The Burnout and Breakthrough
Excited and a bit groggy, I woke up on the morning of my 12th day past ovulation (which I had determined by meticulous tracking with ovulation predictor tests and a daily reading of my basal body temperature) and hurried to the bathroom to collect my first morning urine in a tiny, plastic cup so I could dip a pregnancy test into it and get my long-awaited positive result. I knew it was going to be positive; it had to be. I’d had a deep and knowing feeling in my gut that I was pregnant this cycle. Finally! After 2 miscarriages and 8 seemingly endless, fruitless menstrual cycles wrought with anxiety, fear, anticipation, joy and obsessive-compulsive-ish behavioral tendencies, it was our time. This was the one.
After I dipped the thin pregnancy test strip for the required 3 seconds, I put it down on the edge of the bathroom sink and looked at my Fitbit watch to check the time: 5:35 am. According to the test strip’s instructions, the results could be determined within 3-5 minutes with 99% accuracy up to 4 days before my period was predicted to start. Seemed legit. My period was set to start the next day so I could count on these results to be correct, right? As an aside, the pregnancy test strip I used was 1 of a package of 25 strips I bought online for about $10 (known in the trying to conceive [TTC] community as an ‘internet cheapie [IC]). As another aside, this was probably the 10th or 15th pregnancy test I’d taken so far this cycle… all previous tests had yielded negative results thus far but, obviously, it had been too early to get accurate results before, right?
And, um, I mentioned that I had obsessive-compulsive-ish TTC behavioral tendencies, didn’t I?
5:36 am. As I sat on the toilet anxiously watching the pink dye move dreadfully slow across the test’s results ‘window’, eager to see two lines appear, I squeezed and pressed on the outsides of my breasts to be sure they were still sore. They were! Thank You, Lord! Although breast tenderness had only recently (within the last 2 years) become a cyclical, tell-tale sign of ovulation and my impending period, it was also the symptom I noticed first in every one of my previous pregnancies, including our 2 recent miscarriages. If the boobs stayed sore, it was a good sign.
The control line on the pregnancy test strip was beginning to develop. Ok, great! The test is working.
5:37 am. I gingerly picked up the test strip up and placed it on my bare thigh for closer inspection. Over the last 6 months, I’d watched countless YouTube videos of women taking “live pregnancy tests” and, in most of the videos, there was a similar process of covering the test, setting a timer and not looking at the test until the timer was up. Um, yea, no. I learned very early on in my TTC journey that I lacked the patience for such rational and logical tactics. It’s a lot less nerve-wrecking for me to just watch the answer reveal itself in real time.
Looking down at the test, I noticed the control line getting darker, but the anticipated test line was blank. I was confused. I looked at my watch again. Oh, ok. It’s only been 2 minutes. I breathed a sigh of relief; there’s still time!
5:38 am. Nothing, yet?! I placed the strip back onto the bathroom sink, cleaned myself up, got up off the toilet and picked the test up again. My bathroom has a strip of 5 lights above the mirror behind the sink – an excellent lighting source for carefully examining pregnancy test strips. I put the test in my palm and leaned forward so that it was directly under the lights. I could see only one full, thick, magenta-ish colored line – the control line. There was still pink dye moving through the strip but none of it had filled the test line. In fact, the dye had completely skipped over the test line and there was a vertical white space, identical (in shape and size) to the control line, where, clearly (in my mind), there should’ve been another magenta-ish colored line. I mumbled to myself, “this can’t be right. This test must be defective?” I moved the test closer to my eyes, then I held it out at arm’s length. I tilted it up, I tilted it down. Nothing. But, how? Ugh.
5:39 am. Ok, breathe. It’s only been 4 minutes, right? The instructions say not to read the test after 10 minutes and didn’t I read on an online TTC forum that this test brand sometimes takes up to 10 minutes to pick up the hCG (pregnancy hormone)? Yea, yea, I think I did read that.
I put the test down on the sink, took a step back, closed my eyes and prayed that when I opened them, the test line would appear because, come on! I had to be pregnant this cycle.
5:41 am. Still nothing. I decided to grab my phone and snap a photo of the pregnancy test. I zoomed in to see if, somehow, I was missing something. Was there even a shadow of a line? Any slight hope that there was a baby nestling into my womb, beginning its journey to life with our family? Any chance at all that my instincts were right? I just knew I was pregnant this cycle.
