Dealing with Unexplained Infertility: Our Pregnancy Journey

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Mike and I have been trying to have a baby for four years. 

That’s four long years of so many tears and doctors appointments I couldn’t count them for you. That includes appointments with one family doctor, two gynaecologists, and several fertility specialists at the private clinic. That includes various hormone injections, getting a dye run through my tubes to check if there are any blockages, endless, endless blood tests. That also includes fertility acupuncture appointments—an acupuncture specialization we were eager to try because why not? On that same “why not?” vein, we also met with iridologists and herbal doctors – the more non-traditional specialists who looked at the markings of my eye and had me hold certain medicine bottles to my belly to get a “feeling” for to the right treatment plan. Really. 

That’s 48+ months of a whole lot of waiting, a whole lot of process, a ton of ovulation strip testing, charting my internal temperature, massage appointments (because maybe that could ease the stress and help?), overthinking, and a bunch of sex strategies that ranged from trying it every day to every other day to certain days to different positions to—and I’m not kidding you—even attempting a “turkey baster” home pregnancy a couple of times. I’m being real open about this. 

We’ve tried a lot to get pregnant. And none of it worked, as you can gather.

We are deemed “unexplained.”

Can you believe that’s actually a proper medical term for a condition we don’t have but is affecting our ability to have a baby? It’s the doctor’s “I don’t know, in all scenarios you should be able to have a baby, but it’s just not happening for you, and actually this is common enough that it is what it is.” Shrug. Sorry.

Unexplained infertility is super common. And super frustrating.

Mike Brown Linda Hoang Unexplained Infertility Pregnancy Edmonton

Despite years of unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy, we still try to be hopeful. Photo by: Dianna Man Photography.

We try to be hopeful. We remind ourselves to be happy for other aspects of our lives. But for us, as terrible as it sounds, throughout this whole process we almost wanted something to be wrong so that there could at least be something we could target our frustrations towards. Something we could try and fix.

Maybe I didn’t ovulate. No, I do. Maybe Mike had low and slow sperm. Nope, also not the case (and so much not the case that one of our doctors actually printed him two sperm reports and told him he could keep one for himself and share around the other with friends because his sperm stats were so stellar, haha). 

Maybe there was some blockage happening down there, no. Or perhaps we were unhealthy and some internal levels were off. Well not that anyone has told us so far. 

It’s been a challenging four years. 

We no longer have a family doctor, because throughout this process, ours told us we were being too impatient and the problem with “millennials” is that we want instant gratification but don’t want to put in the effort. I left the clinic in angry tears and never came back. (That’s probably a topic for another blog post).  

In four years, over a dozen of our family and friends—some close friends, some family friends, some co-workers, some immediate family, and even just acquaintances—have given birth to their own beautiful babies. 

We are truly happy for them, we are. We don’t want our friends and family to feel guilt that they were able to conceive and we aren’t. We feel happy for them, but that doesn’t mean we don’t also feel terribly jealous, and sad for ourselves. And it doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that feel awkward, like there’s a huge elephant in the room. 

It’s hard.

Every time there is an announcement, every time there is a new, baby-themed social media post. We are happy for the new parents in our lives, but there’s also a terrible sadness we can’t help but feel too and that’s not something we think we need to hide anymore. It’s something we’re ready to be open about and I think that’s something that’s very much okay to feel too, when you’re in a situation like ours. 

So how does going through unexplained infertility feel?

Well, every single month, as the date of my period got closer and closer, we would get so excited at the idea of missing it—to finally be pregnant. Each month I was counting out to which month I’d give birth. Oh, that work project will be finished up by then, that’s good. Oh, we’ll still be able to go on that trip, or, no actually if we are pregnant this month then we might have to push that vacation back.

Each cycle was (is) a rollercoaster of emotions.

You get so hopeful and so happy. You try to reason with yourself though—don’t be excited, it didn’t happen before, you’re just going to be disappointed. Don’t get your hopes up, stop it.

Trying “not to think about it” though, is impossible.

Of course you start imagining all the different scenarios in case you are pregnant. But you never are. At least, we never are.

Checking if you’re bleeding or not each month becomes quite an experience. You start out being super excited if your period is a day or two late, but after a few months of disappointment, you try not to jump to conclusions anymore (but you still do).

