Clove’s Other Challenge: Attacking Infertility, One Last Time

Don't hate the player ... after all, I ran 100 miles to earn this!
Don’t hate the player … after all, I ran 100 miles to earn this!

As you read this, Rocky Raccoon is over and done and DB and I have just returned from a week in Cabo. I spent an entire week tasked with only rest, rejuvenation and rehydration. I’ll have to remind myself about that stuff called water, because I spent the better part of last week getting in as much coffee and alcoholic frozen deliciousness as I could. Cause things are changing now that we’re home, and pretty quickly at that.

Like Salty, I’ve agreed to take a big personal step in sharing with our Salty readership.  Salty is documenting her post-pregnancy body and return to running, offering up difficult belly shots and tales of (temporary) incontinence.  On the flip side of the equation, I have offered/agreed to share my next four months of infertility treatments, blow-by-blow (or shot by shot).

For those women (and men) who aren’t interested or at that point in their lives, you are obviously under no obligation to read. For those that are interested – whether out of curiosity, empathy, or past experience – I thought I would explain a bit more about why I’ve decided to take such an open and sometimes self-intrusive step.

I have three primary reasons for sharing my journey, two minor and one major. The minor reasons are stigma and running. There is still, in 2013, far too much stigma around the disease of infertility, and not nearly enough information. It’s getting better to be sure, but infertility isn’t merely the realm of those who waited too long, are too thin or too fat, or just can’t relax. One in eight American couples is affected by infertility, which is defined as the inability to conceive naturally after six months for those under 35, and one year for those over 35.

Salty Running is a site about women’s running, which brings me to reason number two:  these treatments have affected and informed my running in the past, and they will continue to do so in the next six months and into the future, whether I am blessed with a pregnancy or deal with detox and weight loss at the end of the treatments. One of Salty Running’s two resident ultra chicks is going to be “off the grid” for a bit – bye-bye 100-mile weeks! – and this is why. It’s part of my life right now, running and otherwise.

But finally, and most importantly, there are almost NO resources out there whatsoever for athletes struggling with infertility. Do a quick Google search of the words, and you’ll quickly find out that it’s all our fault. Once weight gain and activity reduction are accomplished (often with no results – shocking!), the literature ends. Yes, we have the standard blogs, websites and chat rooms to turn to, but there are almost no exclusive resources for the athlete that struggles with infertility that isn’t directly related to their athleticism.

As I stated in one of my first blogs, we are not infertile because I run, because he runs, or because we run. We are not infertile because we are thin, and we are not infertile because we’re too busy running and training to get around to the other stuff. But there is a huge dichotomy at work. I’ve learned from sitting in the labs and treatment waiting rooms long enough that everyone that struggles with this hurts the same. We all share this most simple and human desire:  to carry our own child. You must learn quickly not to judge; it may look like little Clove just needs to eat some hamburgers, but I assure you, our situation is far more complicated than that. So, too, is the situation of the person you assume just needs to lose weight, or looks far too old to be attempting a pregnancy.

But the dichotomy for the athlete, whether runner, dancer or gymnast is this:  we lose our hobby. We may lose part of our professional lives or income, and most of all, we lose our primary escape and coping mechanism. Fertility treatments don’t demand that you stop knitting, watching tv, going to the office, reading, cooking, fishing, shopping, sewing or playing the piano. That’s the thing. Of course, you have side effects from the treatments, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the emotional impact is the same. But that stuff – that day-to-day stuff that you do – you get to keep doing. Your general lifestyle remains the same.

But you can’t race marathons and run 100-milers. You can’t necessarily train for competition or lead roles. And what’s even worse, and yes, jealousy inducing, is that you’ve watched other women do it.

So we'll get a custom one done that says 100 miles ... or maybe just answer the question with this:  Drugs.  Expensive drugs.
So we’ll get a custom one done that says 100 miles … or maybe just answer the question with this: Drugs. Expensive drugs.

I want to make perfectly clear that I do not feel sorry for myself. DB and I have often said that if we were offered a guarantee of long and healthy life and marriage into our nineties, but it meant not having children, we would take the offer at the speed of light. We have each other and we are healthy, and there is no greater gift in this world. This is, however, part of our journey, and a complex one at that.

What form will this take? I’ll have some posts about how we’ve gotten to where we are. My weekly posts will then morph into the challenges of running and staying in some semblance of shape when you become an emotional, exhausted, bloated version of your former self – a version that is also chemically pregnant (with symptoms) for about ten days every month.

Think pregnancy cravings aren't real?  Take 5000 iu's of HCG in a single shot and see.  My favorite?  Tootsie rolls dipped in Chipotle hot sauce.  Yep.
Think pregnancy cravings aren’t real? Take 5000 iu’s of HCG in a single shot and see. My favorite? Tootsie rolls dipped in Chipotle hot sauce. Yep.

My weekly training logs will chart both my mileage and my “protocol,” or what shots, drugs and procedures I’m having done.  It won’t be overly graphic, and if you’ve been through labor you’ve heard worse – but there will certainly be some details, as well as some explanations.

