Infertility: The Unbearable “Unexplained”

Taking Up the Gauntlet at 35+

During one of my manic midnight data mining expeditions on the subject of conception, on more than a few occasions my eyes spied the gentle suggestion that women over 35 should see a doctor after 6 months of unsuccessful “trying.” Despite being written in all lower caps, that ominous warning mournfully wailed at me day and night. Did I really have 6 months to wait? Being 38 and the “face the dragon” kind of woman I am, there was no way I was letting any moss grow.

Within days I was sporting a lovely backless gown in my doctor’s office. A calm, hemp sandal wearing, hippie, Earth Mother type, who defiantly balked at the typical PPO 10 minute office visit, Dr. G smiled patiently at me as I backed my dump truck full of freak out into her office. (Beep, beep, beep…) In a tone that clearly came straight out of a “handling scary patients manual,” she told me that she conceived her son at the ripe age of 42 and suspected that for me it was just a matter of time.

As the months dragged on, between the punishing stress of my job and my struggle to conceive, I knew that taking a more aggressive approach to this baby business was the only thing that was going to give me at least the semblance of control.

The Unexpected “Unexplained”

I soon found myself subject to a battery of painful tests that left me wondering if I really wanted a baby after all. From the saline sonogram, conducted by a timid resident, who narrowly escaped getting a stomp to the throat with a size 6 1/2 foot, belonging to a woman who at that moment fervently believed in “an eye for an eye,” to the excruciating hysterosalpingogram that left me praying for the salvation of Star Trek medical technology, I started to have my doubts. My salt water soaked and dye infused reproductive tract waved the white flag. In the end, we expected a definitive answer about why we weren’t conceiving, so we could fix it and get on with having our baby…rrrright.

Test after test showed there was nothing “wrong” with either one of us. Aside from a diagnosis of easily treatable hypothyroidism on my part, all of our equipment was present, healthy, and in apparent working order. We were officially diagnosed as having “unexplained infertility.” Shrilly I asked, “what exactly do you mean unexplained?” I endured tests that made me feel like the victim of an alien abduction and “unexplained” is all we get? Indeed, egg quality due to my age was certainly a factor, but our charmingly accented European doctor seemed untroubled by that aspect of our situation. Come on, give us a lazy ovary, low sperm count, or bad karma…something!

Unexplained. Unknown. Uncertain. Untreatable? If they didn’t know what was wrong with us, how could they fix us? We had put so much faith in modern medical science that it seemed like a cop out to be cast into the realm of the unexplained, like UFOs and things that go bump in the night. We needed something solid, something rational to put our minds at ease, but that never came.

Getting Past “Why”

Infertility tests a couple on so many levels, some obvious and some so insidiously subtle. The spiraling and often self destructive search for “why,” can be unbearable. In retrospect it seems a bit self righteous and perhaps perilously foolish to think we would ever get a definitive answer. No matter where you fall in the spectrum of faith, almighty medical science can’t explain everything and has yet to harness the x-factor that guarantees that an egg and sperm will combine to create an embryo that will unfailingly implant, grow without abnormalities, and result in a healthy live birth.

One thing is clear, on the fertility journey, survival depends on getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and learning to bear the unexplained. An essential skill in making that happen, particularly when dealing with “unexplained infertility,” is getting past the agony of the nagging “why.”

Talk to Me!

I know how I turned things around and found a way to thrive past “why.” I’d love to know how you, or others you know are dealing with the hideous WHY.