Each trip to the bathroom requires a moment.

You brace yourself before you look. Nothing yet, so you’re excited. This could be it. Next trip, there’s blood so you’re totally crushed. One time I forgot I had put in a tampon so when hours passed and I saw no blood, I got so excited thinking, this is it!!! before realizing a tampon was in fact handling that month’s period. Cool. 

Something else I learned throughout this process is that literally almost any symptom you may have could mean you’re pregnant. Basically, any type of symptom for your period is also a symptom for pregnancy. Google is not particularly your friend if you’re dealing with infertility. 

Many Christmases have come and gone. And here’s another one right around the corner. The holidays are very hard because we wanted nothing more in past years than to give our parents some type of Christmas gift that would announce our pregnancy. They remain without “best grandma and best grandpa” mugs. 

I had an idea for our “baby announcement” social media photo about a month into trying (over four years ago). That idea continues to be shelved. 

We stayed at jobs, chose to change jobs, booked and shifted vacation plans with this baby in mind. This baby that would not come. 

Desperately wanting a baby but not being able to have one, is truly hard on your heart. 

You start to question everything. Are we bad people? Is this karma? Literally, is a higher power laughing at us right now? Why us? What did we do to deserve this? Then, why them and not us? Which is also terrible. 

It’s pretty pitiful stuff. 

When people say, “I know a couple who are having trouble having kids,” that’s us. We are part of the infertility statistic. 

Our family and some of our close friends know we’ve been trying for such a very long time now. They’ve been as wonderful and as understanding as they can be but when it gets to this many years, it’s really easy for the topic to get awkward.  

At first, it was very exciting to tell people close to us that we were trying. Ooo, this month might be the month! We’re feeling really good about this month. We’d be asked for and started to share updates wth each lunch visit and dinner date. Each update became increasingly sad. Sometimes they were hopeful updates though. “We’re trying this new thing…” It was okay for those who knew… though, even then, you just start to feel like you’re bumming everyone out when you talk about it, so you don’t. Then suddenly it becomes this topic that no one wants to bring up anymore even though it’s literally the biggest ‘thing’ you’re trying to make happen in your life. 

Talking about your life updates with someone who didn’t know you were trying was especially challenging.

“So, what’s new?” becomes one of the hardest questions you can get when you’ve been trying to have a baby, from someone who you’re not sure if you should unload all your personal, infertility issues on. “Oh, just living life, you know, so busy” is the vague response they might get instead.

As we got older and achieved other life milestones, the question “are you guys planning on having kids next?” became increasingly common. “Oh yeah. Only been trying forever…” (they’re not expecting that answer).

Then there are the words of encouragement we get. These words will change depending on how long someone has known we’ve been trying. In the first year, we got a lot of “oh, but you guys have lots of time, you’re so young” and “I bet as soon as you stop trying, or stop thinking about it, it’ll just happen!” People don’t really say that to us anymore, now that it’s been years. Also, things like that are so easy to say but really not easy to do (how could we stop trying? how could we stop thinking about it?) We don’t blame them for saying these phrases. They’re just phrases that you think you should say. Or perhaps is just ingrained in us to say, when we hear someone is having trouble. (What people should or shouldn’t say about people and pregnancy is also a topic for another blog…)

The young thing is a hard one. You’re young. You’ve got lots of time. You’ve got nothing to worry about. From a scientific perspective—your eggs are still good! We are young. I was 25 and Mike was just 23 when we first started trying. Now 30 is right around the corner for me. Which is still young in the grand scheme of things, sure. But if age was a factor, we should’ve been able to pop out babies no problem when we first started trying years ago.

The thing about “oh but you’re so young, you’ve got lots of time” as a rationale to try and make you feel better about not having a baby, is that it didn’t and doesn’t matter how old we were or are.

Mike Brown Linda Hoang Unexplained Infertility Pregnancy Edmonton

We thought we’d be married for a year before we started trying, then we’d have a baby. Just like that! But that scenario doesn’t happen for everyone. Photo Credit: Dianna Man Photography.

We were ready to have a baby when we decided together, that we would start trying to have a baby. We thought, oh let’s be married for a year before we start to try. We thought when we started, it would happen. That was four years ago, and every day that it doesn’t happen, feels like another day where we aren’t living the life we want and were so ready to start.