But Clove, you’re saying. Won’t we know the minute you’re pregnant then? Like before your mom and your family and your friends?

Nope. Not at all. Because these treatments are complicated and not a straight line. If I have to travel for work, I may have to take a month off depending on when I’m gone.  You have to be closely monitored on these drugs, so you can’t be out of town for certain periods of time. And some months you can get cysts, which means no treatments until they’re gone. Oh yes, there’s any number of things that can go wrong – or cover. And as you know, young Clove has not exactly been consistent about this in the past, so it wouldn’t be shocking for her to announce she’s running Burning River again after two months because she’s just – FED UP.

But for now, I have a big cup of coffee to drink while I look at vacation pictures, as I’ll soon be back on restriction. Decaf’s not that bad, right? Right?!?!?

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Trail and adventure enthusiast. Girl who swears like a sailor but not when she's teaching Sunday School. Survived infertility without a successful pregnancy. Self-employed, primarily working for Clif Bar and Company. Thirteen 100-mile race finishes with seven top 3 placements. An original Saltine.

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11 comments

  1. Back when we were trying to get pregnant with my first, I constantly felt angsty about running – am I running too much? too fast? Do I need to gain weight? I actually went down to about 20 miles per week, bought a size up in clothes so I didn’t feel bad about gaining weight. It was a very strange period of my life and gives me just a tiny taste of what you must be going through. It’s tough and I support you 100%! I am rooting for a baby B and a happy Clove on the other end of this tunnel!

  2. i love reading your posts. i’ve not been in a position of trying to conceive at this point in my journey so i have no idea how you feel but thank you for sharing! as i read your posts i’m always sending love and healing to you and your husband. have faith in yourself! you deep down know what is right and how best to live YOUR life. do what works best for you and ignore the rest. thanks for sharing so much of yourself with us!!! for what it is worth i have a few friends that are athletes of different types and struggled for several years with fertility treatments and miscarriages and then were handsomely rewarded. i hope that you are able to find peace throughout this process and will one day have a wonderful addition to your family!

  3. I wish you the best and most healthy luck both in your efforts to get and stay pregnant and your sharing that journey. You are embarking on a task of great bravery in both avenues.

    We did not have to combine infertility and fitness but we did have fertility issues. What sort of issues? What I jokingly refer to as low sperm count as in we had none. Two women by defintion get slotted into infertility issues just by that. What I can relate to most readily is the intensity of the process. The charting and measuring and timing and hoping and the cycle of hope and dissapointment and hope again. It is not for the weak of heart and I wish you the very very best and more than that.

  4. I think about you Clove and this subject often. I have read your posts before about this topic. I certainly have not struggled as hard as you and your husband and I cannot know how you are feeling, as I have not faced the same exact struggle. I have faced struggles with infertility, but my husband and I were lucky in that Clomid did work for us. I dealt with the weight issue, food issue, running issue, all the while when we were trying.

    I don’t know if you are spiritual or not, but I only speak from my experience (in which I cannot say that I was assisted by any spiritual being, but here’s to believing). I prayed to St. Gerard every single day: For Motherhood
    O good Saint Gerard, powerful intercessor before God and Wonderworker of our day, I call upon thee and seek thy aid. Thou who on earth didst always fulfill God’s designs, help me to do the holy Will of God. Beseech the Master of Life, from Whom all paternity proceedeth, to render me fruitful in offspring, that I may raise up children to God in this life and heirs to the Kingdom of His Glory in the world to come. Amen.

    I truly believe that those of who are meant to be Mother’s, will be a Mother. I wanted nothing more than to be a Mother. To this day I count my lucky stars and my blessings that God has gifted me with four amazing and beautiful children. Parenthood is the greatest challenge I have ever faced. But, even on my toughest days, I still look into the eyes of my kids and I thank God with all of my being that I am lucky to be their Mother.

    All I can offer you is support and know that I am thinking about you and will be praying for you. Please do not give up hope. You have to believe in your heart of hearts that you WILL be a Mother.

  5. Thanks so much for all of the kind comments and good wishes. We are approaching this with our runners’ resolve, so we know it will be tough but not insurmountable. And, between my reduced mileage and the fact that Facebook was my Lenten sacrifice this year, I’ll have so much more time to spend catching up on Salty Running and becoming a more vocal member of the family again. Thanks for all your support not just of me, but our awesome site!

  6. We were a infertile couple who did all sorts of treatments. We adopted from China and then Bamn! a baby the old fashioned way. Now we have a relay team.

    And there’s a way cool novel about a woman dealing with fertility issues while running marathons. I sleep with the author every night.

  7. Coming in late to the game here today, but as you know, Clove, I am excited for this next journey for you. Thank you so much for sharing such an important part of you, DB and your journey with us.

  8. Thank you for sharing – it’s brave, and I admire your sharing and for trying. You know our thoughts are with you and we wish you the very best!