision to move out of state made us realize we wanted to keep trying naturally, despite the knowledge it would be difficult.

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

We do wonder if his test was a fluke, but until we seek medical help again, we will have no way of knowing. After our move to North Dakota in March of 2019, I decided I wanted to share my vlog and share our struggle getting pregnant with our families and friends. It had been over a year at that point, and the loneliness I had been feeling was overwhelming.

Often with infertility, people mean well, but tend to put their foot in their mouth with unwanted advice or by invalidating your feelings. Despite having medical issues that make conceiving more difficult, a lot of people like to focus on age and say, ‘you have time,’ ‘not to rush,’ or to ‘just relax.’ This is something I have since learned is a constant thorn in the side of pretty much anyone who has been open about their infertility. I have learned to nod and change the subject when it’s obvious someone who isn’t knowledgeable on the subject of infertility tries to give me input.

Sharing such a personal and vulnerable fact about yourself is not easy, but the support has been vastly greater than the hate. Sharing our story opened up the door to a community of women and men who get it. Not only do they understand, but many of them feel alone themselves and are so thankful when they see someone else sharing their story!

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

Our story felt like it was finally about to change when I had one of ‘those’ cycles. If you have been trying you probably know what I mean. One where everything feels ‘off’ and you truly feel like you might be pregnant. At this point, we had been trying for a year and a half, and at 9 days past ovulation I took two pregnancy tests. I didn’t pay enough attention when I grabbed the box and thought they were pink dye tests, but they ended up being blue. I took them anyways, and sure enough (within the time frame) two very faint lines popped up on each test

I sat on the toilet lid talking to my camera as I recorded the experience in case I was indeed pregnant. I uncovered my test and felt a flood of confusion wash over me. I saw the most faint second line, but I also knew faint lines made a lot of sense. Many women don’t even get positives until a missed period! It took a couple hours for the realization I could be pregnant to sink in. I sat on my couch, picked up my camera, and cried tears of joy. ‘Guys…I think I’m pregnant!’

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

I was so skeptical of the particular test brand I had taken. I kept going from being excited to feeling in denial. Finally, I had the courage to read the reviews for that brand online and my heart completely broke. So many women had written reviews stating they had false positive tests. I had to know for sure, so I went to the store and got some tests from a better brand. I took one that evening, one the following morning, and they were both negative.

Seeing that negative test again the following morning crushed me. I knew I had to tell Anthony what had happened, but I didn’t want to make him upset. I tried really hard to keep my composure. I managed to squeeze out a few words about having a positive test, but burst into tears as I told him they were wrong and I wasn’t pregnant. That night he held me on our couch as I cried my eyes out.

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

After some thought, I decided to share my video anyways. No, I wasn’t pregnant, but I hoped maybe someone could relate or at the very least I could warn against that brand. I didn’t expect to have so many women tell me they also had the same experience! It was so encouraging to have someone (let alone many people) understand what I was going through.

I have gotten hundreds of comments and messages over the last year from women sharing their stories with me, thanking me, and lifting me up as we continue this journey we have been on. The most heart warming messages I get are from random women who haven’t told anyone they have been struggling with infertility, but trust me enough to bare their soul to me. I feel so honored that someone would confide in me in that way!

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

Even though I would love to not struggle with infertility, it has certainly given me a sense of purpose and duty. This year I took some time to create art that represents some of the different walks through infertility. Every couple’s story will sound a little (or a lot) different from the next, and they all deserve to feel validated.

One in eight couples struggle with infertility. This means that we all very likely know at least one couple who has had trouble conceiving! The more people who are aware of this medical condition, the better.

Courtesy of Sarah Carter

As 2020 approaches, my husband and I are realizing conceiving naturally may not be in the cards for us. We plan to seek medical help again very soon! Having the opportunity to reflect on the last two years has made me feel even more grateful for the women who have supported me along the way. Without all of them I would feel a lot more broken and alone. Instead, I feel hopeful and comforted by the knowledge that I’m not!”

Courtesy of Sarah Carter
Courtesy of Sarah Carter

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Carter of Fargo, North Dakota. You can follow Sarah’s journey on Instagram and YouTube. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more powerful stories like this:

‘Ugh, you can have my kids. Just relax and it’ll happen.’ My journey ended with a hysterectomy.’: Woman diagnosed with Endometriosis after years of infertility, finally finds peace in a ‘beautiful, unexpectedly child-free life’

‘We will love you no matter what, even if you decide not to stick around.’ I was scared of losing her. I finally reached my breaking point.’: Gay mom suffers postpartum anxiety after struggling with infertility, ‘I desperately wanted to be understood’

‘Are you planning to have kids?’ At 28, my husband had a vasectomy in his first marriage. I felt robbed.’: Stepmom battling infertility laments ‘my husband ‘had it all’ with another woman’

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