It’s like our life has been on hold, or we’ve been living just part of our lives, since we started trying to have a baby. 

I had been wanting to write down my thoughts, and share our story for some time. This post has been sitting in my drafts for years. Every so often I’ll hop in and update the number of years it’s been that we’ve been trying. 

I think a lot about how social media can paint a picture of someone that almost seems too good to be true. I’ve said in social media and branding sessions I’ve delivered before, that no one’s life is as perfect as it may be depicted online. You don’t know the struggles people are dealing with behind their cute Instagram grid. Social media is often highly curated. Mine certainly is too. 

Mike Brown Linda Hoang Unexplained Infertiility Pregnancy Edmonton

We are so grateful for our fur family, opportunities and loved ones, but there’s something huge missing in our lives. Photo Credit: Dianna Man Photography.

I know the persona I share online is a happy, positive one. That’s not a lie. But it certainly isn’t the full truth. Absolutely, Mike and I are truly fortunate in a number of ways. We have four wonderful fur children who bring us unimaginable joy each day. We have loving family and friends, work good and steady jobs, and are on great career tracks. We are always keeping busy with projects, and travel, and hobbies. We have a lot of opportunities others don’t, we know that. We are grateful for all of that. I laugh a lot. I love to laugh. I love to smile. I like being positive. Our lives, really for the most part, are really good. Great, even.

But it’s certainly not perfect. And it’s certainly not all that you see or read here on my blog or through social media. Not a day goes by where we don’t feel a pang of disappointment, or sadness or frustration about our infertility issues. That’s just not something we’ve shared publicly because well hey it’s a real bummer. 

Increasingly though, there’s media coverage about just how many people are having trouble conceiving. My doctor friend doesn’t necessarily think more people are having problems, she thinks more people are just open to talking about it now. Which makes sense. (But also maybe it’s something in the water or our food? lol)

When our first attempt at IUI treatment at the private Edmonton fertility clinic failed last December 2017, three years and one month into trying to conceive, I think I finally reached a breaking point. There were a lot of tears. 

I’ve cried a lot in the last four years. I’m tired. 

I wrote this partly for my own therapy. I wrote it partly maybe for others who might be feeling exactly the same as I do. I wrote it to help explain why I’m taking a leave from work, to see if some downtime will help us get pregnant. I even wrote it partly to demonstrate that social media lives are not perfect and this is what’s really been going on for me, despite the good I share online. 

But I think by writing and sharing this post, our journey, I’m also saying very plainly, and openly, this is what’s new with my life. I’m struggling with infertility. I want to be a mom. But it’s not happening for me. I don’t want to give you a vague response to your ‘what have you been up to’ question, and if you’re going to ask me about whether I want to have kids, I’m going to tell you. 

This is what Mike and I are going through. This is what so many people all over the world are going through. Not being able to conceive is a huge part of my life. It literally is on my mind daily. And if I want to talk about it, I will. Well, I’ll try. My voice tends to waver when I start talking about our pregnancy journey.

Everyone’s story is different. Maybe some of you can totally relate to me. Maybe some can relate to just a few things. And maybe some can’t relate at all. Certainly, we know people who got pregnant after having sex the one time. We also know people who can do what we thought pregnancy would be like—getting pregnant exactly when you want to and giving birth just as you expect to. It just feels so easy for some people, and so hard for others. Mike and I can’t even fathom how people accidentally get pregnant. How does it happen so easily for some but not others? But for those who can get pregnant easily, that’s honestly really great too. Really. Everyone is different. We look at those people and think about how fortunate they are, and hope they know how fortunate they are. 

Through this post, I just wanted to, or maybe needed to, write down a little bit of our story.

This January, I’m taking an unpaid leave of absence from work to see if eliminating day to day pressures of juggling a full time job with blog commitments with everything else helps.

We’ve heard some friends and friends of friends find success that way—after quitting or going part time in their work. I’m grateful my work is giving us this time. So, fingers crossed. I’m grateful for to work for letting me try this. 