Granted, my logical mind knew that my symptoms all pointed to my period coming. But… but, I’d read on Google that it is difficult to distinguish between pregnancy and pre-menstrual symptoms; that missing a period is typically the best early indication of pregnancy. I had yet to miss my period but, still, I had a feeling I was pregnant this cycle. How could that feeling have been wrong?
A feeling of panic began to set in. Anxiety, sadness, and a wave of total denial passed over me as I stared in vain at the almost-fully-developed pregnancy test, willing, wishing, begging for that second line to magically appear. Panic. Would I have to do this all over again? Really, God? Another cycle of obsessing? Another cycle of timed intercourse? Ovulation testing? Temping? Tracking? UGH. Another cycle of being irrationally consumed, embarrassingly distracted and ridiculously hyper-aware of every. single. sensation. in my body? Really, God?
5:45 am. Stark white negative test result. It had been 10 minutes. My heart and my hope sank.
Even though my cycle still hadn’t come, I knew I wasn’t pregnant like I’d hoped and prayed and truly believed I was. I knew we didn’t actually “catch the egg” this time. What I also knew in the moment I reached the 10-minute mark of obsessing over the negative results of this pregnancy test strip was that I couldn’t put myself through this process again. Nope. There was no way I was going to do this again.
I was mentally and emotionally burned out from the way I’d gone about handling this months-long TTC process. Feeling defeated, I tossed the test into the bathroom trash bin and meandered my way back into my warm, cozy bed. I would need to get up within the next hour to take my daughter to school and head to work but, at that moment, all I wanted was my covers and my Lord.
I lay with my head buried under my covers and no tears would come. Nothing. I wanted to cry it out, to let out my disappointment and frustration at failing yet another cycle of conception. I wanted to cry because there I was, 44 years old with 4 robust, healthy children, each conceived within a month of trying, and 6 months had gone by with nothing more than 2 lost babies and a lot of time and effort put into the process of adding another child to our family. But I couldn’t cry. Although I knew in my heart that I had reached the end of a road, I also knew that the journey wasn’t over.
So, I prayed. I thanked the Lord for allowing my body to still have a normal period. I thanked Him for the natural ability to ovulate and to conceive at 44 years old. I thanked Him for keeping my womb open and giving me the fortitude to try again, but differently. I asked Him to remove the desire to have another child from my heart if it is not in His will for my life. And then, something remarkable and unexpected happened. I said, out loud, “Lord, I surrender.”
Up until that point, I had not surrendered this process to God. I had prayed every day for His grace. I had prayed for an open womb, for a healthy body, for direction, for wisdom, for strength and for courage. I had prayed for His will to be fulfilled in my life, but I hadn’t relinquished control. I had questioned whether He wanted a baby for us at this point. I had asked Him to reveal His purpose for me but I hadn’t given up trying to control the earth-side process (i.e., endless symptom tracking, analyzing, ‘researching’, obsessing). I had said, over and over, “God, it is in your hands. It is Your will and Your timing.” But I still believed it would happen if I just made sure the process was perfectly orchestrated. If we timed our intercourse around ovulation. If I ate the right foods, took the right supplements, avoided caffeine, worked out with less intensity, relaxed, meditated, prayed more. If I did these things, then God would do His part. I did all of this but, at no point did I say, “Jesus, take the wheel.”
In those still, quiet moments laying in bed immediately after accepting the negative pregnancy test results in our 8th cycle of TTC, I surrendered the process to God. I completely gave up the need to control anything on my end. I felt peace and liberation. I felt free. I had burned out to the point of breakthrough and maybe that’s what He needed from me. Maybe He needed me to get so exhausted that I had no choice but to let go… and let God. Maybe this is part of my ultimate testimony in the power of faith and trust in Him.
Only time will tell. His time. In the meantime, we are in our 9th cycle of TTC. I have deleted the online TTC forum apps and I haven’t watched a YouTube TTC video or felt the urge to obsess over symptoms or my BBT chart. I haven’t told the hubs what our window of opportunity is this cycle (although he knows because, thankfully, my cycle is mostly predictable). I am still tracking my temperature but I’m not sure if I will continue or if I will bother with tracking ovulation. Truth be told, I know my body and I got pregnant with 4 children without any of the tools I’m currently using. So, I know I don’t need them. And I know that, ultimately, my idea of being in control of the TTC process is a deceptive (yet comforting) illusion.
Jesus, please take the wheel.