Under no circumstances do I want to be pregnant. I do not want to have an oopsie baby after I adopt. I do not want to have a surprise pregnancy at age 43. I do not want to do another letrozole cycle.
This does not mean I don't wish things were different with my body. That I don't wish I had another body without a pain syndrome and uterine issues. I still long to grow a round belly, feel kicks and punches from a little one inside me. The desire, the longing, is still there. But it's like wishing you hadn't broken your arm; it's broken and you have to deal with it. Maybe you have to stop playing tennis forever. Maybe the break is so bad it will affect you the rest of your life. You can spend your time wishing you weren't limited physically or you can adjust your expectations.
My decision to forever stop TTC didn't happen overnight. A few weeks after my surgery in March, even though I was still in extreme pain, I was scheduling a 3D sonogram appointment to prepare for my next letrozole cycle. I was optimistic. I didn't know this kind of pain syndrome even existed. Who has heard about pelvic floor muscles unless you've given birth or are 80 years old? I hadn't been aware of mine.
Needless to say, I had to cancel the 3D sono appointment, which was just one of the many things that has given me pause since March. If I couldn't schedule it at that point, then when? The next month? Three months from now? (Correct answer is none of the above.)
My thinking shifted gradually. I'd felt unsure about trying for pregnancy #3, anyway. Pregnancy #2 ended around 7 weeks last fall. The chromosomal testing came back normal, and my doctor thought the miscarriage was related to a structural problem with my uterus. Supposedly the structural issue was fixed by my last (catastrophic) surgery, but who really knows? Why tempt fate? Why put myself in the position to lose another baby when my heart has been shattered twice already?
As the months ticked by after the surgery, I stopped planning for my next RE appointment. I had a brand new, all-consuming shitstorm with that wasn't TTC-related: chronic pain. But in spite of that, I started living again. I ate what I wanted: suddenly, soy is ok again! Dairy is not evil! No need to go gluten/nut/coffee/sugar-free for fostering the ideal environment for baby to stick around! I didn't know what cycle day I was on. I didn't cry in the bathroom when my period arrived and then fill my grief with baked goods. Not TTCing has been one of the most freeing things in the world.
Before The Surgery to End All Surgeries, I'd had difficulty conceiving and two miscarriages, and I hated TTCing. The IF blogosphere is filled with people like me who keep trying, understandably, for their take-home baby. Chronic pain is what did me in.
I'm kind of an old pro with intermittent pelvic pain. I've had horribly painful periods since I was a teenager, which turned out to be endometriosis that was probably contributing to my infertility (huge surprise—not). But the painful periods were only for a few days a month.
The pain I have now is all the time.
I've never experienced any kind of chronic, day-to-day pain other than run-of-the mill tendinitis or other exercise-related aches. This is completely new. If I hadn't gone through infertility and loss, I'd say this is the hardest thing I've ever gone through. So it's a close third. The pain tries to shatter me. Not one aspect of my life is untouched: my relationships, my job, my sleep. My sanity.
I've used about 130 hours of sick leave for the pain since March. I missed my nephew's first birthday party and my niece's summer ballet recital. My demeanor has been irritable and prickly for the most part, even if at first I appear pleasant. A smile or pleasant conversation does not mean I'm not in pain or will not suddenly lash out at something. Or just lose track of what you're saying as I plot my next attempt at pain relief. My pain level is usually pretty high but I'm trying, trying ever so hard to pretend it doesn't exist. The irritability is usually unleashed on my husband, and when I immediately apologize and explain that my pain level is really high, he is understanding. But he doesn't deserve this.
I go to PT weekly and usually have one other doctor's appointment during the week; it's a big time-suck. At these appointments, I've asked about my prognosis, of course. My healthcare providers don't like this question because they don't know the answer. They hem and haw a bit, and say we'll have to wait and see, "ask me again in a few weeks." The two physicians I've asked are both pelvic pain specialists, and both have predicted that I would "probably" be fine with a pregnancy. That pregnancy hormones tend to have a calming influence on my syndrome.
Fine. But what about the ENTIRE REST OF MY LIFE AFTER THE PREGNANCY? Will the changes wrought by pregnancy and childbirth wreak havoc on my already fucked-up body?
The physicians haven't given me a real answer for that. My PT has given it to me straight, though. She says she's seen it both ways: some people with my issues have a pregnancy that goes ok and they feel fine afterwards, and some do not. I didn't ask her to elaborate much because I don't even want to hear about patients who have it worse afterwards; I cannot imagine their pain.
I'm not a risk-taker. Not that anyone knows statistics for outcomes of women with uterine abnormalities who have undergone surgeries and go on to develop chronic pelvic pain and then go on to have pregnancies, but I've thought a little about what kind of odds I would bet on: at what odds of worsened pain in the future would I consider getting pregnant again? What if 50% of women like me felt ok during the pregnancy and then, postpartum and beyond, felt even better than before the pregnancy? 50/50 odds. No way in hell I'd do it. What if 90% felt great afterward? Nope, still wouldn't do it.
I cannot conceive (pun intended) of a future filled with this kind of pain. It's been going on for 7 months already and I don't know how I've done it. People comment on how strong I am to have dealt with this for so long, but I don't feel strong. I just feel like myself....in severe pain. It's day-to-day living now. I try not to plan too far in advance.
If I can't find a way to decrease my pain level before I have a child, I cannot be the kind of mom I want to be. I physically could not handle the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn; less sleep = more pain. I would be glued to the couch, not on the floor playing with my baby or walking around to soothe her at night. I couldn't take her for walks in the stroller or teach her to ride a bike. I would have trouble attending her soccer games; sitting up for a couple of hours hurts too much. Worst of all, I could not be the emotionally supportive, stable, fun type of mom I want to be. It would not be possible.
The decision not to TTC is easier knowing that adoption is a possibility. But even if adoption wasn't on the table and our remaining option was childfree living, I would have to choose childfree living over TTC. Why in the world would I choose *possibly* having severe pain the rest of my life? My (hopefully) future children would be worse off for it, my family and husband would struggle with me, and I would constantly fight the pain demon.
When I started this post, I'd intended to write even more, tell you about how in my previous incarnation, I ran a half marathon at an 8:10 min/mile pace. Now I can hardly walk a mile once a week. I'd wanted to tell you that I do still grieve for the loss of my husband's and my biological child, the little blonde boy who looks like his dad. Also, I could write for days about how you don't know until you've been there what kind of decisions you'd make when you've had pain that reaches an 8 every day, sometimes staying there for hours at a time. And it goes on for months and months, possibly years. But I've written enough for now.
For all of these reasons, I will never pursue pregnancy again. I love myself too much and won't knowingly put myself in harm's way. I want more out of life than appointments, pills, and this seemingly endless gnawing, burning pain that is trying to eat me alive.