While I’m on the leave, we’ll try one more round of IUI. (We have failed twice now). We also haven’t decided if we want to try IVF yet. It’s a lot of money for just a chance. And the stories we’ve heard… often the first round never takes. We look at our failed IUI and “bad luck” and think IVF likely wouldn’t work our first go either, so then how many will? We’ve read of couples who have had to try it 3-4 times, or over a 5 to even 10 year process (because most people don’t just have IVF money lying around, they need to save up, and also prepare again mentally) and can’t bring ourselves to put that much into chances and heartbreak. Again, everyone is different. 

I’ve recently started to research “fertility tourism”—something that appears to be getting more popular, where couples will fly to different countries to get their IVF procedures done because it’s cheaper in other countries than it is in North America. Spain would be nice. 

We’ve talked quite seriously about adoption. That’s likely a next step if the next IUI doesn’t work out, but we do want to give birth ourselves too. How do you decide which to do? Both are comparable in cost, at this stage. Except at least adoption guarantees you a baby (eventually), where IVF holds no guarantees. 

We’ve heard couples have gotten pregnant after taking the steps to start adopting. When they stopped stressing about giving birth naturally, it happened for them. To give a family to a child who needs it, regardless of whether the baby came from inside me though, would be wonderful. 

Oh. Mike and I already have our future kids names picked out too. They are really beautiful names, we think. We have four in mind and I’ll be thrilled to share them with you some day. I’m sure we will share it one day. I can’t really imagine when that day will be right now, but I’m still hopeful. 

It’s been really hard. At any given time, Mike and I waffle between who is the more hopeful one. (Right now, it’s me). We’ve both felt pretty low. We’ve both cried our eyes out thinking about the baby we can’t have.

We both think the other would make an incredible parent and it kills us that we haven’t been able to make that happen. 

Mike Brown Linda Unexplained Infertility Edmonton Pregnancy

I think Mike would make an amazing dad and I want that to happen for him so badly. Photo Credit: Dianna Man Photography.

I hope I have better news for you (for me, for Mike) the next time I write about this. Or, maybe now that it’s out there in social media world, I’ll just be talking about the process, the journey, more openly online anyway, and you can really know what’s new with me. 

If you know how I feel, if you’re going through it too, if you want to tell me about your infertility issues because talking it out might help you cope, please feel free to reach out to me. If you have a crazy thing we haven’t tried yet, also please let us know lol.

If you totally can’t relate, and are reading this while your own kids are doing something in the background, please give them lots of extra hugs and kisses because you are so, so, so fortunate. And we hope you never, ever forget that. 

If you don’t want to have kids at all, honestly that’s okay too. Like I’ve written, everyone is so different. Everyone’s life and path is different. And I truly hope whatever it is in your life you want, you get—whether that’s kids or something else. 

Finally, if you’re just thinking of us, thank you. 

Thanks for reading this, my most personal blog post ever.

I really hope I can look back on this blog some day, this whole journey, and smile knowing that in the end it it all worked out the way it was supposed to.

All photos taken by Dianna Man Photography.

Linda

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17 Comments

  • Avatar Jen says:

    Sending you both the biggest hugs ever. We know the pain, hurt, excitement, disappointment and every other emotion that you are going through as we’ve also gone through it. I’m not going to give advice as everyone’s journey is different but I’m open to taking about it if you want. I’m glad your considering adoption. As an adoptee all I can say is thank you for considering opening your heart to a little one. You guys rock and love that you’ve opened your heart up here for us all. Thank you! Hugs!

  • Avatar Paula D says:

    Wow. So much I want to say. I’m in tears. So very brave of you to share your story so openly. I really hope that this happens for you in the near future. And some day, maybe I will tell you my story. Love and blessings. xoxo

  • Avatar Darlene Young says:

    I adore you Linda. From the first moment I met you at Global, to following you online and through friends. I have no words other than to say I hope you and Mike fulfill your dreams. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

  • Avatar KS says:

    I’m so sorry. I had no idea. My wish for you is peace and thank you for sharing. You are not alone. I am also thinking of you. ps. your pictures are so lovely.

  • Avatar Julia W says:

    I read your post and it made me tear up. I’m so sorry you are going through this. I’m one of those disgustingly easy conceivers and I’ve never really thought about how it would feel to struggle with it. I’ll tell you this for what it’s worth, likely nothing, but both times I conceived I had a very high temperature. Once I had pneumonia, once a kidney infection. My doctor was certain that had something to do with it, but who knows. Maybe the next time you feel really sick with a fever though, give it a try! Anyway, I wish all the best for you and your husband.

