Guest Writer Wednesday: Sarah’s Unicornuate Uterus and Depression Story

Every woman processes infertility in her unique way. For me, infertility was easy to accept, and I can often find the humor in it now. This isn’t the case for every person, and that is okay. Guest writer, Sarah from Australia, shares her story about depression and infertility (unicornuate uterus, endometriosis). Please welcome Sarah to the Unicorn Mission as she vulnerably shares the darkness of her depression and what she did to find the light.

The Dark Side of Assisted Conception

Hi!  My name is Sarah. I am 30 years old, and am married to Rob who is 34. I have a unicornuate uterus and endometriosis, and we have been trying to conceive our first child for two years. 

We have done:

  • 3 rounds of ovulation induction

  • 2 in vitro fertilization (IVF) stimulation cycles

  • 1 frozen embryo transfer (FET)

  • 1 chemical pregnancy and

  • 0 frozen embryos. 

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All of this has been in the last 12 months. When I was diagnosed with my fertility conditions, I knew I needed help with my mental state and not long after, I was diagnosed with depression.

I have wanted to be a mother since I was two and my first little sister was born. I remember belly button feeding my dolls while Mum breastfed my sisters. Becoming a mother is the only thing I have ever wanted to achieve in my life. It was supposed to be an easy thing.

‘Don’t have sex. You will get pregnant.’

We all remember that line from Mean Girls.Generally speaking, we are taught that sex leads to pregnancy. That simple. Our education didn’t go much beyond that.

I knew reproductive conditions existed. There were a couple of girls at school with them. A friend of mine was diagnosed with PCOS at 17. She was told she would never be able to have children. While I felt devastated for her, I never thought much about it or that something like that could happen to me. 

I believed it would be easy to get pregnant. As a woman, I was built to carry a child. Being a woman is defined by our sex organs and their ability to create life. When I was diagnosed, my reality started to crumble around me. 

My unicornuate uterus triggered me the most. Women have a full uterus, connected to both fallopian tubes. There is no reason why I have half a uterus. It is like my body got lazy. I felt like it failed me. Like it couldn’t be bothered finishing my uterus. Add in the endometriosis, the fact that my body doesn’t even know where endometrial tissue should be growing, my value as a woman was diminished. I needed to know why this happened to me but there was no logical reason. I cannot fix this, it is just how my body developed.  There is no comfort found in that. It went against everything I believed defined a woman. The only reason that seemed to make any sense to me was that it happened because I am a bad person.

This is my go-to thought when things go wrong. I’ve carried it my whole life. I believe every misfortune that has ever befallen on me, is because of some horrible transgression in my past. Many nights I lay awake crying silently as I re-live every single bad thing I have ever done. 

I was raised to believe that bad things happen to bad people.

Everyone makes mistakes at some point in their life. Perhaps they ruined an expensive Christmas present, or maybe they were mean to another person. We make mistakes, we grow and learn. On a whole, I am a good person. Of course I have made mistakes but that does not make me a bad person. However, I believe I am.

My mental state was suffering. I was on my way to an MRI one morning when I had a complete breakdown. This was the second time I had to have this MRI done and it had inconvenienced me. After being told the MRI had to be redone, I was also instructed to do a second course of Letrozole. My employers while accommodating, were getting disgruntled by the interruptions to work. Nothing was going right.

The morning of the MRI, I did not want to get out of bed. It felt like a chaotic and rushed morning and when I was halfway to my car, when I realised I had forgotten to brush my teeth. 

Should I go back upstairs and brush my teeth? What if traffic was bad and I was late for my appointment?

I had to brush my teeth, so I went back up the stairs and burst into tears. There was no stopping it and I continued to cry all the way to my appointment. This was my second mental health day. Everything was just too much. I was a pathetic excuse for a woman, and a human. My husband was suffering because of me and I was letting work down. The cherry on top was the guilt I felt for feeling the way I did. 

My problems weren’t problems. There are real problems in the world and here I was feeling sorry for myself because I cannot get pregnant. I have a roof over my head, food at my fingertips, a car, clothes, a job and much more. What sort of terrible person wallows in self-pity over such a first world problems? I needed help, I couldn’t manage this on my own.

