When the discussion came up about children (as it does when you live in the south and you're married for a half a second) we always said we'd wait 3-5 years, enjoy being married and have time together as just US.... and Molly. Three years FLEW by, as they do when you're having fun. The conversation came up a few times about having kids and it felt like we'd be giving up the life we were enjoying and that I would also be giving up this business I worked so hard to build. As a business owner, Jill Doty Photography has always been my baby. It has occupied my (almost) every thought. I've spent close to five years building a portfolio, creating a brand, fostering relationships with brides and vendors... and I still have SO MUCH work to do. Plus, when your brand is being young, fun and soaked in a little bourbon... a baby kinda cramps that image. I was worried that brides wouldn't relate. They would stop booking. I would have to find an office job I hated. These are the kinds of thoughts that convinced me to continue to wait.
In middle school sex-ed you are told a pregnancy is almost guaranteed... along with STDs and a high probability of death just to put the fear of God in teenagers with raging hormones. So we wanted to wait until we were absolutely sure we [I] wanted kids and were ready for the major lifestyle change... as we were certain that it was going to happen right away. After all, up until this point we had been blessed in that whatever we put our minds to and worked hard for, we had achieved.
As it turned out, my parts were as broken and stubborn as I am. First, we gave it the ol’ college try. Nothing. Then I downloaded some apps to track things because I realized I knew way less about my body than I thought. Nothing. Then I saw a doctor. Tests were ordered, some way more painful than others but all equally expensive. Nothing. Time went by, and many other friends and people I know seemed to sneeze and get pregnant. TV shows and commercials always seemed to feature a pregnant woman. People started to ask more frequently if I had kids or when I'm was planning on having them, a question I used to respond with, "No for two reasons, 1. Molly 2. bourbon", but now those questions echoed in my brain when I tried to go to sleep. When I photographed maternity sessions and newborns, genuine happiness and dark envy lived together until I could shed a few tears behind the steering wheel. Hope faded and frustration settled in. I reached out to a few friends to see if our issues were normal, thinking that others had similar experiences, but what I realized is that couples struggling with infertility** often struggle in silence.
I also realized was that I was 100% invested at this point. My attitude became “Give me all the drugs and monthly plans you've got, to hell with the side effects”. [Rookie mistake, don't ever underestimate side effects of hormonal drugs.] Those drugs that made me feel like a totally different person didn't work... or so we thought. My doctor recommend that I go to a new fertility clinic for the next steps. I walked in alone as I had all these other appointments, not because Morgan wouldn't have come, but because it was something I just thought I was supposed to do alone. Everyone else sat just as nervously in the lobby with their spouses waiting to be called back. My amazing doctor was so kind and patient with me and explained all the possible causes, next steps from the least invasive to the most extreme, and her recommendations. I sat staring at the information packet explaining all the appointments, tests, procedures and costs, not quite sure if we should be doing this… or traveling to Greece 6-7 times a year (the cost was about the same). After the initial conversation they wanted to jump right in with bloodwork and testing… which led to me having THE most ironic day of my life.
There I was, climbing into the stirrups in a chilly room for my umpteenth ultrasound... and hearing the doctor say "there's a chance you are already pregnant". My response would need a censor, but basically I laughed thinking, “MAN. They must think I’m really dumb, but there’s no way”. My hope had dwindled to a tiny spark at that point so why would I feel optimistic? A voicemail from the fertility clinic came a few hours after I was home, still not thinking anything of the doctor’s comment. “Hi Jill, this is Dr. Calhoun. We just met this afternoon and I wanted to let you know that you are in fact pregnant...” ….ummmm WHAT?!?
Panic, excitement, elation, disbelief… all the feels came flooding in. For me it was the ultimate reminder that 1. I was not in control and 2. God has a really funny/dark sense of humor sometimes. Maybe I had to wait so I would feel 110% ready to sacrifice the lifestyle we cherished. Maybe I was being punished (or so I thought) for so flippantly responding when others asked about my reproductive system or putting my business before my family. Maybe I needed to struggle to realize I was not the one in control. Maybe I needed to experience infertility because I'm comfortable sharing the good AND the bad and other women need to know they are not alone. Maybe I'm sharing this because I feel like I need to justify our good news within the context of our struggle as there are women I know that have experienced loss and those still trying to have a baby that may have seen our announcement and it felt like another stab at the heart from the universe. I know how hard it is to feel alone even with a super supportive and loving partner experiencing it alongside you.
This process can consume your every thought and put you on high alert for every universal cue that everyone else can have a kid except for you. Hopefully I am a reminder that there can be light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's in the most ironic way possible. Life doesn't always go how you planned, and for a control freak like me that can feel infuriating. After going through all of this, my take away is to give yourself grace. Allow yourself to feel and experience whatever emotions come your way - they are valid. If you are comparing your struggle to someone that seems to be suffering greatly, don't. There will always be those with higher highs and lower lows. It's ok to just live in your story, whether it's publicly or privately. Just know you are not alone.
Thank you to those that have let me cry, scream or treat them like my personal Google. You know who you are and I love you so. And because I use humor as a defense mechanism for the hard stuff... here are a few outtakes from trying to document this whole pregnancy thing.