  • Avatar Allison H says:

    What a heartfelt, emotional & honest description of your infertility journey. We’ve been in your shoes so I found myself nodding n agreement with a lot of what you wrote. It’s a long road with high’s & lo’s (so, so many lows) so I’m sending you strength & support for your journey. I can’t tell you when it will happen but I can say that when it does,the first time you hug your child will be the ost amazing feeling ever and will make it all worth it

  • Avatar Trandrew says:

    Thinking of you guys after reading this incredible post. Sending all the positive vibes I can!

  • Avatar Laurel says:

    You and Mike are such wonderful people and I know that you will be amazing parents together. The struggles are what define us and you are a great example of a caring human. All the best for the New Year and the future of your family.

  • Avatar Bri says:

    Linda and Mike, I read every word and I’m in tears for you. Thank you for so bravely sharing your heartbreak. It is, like you said, more common than many people realize which is beyond frustrating. The comfort you’ve given others by being so vulnerable though is truly beautiful. More and more of my friends, whether they’re in their 20s or 30s or 40s, are opening up about their struggles as well and it always helps to know you’re not alone, despite never wishing this on anyone. It is, in a word, unfair. Brutally unfair. We often don’t know the pain others are going through. I can’t relate, but I know it’s absolutely devastating. You are both such wonderful people and you deserve the family you long for. Thinking of you two. xo – Bri

  • Avatar Reina Gandy says:

    I know how you feel about this situation. But you’re a super brave woman sharing your personal journey. I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone…

  • Avatar Kathryn Ferguson says:

    Linda, thank you for sharing your journey, how very brave to be so open and honest. I will hold you and Mike in prayer and positive thoughts, you sound like a wonderful couple. Please be gentle with yourselves, I know it’s easy for someone else to say, but I do believe that life will help you find your way through this challenge. Wishing happiness, good health, and a peaceful New Year. Sending you both blessings.

  • Avatar Alyssa N says:

    Linda and Mike, stay strong and keep hopeful. I can’t relate I’m sorry, but I do empathize deeply. Making the choice not to have children often makes me feel selfish… I was glad to hear your take about that. Love and wellness in 2019. Here for ya! 😘

  • Avatar Nat says:

    I know what you’re going through. I have been through seven transfers and I’m currently in my TWW of my last one. We have done 3 rounds of ivf with my own eggs, one frozen embryo transfer with my own, travelled to Russia for donor egg, twice, and now we’re back to the private clinic with a local egg donor. Our transfer happened on Sunday. If you ever want to talk about it to someone who”gets it” or can help walk this horrible journey, please feel free. I can tell you in our 7 years of trying, we’ve done everything, including be approved for adoption. This is a brutal process.

  • Avatar Angela says:

    I saw your brave segment on CTV this morning. I have felt every emotion you so eloquently state. It is the hardest journey. But I like to share my story to give a bit of hope. After 4 years of trying everything from acupuncture to seeing a naturopath, expense, heart ache, 4 miscarriages, 3 rounds of IUI, finally with one round of IVF at 41, I had my miracle daughter. We found out on Christmas Day that we only had 1 viable embryo out of 21. Our chances were so slim. Yet here she is, our beautiful, smart, funny, feisty girl. Always follow your heart. You will know what is best for you. I had a friend once say that God wouldn’t put the desire in your heart if it wasn’t meant to be. That is what carried me through.
    The holidays can be brutal. Take care of you spirit. Do whatever you need to do.
    I’ll be sending positive vibes your way.

  • Avatar crackmacs says:

    wish you guys all the luck in the world.

  • Avatar AC says:

    I just got introduced to your blog today after I checked out one of your restaurant reviews. My husband and I also had “unexplained” infertility. After going through some IUI’s and one IVF in rapid succession without success, we decided to adopt. We chose international adoption and ended up being matched to our daughter from China. Our daughter is smart and vibrant, and we feel very “child-full” with her. We also have had different travel and other life experiences with her that I don’t think would have happened if we didn’t have her. As you say, “everybody is different” and I hope you find the path that fits for the two of you although it may not be the typical or the easiest path. Feel free to drop me a line if you want to know more about our adoption experience. Wishing all the best for you and your husband in the New Year!

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