Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted kids of my own.
My plan was to graduate high school, go to law school, get married and have 2 kids, all before 25. What can I say, I was ambitious. Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve learned that things never go according to plan and here I am, 30, a nurse, married (1 for 4 isn’t bad right?!) and pregnant with my first baby. Even though we are running a few years late on the baby front, starting a family has always been one of my top goals and Shawn’s spinal cord injury didn’t change that at all.
A little back story: Shawn and I weren’t actually dating at the time of his accident. We had dated on and off for years, through high school and afterwards and had remained really good friends the whole time, but in May of 2009 when he got hurt, we were both actually dating other people. At that time, he was told that he may not be able to have biological kids because of his injury, so by the time we got together again a couple years later, I knew that this was a very real situation we might face. Shawn has always wanted to have a family as well, so we talked about all of our options, including adoption, and we decided that we wanted to try to conceive naturally first, before seeking any medical help or interventions.
And so our journey began; we started trying to get pregnant in January of 2016.
Since anejaculation affects 90% of men with SCI, we knew that the good ol’ fashioned horizontal shuffle probably wasn’t going to get the job done for us. At the same time, we didn’t want all this baby making to be all sterile and medical and unsexy. So, we tried the natural way, had our fun and then we whipped out the vibrator while attempting to perform some well timed acrobatics to make sure everything ended up in the right place at the right time. Let’s just say this: I am not graceful, nor do I have enough hands. So after a couple “whoopsies”, and “that doesn’t go there”s we learned that this just wasn’t going to work.
We did some research, learned about at home insemination techniques and decided that maybe this would be a better option for us. Now, as you may recall from our last post, IVI involves collecting the semen in a cup and using a syringe to place it in the vagina. So we tried this for a few months and while the fundamental process seemed to be working,
we still weren’t getting pregnant.
I know a lot of people say that trying to have a baby becomes like a chore… with tracking ovulation and basal body temperature and time of day and making sure the stars all align and the moon is in the right place in it’s orbit and what not. But for a lot of people with an SCI, there’s even more prep work. It’s not just “hey honey, my basal body temperature is just right, let’s do this,” in a spontaneous (at least to him), let’s have a quickie kind of way. It’s more: “hey honey, can you transfer out of your chair? Where’s the vibrator? Do we have a cup? Where’s the pillow for under my butt? Can you cath? Are you sure you’re in the right position?” and 30 minutes later neither of you is turned on or into it at all kinda thing.
Everyone’s solution to this? Just stop trying.
You’re too focused and as soon as you stop trying, it’ll happen.
I think this was the most frustrating for me. I know that people mean well and that they don’t really understand how getting pregnant is different for us than it is for them, but the reality is that if we stop trying, it won’t happen at all. Period.
And an impromptu SCI sex-ed lesson wasn’t really something I wanted to get in to with each person who told me “it’ll happen as soon as you stop trying”, so I would nod and smile and say “oh, I’m sure that it’ll happen soon” and then go home feeling defeated.
I’m sure anyone who has every struggled with infertility can tell you that it is heart breaking. You try so hard each month not to get your hopes up, but it’s inevitable; you get so excited, just to be let down when the pregnancy test comes back negative or you start your menstrual cycle. And then you start to notice that everywhere you go, there are babies. A pregnant woman here, a new dad pushing a baby stroller, a new birth announcement on Facebook; and each time you’re happy for the person, but in tears because why can’t it just happen for you too? You get so frustrated and so emotionally exhausted, but this burning desire to get pregnant, to have a baby, to start a family is all consuming.
You can’t just give up and stop trying because it’s all you think about, every minute of every day.
This went on for a year until finally, in December, we decided that maybe it was time to look into other options. I guess that was how we ‘stopped trying’. We contacted a fertility clinic that specialized in spinal cord injuries and started the application process and Drs visits. During our first phone interview (the clinic was about 4 hours from home) they told us that we had been doing everything right, so while waiting for all the paperwork to go through they said just keep going like we had been and we would do further testing when our appointment date came. That was December 12th. I think we tried once more after that… we had an extra cup and syringe so figured we might as well use it.
We found out we were pregnant on January 17th, 2017; almost a full year after we started trying.
There were five pee tests (yes five; we were in disbelief), a lot of tears, some hysterical laughing, a lot of hugging, and 6 weeks later there was an ultrasound to confirm that yes, we were definitely having a baby.
I guess, in a way, the whole ‘it’ll happen as soon as you stop trying’ thing was kind of true. Either that, or all we had to do was just talk to a fertility specialist to get pregnant! We are lucky and I am so thankful and so grateful every day, not only that we were able to conceive semi-naturally, but that there is help and other avenues out there for those who aren’t.
We are now almost 7 months in and we are loving every minute of it… except the 2am and 330am and 6am wake up calls from my bladder with me trying to ungracefully roll myself out of bed. Between a paraplegic and a pregnant woman, the effort to get out of bed is hilarious! But, we will save that for another post!
For now, let me just leave this here: your journey to conceive, whether it was a quick one or has been long and full of hurdles, is unique and it is special. It shapes you and it changes you and it makes you who you are. Stay strong, keep fighting and when that little one finally comes, embrace your miracle, love them and one day tell them the story of just how badly you wanted them.