I set out to find a psychologist who specialised in treating fertility related issues such as post partum depression, infertility and IVF. In the past, I have seen psychologists but never found the right one for me. After a few sessions, it becomes clear that they aren’t helping me. Instead of shopping around, I’ve assumed that I didn’t need therapy. This time I went in with a very different attitude.

This time I desperately wanted to change my situation. I had enough of being depressed. At my first appointment with my psychologist I was very up-front and told her exactly what I hoped to achieve through therapy. By the end of the appointment we both felt confident that she could help me. I left that appointment with hope in my heart. 

My psychologist was able identify my underlying issues straight away and everything she said made sense. The self-schema I was looking at my life through was limiting my capacity to conceptualise my situation.  She told me exactly how we would proceed forward to change this.

Schemas help to organise and interpret information in our environment. Self-schemas are how we view ourselves, and are formed through the feedback we receive about ourselves in early childhood from our caregivers. A schema can be changed and they are constantly evolving based on experiences. My schema shows me myself as a bad person.

Growing up I was constantly told I was a bad person. Any behaviour that I exhibited that did not conform to the wishes of those around me was because I am a bad person. Bad things happen to bad people. I know my badness is not the reason I haven’t got a baby. There is a medically diagnosed reason for it. However, there is no reason for these conditions to be in my body other than my biological make up. This is very heartbreaking. It is hard to accept that I cannot change it. My mind uses my self-schema to reason it. This has happened because I am a bad person. It is my fault.

After a few months working with my psychologist, she recommended that I go on antidepressants. Initially I rejected the idea. I did not want to tamper with any medication because I had witnessed them completely mess up an ex. My psychologist understood and very gently talked through all my concerns. She sent a referral to my general practitioner and encouraged me to go and talk to him. I talked to him about how the medication worked and what would be best for me and my situation. After careful consideration and a lot of conversations with my medical professionals and husband, I decided to start Zoloft.

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Zoloft is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor which means that it stops your body from reabsorbing serotonin too quickly. Serotonin makes you happy. When you experience depression, your body reabsorbs the serotonin before it has the opportunity to make you feel happiness. No doctor will say that Zoloft won’t trigger developmental defects in a foetus, there hasn’t been enough studies done to confirm either way. However, my team believed that the benefits of the medication will out weight any potential risk.

Taking Zoloft has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It has completely changed me. It hasn’t stopped me from feeling emotions, but it takes the edge off the negative ones. It has allowed me to make leaps and bounds with my psychologist. 

When I started seeing my psychologist, I was in a dark mental state. I had no hope that we would ever grow our family. Today I have hope.

I believe that one way or another I will be a mother. A year ago I could not see any joy or purpose in my life. Today I know that things are not perfect, but I am happy and content with the life that I am living while we wait for our rainbow. I have a gratitude for my journey that I did not have 12 months ago. It has made me stronger and will make me a better mother.

People tend to keep their mental health conditions a secret. There is nothing wrong with that. It can be a very private and personal issue for some. I choose to talk about mine, and my ttc journey, because I believe that knowledge is power. If one person is helped by what I have been through, then I believe my journey has meaning

It’s okay to not be okay. You are never beyond repair.

The first step is admitting that you need help, and the second is seeking out the right help. Not all mental health professionals are equipped to help you in your particular situation. If you are on the path of assisted conception, seek out a mental health professional who specialises in that area. You are worth investing in and you deserve to be happy. 

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Bio: This is me! I am Sarah 30 and from Australia. I am been married to a wonderful man named Rob. Together Rob and I love Disney (some may say a little too much), board games and just generally being in each others company. For as long as we have been married, we have been trying to grow our family. I have endometriosis and an unicornuate uterus with a rudimentary right horn. The endo was removed in October 2018 and we are due to start IVF round 3. To follow along with our journey, you can find me on Instagram: @waitingfor_ourrainbow and my blog: www.waitingforourrainbow.com

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